Fat loss is simple.
So simple, in fact, that people seem to strive to make it more difficult than it really is. Instead of taking the fundamental principles and applying them, people tend to be on an endless search for complexity.
It’s just human nature. We strive to find the flashy and innovative ideas, and most of the time end up spinning our wheels, making no progress and wondering what we’re doing wrong.
Often times, it’s our own mistakes that make it harder to lose fat. It’s our own personal screw-ups, our fault. Sometimes it’s the fault of the program or diet that’s being followed. Most of the time, it’s a combination of the two.
So, how do we simplify fat loss to the point where it’s hard to mess up? How do we make it so that fat loss isn’t such an endless pursuit?
Well, you can start by avoiding these nine mistakes.
1. Not Thinking Long Term
This is probably the most common mistake I see among people attempting to lose fat, and it’s often the most dangerous.
The problem arises when people only think of fat loss as a short-term ordeal. They think that crash-dieting for a month will get them to where they want to be. The problem is that this type of fat loss is not sustainable.
When you think in the short-term, will you lose fat? Sure. Will you be able to keep it off? Probably not. The reason being is that you are not forming habits. You’re not making changes that will last you beyond the few weeks you decide to commit to dieting.
If you don’t form permanent lifestyle changes and positive habits, you will likely spin your wheels, losing fat, putting it back on in a vicious cycle.
2. Searching for the Magic Solution
No matter the goal, some people are always drawn to the most shiny, flashy program that makes the biggest promises, yet often times doesn’t have the evidence to back it up.
The truth is that there is no magic bullet. Anyone who tells you that their way is the only way to lose fat, they’re trying to take your money.
Don’t give into the bullshit. Take the time to do the research on your own and experiment to find what works for you.
A program that I have discussed ad nauseum in the past is Carb Backloading. I used Carb Backloading for quite a while with excellent results. However, my views on the program have changed slightly. After looking at the research objectively, I’ve found that the “evidence” that supports Carb Backloading is a bit shaky and overextended.
However, this doesn’t change the fact that myself and many, many others have seen great results with the program. Why? Because all diets work. Let me qualify that last statement: all diets that fit your personal preference and that control calorie and protein intake work.
Carb Backloading worked so well for me because it fit my schedule, I actually had fun on the diet, and I was able to adhere perfectly to its principles. There’s nothing magical about Carb Backloading, but there is something magical about finding a program that fits your preferences and then putting it to work.
So, don’t go looking for the magic solution. Like I’ve said before, it doesn’t matter what approach you take. Don’t listen to the scumbag scam artists that push their programs as if they’re gospel. Find what works for you and don’t let some moron persuade you otherwise.
3. Dropping Calories Too Quickly
People often fall into the mindset that faster is better, but this isn’t always the case. In the instance that you have a hundred pounds to lose, faster may very well be better in the beginning.
However, if you’re just trying to drop ten or twenty pounds, it’s best to start slowly to minimize metabolic effects and lean body mass (muscle) loss.
Taking the slow approach to fat loss can be frustrating at times, but it will minimize some of the metabolic slowdown that occurs during dieting as well as, like I said, help you retain the muscle you worked so hard to build.
4. Overdoing Your Cheats
While there is good reason to include cheat days when in a fat loss phase, it’s important to know your limits, and not go beyond them.
Cheat days are excellent psychologically and physically, helping you to reset leptin and ensure that your metabolism doesn’t slow because of the prolonged energy deficit, but if you overdo them, you can do more harm than good.
Here are a few cheat day recommendations:
- Keep fat low. This is important because when in a caloric surplus, excess fat calories will be stored as body fat.
- Hit your protein requirements, and then some. This will keep you full to the point where you don’t overdo your binging.
- Pound the carbs. Most of the metabolic issues that come along with dieting occur because of long term carbohydrate restriction, which negatively impacts thyroid hormone and leptin levels. Overeating carbs will help you re-spark your metabolism and it will refill your glycogen stores, providing you with the fuel you need to maintain gym performance.
- Stop at satisfaction, not discomfort. This is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t eat yourself sick.
5. Becoming Obsessive With Food Choices
Summing up the points that I made in this post, obsession is not a good state of mind to associate with any aspect of your life.
Flexibility is crucial to being able to adhere to a diet, so let dieting become a part of your life, but don’t let it consume you.
This includes being overly restrictive. You see it all the time: diets are so often associated with restricting your food choices to the point of absurdity. What if I told you that you could eat the same things you eat when you’re trying to put on muscle, you just have to eat less? Crazy, huh? Now, this obviously doesn’t apply in every situation, but for the most part, you don’t have to be overly restrictive on your diets.
Bit of a tangent here: this is my main gripe with some of the Paleo folks. They become so extreme and make dieting an all or nothing experience. I’ve met people following the Paleo diet who have this idea that everyone who doesn’t follow Paleo and subscribes to more flexible approach are lazy and undedicated. Ridiculous. I’ll save this for another post, let’s get back on track.
6. Program Hopping
It’s common to see someone get extremely motivated and enthusiastic about a program, and then quit after a week or two of no results.
This is frustrating because it takes much longer than just a few weeks to see results on any program, people are just extremely impatient and want the quick and easy way, but there is no such way.
If you can adhere to a program and it fits your lifestyle, stick with it for at least two months before judging its effectiveness. Don’t be impatient, and don’t expect results immediately.
Anything worth achieving takes time.
7. Thinking More is Better
Not losing fat? Oh, just do a few more hours of cardio. Just increase the caloric deficit another 500 calories.
The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t take into account the metabolic slowdown that occurs during extremely low calorie environments. Also, it’s much easier to burn out and overtrain when you’re in an energy deficit.
So, constantly increasing cardio and the overall deficit can be detrimental. If you stall, you can reduce calories slowly or increase activity slowly. But, there’s a point when you should stop trying to do more, and try a different approach (refeeds/cheat day, diet break, etc.).
8. Dwelling on Failures and Small Mistakes
The reality is, there are always goof-ups. They’re inevitable, and sometimes out of your control. So, if you make a mistake, don’t stress about it.
Lyle McDonald often uses the analogy eating one cookie vs. eating the whole bag. Is one cookie going to ruin your diet? Of course not.
However, if you decide that the diet is ruined because of the one cookie, and then go on to eat the entire bag, then you truly have messed up the diet. So, if you make a mistake or fall off the wagon a bit, no problem, just get back on track and don’t let it get out of hand.
This is why it’s important to understand how to apply flexibility to a diet. In reality, the calories from a cookie are going to make such a small difference that it will make no significant impact in the long run, so if you’re craving a cookie, then eat it. Just make sure it fits into your calorie totals, and doesn’t lead to a total binge, and you’ll be perfectly fine.
9. Obsessing Over Macronutrient Composition
It seems that this mistake has become more and more prevalent over the past few years. The low carb and Atkins cults are raging with their nonsense, while the old school high carb low fat pushers refuse to be removed from traditional thinking.
You know what? Both camps are wrong. The reality is that macronutrient breakdown of the diet doesn’t matter. As long as protein is kept high and calories are controlled, there is no difference between fat loss on low carb diets and high carb diets. Sure, low carb diets cause transient water and muscle glycogen loss, but overall fat loss ends up being the same in both groups. It all depends on your personal preference and what makes you feel and perform better.
Seriously, stop obsessing about whether you want to go low carb or high carb or cyclical ketogenic or Paleo Primal Carb Fat Backwards Loading.
Just create a caloric deficit, lift weights, and be consistent. See why I said fat loss is simple?
Understanding that you will make mistakes on a diet should give you some peace of mind, and the ability to deal with them when they come up. If you let mistakes ruin you mentally, fat loss success is going to very hard to come by.
What do you feel are the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose fat? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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