Many people have the best intentions when it comes to fat loss but there are so many myths and misconceptions about fat loss that it is easy to be led astray. So don’t jeopardise your fat loss efforts! Avoid these nine classic mistakes and you will see much improved results.
1. Eating less rather than eating right
Many of us have bad dietary habits that have made us fatter than we would like – whether that is too much sugary food, not enough protein, or too much alcohol. Simply trying to eat less will not solve the underlying problem and is hard to maintain without a lot of willpower.
We need to change our diets to make them more nutritious, allowing our bodies to function optimally and drop body fat without the need for fallible will power.
2. Trying to burn off excess calories with exercise
Exercise is good for your health, but it is not the ideal way to reduce excess calories and drop body fat. The best way to reduce excess calories is not to eat them in the first place.
People who try to exercise the excess weight off get into an exercise-reward cycle where a bad diet is maintained in exchange for working out, which is sometimes taken to extremes, leading to overtraining, injury and illness. All the while, the underlying problem of bad diet and lifestyle is not being addressed. You can’t out-train a bad diet.
3. Not distinguishing between weight loss and fat loss
Fat loss is healthier than weight loss and will make you look fitter and more defined. Even a slim person can still have a high percentage of body fat, and therefore be at risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer – not to mention acquiring flabby bits as time goes on.
Losing fat will make your body look smaller and tighter as muscle is more dense than fat, and of course will increase your health and fitness.
4. Doing aerobic exercise instead of resistance training
There’s nothing wrong with aerobic exercise per se, but many people do it for the sole reason that they believe it is the best way to lose fat. In fact, resistance training along with high intensity cardio is better if you want to lose fat.
Resistance training works for fat loss because it builds muscle which raises your metabolism greatly and improves your body composition (ratio of fat to muscle).
Training with weights raises your heart rate much faster than training without weights, so your workout is more intense.
So don’t reject weights in favour of aerobic exercise if you want to drop fat – do both!
5. Poor sleep
Sleep is vital for fat loss, recovery from training and overall health. Too little sleep or disturbed sleep over a period of time makes it harder to lose fat because the body is not able to go through its normal overnight metabolic and hormonal processes, particularly the regulation of blood sugar levels.
The good news is that you can reverse these effects by getting more restful sleep – preferably more than 8 hours a night.
6. Eating diet foods
Foods marketed as diet foods are unhealthy. They are food products which have been cooked up in a lab. Whether labelled as ‘low fat’ or ‘high protein’, the chances are that they contain a lot of sugar to make them palatable. Check out the ingredient list: the longer it is, the worse the product is for your health.
The best diet foods are the ones which can’t so easily be branded and packaged – vegetables, fruit, nuts, meat and fish in their natural state. For more on this read Why low fat may actually make you fat
7. Avoiding fat
Fat isn’t bad for you. Some fats are absolutely essential for survival and fats are involved in many processes in the body. A good diet contains a mix of saturated (cheese, meat), polyunsaturated (nuts, seeds, fish) and monounsaturated (olive oil) fats.
The only fat that should be avoided completely is the man-made transfat. You should also avoid eating sugar and fat together, but fat without sugar is good for you.
8. Living off supplements instead of eating well
Some people are ok with consuming less but don’t want to pay any attention to the quality of what they eat, so they try to live off supplements such as protein drinks, bars or meal replacement shakes. These are not nutritious or sustainable in the long term.
Without the right nutrition, your body will find it difficult to drop fat and fight disease, so it is much better and healthier to eat real food and to supplement where it is beneficial.
9. Being too impatient
Significant fat loss and big changes in body composition can take a while to achieve. If you have an ‘ideal’ this could be a year or more away, depending on where you are starting from. Faster results are possible if you have commitment, a good work ethic and an experienced personal trainer but most people who are doing this on their own will take a while to adapt, learn and embed new lifestyle habits.
Set realistic short term goals rather than pinning all your hopes and dreams of perfection on a date that is only three months away. Three or four sensible short term goals can add up to a lot of progress over a year.