As a quick piece I thought I’d write about 6 common mistakes I encounter regularly when dealing with weight loss clients. I have written these in no particular order, and I’m sure in time I will think of more. If you are trying to lose weight and any of these apply to you I would suggest you rectify them before trying anything else.
Thinking fruit is free
Over the years, one thing that has regularly cropped up as an obstacle to people’s weight loss endeavours is fruit intake. Fruit is vitamin and anti oxidant rich. Therefore people eat lots of it, without considering it may be detrimental to their efforts. It’s almost given a ‘free’ status in some people’s diets. The logic goes, it is healthy – and losing weight is healthy – so I should eat as much as I can. Unfortunately this logic doesn’t stand up. Fruit is rich in a sugar called fructose. Fructose is only processed in the liver. If our liver energy stores (glycogen) are full all this energy will be shuttled off to be stored as fat. A combination of liver glycogen stores normally being well maintained, and a high volume fruit intake will result in all of this fructose based energy being converted into fatty tissue. Another problem fructose will cause is in how it affects our appetite control. Fructose tricks our body into gaining weight by fooling your metabolism. Fructose does not appropriately stimulate insulin which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and doesn’t stimulate leptin (the satiety hormone) which together result in eating more and eventually contributing towards developing insulin resistance (not good for weight loss!!).
Fruit juice is another matter altogether as it is a highly processed version of whole fruit. It is far easier to eat more fructose through fruit juice intake than fruit intake as the fibre has been removed/pulped. More fructose intake = more problems. So, fruit isn’t all bad, but should be controlled in a diet as much as anything else. I would suggest it could be removed altogether for certain periods to accelerate weight loss.
Buying into ‘healthy food’ marketing
I have to be careful when I go to the supermarket. If I had my way I would go round smashing up the displays touting certain products as ‘healthy’ or ‘ideal for weight loss’. Let’s start with labelling things as healthy. To me, health is subjective. So, one individual’s requirements to be ‘healthy’ could be completely different from another’s. To label a food as healthy generalises far too much and creates a false impression. As an example, many supermarkets have an aisle labelled “Cereals & Healthy Cereals”. Anyone with any kind of gluten intolerance may argue otherwise to how ‘healthy’ these products leave them feeling. Even if we take health to be a very general term and exclude special populations like gluten intolerance sufferers I can think of far more healthy ways to start your day than processed grain and sugar. The truth is, food manufacturers and supermarkets don’t care for your health. They care for their profits and that’s the bottom line. They label something as ‘healthy’ to encourage a certain demographic of people to buy it, whether it’s healthy or not. This doesn’t mean that anything labelled as healthy can’t improve your health. It means they won’t necessarily improve your health, and in some cases, they could actually be detrimental to it.
Low fat foods play into this concept. Low fat foods are marketed to those looking to lose weight. Anything that is processed to make it low fat has almost certainly had sugar added to compensate. Sugar is far more lipogenic (causes fat gain) than fat due to the body’s hormonal response to sugar intake – insulin is released, fatty tissue is conserved and energy is partitioned to be stored as more fat (this is somewhat simplified). Foods labelled as low fat are also almost certainly processed. In terms of weight loss, or even a general view of health, processed foods are bad; very bad. Low fat foods are not created to help people to lose weight. Indeed, they actually inhibit weight loss. They are created to appeal to people trying to lose weight and make the food company money.
Of all the things that disrupt someone’s weight loss plans, drinking alcohol is probably the most infuriating for me. The way most people react when you suggest they lay off the booze for a month or so would suggest that this country is in the depths of an alcohol dependency problem! Let’s begin with the science. Alcohol is metabolized, for the most-part, in the liver. 80% of calories from a shot of something like vodka will go directly to the liver to be converted into a small amount of energy and a large amount of citrate (which assists in the process of changing glucose to fat). If we then presume that most alcohol isn’t consumed neat, and more often than not is consumed with a carbohydrate source (any non-diet mixer, maltose in beers) we can see a double whammy. The carbohydrates prompt the body to store energy as fat (and not release any fat) whilst the breakdown of alcohol provides the citrates to help this process along. Let’s also assume that food is consumed when drinking (and that food is possibly consumed with increasingly lowered inhibitions) and you can start to see a problem. Then we have a hangover; a state of depression and lowered energy. Comfort eating could potentially rise and sooner or later the whole weekend is being ‘written off’. I see this often. Monday to Thursday is great for some people, then the weekend arrives and Friday to Sunday is ruined by either drinking, or recovering from drinking. That means that 43% of the time you are actively not losing weight. Not a great statistic.
This of course is based upon the idea that people aren’t just having one drink to relax on a Friday, and maybe another with dinner on Saturday. In moderation, alcohol, although inhibitive to weight loss on any scale, is a nice way to ‘cheat’. How well do you moderate your alcohol though? I know people that simply can’t fathom the idea of socialising without being under the influence of at least 3 drinks. If this sounds like you then you probably need to weigh up your priorities and decide whether you want to lose some weight, or have a weekly night out on the lash.
It is quite simple. If you want to lose weight, alcohol will act in the exact opposite direction of where you want to go. A little backwards movement won’t do any harm every now and again. But every week is just far too often and will leave you static, getting ever more frustrated at your lack of weight loss.
Not having a desirable enough goal
This one is easy. Sometimes people simply don’t want it enough. Give me a bride-to-be to train and I can absolutely guarantee that she’ll lose the weight (and then some) regardless of what sacrifices it takes. Fitting into your wedding dress is a fairly compelling reason to do something, so it’s no surprise it gets done! Unfortunately (in this context!), marriage tends to be a once in a lifetime event so some other reasons need to be found to take the appropriate actions. If your goal is to lose weight with the sole reason behind your goal being to weigh x amount of kg, it is almost a given that you will fail. If you won £1,000,000 for losing x kg it would be a different story. Think of the reasons behind your desire to lose weight. How compelling are they? Do they prompt you to action, excite you and scare you in equal measure? If not, you need to get some more. There are numerous ways of doing this. Setting up a challenge with friends can be a great incentive, as can setting up a reward/punishment type scheme individually. Having a performance related goal is also a great motivator. If you have a target that runs parallel to your weight loss goals you will find yourself pleasantly distracted, and any competitive sports (whether it’s beating a PB for a running race, or playing badminton at a higher level) can help provide such targets.
Essentially, if you don’t really, really want it, you probably won’t get it.
Not being patient enough
How long did it take you to put the weight on you now want to lose? I’m guessing it was more than 2-3 weeks? The biological process of weight loss is very similar to weight gain, just in reverse. So, it’d be fair to say that if you have put on the unwanted weight over the last year, it could take a year to get rid of it again. Of course, you made no discernible effort in putting it on, so any extra effort in getting it off will accelerate the process and decrease the time. But not by so much that you should expect anything in less than 2 months. A ‘normal/safe/sustainable’ rate of weight loss would be 2lbs per week so set your time frame up accordingly.
As a society we tend to have a very short attention span, so if something hasn’t happened in a figurative blink of an eye our focus is shifted elsewhere. Our desire to have everything instantly leads to impatience beyond belief. If a webpage hasn’t loaded within 5 seconds I actually want to smash my computer to bits! We want it all, and we want it NOW. Action needs to be taken to keep your eye on the prize. One method I have found particularly helpful is to draw out a timeline. Working on our 2lbs/week rate of weight loss, draw out a timeline of dates (include important dates like parties/weddings/holidays) and plot your path along it as you go. Maybe print it out and stick it on your fridge, and give yourself various rewards along the way.
If we go for some clichés at this point I’ll say Rome wasn’t built in a day, a marathon starts with a single step and all good things come to those who wait. Be patient with your body. If you can’t, plan your impatience and do what you can to deal with the waiting time.
Not getting help when needed
This last one is a shameless plug for people like me who make a living helping people lose weight. It won’t surprise you to hear me say that employing a trainer to help you reach your goals is a fantastic investment to make. You wouldn’t cut your own hair, fix your own car or do your own dentistry, so why rely on yourself to lose weight? Like all industries there are good and bad trainers so take your time to choose the right person for the job. Someone with references (have you seen my testimonials page? Shameless plug) who you get on with would be a good start. You’d probably also want someone who is in good shape (*tenses*) and who has a passion for their craft (possibly demonstrated with writing articles and stuff). Even if you end up seeing a trainer as little as once a month, or even once every 2 months, it can greatly increase your chances of succeeding in your goals.