The Top 7 Most Common Diet Mistakes

Make sure the dieting decisions you're making will help you reap hard-earned results — and not compromise your efforts, or even your health.

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When you're on a diet, there are generally a lot of rules. So many rules, in fact, that it can be difficult to tell which ones you really ought to be following. You're working hard to achieve results, so make sure that you're not falling victim to these common dieting mistakes.

Mistake # 1: Banishing favorite foods

It's hard to stick to a diet where you are never able to eat your favorite foods. Suddenly those foods become extra tempting and before you know it, you're "cheating" on your diet and feeling like you failed. By allowing yourself to indulge once in a while (savoring those foods and not feeling guilty), you can find a healthy balance that really works in the long run.

Mistake # 2: Ditching whole categories of foods

There's a reason that carbs, fat and protein are called macronutrients: Your body needs them in large quantities. A diet plan that tells you to completely eliminate any of these big categories could cause problems in the long term. For instance, the fat-phobic '90s gave rise to a host of sugar-filled refined carbs and Americans gained weight in epic numbers.

Mistake # 3: Expecting too much too soon

Many experts agree that for healthy, lasting weight loss, you should expect to lose no more than one to two pounds per week. If you are expecting the pounds to slide off more rapidly than that and they don’t, you may get discouraged. But slow and steady wins the race, so stay in it!

Mistake # 4: Skipping meals

Skipping meals may seem like a good way to skimp on calories, but it actually can lead you to eat more later on. If you don't eat lunch, for instance, you might overcompensate at dinner thinking you deserve the extra calories. Eat when you're hungry (but not ravenous) to keep hunger and portions in check.

Mistake # 5: Eating too little

If you're looking for rapid weight loss, it might be tempting to go really low on calories, but watch out. Diets too low in calories often don't offer all the nutrients you need. Make 1,200 calories your absolute minimum daily calorie goal. With proper planning, you can get a balanced intake of food for that amount.

Mistake # 6: Eating because the plan tells you to

On the flip side, if your plan tells you to eat every two or three hours, yet you're not hungry, that's not necessarily a good thing either. For a healthy weight, it's important to learn to recognize your internal hunger cues and respond to them; so if you're hungry, eat — but if you're not, don’t.

Mistake # 7: Thinking exercise gets you a pass

Exercise and dieting go hand-in-hand when you're trying to lose weight, but the key is to ramp up exercise (calorie burn) while decreasing calorie intake. It's easy to overestimate how much you burned during an exercise session and then eat too much to compensate, sabotaging your goal. Stick to the rule of thumb that unless you exercised for a hard hour or more, all you really need to replenish yourself after exercise is water.