Fat loss in itself is no easy feat! More often than not, I see people making simple mistakes while on their fat loss journey that end up negatively affecting their results. In order to make the process as efficient and (enjoyable?) as possible… avoid these mistakes!!
1.) Cutting calories too low. Cutting calories super low can be tempting at first, after all– you’ll be in a greater caloric deficit and will lose weight quicker right? Well, maybe… but the result could be detrimental to your health and metabolism. If you slash your calories too drastically, you can bet your metabolism has slowed substantially (as will your sex drive, cognitive function and performance in the gym– not ideal!!). Your best bet is to start with a 15-25% caloric deficit… I recommend keeping your calories as high as you can while still losing fat. Remember, once you reach your goal, you need to adjust to “maintenance mode”. To adjust to maintenance while ensuring minimal weight rebound, add about 50-100 calories per week until you’re weight has stabilized and you are in a healthy maintenance caloric range.
2.) Using zero calorie foods/additives with abandon. Yes, it’s true, stevia (and other artificial sweeteners), and cooking sprays have very little calories BUT they are not 100% calorie free as they claim (you can thank FDA’s labeling standards for that). In fact 1 packet of stevia or splenda is about 1g carb or about 4 calories. A small amount, yes. BUT while in fat loss, you want to make sure you are being as efficient as possible. BEFORE you say that this is a negligible amount– consider this.. I once had a client who was consuming artificial sweeteners & using cooking spray like it was nobody’s business.. She wasn’t tracking it and she couldn’t realize why she wasn’t dropping weight. When she started tracking and cutting back on these “extras” off came the pounds. Of course if you are a big dude or have a bunch of weight to lose, packets of artificial sweetener and cooking spray will likely not make a huge difference. However, the less fat you have to lose, the harder it becomes, thus you may need to keep your “0 calorie” foods in check.
3.) Skimping on fat. Please, please don’t do this. As a child of the 90s, my mom thought she was doing the right thing by listening to my pediatrician at the time and giving me low fat/no fat foods. The result? The lack of fat left me constantly hungry and I ended up overeating on the fat free stuff. Look, GOOD fat not only keeps you satiated, but it keeps your hormones in balance and gives you that “full/happy feeling”. Low fat/no fat foods are often full of sugar and other additives that will likely make you hungrier. DO NOT FEAR THE (HEALTHY) FAT!! Need some inspiration? Aim for nuts/seeds, nut butters, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil etc.
4.) Not combining food properly. For optimal fat loss you want to make sure you’re eating protein, veggies (non starchy carb), and fats at every meal and snack. (With the exception of post workout– avoid fats post workout as fat slows down digestion). You also want to make sure you are prioritizing starchy carbs (i.e. sweet potatoes, brown rice etc), for post workout. This combination will give you the optimal hormonal response for fat loss.
5.) Eating a bunch of packaged/nutrient-lacking foods. During fat loss you will be in a caloric deficit and will likely be hungry. I can guarantee you that you will feel a HELL of a lot better if 90% of your foods come from nutrient dense sources. Ever wonder why you can eat a bag of 200 calorie chips and still feel starving? Yet you can eat two eggs (about 150 calories) and feel full? That being said, be sure you aren’t….
6.) Depriving yourself all the time. I agree, fat loss isn’t always a walk in the park.. It takes work, BUT you shouldn’t be compromising your social life or being 100% restrictive during this time. Make sure to include 2-3 treat ITEMS per week (not meals!). Example: cupcake, piece of pizza, glass of wine etc. Allowing yourself treats will satisfy your cravings and help you stay on track.
7.) Using the scale as the only method of progress. Ladies, I’m talkin to you!! We do this WAYYYY too much! Look, the scale is one small data point. Guess what? The scale alone will NOT tell you if you’ve lost fat. Case in point? If you weigh the same this week as you did two weeks ago BUT you’ve dropped two inches from your waist– guess what? You’ve lost fat!!! Other ways you should track your progress include: measurements, pictures and one of my favorites “the skinny jean test”.
This post originally appeared as a blog I wrote for Fitness & Power.