by Kelli Calabrese M.S., C.S.C.S
Lead Fitness Expert
Every week we get thousands of inquiries explaining why people made efforts to lose fat. Yet, they still haven't seen results. I compiled the five mistakes that are the most common mistakes people make when trying to lose fat. The simple solutions can make the difference between fatness and fitness.
1. I joined the gym. First of all, just paying for a membership doesn't lead to fat loss. You actually have to use the gym regularly and intensely to see results. Secondly, if the only thing you change is going to the gym three times a week, the road to weight loss is going to be a long slow haul.
For example, 45 minutes of strength training burns about 300 calories for a 180 pound person. Do that three times weekly and burn 900 calories. At that rate it would take you almost 4 weeks to burn one pound. Add three 30-minute walking sessions at 3.5 miles per hour and that same person would burn an additional 150 calories a session bringing about a one pound weight loss every two and a half weeks.
If you left the gym and grabbed a sports or meal replacement drink, you may offset any calories you burned leading to no changes on the scale. No matter how hard you train or the amount of hours you dedicate to your program, you will not reach the results you want if you aren't eating correctly.
The solution -- Exercise contributes to a caloric deficit, but needs to be combined with lowering calories. Create a customized meal plan to compliment your exercise efforts and ultimately lose the fat.
2. I cut out one meal to reduce calories. Skipping meals starves you to fatness. Your body is designed to store food in case of times of starvation. In fact, the average person has enough stored fat to provide energy for basic body processes for around 60-70 days. Skipping meals causes your body to think it's being deprived from food, so it will begin to store more fat, rather than burn it off.
Solution -- Eat 5-6 nutritionally balanced, low fat, smaller serving meals throughout the day. This makes it easier for your body to burn off your food as fuel for energy. Eating smaller regular meals will fire up your metabolism so you can burn more stored fat.
3. I followed the exercise and meal plan that worked for my buddy. Getting an exercise program from a magazine, book or your buddy may not be provide the right program for you. Your program should be designed depending on your level of fitness, health status, goals and body type.
Having a customized exercise prescription and meal plan that matches your abilities and preferences can make all the difference in getting the results you desire and deserve. All Olympic athletes do not use the same exercise program and diets and neither should you.
Solution -- Hire a personal trainer and nutritionist. Let the results speak for themselves.
4. I’ve been following my workout religiously for 12 weeks. If you are performing the same routine for more than six weeks, your body becomes less challenged and you reach a plateau. Without constant progression you will maintain your current physical status, which is better than losing ground, but it doesn’t move you close to fat loss goals.
Solution -- In order to continually progress, you need to overload your body with new stimulus. Vary your strength routine by trying new exercises, using advanced techniques, split body routines and incorporating machines, free weights and fit balls. For cardio, try interval training, circuit training or something all together new like kick boxing, mountain biking or stair climbing. I promise you that if you challenge yourself, you will feel a difference -- and SEE a difference.
Keeping a record of your workouts helps you see what you have done so that you can do a little more the next time.
5. I switched from fast foods to fruit and from soda to sports drinks. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. If you eat 300 calories of carrots and 300 calories of chocolate, they have the same amount of energy to burn. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot easier for your body to digest and use the nutrients from carrots than chocolate and you are always better off making more wholesome and nutritious food choices, but you still need to create a negative caloric deficit to lose weight.
A handful of french fries and a banana may have the same amount of calories, so at the end of 24 hours you did not eat any less calories even though you are making better food choices, have more energy, have improved your digestion and stabilized your blood sugar. Some sports drinks may have as many calories and sugar as soda.
Solution -- Continue to replace processed foods with more natural ones, but also read your labels for calories. At the end of the day if your goal is fat loss, you should strive to create about a 500 calorie deficit to lose a pound a week. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, your resting metabolic rate is approximately 2,000 calories a day to sustain normal activities of daily living. If you exercise, that number increases by the amount of calories you expend.
For example if you walked on the treadmill and expended 300 calories, your daily caloric expenditure would be 2,300. To lose one pound of fat a week, you should eat approximately 1,800 calories. You are assured to lose 1–2 pounds of fat per week.
In general, to lose fat you should reduce the amount of fat you eat, eat several small meals of fresh foods daily, read your food labels, exercise most days of the week and challenge yourself physically. It’s also helpful to keep track of your workouts and what you eat by using a journal. To stop playing hit and miss with your fat loss.