If you’re really committed to your weight loss goals, you might think you’re doing everything possible to get down to your ideal weight. When we’re not getting to where we want to be, it is often a few ingrained habits that are holding us back.
In my years of helping people achieve their weight loss goals, I’ve found some of the same mistakes repeated again and again. I’ve even made these mistakes myself in the past.
Are you letting any of these common pitfalls slow down your weight loss efforts?
1. Making a nutrient the enemy. The diet world is an increasingly confusing place. It wasn’t that long ago that fat was the devil, and then that carbs were to be avoided at all costs. Now sugar is the root of all our problems, and we’re learning that replacing saturated fats with processed carbs, as was the go in the 90’s, wasn’t a good idea.
We make things much more complicated than we need to. Demonising a single nutrient is not only confusing and restrictive, it really misses the point and gets in the way of developing a balanced, healthy approach to food. It’s really strange that people get so caught up in things like cutting out grains and dairy when they’re not even getting the basics covered like eating vegetables. Let’s keep it simple: avoid processed foods as much as you can, and fill your plate with whole foods.
2. Eating because you ate. We’ve all done this. We start the day, or the week, with the best intentions for our diet, and then we “blow it” by having a muffin with the morning coffee or forgetting to stop eating at that point of fullness. Once we’ve crossed that invisible line that we’ve set for ourselves, that self-defeating inner voice kicks in: “Well, you’ve really done it now. Might as well eat everything in sight for the rest of the day and start again tomorrow/next week/after Christmas”. And the more restrictive the diet, the more likely this is to happen.
The thing is, there is no tomorrow, and there is no next week. There is only today. Until you break that habit it’s going to be really hard to reach your goals.
There are no good or bad foods, just better choices and less ideal ones. If you eat something that you perceive to be breaking the rules, just move on. Notice your inclination to throw the towel in, and listen to the story you are telling yourself. Break that thought pattern when it crops up, as it is really damaging. Ditch the diet mentality and focus on making the best choices you can in the moment. If you can make the commitment to yourself to never binge again, you are well on your way to getting in control of your weight.
3. Not exercising enough, in and out of the gym. It really frustrates me when people say that exercise is not as important as diet for weight loss. That old 80 percent diet, 20 percent exercise equation is pretty useless. Sure, weight loss is, at its core, a simple equation of calories in and calories out, but it is in many ways more complicated than that.
Firstly, the benefits of exercise extend enormously beyond weight loss, and you should be concerned with that. Apart from being the single most effective protective measure you can take against a host of lifestyle related diseases, exercise has also been proven to reverse the effects of stress and alleviate depression, which both can trigger overeating and a poor diet.
The other major reason to exercise is that we really need to be regularly depleting our glycogen stores to make our bodies more insulin sensitive and start burning fat. To do this we need to be doing at least a few fairly intense workout sessions a week.
On top of this, to really get the metabolism roaring, we must look for opportunities to increase our incidental exercise as much as possible. Research has shown that, even if you train hard for an hour a day, this is not enough to counteract the negative metabolic effects of sitting on your bum for the rest of the day. We need to be consciously avoiding long periods of being sedentary. This means walking everywhere we can, and getting up regularly if you have a job that has you sitting down all day.
4. Waiting on the weight. I often hear clients talk about all the things they are going to be able to do once they lose weight, and a key part of our goal-setting process at New Image is to regularly visualise your life when you have achieved your goals in full, vivid colour and detail. It is definitely the case that being overweight can limit people in some of the activities that they would love to be doing.
What you need to be careful of is putting your life on hold until you have reached the magic number you hold in your mind as your ideal weight. Getting healthy will greatly improve your quality of life, but it won’t solve all your problems.
What if you started living right now as though you had lost the weight? Imagine if you started taking action on those things in your life you had put on hold until you were the size you wanted to be? Taking care of your self by working towards your goals and dreams sends a powerful message to your brain that you are worth it, that you are capable of changing your life. And that weight loss is not the be all and end all, the most important thing in your world.
That’s one of the reasons why training is so powerful. While people may join New Image to reach their weight loss goals, they also experience the enormous confidence boost of having taken the time to get out there and do something that is just for themselves.
Start living the life you want now, and the weight will follow.
5. Eating for weight loss rather than health. I would love to see people focus more on the health imperative of nutrition, rather than just its usefulness in changing body composition. Looking at your diet just in terms of restriction and cutting out the “bad” stuff is counterproductive and sets you up for failure.
Instead, focus on eating a high quality diet that supports your body in functioning the best way it can. After all, our bodies are pretty amazing and deserve to be treated with a lot more care than we sometimes do. As Dr Joanna McMillan says, weight loss should be a side effect of a healthy diet, rather than the goal.
Are you guilty of any of those common mistakes and unwittingly sabotaging your weight loss efforts? Some small shifts in mindset can really achieve great results.
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