How to Avoid the Seven Biggest Weight Loss Mistakes

The Root talks to Dr. Ian Smith on how to conquer those extra pounds.


Yeah, yeah, “eat more, weigh less,” we’ve all heard it. But this isn’t just a women’s magazine cover line. As counterintuitive as it sounds, eating too little and not often enough is one of the most frequent mistakes people make when trying to lose weight.

Dr. Ian Smith, author, medical/diet expert on VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club, and founder of The 50 Million Pound Challenge, has seen and heard all the mistakes people make when trying to lose weight. “When I travel, I really listen to people in the trenches as they are trying to get their bodies back,” he says. “When I get home, I usually have about 100 e-mails a day from people who are really struggling. Many of them have tried to lose weight and not succeeded, and I see many of the same mistakes over and over.”

So where do we all go so wrong? Smith, also the author of three weight loss books, including his most recent The 4-Day Diet, talked with The Root about the seven most common mistakes people make and offers strategies to avoid them.

Not eating enough food often enough. If you know anything about weight loss, you’ve probably been told that it’s best to eat small, healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. However, many people don’t believe it. They skip breakfast and sometimes even lunch then load up when they’re really hungry, generally at dinner. Calories are still calories, right?

“One of greatest misperceptions is that by skipping meals you’re saving calories,” says Smith. “It seems OK to eat one big 1,500-calorie meal instead of spreading the 1,500 calories over several meals. But it’s not. Skipping meals throws off the metabolism and kicks the body into starvation mode. You end up holding onto the fat, instead of burning it.”

To keep metabolism steady and lose weight, eat small, healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. Choose low-fat protein, high fiber and lots and lots of vegetables.

Starting a diet at the wrong time. Many people, says Smith, insist they want to lose weight, but they really aren’t ready. “Weight loss takes commitment,” he says. “When you have circumstances—like financial problems or a divorce—that won’t allow weight loss to be No. 1, you can’t give your diet the focus it needs.”

When you’re ready, really ready, says Smith, make eating right and exercise your No. 1 priority.

Setting unrealistic expectations. “You’d be surprised how often people tell me that they want to lose something like 30 pounds in two months,” says Smith. “This is unrealistic. It didn’t take only two months to put on those pounds, so it’s going to take longer to take them off. If you go in with an unrealistic goal, you’re not going to succeed.”

Smith says that the average American on a weight loss program loses 3 pounds a week. “That’s a good, healthy number,” he says. “Even if you just lose a pound a week, it adds up to 52 pounds a year. That’s a great result."