3 New Year Diet Mistakes That People Make

The New Year marks a period where individuals often make resolutions for the coming year. Simultaneously, a considerable number of people embark on a new diet during this time.

Nevertheless, certain common mistakes tend to hinder success for those starting a ‘New Year diet.’

This article looks at three prevalent New Year diet mistakes, provides guidance on avoiding them, and suggests a better alternative.

Yellow warning signs with 'Diet Mistakes' written on them.

1) Focusing Only On Calories and Neglecting Food Quality

Regardless of what others may assert, the quantity of calories you consume is vitally important for weight regulation.

To achieve successful weight loss, maintaining a consistent energy deficit is imperative. This means that our energy intake must be less than what we expend through regular metabolism and physical activity (1, 2).

However, focusing only on calories while neglecting the quality of food we consume can hinder dietary success. It’s not just about what we consume, but the quality of what we consume that plays a crucial role.

If you eat any type of food in small enough quantities, it’s possible to lose weight, whether that is from fast food, candy, or anything else. However, these foods tend to have a much smaller satiating effect. In simpler terms, hunger tends to quickly reappear after consuming them when compared to higher-quality dietary choices.

For example, it would be simple to eat 1000-2000 calories in a single sitting from a fast food chain and yet you might feel hungry a few hours later.

In contrast, attempting to consume the same number of calories from a plate full of whole foods, such as eggs, boiled potatoes, and vegetables, would prove challenging. Furthermore, it would also leave you feeling better satiated.

Satiating Foods

Satiety refers to the feeling of fullness and satisfaction, without desire for further food until the next meal. In this context, higher-satiety foods can lead to reduced snacking between meals and a lower overall energy intake (3).

Typically, whole, minimally processed foods such as fish, eggs, potatoes, oats, legumes, fruit, and meat offer the highest satiety (4, 5).

Scientific studies published on this topic have demonstrated that:

  • Individuals tend to consume fewer calories when opting for whole foods over ultra-processed ones (6).
  • Protein, fiber, and the volume of food appear to exhibit a positive impact on satiety (7, 8, 9).
Key Point: Yes, the quantity of calories we consume is pivotal for weight loss. However, it is much simpler to eat a reduced amount of food without experiencing hunger if the food predominantly consists of whole foods abundant in protein and fiber. A diet that consistently leaves you feeling hungry is unlikely to be sustainable.

2) Ignoring Calories (and Consuming Too Many “Hidden Calories”)

As emphasized in the first point, adhering to a sustainable diet that avoids excessive hunger largely depends on food quality.

However, this doesn’t suggest that calories are irrelevant, as they do matter.

We can adopt the healthiest diet in the world, but if we consume an excessive amount of food beyond our energy needs, weight gain is inevitable.

For instance, consider these typical real-world examples.

Weekend Eating Patterns

A well-formulated, healthy weekday diet with a calorie deficit conducive to modest weight loss can be undermined by weekend eating habits.

For instance, depending on the overall weekend eating pattern, consuming a large pizza along with several beers could swiftly offset the weight loss achieved during the weekdays.

Moreover, scientific evidence highlights this example can be a common dietary mistake.

  • In a weekly dietary analysis involving 1421 participants, there were fluctuations in weight within the week amounting to 0.35%. These fluctuations involved weight loss during weekdays followed by weight gain on weekends (10).
  • A large cohort study tracked 7007 adults for a minimum of five months, examining their weekly caloric intake patterns. Among the results, women consuming 50 to 250 calories more on weekend days than on Mondays experienced significantly more weight loss (1.64%) than those who consumed over 500 calories more on weekend days. Consistently maintaining calorie intake on weekends was associated with greater success in losing weight (11).
  • A year-long randomized controlled trial compared calorie restriction versus daily exercise in 48 healthy adults. The study revealed that participants were consistently gaining weight on weekend days at baseline, but not on weekdays. Although all participants in the trial lost weight over weekdays throughout the study, weight loss stalled on weekends due to higher caloric intake in both groups (12).

Failing To Account For Hidden Calories

Failing to account for so-called “hidden calories” in one’s diet can also be a problematic diet mistake.

In this context, an individual might be adhering to a relatively healthy diet, with food choices during breakfast, lunch, and dinner seemingly conducive to weight loss. However, the inadvertent consumption of excess “hidden calories” throughout the day can undermine this weight loss effort.

These hidden calories could come a 200-calorie takeout latte, a small 150-calorie post-lunch snack, or an additional 150 calories from cooking oil used during the day. If an individual aiming for a 2200-calorie daily intake to lose weight already consumed 1900 calories from their meals, these unaccounted-for “hidden calories” could tip the scale toward weight gain.

Keeping track of one’s dietary (and caloric) intake can be highly beneficial in avoiding such issues.

However, it is understandable that not everybody wants to meticulously track what they eat. In such cases, it is still worth trying to approximate one’s habitual diet to foster better awareness of overall intake.

3) Following a Short-Term Diet With an Expiration Date

Losing weight is achievable on various diets, provided they can be sustained for an adequate period of time (13).

Whether it’s a celebrity-endorsed, plant-based, carnivore, low-carb, or any other diet, any regimen lowering overall energy intake enough will lead to weight loss.

However, a common diet mistake is following a specific diet for a set duration to achieve weight loss without adequate post-diet planning.

Let’s explore the typical reason behind this mistake:

  1. An individual gains weight and decides to embark on a diet. Despite anticipating challenges, they initiate the diet, experience weight loss, and gain motivation to finish their 6-week regimen.
  2. After completing the diet, the individual has lost a good amount of weight but they are tired of their diet and return to their pre-diet eating habits.
  3. As they are now eating in a way that mirrors the diet that caused their initial weight gain, they witness their weight creeping up again.
  4. The cycle repeats.

The Key Lies in a Long-Term, Sustainable Eating Approach

It is crucial to recognize that a short-term diet resulting in weight loss can have health benefits but should ideally be followed by a well-planned eating approach to prevent weight gain.

Despite common promises of “quick fixes,” there is no easy solution. The key is acquiring knowledge to formulate a healthy and sustainable diet that is enjoyable and fits one’s lifestyle.

Consider some useful nutrition books for guidance. Another option would be to consult with a registered dietitian or nutritionist who understands your needs.

Additionally, as a smaller helping hand, here are some nutrition-related products that can make home-cooking a bit easier.

Key Point: Short-term diets often lead to initial weight loss but prove unsustainable. Sustained weight loss necessitates a long-term way of eating that can be enjoyed and adhered to.


At this time of year, it is understandable that many diets attract attention with enticing claims of quick benefits.

However, it is crucial to choose a diet that suits you, offering long-term enjoyment rather than a short-lived expiration date.

Additionally, any diet should take into account both food quality and overall food/energy intake.

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Michael Joseph, MSc

Michael works as a nutrition educator in a community setting and holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. He believes in providing reliable and objective nutritional information to allow informed decisions.