Everyone, at some point in their lives, will want to lose weight. For some it might be for reasons as trivial as looking better in their wedding photos — for others, a health crisis at the end of a lifetime of dietary indulgence.
The health industry is growing by the billions each year, capitalising on the health fears of the overweight and the vanity of the slim. But for such a perennial and lucrative topic, why do so many fail to make lasting changes?
The answer is simple: the media doesn’t advertise weight loss as a skill that needs to be practiced, like an instrument, but as a magic pill that can be swallowed, in the same mindless way that leads people to weight problems in the first place.
Below I’ve listed the 7 most common fat loss mistakes everyone makes to help you stay clear of the confusion and arbitrary information flooding magazines everywhere. Get each of these dialled in and you’ll be well on your way to weight loss mastery.
1. Not Eating Enough Protein
Protein has the highest thermionic effect of any type of food. A staggering 30% of the calories you consume from protein get used up just in the digestion process. It’s also more satiating than fat and carbs and prevents muscle loss when you’re losing weight. Remember, you only want to lose fat when you diet, not muscle.
2. Not Eating Enough Fiber
Dr. Layne Norton, a professional bodybuilder, power-lifter, and PhD in nutritional sciences says that:
“Most of the negative health effects of a high sugar diet are probably actually just down to people not eating enough fiber.”
Fiber regulates blood sugar and insulin, and because of the slowness of its digestion keeps hunger at bay. Most people need 12g/15g of fiber for every 1,000 calories they consume. Beans, vegetables, and bran cereals are a great source.
Apples contain sugar but they also contain fiber. Chocolate contains sugar but has no fiber. There’s nothing wrong with incorporating treats into your diet but you have to be getting your fiber in too.
3. Not Doing Resistance Training
Lifting weights is a great way to burn calories, increase bone density and improve overall health but that’s not why its in this list. The reason you have to lift weights, regardless of your gender, is because if you don’t, you’ll lose muscle.
In order to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. Your body uses its stored fuel like glycogen, fat and muscle tissue keep your body going. If you don’t lift weights your body will much more likely tap into your stored muscle. This is bad. You’ll appear to lose weight yet in actuality keep the same amount of fat on your body.
One or two full body weight lifting sessions per week will be enough if you don’t want to spend hours in the gym.
4. Not Understanding Your Irrational Behaviors
People often say that dieting is 80% what your eat and 20% how you exercise. In reality it’s 100% what you eat, 100% how you exercise and, commonly overlooked, 100% how you think.
People always underestimate how much they actually eat. Countless studies show that when you ask overweight people to report how many calories they’ve consumed, they get it wrong by 30-50%.
The best dieters know how their mind tricks them when they’re hungry and makes believable excuses when they want to stay in bed instead of go to the gym. The best dieters aren’t just skeptical about the advice they hear from others, they’re also skeptical about the advice they tell themselves.
5. Not Weighing Yourself Every day
People who don’t ever weigh themselves are sailing without a compass. Not only do they not know how much weight they’ve lost, they don’t know how much weight they might have gained! Some people binge on a diet and end up heavier at the end of it.
But even for those who weigh themselves once a week — body weight fluctuates massively throughout the month. Having a large amount of salt (junk food), alcohol, menstrual cycles, caffeine or carbohydrates can make you lose or gain drastic amounts of water weight — think of boxers dropping 10 pounds in a day to make weight.
The only way to accurately measure your fat loss progress is to weigh yourself at a consistent time every day and average the results at the end of each week.
6. Not Figuring Out Your Maintenance Calories
If you don’t have a ball park figure of your maintenance calories you’re making weight loss ten times harder than it needs to be. Every pound of fat is equal to about 3,500 calories. If you do the math, to lose a pound a week you’ll need to be in a calorie deficit of 500 calories for 7 days.
The three keys to losing weight are desire, discipline and consistency. If your maintenance calorie intake is 2,500 calories but you don’t know it, you might eat 1,000 one day thinking you’re being healthy only to compensate by hungrily eating 3,000 the next day. What happens? You have a deficit of only 500 for two days of dieting which totals to a meager 0.5 pounds per week if you continue this way. You think back to those days where you only ate 1,000 calories and you convince yourself that the effort isn’t worth the results.
Head over to this calorie calculator to figure our your maintenance calories. Then work out how much you’ll need to eat to lose 1-2 pounds per week.
7. Not Cultivating Enough Patience
Fat loss when done properly (not losing muscle), is a slow process. Sometimes you’ll go hungry, sometimes you’ll experience mood swings, sometimes you’ll feel like losing weight is impossible for you. The reality is, everyone will lose weight in a calorie deficit. But weight loss isn’t linear.
It’s not uncommon for dieters to have the same weight for three weeks only to drop 3 pound suddenly over night. The trouble is, if you don’t have enough patience you’ll think that you need to lower your calories at the first sign of a weight stall. What ends up happening is that you create a diet so low in calories no one can stick too for the long term.
However many pounds you want to lose, as a minimum give yourself the equivalent number of weeks to lose it. If you want to lose 20 pounds you should prepare your mind to diet for 20 weeks. Don’t get caught up in ‘fast weight loss’ schemes. These diets just manipulate your water weight and the results disappear the moment you start eating normally again.
The next time you feel lost and confused about your weight loss progress think back to these common 7 fat loss mistakes. If you’re avoiding each one there’s nothing to worry about. But if you’re making these mistakes, correct yourself and keep marching onward.