Three Common Mistakes People Make When Trying To Lose Weight


Written by: Maureen Kemeny

February 3, 2022

Remember how easy it was to lose weight in your twenties? The older you get, the harder it is to lose weight for many reasons, but it certainly isn’t impossible, especially when you know how to avoid some of the common mistakes that people make when trying to lose weight.

Using Exercise as a Punishment

People use exercise to punish themselves when they’ve overeaten. For example, Sally decides she needs to lose weight and she has promised herself to eat healthy food, avoid all junk food and not eat anything bad until she has lost 10 pounds.

Sally gets up Monday morning with the best of intentions. She decides to skip breakfast. At work, she has a beautiful salad with a little chicken for lunch. After work, she goes to the gym and has a great workout on the treadmill. Dinner is a small plate of vegetables and a little more chicken. She goes to bed feeling very proud of herself.

Sally maintains her routine for several days and she’s losing weight, but then one day at work she walks into the staff room and finds a big platter of homemade chocolate chip cookies. She resists the temptation all day, but at the end of the day she’s starved, she’s tired and she can’t resist the cookies any longer.

Four cookies later, Sally has consumed approximately 600 calories. She’s disgusted with herself and berates herself for her lack of willpower. At the gym, she doubles her usual time on the treadmill and runs 6 miles to make up for the 4 cookies she’s eaten.

Sally is using exercise to punish herself.

In doing so and without realizing it, she has created a negative association with exercise. Exercise should never be used to punish yourself. There is no reason to punish yourself in any way if you deviated from your plan. Get back on track as soon as you can. Analyze what went wrong and what you will do differently the next time.

Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do. Not a punishment for what you ate.

Remember that the ability to move is a gift. Imagine life without the ability to move. My brother was paralyzed at the age of 23 and I know firsthand what life is like for someone who can’t move at will. I saw the look in his eyes when someone would run or bike by.

The fact that you can get off the couch and go for a walk at will is a GIFT. Be grateful every day that you have the choice. Celebrate the fact that you can move. We were born to move.

Movement is a way to connect with our bodies and the universe. It’s an act of self-care.

Find an activity that you LOVE. If you hate running, why run? Do what you enjoy.
Move because it makes you feel good and is good for you, not because you ate a cookie.

Never exercise after overeating. You deserve better.

Exercise when you feel good and this will help re-establish a positive association with movement.
If you currently don’t have an exercise routine, commit to 5 minutes a day of an activity that you love and slowly build from there.

Exercise because it’s an act of self-love and not a punishment.

Exercising to deal with overeating doesn’t address the issue of over-eating in the first place. You’re putting a bandaid on the issue. Rather, address your plan. Maybe you aren’t eating enough calories, or getting enough fat. Or maybe it’s your thoughts that are causing you to overeat.


Ghrelin and leptin are hormones that are important in balancing satiety and appetite. Ghrelin increases appetite and leptin suppresses appetite. Eating less frequently can result in greater satiety/appetite control.

Frequent snacking is not ideal for blood glucose levels.

When you constantly snack, you are constantly spiking blood glucose and insulin. Remember that the goal for weight loss is to keep insulin low and avoid spikes. What can you to do then when you get snack cravings? Before even reaching for food, ask yourself if you’re thirsty. Often thirst signals are interpreted as hunger, so drink a glass of water first and wait to see how you feel.

Woman drinking water

Thoughts can also make us think we’re hungry. For example, feelings of boredom or restlessness can prompt food cravings. Instead, try meditating or going for a walk.

The desire to snack may be a sign that you’re not eating enough healthy fats in your diet, or that you’re not eating enough at meals. If you do need to snack though, some healthy options include olives, avocado and dark chocolate made of 75% or more cacao powder. Avoid snacking whenever possible, and if you have to snack, nibble on healthy fat.

Eating Instead of Feeling.

How often do you eat because you’re stressed, bored or overwhelmed? We all do at some point.

Processing emotions can feel hard, so instead we use food as a way to escape and not 𝒇𝒆𝒆𝒍. For some it’s food, but for others it can be alcohol, spending, gambling….

People become preoccupied with food as a distraction because it’s easier than focusing on the real issues – the hard issues.

Emotions come from thoughts in our brain and most of these thoughts are unconscious. That’s why we feel we have no control over them.

Your job is to understand if you want to eat because you’re really hungry or because you have emotions that you’re running from.

First, understand your hunger signals. What happens when you’re really hungry? Does your stomach growl? Do you get a headache? Is it hard to focus and concentrate? A lot of people don’t have an awareness of their physical symptoms, often because they’ve ignored their hunger signals for so long. A great exercise to help you tune in to your hunger signs is to use a journal and document how you feel physically, emotionally and mentally throughout the day. Your goal is to understand when your body needs fuel.

Hunger is a sensation that starts in the body and travels to the brain. A feeling is a vibration that travels from the brain to the body. Feelings are caused by what we think and for the most part, we aren’t even aware of what we’re thinking most of the time. The result is that we don’t feel we’re in control of our life. We feel emotions without understanding why.

If your thought of food is not triggered by physical hunger, then ask yourself what you’re feeling. Be curious and ask yourself why are you feeling that way? What is the thought behind the feeling? Instead of resisting, reacting and avoiding your emotions learn to be ok with them. After all, what’s the worse that can happen?

Once you learn how to identify the thoughts that create the feelings you are running from, you no longer need to use food to buffer.

If you’re interested in diving deeper then join me in my next 6-week program called Reset, Renew, Results. You can learn more HERE.

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