There’s never been more useless information in the world than there is right now…
And none more so than when it comes to weight loss.
Unfortunately, it’s also never been more confusing, contradictory, and full of pitfalls. As personal trainers in Manchester, we’ve seen the end result – people paralysed not by too little information, but by too much. People who have put a whole lot of effort into the wrong things and ended up frustrated and ready to give up.
Here the 6 most common pitfalls I see people falling into regularly (and some great solutions):
1/ Over rewarding: research clearly shows that when people start to exercise more, overall food consumption also increases, compensating for those extra calories burned!
‘Rewarding yourself’ after training is a very common thing and a lot of people do it. Unfortunately, research also suggests that people consistently overestimate the amount of calories burned during exercise, and underestimate the amount of calories they’re eating or drinking, leading to overall fat gain!!
Solution: Keep a food diary (or use an app like myfitnesspal to increase awareness of food consumption). This way you’ll start to recognise how much food you actually need and that effect exercise is actually having.
2/ Becoming more sedentary: research also shows that when people take up exercise of any kind, they actually become more sedentary during the rest of the day! People tend to reward themselves for doing specific exercise by saying ‘I’ve done my bit for today’ and then moving their body less outside that specific exercise as a result!
There’s not a lot of point in going to the gym for an hour and then compensating by becoming more of a couch potato the rest of the time, so don’t be that person.
Solution: Become more aware of how much you’re moving your body outside of specific periods of exercise and aim to move your body as much as possible in daily life.
3/ High carb foods: many people fall into the trap of believing that if you’re hitting the gym, running, swimming etc, then you need more carbs and/or sports drinks before, during, and after your work out.
It depends on your individual circumstances, but if your main goal is weight loss then this is very rarely the case, and in all likelihood you’re simply consuming more calories than you need, plus potentially impacting your ability to burn fat.
Solution: if you need more carbohydrates in your diet, increase them after your workout and/or at your evening meal on exercise days (not the rest of the time).
4/ Crash dieting: in desperation at a lack of results, misinformation, or over-information, many people go for broke by hitting the low-calorie-oh-my-god-I’m-going-on-holiday-in-a-few-weeks panic button.
Unfortunately, most people who achieve fat loss this way put it all back on, and actually end up carrying more fat than they started out with! It’s a pretty horrible way to treat your thyroid, which can have a disastrous affect on your thyroid hormones (TSH, T4, T3, reverse T3), and on your metabolism in general (we send these people to see our Nutritional Therapy team who specialise in testing and helping to correct thyroid problems).
Solution: Firstly, don’t do that again! Secondly, losing fat doesn’t have to involve extreme regimes and boring food – create longer term consistency in your nutrition and lifestyle habits for better, long lasting results.
Build what you eat around whole food, protein and good fats – and make food that you like to eat.
Think about cuisines from around the world that you enjoy, and find a way to cook them quickly with whole food. Batch cooking is also something our personal training clients find useful, so if you’re time limited (like most of us are), then it’s a great strategy.
5/ Lack of sleep: research consistently shows that a lack of sleep leads to excess body fat. This is most likely through a change in the hormonal balance that drives hunger (people eat more), and also drives people towards eating more carbs and poorer quality foods, as well as reducing will power.
It’s definitely a trend that we’ve noticed in ourselves when tired and in our clients – so stay on top of your sleep!
Solution: Focus on your sleep routine – have a set time you want to be in bed by – and identify areas for improvement.
Avoiding electronics before bed, keeping your phone out of your bedroom and getting an alarm clock instead, plus no fluids an hour or two before bed, and no coffee or green tea late in the day are great places to start!
6/ Chronic stress: High stress hormones lead to the inhibition of fat burning, an increase in fat storage, and an increase in craving for sugars and carbs (and eating more food in general). Not that great.
If you avoid these pitfalls and actively work on putting in place some of the great solutions above, you’ll start to see results quickly.
To your lean, healthy, optimised future,
Matt & Dee