From the title alone, you might be able to feel your blood pressure rising.
The frustration and disappointment. The confusion.
I’ve seen this plot time and again as a fitness coach. You are making sacrifices in your life, real attempts at change, and you don’t have the results to show for any of it.
And usually it’s because you’re getting in your own way.
In this article I’m identifying six of the most common reasons people get in their own way when following a fitness and diet program.
You’re tracking your food, but aren’t measuring portions.
Taking the leap into food tracking isn’t a small one.
Having to constantly monitor what foods you eat—scanning barcodes, searching recipes, remembering to add a meal before you forget what you had for lunch yesterday—it takes getting used to before it gets easier.
But you can waste your time if you don’t measure how much you’re eating.
A food log that doesn’t accurately report portion sizes is nothing more than an old grocery shopping list. It’ll tell you what you ate, but won’t provide much in the way of meaningful information that you can act on.
The whole reason for starting a food log is to help you eat less. Aside from the names of the foods you eat, the amount is the next-most-important variable to track.
The best way to track accurate portion sizes is with a food scale. You can pick one up for less than $20 online.
Your sacrificing the thing you really want to order at restaurants for something “healthier”, but think it’s a free pass to eat out as much as you want.
Swapping the cheeseburger and fries for a salad. The fettuccine Alfredo for the grilled salmon.
These are real sacrifices. Giving up the thing you want for the thing you think you need to stick to your plan. And they are great substitutions.
Until they lead you to feel over-confident that you can eat out as much as you want because you’re, “making healthy choices.”
The reality is that you have very little knowledge of how the restaurant prepares the meal. Even if the restaurant posts their nutrition information online, that still doesn’t account for the added fats or oils they use to actually cook the food. These meals are laden with calories, tons of calories.
If you’re trying to lose weight you’ll need to cut back on excursions to your favorite restaurants. The less frequently you eat out, the more control you have over your food.
More control equals better results.
You’re diligent with your nutrition during the week, but then treat the weekend as a free pass.
Monday through Friday you are on top of your game.
The set schedule of work, shuffling kids to activities, and going to bed on time lend well to sticking to a regimented eating plan. You remain diligent and things go well during the week.
But then comes the weekend. You feel the weight of expectation lift from your shoulders as you let your hair down to release the tension headache of the week.
Now you’re free.
No chauffeuring, no deadlines, and no meetings. Just you and unabashed freedom to watch as many rerun episodes of “The Office” as you want. This freedom extends to your eating habits too.
Why plan meals for the weekend? This isn’t the time to be shackled to the confines of structure. This is the chance to escape the realities of responsibility, if but only a small taste before Monday morning rolls around.
This reluctance to have a routine on the weekend is what kills your progress.
Even if your short-lived indulgence doesn’t lead directly to weight gain, it’s most certainly enough to undo a week’s worth of hard work.
So you hop on the scale on Monday morning and nothing has changed.
Freedom doesn’t mean being careless.
If you want to protect the hard-earned progress of the week, you need to have a plan for the weekend. Having a plan doesn’t preclude you from enjoying the weekend. It just an insurance plan that you won’t screw it up.
You cut out drinks like pop, but don’t pay attention to calories in coffee or alcohol.
Pop can add hundreds of calories to your day. Calories that don’t contribute to your health nor leave you satisfied.
For most, cutting down on pop intake is an easy choice. The more difficult beverages are pop’s more sophisticated and edgier cousins: coffee and alcohol.
Coffee alone, as in black coffee, doesn’t contain any calories. This makes it an easy factor to overlook.
Most people don’t drink black coffee.
Because most people aren’t psychos.
Nevertheless, the many varieties of lattes and frappuccinos from Starbucks are more akin to caffeinated dessert in a cup, sometimes containing as many calories as a full meal.
Anything that has that many calories and is treated as an afterthought is setting you up for a bad time. Be honest with yourself and track these items like you would any other food you consume. Then, if you realize 25%+ of your daily calorie budget is spent before 9am, and without a single bite of actual food, maybe it’s time to find an alternative method of bribing yourself to go to work.
How about pop’s edgier cousin, alcohol?
Did you know that most people don’t realize alcohol has calories?
I hate to be the one to shatter this fantasy. A single 1.5oz pour of most spirits contains around 100 calories. (That’s a single shot for all you translating to beer math.)
- A standard glass of wine can have anywhere from 120-150 calories per glass.
- A typical craft beer can contain upwards of 200 calories.
- And those fancy cocktails? Often they clock upwards of 250 calories, or more, per cocktail.
Add two drinks to an otherwise healthy meal and you’ve likely doubled your calorie intake without realizing. If you’re one to indulge in adult juice-boxes every now and then, make sure you account for those calories in your daily budget.
You exercise regularly during the week, but then use that as an excuse to eat whatever you want afterward.
We exercise for all sorts of reasons: to get strong, to build muscle, to look better in clothes, to look better without clothes, and to lose weight to make all that happen.
Exercise contributes to weight loss by helping you burn calories. A common pitfall is to use exercise as a justification to “eat back the calories you’ve just burned,” as if the actions zero each other out.
The energy to burn calories and the energy to consume calories are not equally matched. We aren’t nomads anymore. We don’t have to work for our food. We can get literally any type of food we want at the tap of a button on our phone while lying in bed.
It’s too easy to overeat, and too difficult to burn it all off.
This doesn’t mean any attempt to move more and eat less is futile. Weight loss is definitely possible to achieve. What this disproportionate balance of energy-out to energy-in means is that you can’t treat them as equals. You can’t expect an hour-long workout that burns 350 calories to counteract the brownie sundae at dinner that contains 950 calories, and expect there not to be repercussions.
If a business has great marketing, but a shitty product, they won’t be in business very long. Marketing alone can’t make up for a bad product. Similarly, a good product can only go so far without good marketing. For the business to thrive it needs both to work together.
Exercise and nutrition work together to help you reach your goals, but they are separate components. Treat exercise as the driver of better performance—more muscle, more energy, more strength—and nutrition as the driver of body weight change.
You start a new diet, but don’t factor in whether it fits into your schedule or lifestyle.
With tons of diet plans to choose from, it’s easy to be sold on the promises of a new routine.
A diet plan you’ve never tried before might hold the secrets to the success you’ve not yet achieved.
Or maybe it’s bologna.
The reality is that most diet plans work, and they actually all work in exactly the same way. There are two main drivers of weight loss: A calorie deficit and time.A diet plan that works helps you eat less in order to lose weight. Plain and simple.
The big mistake I see is that people choose a plan that doesn’t integrate well into their life. If you have a demanding work schedule, rushing from meeting to meeting with little time for yourself, then a nutrition plan that requires freshly prepared juice five times a day is more likely to lead to stress than any measurable result.
The best nutritional approach is one that fits into your lifestyle. A diet that allows you to stay consistent enough that you can let time work its magic.
If you can’t give the diet time to work, then you’re just wasting your time.
If you’re trying really hard to lose weight, but aren’t seeing results, then it’s time to evaluate whether you’re making any of these mistakes.
The sooner you can spot the issues, the sooner you can patch them up. The results will soon follow.
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