07/09/2011 06:28 BST | Updated 06/11/2011 05:12 GMT

The 6 Biggest Weight Loss Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

If you want to lose weight, there are so many different ways to do it. But why then, do so many people struggle to lose weight?

Because most people go about losing weight in the wrong way. This is less about the specific diet they choose, but more about how they apply the weight loss method to their life.

The "diet" approach (temporarily restricting what you eat so that you can lose weight) is the default option for people choosing to lose weight in our society. And yet it is the diet approach that actually undermines genuine sustainable long term weight loss.

Most people will say to me "I know dieting is the wrong way to lose weight", but from what I have seen, even people who think they are trying a "non-dieting" approach actually make some of the same mistakes as people who go on fad diets.

So here are 6 common mistakes that could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

1. Trying a Short Term Solution

Diets are by nature short term and people who use them often give no thought as to what they will do afterwards. You might be able to withstand that brutal diet that helps you shed lots of pounds overnight, but then what? This is the fundamental flaw of a fad diet. It might work to help you lose weight, but what are you going to do for after that? Most people will revert to their old habits and start gaining the weight back (yoyo dieting).

As I tell my clients, no matter what methods you use to lose weight, be sure it is something you feel comfortable doing for the rest of your life.

2. Wanting a Quick Fix

It is natural to desire things as soon as possible, but wanting immediate results in losing weight, sets you up for failure. When you chase quick results, you make the wrong decisions. Rather than making sustainable changes, you opt for deprivation and starvation to get to your goal as soon as possible. This makes weight loss so unbearable that it is difficult to sustain it for a brief time let alone for the rest of your life.

Instead of aiming for a quick fix (which some people end up doing every few months) why not take the long-term perspective and solve your weight problem permanently?

The longer the timeframe you give yourself, the less pressure you will feel to make bad decisions about how to lose weight.

3. Making Big Changes

If you currently do no exercise and then suddenly decide to start running 8 miles each day, chances are that you would find it difficult to maintain. Similarly, if you have a regular diet that includes generous portions of chocolate, cakes and ice cream, then to cut it all out at once is a cruel thing to do to yourself and also very difficult to maintain. The changes are too big and difficult to assimilate at once. And more often than not, they lead to feelings of deprivation and cravings for the forbidden food.

Make changes one at a time. And remember, drastic changes are the ones that are easily discarded when "life gets in the way".

4. Doing Things That Are Unpleasant

You increase your chances of success significantly when you make your weight loss pleasant. Put another way, the more unpleasant your method of weight loss, the more likely you will struggle to maintain it for the long term.

Always ask yourself, "Do I really think I will still be doing this in 5 years time?" If the answer is no, then try a different approach.

5. Using a Weight Loss Method that is Completely Inflexible or Impractical

Many diets are so structured and strict that they make eating out, travelling or even cooking a normal meal impossible. While some people find that the structure of a diet plan helps them to keep on track, you must always ask yourself if this is a long term solution.

The ideal weight loss plan should be able to cope with different life situations and events, including holidays, getting busy at work, or dealing with illness. Otherwise, the moment something unusual appears on your schedule, your weight loss goes out the window.

6. Using a Weight Loss Method that is Pass / Fail.

Most diets are pass/fail. You either stick religiously to the prescribed menu or you don't. If you don't stick to it, then you are "cheating". This pass/fail attitude is dangerous, because it sets people up to think that if they aren't sticking to the diet perfectly (which is really hard to do) then they are a failure. This makes them more likely to give up.

Weight loss should instead be viewed as a process. You need to accept "bad days" and learn from them, rather than think of them as a sign of failure.

The Heart of the Problem

If you think about any previous "failed" attempts at losing weight you or anyone else may have had, you will usually find at least one of these 6 mistakes at the heart of the problem. Avoid these mistakes to ensure that your weight loss is effective, safe and for the long term.