If this year is supposed to be “the one”…the year you finally stick with your nutrition and exercise plans…the year you slim down and tone up, then you need to avoid the mistakes of the past.
You also need to avoid the problems and mistakes a lot of people run into when doing the same, so that three months down the road, you aren’t looking back and kicking yourself for giving up.
And if you haven’t already, go back and read our New Year Ideas to Stay Slim and In Shape
The Problem: Too Much Too Fast
Changing your calorie intake overnight – from eating to much to, say, 500 less than your base metabolism burns – is asking for trouble. Radical shortcuts to losing weight don’t really exist; there is only a range from the most counterproductive way to the most optimal.
Cutting a thousand calories out of your diet might elicit short term results, but this method will come back to haunt you within a matter of weeks, or even days.
Depending on how much you cut out of your diet, the speed at which you initially lose weight will vary. If it’s a lot then you will lose it quickly, but you are setting yourself up for the start of a downward spiral.
As your energy intake decrease, the amount you have to exert will also decrease. Your metabolism will slow to a conservation and preservation state and your rate of weight loss will decrease concomitantly. This is especially the case if you exercise and cut calories.
The combination of a lacklustre metabolism and your succumbing to the hunger (which you will) results in your body storing as much of the energy as possible, which equates to putting the weight back on in many cases.
For people who work out as well as take this approach will suffer the worst, as they will likely lose muscle mass, and strength and fitness along with it.
This classic starve-then-binge approach is a major mistake made by a huge amount of people.
The Fix: Chip Away At It
Losing weight over a longer period, whilst maintaining energy levels is by far the most successful and sustainable way to lose fat.
For a start, your body preserves its muscle mass, while learning how to use up your fat stores as one of the main sources of fuel.
Writing down your current estimated average calorie intake will help. Eating a little less that that and increasing your exercise volume (if it can be increased) will in the very least slow or halt the weight gain.
Additional, small reductions will gradually translate to calorie deficit – and therefore fat loss – without your body going into shock and taking drastic action with respect to your metabolism.
The Problem: Expectations Too High
People lose and gain weight and muscle at different rates. It’s an individual process with different factors affecting it. However, there is a maximum rate, not matter how genetically inclined to build or burn you are.
With that in mind, having expectations that are beyond your body’s capabilities, even at its most optimal, will result in disappointment.
As mentioned earlier, there are no shortcuts, or magic solutions.
The Fix: Be Reasonable
Losing between one and two pounds per week is a feasible expectation. The same can be said for gaining muscle.
Aiming for much more will probably result in either muscle loss (when trying to lose too much weight at once), or fat gain (when trying to build too much muscle).
The Problem: Quitting For Lack of Results
You want to see immediate results when you put in the hard work. In your career, this might happen. Even during long term projects, you can see it coming together as you work on it.
Unfortunately, if you are losing weight at the most sustainable and healthy rate (see above point) the results are not necessarily discernible to the naked eye in such a short term.
Weighing yourself is the obvious answer to this, but if you are exercising in a manner that stimulates muscle growth, then even the scales’ needle might remain static.
The reality is, you are probably losing fat and gaining muscle, which will eventually result in you looking toned and slim. However, the mirror and the scales don’t necessarily show this in the first couple of weeks and you might give up.
The Fix: Have Faith
The vulnerability period is best overcome by sticking at it and having faith in the concept.
If your weight hasn’t changed, and you think you are failing, then use logic:
A simple measure of muscle mass is strength. If your strength is increasing, then know you are adding muscle mass.
This will explain your weight staying steady. And by deduction, you must be losing fat, otherwise you would be gaining weight due to the additional muscle.
Getting stronger but remaining the same weight = losing fat and adding muscle.
Don’t fear this though, muscle is denser than fat, and so even if you weight hovers in the same place for a while, you will still begin to get slimmer.
The Problem: Free-styling It / Not Being Goal Oriented
Not having a clearly defined goal to work towards is the undoing of many resolutions and ambitions of weight loss.
Saying “I’m going to lose weight,” is a start but you need something more specific to make your chances of success so much greater. What helps even further is having smaller goals within the main one, to keep you on track, like milestones.
However there is no use just saying “I’m going to lose 24 pounds,” if you don’t have the how, the time frame, and an idea as to whether it is even possible.
It’s better if you have a plan which is geared towards hitting these targets at or around the time you want to. SMART goals is the adopted acronym that many people go by:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Related (slight variation to the project management tool where A = Assignable)
Realistic is really the same as achievable, but SMART sounds better than SMAT so it stuck. The idea is fairly self explanatory, and there is a lot to be said for writing down your goals with your progress documented as you go.
The Fix: Plan
Making a written record is by far the best way to monitor progress and figure out what your real vs planned results are. It helps you execute rather than approach it has a general and vague concept.
Employ the SMART approach and make sure you have a goal you can reach that isn’t too small or too big.
The Problem: Too Much Temptation
If you are craving junk food, but you don’t have it in the house, chances are you can squash the craving by eating something healthy that you do have in, and resisting the urge of going and buying some comfort food or ordering it in.
Sometimes the cravings will overpower you, or you will not have time to cook something healthy. Or perhaps you are out with friends at a restaurant and you cannot help but choose the decadent option.
The Fix: Limit the Opportunity
Don’t go food shopping when you are hungry; it’s one of the worst mistakes you can make. All the fast, rich, snacky carbs look like an oasis in the desert.
Eat before you go, and stick to your shopping list. Don’t stock up on junk, and you won’t have easy access to it.
Also, have a bunch of healthy snacks ready to be eaten when you are at home and the hunger goblins strike. Whether or not you crave something else, you can satisfy the hunger with what you have.
As for the restaurant with friends, you must tell them what you are trying to do. If they are true friends they will support you and not put pressure on you to have the dessert or make you feel bad for making a special request or sticking to the healthiest option on the menu.
The Problem: Going At It Alone
If you live with someone who isn’t doing what you are doing, or your friends aren’t, which is often the case(s), then it can be difficult to stay on track if they don’t know you are trying.
Friends and family can lead you astray, especially when they feel guilty about eating something, or not exercising themselves. They might pressure you into eating that cake, having a binge ice cream session in front of a movie, just because they want company.
The Fix: Bring Them In
Let the closest people around you in on your plans. Make sure it’s not coming from anything but a desire to include them and that it will help you succeed.
Passing judgement, sounding sanctimonious, or trying to ‘convert’ them to your new way of life might backfire.
In our experience it’s best just to explain that this is why you might skip some things.
If you really want them to jump on board and join you then it will more likely happen anyway a few weeks and months down the line when you are looking your most awesome!
Read our article: New Year Ideas to Stay Slim and In Shape