Fat loss is, in principle, a simple process. You take in slightly fewer calories than you use over a reasonable length of time, and BOOM, fat loss happens. The problem is:
- that simple doesn’t always mean easy, and
- we do an amazing job at derailing ourselves and making things harder than they need to be.
Here are 5 things that I see go wrong for a lot of people in their fat loss attempts, and what you should do instead.
Doing more (and more) cardio.
Marathon runners are skinny. Therefore, running more will make you lose weight. Right?
Not so fast.
Get it, fast. Runners. Tumbleweeds…
Anyways. The other things that the best marathon runners do include monitoring their diet to get the best nutrients and the right quantities to maintain their weight and fuel their performance and recovery. They also do some strength training to add strength and build resiliency. And they run a lot of miles each week.
Unless your goal is to become a really good marathoner, in fact, even if your goal is to become a good marathoner, you should be adding some kind of structure resistance training to your programming. Building a little more muscle will not only improve your performance and bulletproof your body against all those miles, but it will help you burn more calories and force your body to adapt to the new training stimulus.
Eating breakfast/ lunch or dinner at their desk.
Eating while distracted is a sure fire way to make sure you eat more than you either planned or need. Your brain takes a little bit of time to respond to the signals from your stomach that you’ve gotten to the point of being pleasantly full and it’s time to stop eating.
Eating meals at your desk, or in front of the TV, adds a distraction that makes it harder to discern when you’ve gotten enough food.
A review of the research into awareness and the amount of food eaten while distracted in 2013 found that there was an immediate increase in the amount of food eaten while distracted compared to those not distracted. While this immediate increase was fairly small, there was a bigger increase in snacking and food intake after the meal.
So not only do you eat more, but you snackmore too.
Getting away from your desk or TV can make a huge difference to your food intake and your waistline. If you can’t get away from your desk, switch off your monitor and move your keyboard away from in front of you. Turn the TV off. Put your phone down. I promise you won’t miss anything.
Eating treats straight from the bag.
Have you ever found yourself reaching into a jumbo bag of crisps only to find it empty when you could have sworn there was plenty left? Or walked past the kitchen counter and went to grab another biscuit from the pack, only to find you’re down to the last one, even though you’re sure you only just opened it?
Well, you’re not alone. This is a similar idea to the Google M&M study that was done by the overlord of the interweb. When treats were left on view and within reach, more is eaten than when out of sight and other, healthier options are easily available. “In the New York office alone, employees consumed 3.1 million fewer calories from M&Ms over seven weeks.” 3.1 million.
If you want a treat, have a little on a plate or in a bowl, and put the rest away out of sight. Then take your time to enjoy the treat you’ve given yourself and then, unfortunately, comes the harder part. Have enough discipline and self-control to not raid the cupboard for the next helping.
Staying up too late.
I’m not your dad. I’m not going to tell you to go to bed at a reasonable hour and get enough sleep. You’re all adults (at least I assume you are…) so I’m going to show you the evidence and you make up your own mind.
Research on sleep and fat loss has shown time and again that getting adequate sleep makes for better fat loss results. When comparing subjects that got 5.5 hours of sleep to those getting 8.5 hours, both groups lost the same amount of weight when calories were matched. Remember that weight loss is driven by calorie intake. But, the high sleep group lost less lean mass and more fat mass than the low sleep group.
Too little sleep also negatively affects your food choices, typically leading to you consuming more carbs and fats, which give you a nice warm, fuzzy feeling.
What to do. Set a reverse alarm clock. You know when you need to get up for work, give yourself 30-60 minutes to get up, caffeinate, eat and get ready, then count back 7-8 hours. For example, you know you need to leave for work at 8, you need to get up at 7, so to get 7-8 hours of slumber, you need to be asleep by 11 pm at the latest.
1 hour before, switch off your screens. If you read on your tablet, for example, use a blue light filter to dim the light.
2 hours before, stop working. If you are still working late.
3 hours, limit food and alcohol intake. Both will affect the quality of your sleep.
8-10 hours before, stop caffeine to ensure it’s out of your system by bedtime.
Jumping from fad diet to magic pill to fad diet.
Paleo sounds good. Wait, what about the Body Coach, that seems to be good. But then there was that article about Keto… But Sally from work is going well on Intermittent Fasting, maybe I should do that?
Honestly, if you want to do one of these approaches, just pick one and stick with it. Not kinda sorta do it. But actually follow it properly for the time it suggests and see how you get on with it.
The other option is to build some good nutritional habits that allow you to be a little more flexible in your approach.
What ever option you do, the key to getting results is to follow the plan right through and be consistent.
There is no magic pill.