Health and nutrition experts say that while people who are trying to lose weight have good intentions, they may be unwittingly hinder themselves with some common mistakes.
Being overly restrictive, exercising too much and fad diets are at the top of the list.
"People think if they don't eat, they're going to lose weight, when in reality, the less you eat, the more your body actually holds onto the fat you have," said Gina Baxter, an exercise specialist at East Texas Medical Center's Olympic Plaza.
Sara Upson, a Tyler licensed dietitian, said restrictive eating — whether eliminating food groups or dramatically cutting calories — also lead to patterns of under and overeating, or binging.
"People are so extreme with their weight loss efforts that it's just not sustainable," she said. "Yes, you may have some short-term weight loss. When people go back to their regular eating, you gain more weight from that because they have such metabolic shifts from what they did in just the short term."
The number of calories each person needs varies and is dependent on age, gender, weight, height and activity level. The broad recommendations are 1,800 to 2,000 for women and 2,000 to 2,200 for men. Health professionals do not recommend anyone consume fewer than 1,200 per day.
Forbidding certain foods also can promote binging later. For example, omitting sweets instead of having an occasional bite could be problematic for some.
Setting reasonable goals and pacing yourself is important to weight loss, Ms. Upson said.
"I really think the most important thing is that we think long term," she said. "When we're only thinking short term, and we really want to see these dramatic weight changes — that's when we see people gain the weight back quickly."
Taking the time to grocery shop and plan meals is often something people forget to do, Ms. Upson said. Having healthy food in the refrigerator can prevent the urges to pick meals up in the drive-thru.
"It's not even at home," she said. "It's making sure you have snacks with you, so you make sure you don't get over-hungry. When you get over-hungry, it sets you up to overeat at your next meal, and that will sabotage weight loss."
Misinformation can play a part in slow weight loss results.
"People just don't know what to do," Ms. Upson said. "Depending on who you ask, you might get five different answers."
To overcome that, she said, people should seek the help of a nutrition professional to get reliable information tailored for them.
Ms. Upson said the lack of internal and/or external motivation also stifles weight loss. In these cases, she recommends working with a counselor or dietitian to help with behavior change.
"Sometimes, we end up working with people more on behavior change than we do on just educating people about food" she said. "I don't think that nutrition information is the problem. We have nutrition overload. It's being able to do those things and being able to find the motivation."
Drinking alcoholic drinks and not getting enough sleep are other faux pas. Without adequate sleep, cortisol levels rise, increasing the appetite.
Suddenly working out too much can be counterproductive. It's that all-or-nothing attitude that traps some people.
"People think that if a little is good, a lot is going to be a lot better," Ms. Baxter said.
She encourages people to get cardio exercise several times a week and add strength training to burn more calories.
"Pay for a personal trainer one time to show you how to do things correctly or find someone who is knowledgeable and can help you," Ms. Baxter said. "Strength training is important, and it's important for weight loss. It pumps up that metabolism and gets you to burn calories faster."
Health experts say everyone should exercise regularly — not just as a tool to lose weight. There are benefits to exercising beyond weight loss, including improved cardiovascular health.
Medical issues can cripple weight loss, such as diabetes, thyroid problems and polycystic ovary syndrome in women.
"If you're not seeing any changes and you're working this hard where you should be seeing some changes, we'll definitely encourage people to go see their doctor," Ms. Baxter said