Losing weight : Habits that prevent you from

Finding that secret to helping clients achieve a permanent healthy weight so that you lose client weight is the goal and desire of almost every nutrition/weight loss coach in practice today. We often encounter a client who has tried for many years to reach a goal weight but fails to maintain their weight loss or stops losing weight before reaching the goal. Many of these clients have attempted significant weight loss on more than one occasion and more than 40 % of the current adult world population has attempted to lose weight at one time (Santos et al., 2016). 

However, once optimistic coaches find themselves scratching their heads and looking for the reason why some of their clients fail to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight despite properly counseling their clients using evidence-based recommendations. I have dealt with frustrated calls and emails from clients who, despite weeks of following a diet, fail to see the scale move.

The truth is that daily habits are the destinies that determine success or failure in an attempt to lose weight, especially in the long term. Let’s review some common habits that can sabotage weight loss.


We’ve all heard of so many quick weight loss strategies with low carb and fasting topping the list followed by various supplements, shakes, highly restrictive eating plans or very low calorie diets. While many of these diets produce a quick drop on the scale, unfortunately, they do not stand the test of time.

People seeking to lose weight often start a new diet with great enthusiasm, stick to the diet for a while, discover that the quick fix diet is not sustainable, abandon the diet, and regain the lost weight (sometimes more). Similarly, it is common for clients to continue to adhere to a quick fix diet and find that they no longer see the same dramatic results they saw in the beginning. There are several reasons for this. 

First, there is a psychological phenomenon known as the Hawthorne effect which refers to increased adherence to behavior when a person believes they are being monitored. When a person is starting a new diet, he or she will often tell friends or loved ones about the new diet. 

Perhaps they have even hired a nutrition coach who sells plans based on one of these diets. The person may adhere more strongly to the diet if they feel they are being monitored, but this will only last for a limited period until the novelty wears off (Turner-McGrievy et al., 2017). 

Second, some diets, such as a very low carbohydrate diet or fasting/cleanse programs, will initially produce dramatic weight loss due to water weight loss (sometimes up to 10 pounds in less than 2 weeks). These diets may initially show a significant drop in scale weight, but it is primarily due to water loss rather than fat loss.

The fat loss that may occur later is only due to the calorie deficit that these diets produce, leading the client to feel that their progress has stalled and ultimately to abandonment of the diet (Masood et al., 2019). 

CUTTING MEALS for losing weight

losing weight
losing weight

It may seem tempting for customers to skip the breakfast or lunch to make room in your daily calorie budget at dinnertime. Unfortunately, this strategy tends to backfire. It is well established that skipping breakfast can have adverse health effects and is linked to obesity (Wicherski et al., 2021).

However, this phenomenon tends to be maintained when any meal is skipped. Yamamoto et al., (2021) conducted a retrospective study examining the effects of skipping lunch and dinner among 26 433 college students in Japan over 3 years. The researchers found that students who regularly skipped dinner had the highest rate of weight gain compared to their peers.

The human body has inherent mechanisms to fight weight loss. Skipping meals as a losing weight strategy or eating pattern (i.e., not taking breaks from work to eat, consuming one meal per day, etc.) tends to be associated with higher overall body weight, as the body will tend to exceed caloric requirements at subsequent meals or cumulatively over weeks and months (Wicherski et al., 2021). 


Modern lifestyles often lead to general inactivity in daily life. The human body was designed to move. Inactivity, even in a caloric or hypocaloric state, will lead to alterations in metabolism that can increase susceptibility to weight gain, such as insulin resistance, muscle breakdown, reduced exercise capacity, and impaired glucose and fatty acid metabolism.

Similarly, even slight overfeeding coupled with inactivity changes the gene expression of adipose (fat) tissue making weight gain even more likely (Biolo et al., 2005). Similarly, although most of the caloric expenditure (in non-athletes) comes from vital processes defined by the resting metabolic rate, without physical activity, it is very difficult to achieve a significant enough, let alone sustainable, caloric deficit. 

In addition, physical activity is almost always necessary to maintain long-term losing weight. Patients being treated for obesity in a clinical setting are recommended to exercise a minimum of 250 minutes per week along with employing healthy eating strategies to losing weight and maintain their new healthier weight (Balfour & Boster, 2022). 

Physical activity does not have to be completed in a gym. Household chores, walking with friends and/or working in the garden can provide a framework for achieving a great deal of physical activity. In almost all cases, I advise clients to use a step tracker to measure how physically active they are on a daily basis and create a target step count to ensure a minimum amount of physical activity is completed to support losing weight. 


Enjoying meals with family and friends is part of most human societies. It is not sustainable to completely avoid eating out with friends and family, however, when this becomes a habit, it can derail an effort to losing weight. Meals eaten outside the home (or rather not cooked at home) are generally higher in calories, saturated fat and sugar, while lower in fiber, vitamins and minerals. 

It is very easy to exceed caloric needs if eating out frequently (Gesteiro et al., 2022).

This point was well illustrated in a 2016 cross-sectional study that examined the association between body mass index (BMI) and eating at a fast food restaurant or sitting out at least weekly. The researchers found that for every time they ate out in a week, there was an increase of approximately 0.8 kg/m2 in BMI (Bhutani et al., 2016).

Indeed, there are ways to make healthier choices while eating at a restaurant, but most restaurant foods are high in calories and fat, so the diner should be very careful when planning meals when eating out while trying to lose weight. 


I remember as a child, my health-conscious gastroenterologist grandfather often reminded me to slow down while eating and constantly assessed my hunger cues. Although I often resented his advice, I realized the value of it. 

Rapid feeding rates are highly associated with lower satiety and higher energy intake at meals. Hormones that regulate hunger and satiety are secreted at a certain rate and in response to food entering the gastrointestinal tract, however, there is a delay in the secretion of these hormones. Peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) are secreted when food enters the intestine and are responsible for decreasing hunger, suppressing glucagon, and facilitating insulin secretion, but they are secreted at a limited rate. 

Eating too fast does not allow the body to adapt to these hormones, thus exceeding caloric needs (Argyrakopoulou et al., 2020).

Eating fast is a common phenomenon for those of us with busy work and family lives. However, it is important to take breaks (and enough time) to eat/snack, especially for those looking to losing weight.


Long-term weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. I find myself reminding clients of this almost daily. Similarly, it often takes some time to find the right balance of macronutrients, caloric deficit (through nutrition) and physical activity to induce steady weight loss, as everyone is different. It is also important to note that losing weight often plateaus after 6 months and periodization involving maintenance and deficit periods is recommended to achieve long-term changes in body composition (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020).

HABITS TO HELP YOU losing weight

It is very tempting to end a nutrition plan because a client is not seeing quick results, but giving up can lead to more failure and frustration with a losing weight attempt. I often advise my clients who have 50 to 100 pounds to lose that it can take up to 2 to 3 years to achieve the results they are looking for, and they will see periods of steady weight loss, plateauing and even periods of little weight. gain during their journey. It is almost always true that following healthy habits over the long term will produce sustainable results (Summerfield, 2016).


Losing weight can be a challenging and rewarding journey, but remember, it’s a journey. There are no shortcuts, quick fixes or special diets that will produce real results. Instead of looking for quick results, putting the focus on changing goal sabotaging habits to goal crushing habits will help our clients win the body composition game!

Interested in becoming a losing weight specialist? NASM’s weight loss expertise is specially designed to help you create practical plans for your clients to losing weight and keep it off in a way that is healthy and unique to them.


Argyrakopoulou, G., Simati, S., Dimitriadis, G. and Kokkinos, A. (2020). How important is feeding rate in the physiological response to food intake, body weight control and glycemia? Nutrients, 12(6), 1734. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061734

Balfour, J. and Boster, J. (2022). Physical activity and losing weight maintenance. PubMed; StatPearls Publication. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK572051/

Bhutani, S., Schoeller, DA, Walsh, MC, & McWilliams, C. (2016). Frequency of eating out at both fast food and casual dining restaurants was associated with high body mass index in non-large metropolitan communities in the Midwest. American journal of health promotion, 32(1), 75-83. https://doi.org/10.1177/0890117116660772

Biolo, G., Ciocchi, B., Stulle, M., Piccoli, A., Lorenzon, S., Dal Mas, V., Barazzoni, R., Zanetti, M. and Guarnieri, G. (2005). Metabolic consequences of physical inactivity. Journal of Renal Nutrition, 15(1), 49-53. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.jrn.2004.09.009

Gesteiro, E., García-Carro, A., Aparicio-Ugarriza, R., & González-Gross, M. (2022). Eating out: influence on nutrition, health, and policy: a scoping review. Nutrients, 14(6), 1265. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14061265

Ismail, TAT, Jalil, RA, Wan Ishak, WR, Hamid, NF, Wan Nik, WS, Jan Mohamed, HJ, Mohd, NH, Arifin, WN, Mohamed, WMIW, Ibrahim, MI, Ismail, R., Hassim, TFT, Aris, T. and Wan Muda, WM (2018). Understanding dieting and previous losing weight attempts among overweight and obese participants: Insights from the My Body is Fit and Fabulous at Work program. Korean journal of family medicine, 39(1), 15. https://doi.org/10.4082/kjfm.2018.39.1.15

Masood, W., Uppaluri, KR, and Annamaraju, P. (March 21, 2019). Ketogenic Diet. nih.gov; StatPearls Publication. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/

Santos, I., Sniehotta, FF, Marques, MM, Carraça, EV and Teixeira, PJ (2016). Prevalence of personal weight control attempts in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews, 18(1), 32-50. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12466

Summerfield, L. (2016). Nutrition, exercise, and behavior: an integrated approach to weight management. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Turner-McGrievy, GM, Wilcox, S., Boutté, A., Hutto, BE, Singletary, C., Muth, ER and Hoover, AW (2017). Erratum: Dietary intervention study to improve tracking with mobile devices (DIET Mobile): a 6-month randomized losing weight trial. Obesity, 25(12), 2156-2157. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.22076

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2020). losing weight: key recommendations. nih.gov. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/recommen.htm

Wicherski, J., Schlesinger, S., & Fischer, F. (2021). Association between skipping breakfast and body weight: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies. Nutrients, 13(1), 272. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13010272

Yamamoto, R., Tomi, R., Shinzawa, M., Yoshimura, R., Ozaki, S., Nakanishi, K., Ide, S., Nagatomo, I., Nishida, M., Yamauchi-Takihara, K ., Kudo, T., & Moriyama, T. (2021). Associations of skipping breakfast, lunch, and dinner with weight gain and overweight/obesity in college students: a retrospective cohort study. Nutrients, 13(1), 271. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13010271

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