You are on a journey of sustained weight loss and you feel you have done everything right.
You try to “eat healthily” and “stay away from sugar” and “work out a lot” and yet – you are not where you want to be.
I get it. Mainstream and social media make it virtually impossible to know what’s “right” and “wrong”. They make something the “holy grail” of fat loss one day then vilify it the next.
They blame whole food groups, sub-food groups, and Monsanto for the ills of the world.
They look to blame sugar and GMOs and dairy and Jafar’s wizardry staff for people gaining weight never-mind the fact that all of this has been proven not to be the case.
Here are the mistakes you are making and what you should do about them so you can start seeing results.
Fat Loss Mistakes Many Beginners Make and What To Do About It
1. Using “Detoxes” and “Teatoxes”
Celebrities have promotional power and influence. Some celebrities talk about detoxes and teatoxes and people fall victim to this on a daily.
The problem is this: detoxes do not work — period.
Your body has functioning organs that detox 24/7 until the day you die.
As sold to the public, cleanses (detox diets) do not work. Most of their benefits — notably a rapid, but mostly short-term, weight loss — can be attributed to the drastic caloric restriction, not to detoxification. A cleanse might also help by removing foods that don’t agree with you (they work as a de facto elimination diets). (examine.com)
First thing’s first: if you ever feel the need to “detox” from something, ask yourself, “why?” What has got you to this point where you need to “detox” from something? If you get to this point, it most likely means you’re having too much of something and punishing yourself.
Instead of punishing yourself and giving yourself massive restrictions and using dangerous things like diuretics (the most common ingredient in these detoxes/teatoxes), eat less of what you feel you need to “detox” from.
What’s a practical way of doing this?
Don’t buy it as often and set up your environment for success.
2. Realistic (Quantifiable) Expectations for Fat Loss Aren’t Appropriate
Most people want to have 10 years’ worth of work show up in 90 days. This is a mistake many people make especially as it pertains to fat loss.
I have had [potential] clients send me photos of the guy/girl they want to look like.
They get it in their mind that this is the physique they want and don’t realize that every human being is unique. People need to understand that photos on social media have been enhanced/edited many times. People also need to realize that each individual has a story. They could have been training for 10 years to look a certain way (such as myself), or people take drugs on top of an incredibly strict diet to look a certain way, or people have a real commitment to training a certain way, etc.
There are so many variables individual to a person that it’s almost impossible to even expect anything remotely the same.
From a scientific standpoint, people have this idea that fat loss is supposed to be “quick” the moment you get into a calorie deficit and start lifting. It doesn’t quite work like that. In fact, the rate of fat loss is this:
Depending on how much body fat you have and your goal weight, these rates are a best-case scenario. If we’re honest, not everyone has a “best-case scenario) so any fat loss that is sustainable is a good loss. Keep that in mind. This also does not take into consideration the fluctuations in water retention (and time of the month for women).
Start your journey by realistically expecting these things:
You are you. You cannot expect to look like someone else.
You have your own metabolism.
You have your own hormones.
You have your own rate of fat loss.
You have your own life and stress levels.
When you can start realistically expecting these truths, you are setting yourself up for better results.
3. The Truth About Nutrition for Fat Loss
Calories matter when it comes to body composition changes — that is it. No one person defies basic biology and physics. If you eat more calories than you need, you will put on fat. If you eat less than you need, you will lose weight.
Now, I know you are wondering how you would find this caloric deficit.
That’s easy. I made a post about that HERE
Just a recap: There are several formulas you can do to set the deficit. If you are short and/or much heavier, you would start somewhere at your current bodyweight x 8-10 = calories for the deficit. If you are a bit taller (I’m 5’8″ for instance) and a little overweight, you can start bodyweight x 10-12 = calories for the deficit.
Again, this is a very good, educated start BUT it differs from person to person. If you are more active in either category, start on the higher end. If you are a little more sedentary, start on the lower end.
Now that that is out of the way, I know you’ve heard me before talk about flexible dieting and some of you are still trying to figure out macros.
As a coach of this style of doing things, I will make it simple to understand: IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)/Flexible Dieting is not and never was never meant to be a “diet”. It was a way to easily describe the number of macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbs) and the calories coming from each of them to adequately maintain the deficit, maintain lean muscle mass (via protein), protect hormonal/metabolic function (via fats), and provide energy (via carbs).
Macronutrients = protein/fat/carbs. The summation of calories coming from each macro = total caloric intake per person.
This leads me to my next point.
Carbs are not your enemy.
READ THAT AGAIN…AND AGAIN…AND AGAIN.
…especially as a woman.
Do you want to ruin your thyroid? Go low/no-carb.
Want to ruin your cycle? Go low/no-carb.
Not only does going low/no-carb suck, you just feel like death. It’s your brain’s fuel source (cloudy thoughts anyone?). It’s your immediate energy source for training. It aids in recovery from training. On top of that, getting rid of it doesn’t make fat loss faster.
According to Leigh Peele, “…Still, no matter what diet you are taking part of, and no matter how it alters TEF (thermic effect of food) or the other aspects of energy usage, fat is still pulled and used from cells in the same manner.
It should be noted that carbohydrates, or insulin specifically, are not needed to store fat. So yes, on a high-fat diet you can still store fat. There is nothing wrong with a high-fat diet, but it doesn’t really change much in the game other than fat being oxidized or used more for energy. Excess fat intake of need for daily calories will still be stored as fat.”
This also verifies the above that anything you eat in a surplus will be stored as fat; not a specific food group or type.
Further, she states, “Though it’s still popular right now for women to take part in low carb or aggressive carb cycling for fat loss, it more often than not leads to backfiring both in dietary compliance, digestion functionality, and hormonal optimization. While dietary fat and protein are the popular macronutrients of the moment, carbohydrates play crucial roles in raising leptin levels, providing optimal gut variety, and lowering stress levels. This is particularly crucial for women because water retention, period consistency, and muscle recovery are bettered by the consumption of not only carbohydrates but a variety of simple and complex carbohydrates. The general rule of thumb is at least 100g of carbohydrates on a regular basis with at least 25-35g coming from a simple carbohydrate source. The rest of the grams should be in complex/fibrous carbohydrates.”
Also – one more note on carbohydrates: sugar is a carb. Sugar is not the issue. The reason why sugar gets the blame is that it’s usually found also in high-fat food. This kind of food is usually the tastiest.
If you had a Snickers every single day and planned your food around that, ate the amount of protein, carbs, and fat needed, you would still lose fat and enjoy that Snickers
If you are rolling your eyes and thinking, “you’re just a proponent of eating ‘junk'”, let’s just remember a few things:
I said to enjoy the Snickers and eat the rest of the whole, nutrient-dense foods you would normally eat.
You aren’t living off Snickers.
There is no moral value in food. There is no “good/bad/junk” food. There is just…food.
And as for those concerned with the glycemic index, the glycemic index is severely flawed. Do not look to that as your frame of reference.
It’s possible to take in fewer calories from sugar.
To curb the excess calorie intake from sugar, switch to 0-calorie beverages.
Artificial sweeteners, while they get a bad name, have no need and are safe for humans and depending on the sweetener and the person, it can be fine.
A final note about nutrition is protein.
Protein is super important for your fat loss goals.
helps maintain lean muscle mass as you lose fat mass
has a higher thermic effect of food thus you burn a few more calories eating it
helps keep you full, longer
That said, if you want to know how much protein to eat, a simple way to do it is like this:
If you are overweight, eat your target body weight in protein. This means that if you are 200lbs and want to be 150, then eat 150g of protein per day.
If you are less overweight (but still carrying more fat than you’d like), “a little pudgy”, then eat your body weight in protein. If you are 170lbs and want to lose fat, eat 170g of protein
Once your calories are set, figure out your protein, then eat the remaining calories from carbs and fats.
4. Doing Too Much Exercise
When I first get a client inquiry or get into talks with people about working out the moment they find out I’m a trainer, the first thing I usually see is, “I’m training 6-7 days. I do 5 weight training sessions. I do 3 days of HIIT. I do bootcamp…” and all I can think to myself is “my goodness…these people really need my help.”
Even the most advanced person isn’t training 6-7 days a lot of the time. Any bodybuilder or athlete or anyone remotely into anything competitive knows that rest is incredibly important (more on this later).
Most of my clients at this moment are training for 3-4 days per week. That’s all you need. Seriously. Many of you do way too much exercise on way too little food and never see true, sustainable progress.
You do not need to be in the gym for more than 40-60 minutes. It’s not about the quantity of time training in a session, it’s about the quality and intensity of the training session.
If you are training 3 days/week, you may do total body x3 days or upper/lower/total or even an ‘A’ and ‘B’ session you alternate A/B/A and B/A/B.
It gets even more detailed in 4 days.
Pick a split that works within the context of your life and keep it.
I hate to say these things but “boredom” is not a variable and you cannot “confuse” your muscles. What you need to be doing is repeating the same thing over and over and getting stronger and stronger and more efficient in the movement.
You “shock” your muscles by progressive overload.
Add weight, add a set, add reps, decrease rest…these are ways to get better the same movement, make progress, and “challenge” the movement.
Sure, maybe switching isolation movements every couple of months keeps from boredom (ie: a variation of a biceps curl) but get stronger and better at the basics (squat, lunge, rows, presses, deadlift).
The best part about your body: it’s a long time before you reach your max potential so don’t stop until you get there.
I’ve kept clients on the same program for 6 months to 1 year. Changed only a movement or two when needed.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
You don’t switch something if the results are tangible and showing.
Results from a program take TIME. Get used to it or you will never be satisfied.
Then comes the next question when I tell someone they need to lift.
How much cardio do I have to do?
I’ve written about cardio extensively HERE
What I will say is this — cardio is a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. You do not need to do cardio for fat loss. It does the same thing as cutting calories does: increases the deficit. You can get pretty lean without doing any cardio.
You burn more calories by using muscle while lifting which is why in the context of fat loss, the order of operations is:
Living your life
5. Sleep is Important For Fat Loss
Sleep is important for many reasons.
It decreases stress. It aids in recovery and repairing muscle. It keeps the metabolism and hormones healthy. It helps with water balance and decreases water retention.
Dieting is stress. Training is stress. Sleep helps decrease stress. “Decrease stress and you decrease water.”
Greg Nuckols states, as it pertains to body composition:
“Sleep. It’s as simple as that. Let’s take it out of the realm of “sleep helps with recovery,” and let’s forget for a moment about the health consequences or fogginess that come from not sleeping. We have concrete evidence that sleep is essential for optimal body composition. Lack of sleep directly makes it harder to burn fat and increases your risk of losing lean mass.”
Make Fat Loss Simple
That’s exactly what I’m telling you.
There is far too much focus on the details that don’t matter or just don’t work.
Too many focus on the quick fix and things that have melted nothing except the money from their wallet.
It first starts off with realistic expectations. Understand you are an individual with your own needs, abilities, and experience, and your program should be catered to you. You cannot be anyone except you so don’t try. Be the best you can be.
Get your nutrition in order. Don’t fear food. There is no moral attachment to food. It’s not good or bad. You can’t cheat on it. Just eat. Eat enough protein. Eat enough carbs. Eat enough fat. Do not exceed your calorie intake.
Lift weights. Go heavy. Go light. Go moderate. Stick to the basics.
Stop focusing on cardio. It’s just a tool. It isn’t going to make your fat loss happen faster.
Sleep. Your fat-loss efforts are dependent on it.