Whether you're just starting out on your journey toward a bangin' new bod, or you know the ins and outs of health and fitness, you've probably made some mistakes in your nutrition. When it comes to shedding fat, we often fall into a trap hoping we are doing the right thing. In reality, we may be doing ourselves more harm than good.
There's a lot of nutrition and diet information out there—it's easy to get lost in the mountains of tips, rules, and new terminology. For all you know, "Paleo" could be a new type of deadlift. When I first started trying to lose weight, I had no idea what I was doing. I read what I could and made a lot of errors. And though making mistakes and learning from them is part of the process, you can make the road a little less bumpy with some good information. Here are seven mistakes I've personally made. I want to share them with you so your road to fat loss is as smooth as possible.
1 Buying "Fat-Free" Food
If you find yourself buying food that's labeled as "diet," "fat-free," or "sugar-free," drop the package and run the other direction immediately. Many people see these buzz words and assume that what they are buying must be healthy. In reality, these words usually mean the food you're about to purchase is anything but healthy.
When food companies remove a nutrient like fat to make a food "fat-free," they have to add something back to make it palatable. These flavor-boosting ingredients generally include a hodgepodge of chemicals you can't pronounce, refined carbohydrates, and ample amounts of sugar.
Together, these additives can be detrimental to your fat loss goals. Stay away from the processed, packaged, and pre-made foods. Stick with fresh, whole foods with minimal ingredients.
2 Not Eating Enough
If you want to lose fat, the first logical step is to cut your calorie intake, right? It makes sense then, that the more calories you cut the more fat you lose. Wrong! Seriously cutting your calories may work for a short period of time, but your metabolism will slowly shut down and eventually come to a screeching halt.
If that's not bad enough, when your caloric intake is too low, your body begins to use your hard-earned muscle as fuel, a process known as catabolism. If it happens, it could further hinder your fat loss. I realize that eating more sounds counterproductive to a fat loss goal, but trust me, more food is usually better. If you cut your calories too much for too long, you're not going to see results.
3 Going to Extremes
We live in an all-or-nothing world. For a lot of people, dieting is definitely no exception. I've heard it all: "You have to eat 10 times per day for fat loss!" "Make sure you get 600 grams of carbs." "Never eat fruit or dairy products." "You need these 30 supplements to be successful." Sure some of these things may work for some people, but whatever happened to the middle ground? From my experience, going to extremes got me nowhere but right back where I started.
If you're in this for the long haul, like you should be, remember that balance and moderation are keys to your success. My suggestion: Start somewhere in the middle. Slowly add or subtract until you find the right balance for you.
4 Hopping on the Latest Fad Diet
If you've tried The Hormone Diet, the cabbage soup diet, the 3-Day Diet, the Blood Type Diet, or some crazy juicing thing, you need to listen up. Fad diet advertisements try to suck you in by presenting the "latest research" and showing stories of success. Generally, fad diets work. But, they only work for a short peiod of time. When you go back to normal life, don't expect your body to join you.
The majority of these diets proves unhealthy, extreme, and shouldn't be practiced for an extended period of time. I always tell my clients: "Don't do anything you can't or won't keep up for the rest of your life." Healthy eating should be a lifestyle change, and unless you see yourself eating cabbage soup everyday for the rest of your life, stay away from fads.
5 Clocking Out (and I Mean All the Way Out) for the
I've been guilty of this on a few occasions. OK, you caught me—it happens almost every weekend. A cheat meal is perfectly fine, and can be beneficial mentally, and physically. But if you clock out at 5 p.m. on Friday from both the office and your diet, we may have a slight problem.
Stuffing your face all weekend with everything you didn't eat during the week will not only slow your progress, but can stop it. Sometimes, it can even completely reverse what you've worked so hard for. Depending on your goals and progress, one cheat meal, sometimes two, is usually OK. Get back to eating your healthy foods as soon as possible. Don't allow your cheat meal turn into a free-for-all cheat weekend.
6 Ignoring What Your Body Tells You
Believe it or not, we have hormones that regulate functions telling us we're hungry and when we need to stop eating. When we stop listening to these signals and eat right through the "I'm satisfied" zone and speed into the "I'm stuffed" zone, problems like obesity happen.
On the other side of the coin, eating on such a rigorous and inflexible schedule voids these hormonal signals as well. Sometimes, we get so caught up eating exactly 300 calories every three hours that we forget to listen to what our body is saying. I'm not saying throw everything you know out the window and stuff your face all day long, but when is the last time you really stopped and listened to your body's hunger signals?
Are you hungry when the clock strikes every three hours? Are you so hungry you could eat the paint off the walls? Are you still hungry when you finish your meal? Experiment with relying on your body, not the clock to tell you when to eat. You may be surprised by what you learn.
7 Forgetting to Live Life
Do you find yourself obsessing over every gram of broccoli you put in your mouth? Do you eat tilapia and asparagus at least four times per day? Do you have a panic attack if you can't eat "Meal 4" exactly 2-1/2 hours after "Meal 3?" If so, it may be time to stop, slow down, and breathe. Don't let the quest for health become an unhealthy obsession.
Call breakfast what it is—don't say "Meal 1." Go out with friends, eat a piece of chocolate; listen to your hunger signals. Smile, relax, and have fun. Don't forget to live your life!