If you’ve been following a diet but not losing weight, one of these common mistakes may be why.  

By Lisa Rabasca Roepe

Atkins Diet

Enjoy your burger but not the bun. And forget about sugar-laden cookies. This low-carb plan jump-starts weight loss by filling your plate with protein and fat (like beef, bacon and avocado) plus nutrient-dense vegetables (like

kale and broccoli). It works because when you decrease carbs, your body burns fat for fuel, reduces insulin

and sheds excess water. 

Diet Derail

After the initial phase, which lasts at least two weeks, you gradually increase your carb intake and start to reintroduce eliminated items like nuts, dairy and legumes. But if you add refined bread and pasta, you can pack on pounds. “Making a radical change back to how you used to eat is a big mistake,” says Amy Goodson, RD, adjunct professor at Texas Woman’s University.  

Get Back On Track

Reduce the serving size of protein and fat when you add carbohydrates to your meal, says Goodson. Just remember to keep them all balanced. If you typically eat two slices of cheese and vegetables as a snack and want to add fruit as a carbohydrate, modify your snack to one slice of cheese, vegetables and a fruit. Eating your carbs early in the day, when you’re most active, can help too.

The Paleo Diet

There goes your morning bowl of cereal! Milk, whole grains and refined sugar are off-limits. The idea behind the Paleo diet is to eat like our ancestors did 10,000 years ago, when they hunted and gathered—lean meat, fish and non-starchy fruits and vegetables. That means you’ll also avoid foods that are processed and have added salt, sugar and preservatives. 

Diet Derail

While the majority of people lose weight on this diet, many find it difficult to stick to long-term, says Goodson. When a diet becomes too strict, we often revert to our old habits and gain weight.

Get Back On Track

If it’s working for you and you want to stay on it for the long haul, Goodson recommends going partial Paleo. Use the diet’s recommendations as a base and carefully add small portions of yogurt, cheese, oats and quinoa back into your diet. Include three servings of dairy a day and no more than a fist-sized serving of whole grains at each meal.

South Beach Diet

The first week of this modified low-carb, high protein and low-sugar diet is all prepared foods designed to reduce cravings and jump-start weight loss by cutting out white bread, potatoes, white rice, white pasta, baked goods, fruit and alcohol. In the second week, you can eat on your own and add back certain carbs.

Diet Derail

Weight loss often stalls during week two, when people start to eat carbs again. They either overdo it with portions or reach for white bread or white rice instead of whole grains, beans and fruit, says Elisabetta Politi, RD, nutrition director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, NC.

Get Back On Track

To add whole grains, you’ll need to eat less fruit, dairy and vegetables. “If you eat five servings of fruits and vegetables, you may reach your carb limit without any whole grains,” Politi says. “The same is true if you like to have milk and yogurt for breakfast.” Track your consumption and keep it balanced.

Mediterranean Diet

Not only has this plan been proven to help you live a longer, happier life—and not just because wine is allowed—it

can also shed pounds. That’s partly due to the decrease in high-fat animal proteins and increase in a wide variety

of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats you’ll enjoy.

Diet Derail

If keeping track of servings is a struggle, you could miss out on the diet’s benefits—and gain weight. Eating too much healthy fat (avocados, nuts, fatty fish) can lead to unintended weight gain. “While good for you, fat yields 9 calories a gram versus carbohydrates and protein each yielding only 4,” explains Goodson, who is also the co-author of Swim, Bike, Run-Eat

Get Back On Track

Measure out portions and track food intake with a food diary or smartphone app. “I tell clients to garnish their meal with a healthy fat,” Goodson says. A handful of nuts could be sprinkled over a salad, for example. Although the Mediterranean diet doesn’t provide specific serving sizes, Goodson recommends just 10 to 15 grams of fat at a meal, which is approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter, 3 ounces of salmon or about 20 almonds.

Weight Watchers

No food is off-limits. Instead, this weight loss program encourages you to choose an apple over apple pie by assigning a point value to each—and a maximum number of points each day. Apple pie will have a higher point value (8) than an apple (0) because it’s higher in sugar, saturated fat and calories. Your gender, age, weight and height determine your daily points. 

Diet Derail

From cauliflower to skinless chicken breasts to egg whites, Weight Watchers has over 200 zero-point foods. But eating items you don’t enjoy just because they won’t count against your daily limit is a recipe for deprivation and boredom. Similarly, overindulging in zero-point foods you like will also sabotage your efforts. Three bananas, for example, still adds up to about 300 calories as well as a large amount of carbohydrates and sugar. 

Get Back On Track

Don’t abuse zero-point foods. “Spread calories out over the day evenly and if there will be a splurge meal later, still consume the same number of meals,” Goodson says. “Just eat less at each.” If you want to snack on zero-point foods throughout the day, Politi suggests filling up on non-starchy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, peppers and onions. If you’re craving something sweet, treat yourself to high-fiber strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.