Losing weight seems like something that should be simple. Eat less, exercise more and the weight will go away.
But, if you’ve ever tried to lose 5 or 10 pounds, you likely know that it often doesn’t work that way. It’s hard to lose weight.
Part of the problem is the equation people tend to use. I mentioned it already: Eat less + Exercise = Weight-Loss. This does have some truth to it, but it’s certainly not the whole story. In fact, this equation can lead people into some of the most common weight-loss mistakes that will prevent them from ever seeing results.
As a personal trainer, I see people fall into these traps all the time. Are you making these five weight-loss mistakes?
1. You’re Not Eating Enough Food
The most common approach to weight-loss is calorie restriction. People hear that there’s 3,500 calories in a pound of fat and conclude that if they just cut out 3,500 calories, they will lose a pound of fat of their body.
Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Your body is far too complex to follow the old “calories in, calories out” path to weight-loss. You are not a math equation.
If you eat too little, your body switches to its “preservation” mode, meaning it will try to conserve energy as much as possible. Your metabolism will tank, your lean mass will drop, and your body fat will stay the same (or even increase!).
2. You’re Eating Too Much Food
I know, I know. I just said that people mistakenly eat too few calories, and now I’m saying that you may be eating too many. Which is it?
Actually, it can be both.
Consuming way too many calories is one of the main reasons why a third of adults in North America are overweight. However, the problem persists partly because most people don’t know how much food is actually too much.
Many diets recommend counting calories each day, but research has shown that food labels are off by 20 percent or more! Even if you meticulously count every so-called calorie you eat, you could still be drastically overeating (or under-eating).
Similarly, fitness trackers burst onto the scene, and have been hailed as the easiest way to track your calories in, and calories out. But, just like food labels, these trackers are wildly inaccurate. Yes, the can motivate you to move more, but you can’t rely on them to tell you how many calories you have burned, or how many you should eat in a day.
3. You’re Over-Exercising
This might sound strange coming from a personal trainer, but it’s one of the most common mistakes I see people make when they try (unsuccessfully) to lose weight. “No pain, no gain” is one phrase I’d like to abolish from the fitness dictionary!
Exercise is a physical stress that, while usually positive, can compound with all the other stresses you face in life. If you have work stress, relationship stress, financial stress, environmental stress (e.g. chemicals, low-quality food, etc.), then it’s quite likely that your body can’t handle any more.
Adding intense exercise (or too much of it) can put your body into a state of adrenal fatigue, which almost completely prevents your body from shedding fat, no matter how much exercise you add to your routine.
4. You’re Dehydrated (and Don’t Know It!)
When working with clients who need to lose weight, one of the first things I have them do it track their water consumption. So far, after 16 years as a coach, I’ve never had a client who is properly hydrating!
Hydration is tricky because your body doesn’t send you strong cues when you need water. Yes, you may feel thirsty at times, but at this point you’re already massively dehydrated. You can’t rely on thirst to dictate when you drink.
Is dehydration a big deal?
Dehydrated cells are forced into a slower metabolic rate, which means your body’s entire metabolism slows down with them. In other words, if you’re dehydrated, you’re burning far fewer calories than you should be burning.
5. You’re Relying on Memory
I once read, “The faintest pencil will outperform the sharpest memory every time.”
It’s true. We all have pretty terrible memories. Just try to remember what you had for lunch last Monday, or what time you went to bed two weeks ago on Thursday evening. I can’t do it.
Your lack of memory makes it hard to lose weight because you have a very inaccurate picture of what actions you’ve really taken, and what results those actions have really produced.
Just like that quote says, writing out your plan (yes, even with a very faint pencil), and then recording your results is the only way to stay on-track and to see what’s working and what isn’t. If you’re not planning and recording, you’re definitely not going to maximize your results.
So What Now?
If you’re falling into these five weight-loss mistakes (or think that you might be), don’t be too hard on yourself. I called these the five most common mistakes for a reason. MANY people get frustrated by them, and many people give up as a result.
That’s why Jennipher, Kristen and myself are launching a new challenge in January designed to help you overcome these mistakes to get real, lasting results with a whole lot of self love.
We’re really excited to coach some FBGs like you who are ready to see change, and just need a little help getting there.
If you’d like to be part of this FBG Challenge, click here to join the waiting list and we’ll let you know when we’re ready to begin. —Dave
Dave Smith is a fitness and weight-loss coach who was chosen as “Canada’s Top Fitness Professional” in 2013. He is the editor-in-chief at Total Coaching, and hosts a weekly Q&A fitness podcast at makeyourbodywork.com. Contact him any time for answers to all your exercise and fitness questions!