You’re downing green juices by the litre, exercising on the reg and sipping apple cider vinegar between meals, but you still can’t lose weight. The problem? You’re probably not eating as clean as you think you are. To clear up the confusion, Peta Carige, sports dietitian and nutritionist, is here to share the seven food mistakes she wishes you’d stop making.

1. Kilojoule counting

Kilojoule counting apps are huge right now, but they change the focus from what nutrients in food keep you healthy to, “How many jelly beans can I eat and still come under my target for the day?” Unfortunately, though, kilojoules in vs kilojoules out doesn’t always result in weight loss. These apps grossly over-estimate your exercise energy expenditure, and they don’t take into consideration all the other variables that contribute to weight loss, such as your metabolism, muscle mass, gut microbiome (the healthier your gut flora is, the more energy you burn) and the timing of when you eat.

Do this instead: Focus on choosing wholefoods such as fruit, nuts, boiled eggs, wholegrains, seeds and diary, and leave the skin on fruits and veggies whenever you can as the fibre feeds the good bacteria in your stomach. Eat more when you train and less on days you don’t, and you’ll find it easier to manage your weight.

2. Comparing yourself to others

One of the biggest food mistakes is comparing what you eat to others, and it’s often detrimental for two reasons: Firstly, it results in women focusing on inappropriate changes rather than having an honest look at their own personal diet. Secondly, we all have very different genetics, family histories, muscle mass and energy expenditure. Certain weight loss methods will work for some people, but not for others, so comparing your diet to someone else’s may not be helpful.

Do this instead: Take a look at your own diet and find something naughty you drink or eat regularly and make it healthier. This is the best way to make sustainable changes that will actually give you results. Next, reflect on a time that you felt really good about your body and pinpoint what you were eating around then so you can get an indication of what kind of diet suits you personally. Lastly, if you really want to figure out what will work for you, go see a dietitian to obtain a meal plan that matches your body, clinical conditions, lifestyle and genetics.

3. Lying to yourself

Did you know that two plain biscuits, one fun-size chocolate or 100ml of wine = one ‘extra’. Called ‘extras’ because they contribute fat and sugar to your diet rather than nutrients, these treats are little packets of additional energy. If you’re trying to lose weight, you should be aiming for only two to three of them per WEEK, but as a society, we’ve got a bad habit of justifying extras on a daily basis because they’re only small.

Do this instead: Keep an honest record of your discretional extras over a week. Remember to calculate the wine according to a standard glass (one glass = 1.5 standard drinks), then aim to reduce your extras by half and see what happens.

4. Sipping ‘health’ drinks

Smoothies, juices and coconut water all contain energy and aren’t as filling as eating actual food, which makes it easy to drink excess kilojoules.

Do this instead: Guzzle water and eat your fruit and dairy serves whole. Sounds simple, but this is a very easy change that can make a big difference.

5. Living off protein shakes

I just heard the gasps of, “But if I lift weights, my trainer said I need more protein!”, but unfortunately, most protein shakes provide you with a fair hit of energy you don’t need. You probably already consume adequate amounts of protein from your typical daily diet, so focus more on the getting the timing of your protein intake correct.

Do this instead: Have your morning tea straight after your training session or move your meals to after the gym, rather than before. This way you’ll meet the protein requirements needed to build muscle and recover from your training session without increasing your overall energy intake. Plus, you’ll also build more lean muscle mass and decrease your body fat. Winning!

6. Believing the hype

We’re all guilty of this one, and while you might want to believe that raw paleo banana bread is healthier than the normal version, or that ‘no added sugar’ means a food contains no energy at all, the reality is that these treats are still nutrient dense. As a result, they’ll only provide you with health benefits if eaten very occasionally. Often packed with a lot of energy from dried fruit, nuts, almond meal, oils and natural forms of sugar, these snacks won’t aid your weight loss goals.

Do this instead: Check if you’re genuinely hungry or if you’re just trying to justify a snack. Always ask yourself,  “Am I hungry enough to eat an apple?”, and if the answer is no, then you don’t need the snack. If the answer is yes, then eat an apple – not a raw, ‘sugarless’ brownie.

7. Setting unrealistic expectations

Women are really bad at setting unrealistic goals for their bodies. If your wish is to be 55kg and you haven’t been that weight since you were 17, maybe it isn’t a realistic goal. Wanting to look like an Instagram model isn’t realistic, either, so keep your expectations achievable and relatable.

Do this instead: Figure out how you want to feel rather than what you want to look like. Feeling better in your clothes, finding a sustainable healthy weight or having more energy are much more important than a weight target. It’s all about being the best version of yourself while taking into consideration the hours you work, your family and social commitments.

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