5 Fat-Loss Mistakes I Made
I tried to lose fat for many years before I finally understood how it’s done right. These are the 5 Fat-Loss Mistakes I made & still see people make all the time – and how to correct them!
Fat-Loss Mistakes #1: Crash Dieting
Don’t crash diet if you want to lose weight and keep it off in the long term. Many people embark on a crash diet to lose weight quickly, thinking that “less is more”.
I categorize crash diets as a diet that expects you to cut your calories dramatically low, often below your BMR (basal metabolic rate) right from the start. Examples are the popular very low-calorie diets such as liquid diets (diet shakes, The Master Cleanse & juice fasts) and The Cabbage Soup Diet, The Boiled Egg Diet, etc.
Going on a crash diet delivers short term results and in all my years as a coach (and as someone who has tried all the different crash diets in the past), I’ve NEVER seen them work in the long term. Yes, you will lose a dramatic amount of weight as long as you follow this insanely restrictive eating plan, but as soon as you consume anything else, you will bounce right back. And after completing a crash diet (if you make it all the way to the end) you’re very likely to binge and gain back everything you’ve lost, plus more.
Losing weight by making such drastic changes to your normal diet is bad news for your body and mind. You’ll lose weight, but it won’t be from unwanted fat but rather from water and precious muscle. Your metabolic rate will drop, making it harder to lose weight in the future. You risk severe food cravings and binges both during and after, and the rebound effect from doing a crash diet can be severe.
Fat-Loss Mistakes #2: Not Eating Enough Calories
We burn fat by consuming fewer calories than we burn in a day, yes. But you want your daily caloric deficit to be so small that it won’t affect your mental energy level, mood, gym performance and NEAT.
If you’ve ever dieted and been in a big caloric deficit, you’ll know how it affects your mental energy and mood. You get irritable, short-tempered and have trouble focusing.
Your performance in the gym goes down which means you’ll burn fewer calories in your workouts and it becomes harder to build and maintain muscle mass. When you’re losing muscle mass and burning fewer calories working out, you’ll have to continuously eat less and less to maintain your weight loss.
NEAT stands for Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis, meaning the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or exercise. NEAT ranges from the energy expended from taking the stairs, walking to work, fidgeting and everything else we do. If you go into a caloric deficit that’s too big, you will naturally move less throughout the day thus lowering your total energy expenditure, forcing you to continually eat less to keep up with the weight loss.
How Many Calories Should You Be Eating To Lose Weight?
Instead, a far better way to lose fat is aiming to lose 500 g. per week. Start by knocking off 500 calories from your current daily intake or calculated maintenance level. For example, if you normally consume 2500 calories per day, cut it down to 2000 calories.
A daily deficit of 500 calories amounts to a weekly deficit of 3500 calories – the amount stored in 500 g. of body fat. After a few weeks, you may want to adjust to a slightly lower or higher deficit. The key is that you dial it in slowly, rather than making dramatic, unsustainable changes. I recommend adjusting with 100 calories per day over the course of one week and tracking your progress, before making more changes.
Fat-Loss Mistakes #3: Drinking Your Calories
One of the easiest ways to accelerate fat loss is to cut all calorie-loaded drinks out of your diet. The biggest mistake many people make when trying to lose body fat is that they don’t consider the calories they drink.
It’s easy to cut out all the sugary sodas, juices, lemonades, teas, and coffees. Skip milk or cream in your tea or coffee, or switch to a low-fat version if you can’t drink it black. Replace sugary sodas with sugar-free versions, sugar-filled lemonade with sparkling water or sugar-free lemonade and stop using cream and sugar in your coffee or tea.
It goes without saying that limiting alcoholic beverages is also in this category. If you can’t or won’t completely cut it out, limit alcohol to maximum once per week and stick to a glass of wine or vodka with sparkling water and lime juice.
Even juices made from 100% fruit with no added sugar that are otherwise considered healthy, are very high in sugar and calories. Since the juicing process means removing all the seeds, skin and fiber, all that’s left is water and sugar. While the juice may still contain vitamins, it has no place in your glass while you’re dieting to lose weight. The satiety and benefits from eating an apple or an orange far outweigh the satiety and benefits from drinking juices.
Fat-Loss Mistakes #4: Doing Too Much Cardio & Not Lifting Weights
Doing too much cardio can actually cause weight gain in the long term. If your cardio workouts are too long, too intense or too frequent, your body will release more cortisol, a stress hormone responsible for breaking down lean muscle mass and increasing fatty deposits. Intense, long duration cardio can also increase your appetite, making it harder for you to stick to a caloric deficit.
How Much Cardio Is Too Much?
There’s no exact answer to how much is too much, but if you’re not competing in endurance sports, I recommend doing up to 30 minutes of high intense cardio (running) or up to 60 minutes of low-intensity cardio (walking) per day if your goal is weight loss.
Instead of relying on cardio for weight loss, I recommend increasing lean muscle mass with weight training. Extra muscle helps burn more energy at rest. Even if it’s only a little, it adds up over the years and months.
What Strength Exercises Should You Do For Weight Loss?
In this blog I share 5 fat-loss secrets and in the video below, I’m showing you 5 great strength exercises for weight loss.
– Dumbbell Thruster
– Devils Press
– Dumbbell Overhead Lunge
– Mountain Climbers
– One-arm KB Swings
Perform 8-15 reps of each exercise for 3-4 sets, 3 days per week. If you do the exercises back to back in a circuit-style workout, this workout will be ideal as both your strength training and cardio. Perfect if you’re busy and looking to get the most out of your time in the gym.
Fat-Loss Mistakes #5: Giving Up Too Soon
Consistency is key for weight loss. Slowly but steadily losing a bit of weight each week is more beneficial for long term weight loss than seeing your weight drastically drop – only to rise again – after following a crash diet.
If you’re eating healthy and exercising but not seeing changes, make small adjustments but continue sticking to your new healthier habits. Sometimes we give up too soon because we put too much focus on fast results. When we find an approach that’s sustainable we don’t see those fast results and it takes away the joy of living a sustainable and healthy lifestyle, leading to completely giving up on exercise and nutritious food.
Don’t rely on motivation to carry you through a long term fat loss. You need to adopt sustainable habits that you can see yourself sticking to, even when your motivation is failing you. Learn to prioritize and live your life, even when you’re losing weight. You can’t take away everything that gives you joy and expects a fat loss project to be successful.