When trying to lose body fat, people tend to make mistakes along the way of their fitness journey. It’s very common but not surprising. Nutrition is a minefield to navigate through and there are a lot of myths and bad science promoted on TV, from friends, family, and social media.
Many people think fat loss is a complex problem which needs a special protocol to solve. In reality, fat loss is simple (but not easy) and in order to do so, you need be at a caloric deficit.
If you’ve been struggling to lose body fat, here are some common mistakes people make when they are trying to lose fat and what you should be doing instead.
1. Going On a Crash Diet or Detox
You’ve seen it everywhere. Detox teas, shrink wraps, 7-day green smoothie cleanses. All with the promise of dropping those 10-20 pounds quick.
We live in an age of instant gratification, where almost anything you want can be acquired quickly at the push of a button. Takeout meals, Uber/Lyft, or even a date (If you’re into the swiping thing). So why not losing weight too?
Unfortunately when you lose those 10 pounds on the scale in a short period of time, it’s not all fat. It’ll be a few pounds of water, maybe 2-3 pounds of fat, with the rest being muscle. So when you do go back to eating normally again, you’ll regain the weight and then some.
Your metabolism will also be slower as well due to you losing muscle. When trying to lose fat, you want to maintain as much muscle as you can. Once you’ve lost muscle, you’ll need to regain it in order to get yourself back to normal. This is why yo-yo dieting doesn’t work and why a lot of people end up struggling even more after each unsuccessful diet.
What to do instead: Avoid being on one of those extreme diets or detoxes in the first place. It isn’t sustainable and the rebound certainly isn’t worth it. Eat a diet where you can sustain it long term while building and maintaining good healthy habits.
With each meal that you have, make sure it has a fist size of protein, and at least one fist size of green vegetables.
2. Cutting Calories Too Low and Too Fast
On the same subject as detoxes and cleanses, another mistake that people make is lowering their calories way too much in the beginning.
I understand why people want to do that. They’ve decided that they want to lose the weight that they’ve gained, like, tomorrow. They’re tired of the way their clothes fit, they’re sick of how they look every morning when see themselves in the mirror and it’s time to make a change. So let’s get after it right? Let’s cut a ton of calories and carbs, and you’ll be lean in just 1-2 weeks, voila.
Unfortunately that’s not how the body works. When you cut your calories too low and too fast, your metabolism can slow down. Not only that, your hunger levels are going to be higher, your energy levels (physically and mentally) can suffer, and you might lose muscle mass.
What to do instead: Start with a small caloric deficit and go from there. A good rule of thumb is 10-12 calories per pound bodyweight. If you weigh 150lbs, 1500-1800 calories is a good range. Start with 1800 (because you want to make the most amount of progress eating as much as you can) and work your way down.
3. Eating Fake Health Food
When trying to lose fat, you do want to improve the quality of your food intake. Changing from processed junk to more nutrient-dense foods is something we should all be doing.
However, due to slick marketing we sometimes get duped into eating something that we think is healthy but isn’t. Just bought an organic fruit bar or some granola? It has as much sugar in it as a regular candy bar and just as many calories. Eating veggie patties? They may be full of processed soy products and unhealthy fats.
What to do instead: When in doubt, read the nutrition labels and check the ingredients list. Make sure that it’s not high in sugar, doesn’t contain unhealthy fats (such as soybean, canola or vegetable), and isn’t high calorie. Stick with eating mostly unprocessed foods.
4. Going to Extremes With Macronutrients
There are many different diets out there and each gets you to lose fat by getting you to eat less of something. Keto has you cut out basically all your carbs, carnivore diet has you cut out anything that’s not meat, etc. By doing so, you create a caloric deficit (assuming your portion sizes are under control) and boom, fat loss.
For many people, eating that way isn’t sustainable in the long run. They may see some initial success on it, but they begin to have food cravings for what they’ve cut out. They feel deprived and decide to binge, end up regaining the weight, and then rinse and repeat.
Despite what you’ve been told, you can still lose fat while enjoying foods from all the macronutrients. You don’t need to completely cut out one macronutrient in order to make progress. Carbs and fats by itself isn’t making you fat, it’s eating too much of it that is.
What to do instead: Now if you like to eat a diet where you cut out carbs, fat, etc. and it matches your lifestyle and palate, by all means do it. However, you can take an approach where you are eating a diet with balanced macronutrients. Simply stay within your calorie and macro range, continue eating healthy and make room for foods that you enjoy.
5. Not Changing Your Calorie Intake as Your Weight Changes
One of the not so fun things about losing fat is that as your weight continues to go down, your calorie demands are going to be lower. Which means that your calorie intake that got you to drop your first ten pounds will be lesser for the next ten.
What to do instead: As you continue to lose weight, start lowering your calories slowly. Drop it by 100-200 increments, hold it there for a week or two, check to see if you’re making progress and go from there.
Losing body fat is simple, but not easy. There are many ways to go about it, and the best way for you is the one that you can do long term consistently that fits your lifestyle. Not sure exactly how to plan that out? Luckily I can help. Fill out my online coaching form and we can discuss how we can get you the results that you want.