A lack of consistency may be the most harmful trait if you are trying to lose weight. But, even if you are motivated and consistent with your exercise and diet, you need to ensure you aren’t getting sidetracked by making common errors that will halt your progress and are easy to avoid.
There are hundreds of lists on the internet of common errors people make when trying to lose weight. They are all similar, most include ten things to avoid, and you might be surprised to find out that they are mostly right on. These lists provide a useful basic guide to use when trying to lose weight. But what they don’t do is get at the harder to solve mistakes that keep you from seeing the changes you want in terms of your body composition.
For example, did you know that for fat loss and health it’s much better to choose the “whole fat” version of dairy products than the “fat free” option?
Almost all foods that have had the fat removed and are labeled “fat free” are going to contain fewer nutrients and be less flavorful than the "whole fat version. Diets high in fat free foods tend to discourage fat loss to a much greater degree than the whole fat option.
This article will help you to avoid common pitfalls that get in the way of you achieving a lean body composition. This list assumes that you aren’t doing any of the following things that are obviously going to impede optimal health and easy fat loss: smoking, drinking large amounts of alcohol, taking diet pills, drinking your calories (soda, juice, sports drinks), or not exercising.
Tip 1: Don’t Eliminate Fat
Eliminating fat or eating a very low fat diet is a common error that people are encouraged to make by food marketing. Eliminating dietary fat to get rid of fat from the body may seem like a good idea at first glance, but when you understand the role of fat in the body, you realize getting too little of it is a bad idea. Of course, removing trans fats, from the diet is essential because they will make you sick and then they will kill you.
You need a decent amount of good fat in the diet because all the cells in the body are made up of two layers of lipids or fats, which will be composed of healthy fats or harmful fats depending on the type you eat. If the cell lipid layers are made up of healthy fats, it will make them more sensitive to insulin and allow the receptors to bind more easily, which is necessary for good metabolism and energy production.
Increasing the sensitivity of your cells to insulin is important because it will allow glucose (from the carbs you eat) to enter the cell and get burned as fuel. But, if you eat large amounts of trans-fats or have a severe imbalance between the omega-6 and -3 fats in your diet, your cell lipid layers will be made up of those more detrimental fats. Lipid layers made of unhealthy fats lead to unhealthy cells and greater insulin resistance, which may lead to fat gain and puts you at risk for diabetes.
Tip 2: Do Get A Balanced Fat Intake
To get a balanced fat intake you want to get a near equal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats.
Most people get way too many omega-6 fats because they are abundantly found in our diets in the form of the most commonly used vegetable oils (corn, sesame, safflower, peanut, etc.). Omega-3 fatty acids are those that commonly come from fish oil (often referred to as DHA, EPA and ALA), but they also can be gotten from grass-fed beef and wild meats.
Tip 3: Get Rid of Stress and Lower Cortisol Levels
To lose fat, it’s essential that you minimize stress to lower your cortisol levels. Chronically high cortisol is associated with higher body fat, particularly around the middle. This means that no matter how much you exercise or eat healthy, you're unlikely to lose fat if your cortisol is elevated because of how cortisol makes the body insensitive to insulin.
One recent study looked at the relationship between cortisol levels, insulin sensitivity, and visceral belly fat in men. Men with more belly fat produced far more cortisol throughout the day and had decreased insulin sensitivity than those with less belly fat.
Interestingly, subcutaneous fat—the jiggly kind that’s right below the skin—was not related to insulin or cortisol levels. Researchers suggest both external stress and internal physiological stress (in the form of chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract) are the cause of the elevated cortisol.
If you have any experience with fat loss, you know that the body is most agreeable about giving up its fat stores when it is calm and not stressed or overly stimulated. Proven ways to reduce stress include the following:
- eating anti-inflammatory foods and getting plenty of probiotics for a healthy gut.
- mind-body activities that bring you into the moment and help you connect with what really matters--yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can all be protective.
- strength training and martial arts will fight stress and promote ideal body composition.
Tip 4: Fix Your Gut With Probiotics
Fix your gut health and support digestion by eating plenty of probiotic foods to lose fat, have more energy, and feel better. Probiotics are the tiny bacteria that naturally occur in the gastrointestinal tract and are commonly found in fermented dairy products such as yogurt.
It’s very difficult to lose fat if you don’t have a healthy gut for two interrelated reasons. First, more than half of the neurotransmitters that send messages from the brain to cells and hormone receptors throughout the body are made in the gastrointestinal lining.
If your gut is not healthy, it will negatively affect the production of the neurotransmitters, leading to poor cognitive function, low mood, feelings of depression, and low motivation. A bad outlook and lack of drive will make you less motivated to exercise and take the action necessary for you to make progress toward reaching your goals.
The second reason gut health is essential is that it will improve digestion and help you feel better. You will actually feel more energetic because your neurotransmitters will be firing at optimal levels, and your metabolism will be supported so that nutrients and energy sources are getting broken down, absorbed, and used by the body in the most effective manner.
Get probiotics from fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, Indian Lassi, sauerkraut, and kim chi. Add them as condiments to every meal.
Tip 5: Support Digestion With Digestive Enzymes
Another trick for supporting digestion and fat loss is to make sure you have healthy levels of digestive enzymes to break down food. Adequate digestive enzymes will allow your body to completely digest food, improving the absorption of protein, calcium, vitamin B, magnesium, zinc, iron, and other basic nutrients.
Better digestion and absorption of protein and nutrients will support protein synthesis and the development of lean body mass, while helping you avoid deficiencies that can cause poor health and hinder weight loss attempts.
Researchers suggest that the Western population’s overuse of antacid medications—to counter acid reflux, which is typically produced by a poor diet—results in chronically low levels of digestive enzymes, which in turn hampers digestion, and the absorption of protein. What a mess!
They caution against the use of antacids and encourage the population to modify diet and improve digestive enzymes levels for better protein absorption.
Tip 6: Eat You First Meal With Protein In It: No Cereal Allowed
Cereal and other high-carb foods are a poor choice for your first meal of the day. Cereal is bad news because it’s typically packed with carbs and added sugar. In the rare case that you can find a cereal that doesn’t have added sugar, cereal tends to be low in protein.
Instead of a carb-based first meal, go for protein and healthy fat. A high-quality protein meal is essential because it helps set energetic, motivating neurotransmitters up for the day and keeps blood sugar steady. The macronutrient content of the food you eat first thing will prime the chemicals that send messages from the brain to all your muscles and tissue.
If you set your neurotransmitters up with a high-carb cereal, orange juice, and a banana, you’ll trigger a big insulin response, elevate serotonin and end up feeling low energy and foggy in the brain soon after. It’s very difficult to reverse the poor brain function and sluggishness that goes with a high-carb meal.
People tend to counter these feelings of tiredness and with caffeine, which raises cortisol and causes a new round of problems such as anxiety, an excited sympathetic nervous system, and poor energy production.
Tip #7: Take A Very Cautious Approach To The Science and Health Media
Be very cautious about what you learn from the science and health media. Health, fitness, and diet information are often misrepresented, with the facts being presented in a way that feed on our desire for intrigue and quick, easy solutions. Equally concerning, media is fueled by business interests, meaning that the information presented is influenced by those interests.
If you look back over how a number of important scientific studies were presented by the media in recent years, it becomes apparent that you have to be very cautious about what you believe.
An example of media misrepresentation is the issue of whether aerobic or strength training is preferred for fat loss. One study compared the effects of aerobic training with strength training on visceral belly fat loss. It was widely reported in the media with headlines such as “Jogging Beats Strength Training for Losing Belly Fat,” or “Aerobic Exercise the Most Effective Way to Lose Belly Fat.”
The problem is that the study design had a major flaw—the amount of volume of exercise was not equivalent or even comparable between the aerobic and strength training programs tested. In addition, the study design did not account for the amount of weight lifted in the program—a major error that makes it impossible to compare the effectiveness of different exercise modes for fat loss.
Finally, research consistently shows that over the long-term, aerobic-style exercise leads to negligible fat loss.
To avoid having the media hamper your fat loss progress, find a source of information that you trust. It’s not that you should ignore science and health reporting, but it’s necessary to be skeptical, and occasionally you will have to do your own research, or find a source you trust that will review the research for you!
Tip 8: Do Not Trust The U.S. DRI or Nutrition Labels
The U.S. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI), is the amount of a given nutrient that the U.S. Department of Agriculture thinks you need each day. If you want to lose fat, the value is useless.
Even if you don’t want to lose fat, it is not ideal for health, and the new DRI is confusing because it gives no recommendation for fat intake, aside from suggesting that adults consume between 12 and 17 grams of omega-6 fats and 1.1 to 1.6 grams of omega-3s a day. This is an example of the skewed ratio referred to in Tip #2.
A number of research studies have shown that the skewed ratio of omega-6 to omega-3s is linked to higher rates of obesity, cancer, inflammatory and immune disorders, and cardiovascular disease. Apparently the USDA wasn’t aware of this data.
One positive thing about the new U.S. DRI is that it has lowered the carb recommendations from 300 grams per day for adults to 130 grams per day. That’s a vast amount, but it is more in line with what could be useful for fat loss if you are working out. The problem is that the DRI only increased protein recommendations by three grams a day from 53 to 56, which will likely leave most people hungry and confused!
Another pitfall to figuring what you should be eating is that nutrition labels lie in a couple of ways.
For example, a Harvard study found that food labels significantly underestimate calorie counts on processed foods because energy calculations are based on the calorie content in unprocessed ingredients. Processing or heating ingredients significantly increases the energy present.
Naturally, you do need a plan for what you are going to eat if you intend to lose fat. The key is to identify the macronutrient content that supports your body. It will take some research and experimentation. Typically, whole food, higher protein diets that contain plenty of vegetables and healty fats will promote fat loss and health.
Tip 9: Fight Stress & Inflammation
The two simplest things you can do to fight stress are to drink adequate water daily (at the very least two liters a day) and to eat an adequate amount of fiber.
In addition, there are many nutrients that fight inflammation in the body and reduce physiological stress. For example, green tea can help detoxify liver and it is known for preventing liver damage from alcohol. Carnitine is a powerful brain nutrient that not only supports fat burning by helping fat enter the cell to be burned for energy.
The ginkgo plant is another excellent anti-inflammator and it has a great track record, having been used in traditional medicine for over 4,000 years. Ginkgo resists pollution, meaning that it will help you to eliminate contaminants from the body and resist stress.
Tip #10 Don’t Forget To Strength Train. Be As Active As Possible
There’s no reason you should not be doing some sort of strength training if you are trying to lose fat. In fact, there’s no reason that anyone should not be doing strength training.
Even people who are confined to a bed in a nursing home can perform some form of resistance training. There’s nothing bad about training as long as you learn proper form and have a reasonable plan of progression.
Strength training is essential for fat loss because it will burn fat, burn calories, improve insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, and make you stronger. Strength training is preferred over aerobic training that is done on cardio machines such as a treadmill because it will produce a more favorable muscle building response, which raises your metabolism to support a leaner body composition.
For best results, perform a periodized strength training program that changes regularly so you are not doing the same thing for longer than two months. Include sptrint intervals to improve your conditioning, burn fat, and improve cardiovascular health.
Try to be as active as possible throughout the day because regular physical activity is shown to maintain insulin health and just make you all around healthier.