Losing weight is never easy, and often you find yourself stuck in a plateau. No matter how many hours you spent in the gym or how many thought you put into your diet, sometimes you simply don’t see any progress. But before you give up, take a moment to look back at your actions and find out where you might have done better. Here’s a list of the most common mistakes we see people make when they begin their weight-loss journey.
#1 Having the wrong mindset
They say that if your mind can believe it, your body can achieve it, but what about going a little back and focus on the mind itself? Often we start off something with a goal set for the short run. We want to drop a dress size in two weeks, so we resort to some fad diet that promises unrealistic fast results. Then, after we get what we want, we return to old habits and probably to the “before” weight. And if the promised results don’t appear, we get frustrated and quit. That’s what we call having a short-term mindset.
You should strive for the long term. Don’t just think of how much weight you want to lose, nor how much time you’ve got to achieve that goal. Think about making healthier choices, those subtle changes in your lifestyle that will truly make a difference. And stick with them for good.
We’re talking about following a balanced diet, exercising regularly and, just as important, taking your sleep time seriously. A healthy lifestyle will lead to major improvements over time, including not only a leaner body, but also a clearer mind.
#2 Eating too little
Don’t drastically cut your calorie intake. When you go on an extreme calorie deficit, that is, when you’re giving your body less than 70% of the caloric amount it needs to keep its weight, you’re likely to face more cons than pros. Yes, you will certainly lose weight at first, but keep in mind that your body adapts accordingly to the incoming energy and, eventually, your basal metabolic rate slows down. And if you persist in that crash diet (eating less than 1000 calories a day) for longer, you’ll also be compromising your muscle mass, which your body will start breaking down for use as energy source.
This is just your body’s basic survival instinct reacting to the drastic energy decrease, so you must tell it that it’s not in danger. How? By cutting your calorie intake gradually and progressively, and never going too far below the “maintenance level”.
What’s more, because you don’t feel hungry all the time, you’re more likely to stick to your diet and avoid binge eating, and that’s a big plus for motivation!
#3 Focusing on the wrong culprit
When it comes to dieting, there’s one nutrient that usually takes the blame: fats. However, just because you want to lose fat, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat fats. It may sound contradictory, but understanding how fats can actually be beneficial for your weight loss diet will get you a long way into achieving your goal.
When you eat a food that contains some fat (moderation is always key), you’re likely to feel satiated for longer, which means you’re less likely to snack later on. Plus, there are unsaturated fats, like the omega-3 fatty acids, that promote healthy cholesterol levels and help break down body fat while inhibiting the formation of new fat tissue.
So, what’s the real culprit that’s sabotaging your diet? We’d say refined sugars. Many so-called diet foods or low-fat foods can actually contain more calories than their “full-fat” versions because the fat has been replaced with sugar and other fillers — with little to no nutritional value — to enhance the flavour. In short, you should watch out for hidden sugars. Low-fat foods, sports drinks, dressings and sauces are often disguising the extra empty calories you’re eating. And speaking of dressings and sauces: don’t slather your super-healthy salad and grilled chicken breast with the wrong condiments. Try olive oil, dry spices or hot sauce instead.
#4 Going overboard with cardio
Getting enough cardio is key for burning fat, no doubt about it. However, keep in mind that there is more than one way of doing it. Spending hours on the treadmill is only effective to some extent, as you’ll be burning calories during your workout but not so much afterwards. Besides, long periods of steady cardio might hinder your muscle gains and burn you out, and it also gets boring after a while.
HIIT is a more effective way to reduce body fat, causing your body to burn more calories in less time and even after you’ve finished your workout. And since you can perform circuits with muscle-building compound exercises, such as push-ups or squats, it lessens the chances of jeopardising your hard-earned muscle.
#5 Ignore the weights
If you believe weight lifting will hurt your weight loss progress, think again. This is definitely one of the biggest myths and, consequently, one of the most common mistakes people make.
First, you should know that the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn at rest. In other words, your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is higher. In addition, weight training will eventually alter your body composition and appearance. When you only do steady-state cardio, you surely lose weight, but you don’t end up looking much different — just “smaller”. By building a muscle base, not only will you improve your progress, but you will also look great.
For effective immediate and post-workout fat burning, follow a workout plan that combines both HIIT and weight training, and that is more focused on compound exercises rather than isolated ones. Choose according to your fitness level (beginner, intermediate or advanced) and burn off all excessive fat for keeps.
Disclaimer: The information provided does not replace the advice and supervision of a doctor or dietitian.