If you're looking to lose weight and keep it off, the best way to do so is by choosing a plan which is realistic and doable for your daily life. That means everything from the exercise you introduce to the foods you eat more and less of should all be considered carefully before you start. Trying to rush weight loss is only going to leave you feeling low energy, uninspired and potentially giving up all together.


Don't worry – see the common mistakes below so you know what to avoid and look out for when starting your weight loss journey.

Visit our ‘All you need to know about diets’ page for recipes and more expert advice on weight loss, including keto and the 5:2 diet.

Mistake 1: Starting with an unrealistic plan

It’s important to be realistic with yourself from the outset when starting a weight loss journey and choose eating and exercise plans that you’ll be able to stick to for weeks, and possibly months, depending on your goals. Consider how affordable your new diet will be and what time commitments will be required for food planning and cooking - how will these fit into your daily schedule of work and family life? Choose a plan that will be feasible for you to achieve in the long term otherwise may find yourself becoming derailed and losing motivation.

Mistake 2: Losing too much weight early on

Diet planning

Whatever weight-loss plan you follow, a general guide to aim for is fat loss of about 1-2lb (0.5-1kg) per week. Some diets, such as the cabbage soup diet, claim to achieve quick results in the early weeks; however, nutritionists are quick to note that this is mostly water and may be easily re-gained once you resume a more balanced way of eating.

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Severely restricting your calorie intake will also slow your metabolic rate, making weight loss more difficult in the long term. The average requirements for moderately active adults are 2,500 kcals for men and 2,000 kcals for women each day, though be mindful that this is a rough guideline. To achieve sustainable weight loss, it's suggested you create a deficit of roughly 500 calories a day – enough to lose weight yet maintain your metabolic rate.

Mistake 3: Being unaware of what you’re eating

Understanding the nutritional composition of food and drinks and their calorie content is essential in a weight-loss journey. You might be tempted to eat limitless fruit and veg, which is generally low calorie and nutritious, but even these calories mount up over a day so it’s best to track what you’re eating to be sure you’re within your calorie allowance. Be mindful of snacking too – nuts and dried fruit in particular are energy-dense so a little goes a long way. The easiest way to track your calorie intake each day is to use a nutrition app – this will help you understand exactly how much, as well as what and when, you're eating and drinking.

Mistake 4: Not increasing activity levels

A woman exercising in a park

If you start to experience a weight-loss plateau yet are eating to a calorie deficit each day, consider your activity levels. Studies suggest that optimum weight-loss results are achieved when calorie restriction and activity are combined.

When it comes to which exercise is best, different types of exercise have different benefits: cardio can help burn calories, while resistance training builds muscle mass which is associated with healthy weight in the long-term. As a general guide, a good mix of cardio and resistance exercises each week will be a useful addition to any weight loss plan. Studies suggest 225-420 minutes of physical activity per week is best to achieve weight loss, reducing to 200-300 minutes per week to simply keep the weight off.

Mistake 5: Eating lots of fat on a keto diet

If you choose to follow a keto plan and weight loss is your primary goal, be mindful that the excessive amounts of fat that can often be consumed in keto dishes will add calorie density and may impede your results. Fat is more calorie-rich than either carbohydrates or protein, at 9kcal per gram, so choose your foods wisely if you choose the keto method of weight loss.

Mistake 6: Choosing the wrong foods

Specialist diet foods can seem like a good choice, but they’re sometimes filled with ultra processed ingredients, and often leave you hungry. Similarly, reduced-fat or low-fat versions of foods aren’t always the healthiest options as food manufacturers sometimes replace fat with sugar. Read food labels carefully, and consider the nutrient profile of your food choices: a balance of high-fibre foods, lean proteins and fruit and veg can help guide you to long-term diet success and contribute to your overall health.

Mistake 7: Giving up when you hit an (inevitable) roadblock

Weight loss often isn't a straightforward, linear process, and life will very often get in the way. All is not lost in these times, and it’s important to keep your end goal in sight and be kind to yourself in order to stay motivated. Look at your overall weight-loss journey in trickier times like these – if you’re seeing a downward trend, you’re moving in the right direction. If you find yourself frequently slipping, the 80/20 rule diet might be for you: this way of eating encourages followers to eat a healthy, balanced diet for 80 per cent of the time then allowing themselves to enjoy some of their favourite foods for the remaining 20 per cent.

Mistake 8: Being a slave to the scales

A person holding scales over their face

Body weight can change quite a lot day-to-day due to changes in the amount of fluid in your body, therefore it’s important not to weigh yourself too often. The NHS recommends regular weekly to monthly intervals, at the same time of day each time, preferably in the morning. Or you could choose to skip the scales altogether and simply go on how you feel – do your clothes fit better? Do you have more energy? Are you sleeping better? How is your mood? These other measures of success can also help you to stay positive even if you’re not seeing results on the scales.

Mistake 9: Focusing too much on exercise and too little on what you eat

Diet plays a far more significant role in weight loss than exercise – some claim 70-80% per cent – so what you eat really matters. Sadly this also means exercise isn’t a free ticket to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, if weight loss is your goal – so that cheeky muffin at the end of a workout could be undoing all your hard-earned efforts! To achieve long term weight loss and good overall health, a combination of a balanced diet along with physical activity is key.

Mistake 10: Gaining weight as soon as you stop a weight loss plan

An effective weight loss plan will help instil behaviours and habits that you can take forward in your life to help you keep your weight in check over the long term. ‘Fad diets’ based on severe food restrictions often end in failure as they are unsustainable over the long term and often don’t have a foundation in robust scientific evidence. For long-term success, look for diet plans and philosophies which encourage balanced eating over the food groups and which consider the contribution nutrition plays in overall health, as well as healthy and steady weight loss.

Check with your GP before starting a weight loss plan – this is especially relevant if you have a diagnosed medical condition, including diabetes or a history of eating disorders.

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