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A good majority of us have attempted fat loss at some point in our lives. Whether we just wanted to lose a couple pounds, or we realized that we’d feel a lot better weighing 100 pounds less, we’ve all been there in one way or another. What’s one of the most common things we experience when we go on a diet though? We gain back whatever we lost! I’d hazard a bet that if you’re looking to shed a few pounds, you’d prefer them to stay gone! So I want to talk a bit about some of the common fat loss mistakes that lead to gaining the weight back, and what you can do instead, to make those lost pounds stay lost.
Every diet and detox out there is making big promises of losing X pounds in X days, or telling you how quickly they can help you lose weight in time for some upcoming event. We’re so bombarded by these messages that we’ve come to EXPECT dramatic results like the ones that are promised. Perhaps you’ve even done one of these diets and seen those quick results first-hand! If you have, I bet you can tell me what happened after you stopped that diet. Yup, the weight came back. And then probably more.
I understand the desire to want the weight gone NOW, especially if you’ve been overweight for a long time. But doing something drastic to make it go away as quickly as possible isn’t the path to lasting weight loss. With the recent launch of our redesigned group coaching program, I’ve gotten messages from several new clients who want to drop their weight as fast as possible. But that’s not how our program works. We’re not a quick fix precisely because we know that would be an empty promise, and the weight would come right back once you left the program. Instead we do things a bit differently, it may (or may not!) be a bit slower than a quick fix, but the fat you lose doesn’t come back.
If your goal is lasting weight loss, realize that your expectations need to be realistic about how quickly that actually happens. Small, manageable, lasting changes to your eating habits take time to sink in. Your new healthy skills take practice, and trial and error, and learning. Focus on how consistently you’re making the changes you’re working on.
Find non-scale victories to celebrate along the way – like how much more energy you have, how much less you’re thinking about food throughout the day, how awesome it feels to do something differently than you used to (like using something other than food to relax at the end of the day, or leaving a restaurant NOT feeling stuffed to the gills), etc. Celebrate all the non-scale wins, and the scale changes will come in time with consistency. Again, it’s not a quick fix, but those changes you’re making will stick in the long term, so you don’t have to keep trying over and over to lose the same 10 pounds. And hey, if you need some help, I know of a really wonderful coaching program 😉
Yes, fat loss comes down to creating a calorie deficit. While there is a lot involved, this is still the very basic underlying premise. However, restricting too much – either by only allowing yourself a small amount of calories, or by completely avoiding certain foods or food groups – ends up making us miserable. It’s not sustainable long-term and we eventually rebel! We white-knuckle it through entire days of too-tiny meals feeling deprived and hungry, or we look on longingly as our coworkers are “allowed” to eat bread/pasta/rice/dairy/cookies/etc. Eventually we end up saying “screw it, give me ALL the foods!” Which of course ends up completely over-compensating for whatever calorie deficit we had achieved during the struggle. All that effort, and no payoff.
While taking a more moderate approach won’t help you drop 10 pounds in a week, it WILL prevent you going back up and back down that same 10 pounds over and over again. The unsexy key to success here is moderation. Yes, we need to lower our overall calorie intake. But shoot for a small and manageable level of decrease. Don’t completely avoid anything, it will just make you want it even more. Think “reduce,” not “eliminate.”
One of the best tricks when it comes to eating a bit less is to tweak your portions a bit. Serve yourself the same amount you usually would, then, before you start eating, put a little bit back into the container it came from. You’ll still be enjoying a nice plate of food, but you’ll have easily taken off a few bites you didn’t need (and won’t even miss). That’s a much more sustainable way of reducing intake than trying to feel satisfied on a meal the size of your palm.
Super-motivated on Monday, and by Friday you’re a Honey Badger who don’t give a damn. Sound like you? We wait for the motivation to return, thinking it will finally be the time that it sticks…. Only to end up cycling back through a “don’t care” time period again soon afterwards. Motivation is naturally fleeting. It waxes and wanes. Relying only on motivation to see success in fat loss is a big mistake, because it means that every time you’re not feeling motivated (which let’s be honest… is more often than you DO feel motivated) is a time you’re not making any progress.
There are a few ways to “fight” this actually. First, if we’re opting for a more moderate approach in the first place, it takes a lot less motivation to do, since it’s not a horrible struggle. Secondly, we need to keep in mind that motivation isn’t enough to keep us going. Life is ALWAYS going to throw us curveballs. We are 100% guaranteed to have days when we don’t feel like thinking about our goals, or can’t be bothered to put effort into planning meals or going to the gym. So we need to incorporate those “lack of motivation” moments into our plan from the get-go.
Ask yourself: “how can I be successful even when I’m tired/drained/angry/PMSing/emotional/etc?”
Everyone’s answer will be different, but the key is to think ahead! Maybe you need some help planning meals so that you’ve always got something healthy ready to go when you’re busy. (I’ve got 5 easy tips to help you – check them out here!) Or maybe you need a relaxation ritual that helps you wind down after a long day. Whatever it is, find a way to build your resilience so that when a bump in the road comes along it doesn’t completely derail you.
Exercise is wonderful for many reasons. When you’re looking to lose fat, it’s a great idea to eat well AND exercise. However, some people actually overdo the exercise part. They put so much time into hours of cardio, and intervals, and lifting, and fitness classes, trying to burn as many calories as possible. Aside from breaking you down and making you exhausted, that much over-exercising can also ramp up hunger by leaps and bounds!
Making yourself super hungry makes it REALLY difficult to eat a reasonable amount and actually stay in some level of calorie deficit. It can also turn on the “I worked out so I deserve to eat a lot” switch in our heads, which obviously counteracts all the effort that was just put into burning all of those calories, and destroys the calorie deficit yet again.
When it comes to fat loss, nutrition is king. Exercise is secondary. Start to shift the way you view exercise away from this punishing thing you do just to burn calories. Focus instead on the GOOD things about it, and also, if you’re prone to overdoing it, do less! Find something you really enjoy doing, and do it for the cardiovascular benefits, the happiness-inducing endorphins, and the awesome feeling of a great workout. Don’t do it just because you think it’ll help you burn more calories. You don’t want to go so hard that you’re making your hunger insatiable. The un-sexy truth behind all of this is that moderation is key!
All diets work short-term because they get you into a calorie deficit. That’s great, but there’s more than one reason we end up rebelling after a while. The extreme restriction I mentioned above is one reason, but another one is because there are a lot of factors that contribute to what and why we eat. Most of us know the basics of how to eat healthfully. But do we actually do it? If not, why is that?
There’s a lot of psychology behind our eating patterns and food choices. We eat for lots of reasons that aren’t hunger, like stress, boredom, rewarding ourselves, feeling depressed or shameful, etc. It’s also pretty interesting that the foods we eat in those situations don’t tend to be the most healthful (and we don’t tend to count them when we’re looking at our daily calories either… if we do that sort of thing). It’s absolutely wise to focus on WHAT we’re eating, but it’s not the whole story.
Some wise words there from the lovely Georgie Fear of One By One Nutrition (AKA my boss!). For many clients that I’ve worked with, the calories in their typical meals aren’t the problem. What many of them struggle with is the extra calories that end up coming in when they’re eating to deal with an emotion, or to try to alleviate stress or boredom. These causes are things that, until addressed directly, will keep prompting people to eat when they’re not hungry, and lead to taking in more calories than they need.
So sometimes, the place you need to look isn’t in your actual meals. Sometimes, focusing on the reasons you eat that aren’t hunger can go a very long way in helping you finally get into the calorie deficit you’ve been after. Think about how often you eat to relax, or to cope with anger, sadness, or boredom. Think about the non-hunger causes of eating, and see if there are non-food ways you can address those things directly. Not only will you avoid extra calories you don’t need, but you’ll ACTUALLY deal with the underlying thing that needs addressing! That two BIG wins with one change.
Any of these 5 fat-loss mistakes resonate with you? If so, I hope you’ll see that there’s a much less stressful way to get to your goal!
Please share this with others so they won’t fall for these same mistakes too!