Losing fat? Avoid these pitfalls that will keep you miserable and holding onto that pesky surplus fat.
Fat loss is hard enough without making costly, time-consuming errors that will have you yo-yo dieting or even giving up on your fat loss journey entirely.
There are a lot of mistakes out there that you can commit while dieting to lose fat.
And we want ALL of you reading this article to avoid these mistakes.
As somebody who lost over 120lb from my heaviest, and over 300lb of fat in total from profligate yo-yo dieting, I made every mistake in the book.
I am both proud and ashamed of this fact.
Proud because I overcame these obstacles and learned from my wildly errant ways; ashamed because of my unwillingness to internalize good advice from wiser lifters so that I could continue living a lie.
Check out our article on fat loss mistakes here.
Losing Fat: What Works and What Doesn’t
The only thing that works when it comes to losing fat is a calorie deficit.
Not your fad du jour or shiny object — only a calorie deficit.
You cannot break the laws of thermodynamics.
If you’re not losing weight, you’re not in a calorie deficit.
1) Not Tracking Your Calories
This is the biggest mistake when it comes to losing fat.
You should partially view your body as an accounting equation: calories burned > calories consumed = fat loss.
If you don’t track your calories and the food that you’re eating — this includes condiments — how on earth can you know if you’re in a calorie deficit.
First, you will need to find your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), then you need to find an adequate target calorie deficit (ideally 500-1000 calories per day for 1-2lb fat loss per week).
Second, as you lose fat, you will need to continually adjust your daily calorie intake to continue losing weight.
If you lose 35lb, that 500 calorie per day deficit will become your new maintenance. You need to lower your daily calorie intake by 150 calories for every 10lb you lose to keep losing fat sustainably.
Those who do not track their calories are stabbing in the dark.
They have no idea how many calories they are consuming — and fat loss becomes harder since you cannot make your fat loss measurable or scientific.
The only reason why fad diets such as Keto, Fasting, Veganism, or anything else works is because you are in a calorie deficit.
When you stop losing fat, it is because you are no longer in a calorie deficit.
Some even start gaining weight again because they are in a calorie surplus.
My most commonly asked question pertaining to fat loss is “I am doing everything to lose fat, but the scales haven’t budged.”
100% of the time, I will ask them “are you tracking your calories?”
And 100% of the answers are “no.”
If you’re serious about losing fat, track your damn calories!
2) Trying to out-exercise a bad diet
This was my biggest error of them all. When I was 16 I tried to get lean by doing absurd amounts of cardio to induce a calorie deficit.
I wanted to continue eating all of my favorite junk foods and lose fat.
Oh, my sweet child. How I wish I could give my teenage self a slap on the back of the head and call myself a dunce.
Doing too much exercise to lose fat is unsustainable since you are exhausting yourself, increasing your appetite, and not allowing your body ample time to recover following exercise.
Have you ever tried doing 2-3 hours of hard cardio per day?
It’s a nightmare, take it from me.
You will hate life if you try to do this.
While some guys who have enjoyed success by taking up a sport lose fat, it is because they are able to induce a calorie deficit through their diet or they have decided to pursue their new sport to a high level which elicits a calorie deficit.
Exercise, while burning calories, requires a lot of effort to burn the same amount of calories brought about by a reducing in food intake.
An hour of soccer burns around 500-600 calories.
Is it easier to burn 1000 calories through not eating or running around for 2 hours?
I’ll leave that one with you.
3) Starving Yourself
I starved myself on various occasions to lose fat before a deadline — usually a holiday somewhere sunny.
This is wholly unsustainable.
You will end up hating your life, feeling like dog doo-doo, being constantly irritable, unable to sleep well, sore, and unable to recover from exercise.
You will lose muscle mass, be working at less than half-capacity, and ultimately give up and return to your old ways.
The reason why people do this is two fold: 1) out of frustration for their excess body fat and 2) because they believe other, more sustainable, methods are ineffective.
Fat loss is frustrating, but if you accurately track your calories, you will lose fat; and if other methods are ineffective it is because you’re not tracking your calories properly or being patient enough to allow your body to lose fat at a sensible pace.
Do not starve yourself — your chances of failing will skyrocket.
You are trying to introduce a healthy diet model at the end of the day.
What will you do once you’ve hit your fat loss goals?
Will you simply return to your old ways of overeating?
Starving yourself implies a lack of a gameplan to keep fat off forever.
If you don’t start implementing decent eating habits during your fat loss journey, you are doomed to fail in the long run.
Once you’ve lost the fat, there is no going back to overeating once your race is run.
4) Reliance on Supplementation
When I was a poor student or working shift jobs at a bar, I would fork out a good deal of my disposable income on the latest fat burners.
The fitness industry has marketed many fat loss supplements as panaceas to their fat loss.
The reality is that any legal fat burner won’t do as much as you think it will.
In fact, aside from a little bit of appetite suppression, fat burners can help you burn — at most — an additional pound per month, assuming you are already in a calorie deficit.
They are certainly not worth the hefty price tag.
Illegal fat burners are harder to get and often come with a host of dangerous, sometimes fatal, side effects.
Again, they’re not worth the damage caused to your body when you can exercise a little patience and faith in sustainable fat loss.
5) CHEAT DAYS
So you’ve been dieting for a while and you want to return to eating some of your favorite calorie dense foods.
While it is OK to have the occasion cheat meal for psychological reasons, far too many people reward themselves for sticking to a diet plan for a few days or weeks by going on a binge for an entire weekend, thus undoing all the good work they have done.
It is sometimes helpful to view long term fat loss from the perspective of an average calorie deficit, but far too many people self-sabotage by sticking to a 500-1000 calorie per day deficit from Monday to Friday, only to enter a massive surplus during the weekend by gorging on beer, burgers, and pizza to nullify the calorie deficit they have entered during the week.
I was this guy.
I would sometimes starve myself during the week, entering a 1000-2000 calorie deficit every day, only to overeat by THOUSANDS of calories during the weekend.
For many dieters, it is a lot easier to overeat by a few thousand calories in a day than it is to enter a calorie deficit of 500-1000 calories per day.
Food is delicious and nutritious, but it shouldn’t be an emotional crutch.
You must sever your emotional attachment to comfort foods if you want to be successful in the long run.
This is the only way you can win — by redefining how you view food.
Ask yourself, is food a source of nourishment or comfort?
If the answer is the latter, you have bigger fish to fry.
You need to address the root causes to your emotional eating while you attempt to become the best version of you.
Don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for personalized coaching and a client questionnaire if you’d like DEDICATED tailor-made personal training on strength training, building muscle, losing fat, developing athleticism, and more — all to your liking, lifestyle, habits, and taste!
Alternatively, you can pick up a FREE eBook on fundamental strength principles offering an introductory workout program.