Do you often find yourself eating well, exercising regularly and still find those pounds just won’t shift? Unfortunately, there is a big possibility that you are making these 5 common mistakes that are hindering your progress. But do not despair, within each mistake mentioned there are actionable strategies, hints and tips you can take away to get your weight loss goals back on track:
Mistake #1 – Not keeping track of calories.
This is the most common issue faced by many who wish to see some form of weight loss. If you do not know how many calories you are consuming, and in what quantities, it becomes all the more difficult to see a drop in weight.
Start by working out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the amount of calories you need to keep your body functioning at rest. This can be calculated using the Harris-Benedict Equation:
BMR = 66 + (13.7 x weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age in years)
BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in years)
Next you need to determine your recommended calorie intake per day based on your overall lifestyle activity. For instance:
- Little to no physical activity = BMR x 1.2
- Light physical activity (1-3x per week) = BMR x 1.375
- Moderate physical activity (3-5x per week) = BMR x 1.55
- Heavy physical activity (6-7x per week) = BMR x 1.725
Once you have calculated the above, aim to reduce your total calories by 200 as a starting point and assess the results.
If you find you are still not seeing any loss in weight (from fat), keep reducing your calories by 100 until you begin to see more noticeable results.
As a rule of thumb, strive to keep your protein intake high, carbohydrates at a moderate level and fat fairly low. A ratio that works well may include 50/30/20 but adjust according to your lifestyle needs.
A macronutrient ratio focusing on a high protein intake will help keep your body more satiated (fuller for longer). It will also promote greater protein synthesis where your body requires a large amount of energy to break down protein for muscular repair (meaning greater lean muscle growth and more weight loss as a result).
Using a food diary, a calorie counter app, reading labels carefully and taking pictures of your meals are all great strategies that can help monitor your overall macronutrient consumption effectively.
Remember: What gets measured gets managed. Failure to measure your calorie intake means failure to manage your weight.
Mistake #2 – Assuming a calorie is ‘just a calorie’.
All calories have the same amount of energy, that’s a given. For instance, a handful of grapes which roughly equals 100 calories contains the same level of calories as ¾ of a can of coke.
However, all calories are not created equally. This is because the human body is a highly complex biochemical organism that processes food differently.
Each food goes through diverse chemical processes according to the body’s needs, which impacts the body’s natural hormones ,which regulates our mood, energy balance and hunger levels.
In the case of the example above, grapes are naturally high in glucose, fibre and essential vitamins and minerals. This helps improve the flow of the body’s intestinal activity, promotes balanced insulin levels, reduces inflammation and helps prevent cravings.
On the other hand, a can of coke is usually supercharged with artificial chemicals which have been shown to increase insulin resistance, promote abdominal fat gain and rob the body of nutrient uptake due to its ‘empty calories’, resulting in greater cravings.
Thus, to lose weight effectively, eating whole unrefined foods will help to optimise your progress and keep your health in check.
Remember: If it cannot be found in nature and has to go through a refinement process to be palatable, chances are you shouldn’t be consuming it.
Mistake #3 – Not getting enough sleep.
Lack of sleep has been shown to induce greater weight gain. When you are not getting the required amount of sleep your body needs (usually a minimum of 8 hours for the average adult), your hormones begin to change its secretion.
For instance, chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce the production of the hormone leptin which is a hunger suppressant hormone produced abundantly at night.
If you are low in the hormone leptin, your body begins to send signals to your brain that you are hungry and starts to slow down your metabolism to hold onto as much energy (calories) as possible.
As a result, the chances of you reaching for carbohydrate-rich, sweet and unhealthy foods dramatically increases when you are not getting enough shut eye (even if you have enough energy stored away to fuel your needs for the day).
This may lead to excessive food consumption and result in a calorie surplus that gets carried over to the next day.
If you are struggling with getting enough high quality sleep at night, aim to eliminate as much stress as possible. Dedicate some time for relaxation in the evenings and look at the possibility of exercising slightly later in the day to wear out your body for proper rest.
Remember: Lack of sleep can alter the secretion of hormones that controls hunger levels. Stick to a strict sleeping schedule ensuring you get at least 8 hours of sleep a day.
Mistake #4 – You’ve hit a plateau.
Are you tracking your calories, eating the right foods, getting enough sleep and still struggling with weight loss? Chances are you may have hit a stumbling block and your body has adjusted to your routine.
Things to investigate:
- Have you been performing the same workout? – Your body needs to be continually challenged and ideally needs a new routine every 3 – 4 weeks.
For instance, resistance training is just as important as cardiovascular training when it comes to weight loss.
The development of lean muscle mass from weight training increases the rate of your metabolism (and therefore promotes better weight loss). For more information on breaking through a workout plateau, read these 10 advanced training methods.
- Are you overtraining? – Overtraining causes long-term fatigue which elevates the stress hormone cortisol. A high cortisol level is counter-productive for weight loss as it increases insulin resistance and fat deposition following greater adrenal stress.
Consider taking a de-load week every 4 – 12 weeks to reduce the amount of stress placed on your body. This will help you bounce back more effectively.
- Are you giving it time? – Losing weight is progressive. Unrealistic expectations about healthy eating and exercise are the primary cause of frustration and de-motivation. There are no shortcuts to losing weight as it requires dedicated time and effort.
Instead of looking for a magic bullet, set a goal that is specific, can be measured, is attainable and set within a specified timeframe. This will help you keep your progress more achievable and will maintain your motivation level in the long-run.
Mistake #5 – Using a diet mentality.
While losing weight is mainly about controlling your diet, a diet mentality can be damaging and destructive. For the most part, going on a “diet” suggests that certain foods are prohibited.
Most foods can be formed as part of a healthy diet. However, as per the point mentioned in mistake #2, this is not an excuse to indulge in unhealthy foods and snacks. Such foods can affect our mood, hormones and cravings which could spiral out of control over time.
People who go on a diet often find that they put more weight on than they lose due to the restrictive nature of their eating habits. Instead, make healthy living your primary goal with a focus on foods that will nourish and enrich you.
One key question to always ask is:
‘Will what I am about to eat move me one step closer or further away from my goal?’
If you can answer this positively and consistently, you will almost naturally experience greater weight loss than following diets that do more psychological harm than good.
Losing weight requires careful planning and self-awareness. Without these two key ingredients you will often find yourself going around in circles.
Leading an active and healthy lifestyle that includes tracking your calories, eating the right foods, getting more sleep, challenging yourself and changing your perspective will do more to benefit you than anything else.
Nobody said it would be easy, but it will be worth it the next time you step on those weighing scales.
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