In the previous lesson I discussed three common mistakes people make to sabotage their success Q and A – Your Weight Loss and Fat Loss Questions. Part 1 covered not planning for the long-term, not having a diet that fits with your lifestyle, and eating too little. Now let’s go right to my last 3 commonly overlooked dieting mistakes.
Here are 3 more common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight and decrease their body fat:
Mistake 4 – Relying too much on the scale
Hopefully everyone knows that weight loss and fat loss are far from the same thing and fat loss is much more important than weight loss. Focusing on weight loss is especially problematic for people who excessively restrict calories, because most of the weight lost in these situations is healthy weight, such as water, muscle, and even bone.
That said, this Q&A is about commonly overlooked problems and one thing that many people do not realize is that what you do one day or even one week (nutrition and exercise) does not necessarily show up on the scale right away. There is often a delayed effect that can derail an otherwise successful fat loss program.
For instance, I had a sedentary client who started exercising three days per week and put a lot of work into improving her nutrition. After two weeks of exercising and eating right she weighed herself and found that she only lost one pound. As a result, she became discouraged and said she wanted to change things up and try something new.
I encouraged her to give it one more week, because I knew that she was doing the right things and it was only a matter of time before her body responded. Fortunately, when she weighed herself one week later, the scale showed that she lost 7 pounds. Then she felt better and stuck with her program and continued progressing gradually, although she did not lose 7 pounds in a week again.
I know the 7 pound weight loss was not just from the last week, because she did the same thing the third week that she did the previous 2 weeks. It just happened that her body decided to get with the program during the third week and stopped resisting the changes she was trying to make.
The reality is that she would almost certainly have had a significant weight loss regardless of any changes we might have made during the third week, simply due to the hard work she put in the two weeks before. These types of situations can cause serious problems for people, if they do not understand what is happening with their bodies.
If she would have given up on her program and slacked off or done something completely different during the third week, and then had a good weight loss, what do you think her reaction would have been? I can almost guarantee that she would have associated her positive results with whatever she did during the last week, although that would not be an accurate reflection of what really happened.
I know a lot of people are inconsistent with their eating and exercise and frequently have good and bad weeks. When people lose weight or do not gain weight after a bad week, it is tempting to think that progress can be made without eating right or exercising, but this is simply a short-term illusion. Eating right and exercising are always needed for real success.
As a final note, before the person in my example weighed herself the first time, she was feeling better and felt like she was making progress. One step on the scale and all those good feeling went away, even though her body was giving her more accurate information about her progress. Sometimes the scale can be your worst enemy.
Action Step: Instead of using a scale to measure success, put more emphasis on things like how you feel, physical improvements, or how your clothes fit. If you want more, get a quality body fat test done for a meaningful measurement of progress.
Mistake 5 – Lack of Consistency
Being inconsistent with nutrition obviously increases the length of time it takes to achieve your goals, but that is not the only problem it creates. When people only have good eating habits some of the time, it has serious implications for losing fat from your problem areas.
Most people have “problem areas,” which are areas of the body that seem to not want to lose fat, even when you are eating right and exercising. I have heard so many people say things like “I can’t lose weight from my _____, no matter what I do.” I used a blank space, because problem areas very from person to person, but they are usually around the middle of the body (abs, butt, thighs).
A common scenario is for people to be good for a while and possibly even make some progress, but if they do not see results in their problem area(s) they may give up and try to find something better or get discouraged and quit altogether. This is where people go wrong because if you are improving your body, then you are making progress, even if it is not exactly where you want.
I have said/written this so many times and I will likely have to repeat it many times more, but “Your body loses fat from wherever it wants.” People want to believe there is a magical exercise or diet that makes them lose fat from the places they want to lose it most, but physiology/genetics have a lot to do with how your body loses fat.
The good news is that if you can lose fat from one area of your body, then you can also lose it from your problem areas, but you need to be consistent. Most people lose fat from the outside in, meaning they lose it from their arms and legs first and their torso last. In order to lose the weight in your torso, you may have to lose a significant amount from your arms and legs first, so it is important to stick with it.
To give you a real world example of why consistently good nutrition is so important, I will use myself as an example. I always lose fat from my arms first and abs last (abs are my problem area). When I get sick, my nutrition usually goes down the drain and I tend to eat junk foods, especially sugary foods. This combined with a lack of exercise means I will gain some fat.
Fat gained in a short period of time can be lost fairly easily, but even in this situation, the fat may not be lost in the same place it was just gained. After I gain fat in my midsection, when I resume my normal eating and exercise routine, my first fat loss is typically in my arms again and the abdominal fat loss does not happen until later. This is exactly why problem areas are such a problem.
Whenever you break from good nutrition and exercise, you run the risk of gaining more fat in your problem areas, so the only real solution is to be good all the time or at least as much as possible. After your body loses fat from everywhere else, it will eventually target your problem areas and you will achieve your desired results.
Action Step: Eat right and exercise as consistently as possible. Long-term success and fat loss from problem areas does not happen without consistency.
Mistake 6 – Putting too much pressure on yourself
While this is not as common as the previous two issues, it is possible to be too strict with your nutrition. I do not mean you can be too healthy, but if you try to be perfect with your eating, it can backfire and hurt your results.
I went through this about 15 years ago when I was obsessive about eating right. I planned my life around my eating and exercise schedule and would even bring my own food when I went out to eat with friends, so I knew exactly what I was eating at all times.
My diet was almost ideal on paper, but I ended up constantly stressing about eating right.
Getting stressed is never a good thing, because it decreases progress or even stops it completely. Eventually, I realized my results were not as good as they should have been based on what I was doing, so I decided to be more lenient with my nutrition.
I still ate right most of the time, but allowed myself to have bad foods on occasion, especially in social settings. After that change, my fat loss improved, even though my nutrition technically became worse. Nutrition is not just about numbers (calories, etc.) and you always have to take into account how your choices affect you entire life (stress, happiness, etc.). The key is to find the balance that works best for you.
Action Step: Make an effort to eat right as much as possible, but don’t let great eating habits have a negative impact on the rest of your life.
That’s it for my 2-part Q&A on overlooked nutritional issues that prevent weight and fat loss. There are of course many other things that can cause problems for people trying to lose weight, but these are some of the ones people typically don’t think about. If you know the problems to avoid it always makes things easier, so I hope this helps.
By Ross Harrison
VFT Fitness Expert
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