Working on a fitness makeover can be a lonesome time for some. My experience as a coach is that a lot of clients are almost ashamed to admit to their friends or colleagues that that’s what they are trying to do. So they tend to isolate themselves and keep their weight loss journey a secret for fear of failure and having to hear “I told you it wouldn’t work”.
There is a lot of conflicting information available on the subjects of fitness and weight loss and it’s very difficult to navigate through a myriad of journals, articles and blogs to decide what might be a good path to follow. I know, I have been there too.
The trick to getting a great ROI for your efforts is to find a protocol that is easy to jump into and that you can follow over a long period of time, turning it into a new set of healthier habits as opposed to a collection of remedies. There are many effective frameworks to choose from and really what works for one person might be disastrous for another one.
Regardless of which protocol you decide to follow and what’s right for you, if you want to be successful at shrinking a dress size (or three) you must be aware of a number of common mistakes that people make which can thwart their efforts. Avoid these and your chances of achieving your goals will skyrocket straight away.
This is what unsuccessful people typically do:
1 – They focus on losing weight
The figure you see on the scale can be extremely depressing if it’s not changing but in reality it’s probably the last thing you need to worry about. Female body builders and athletes are often tiny creatures that nevertheless weigh a tonne. Why? Because they are muscular, yet they can be so minute that you wonder if their legs would snap in strong winds. By the way, not everyone can reasonably expect to achieve this level of leanness but most people can get very close to it if they really want to.
The better strategy would be to focus on achieving an hourglass shape and measure your progress by taking measurements around your chest, waist and hips at regular time intervals. This change is an indication that your hormones and metabolism are in good balance and therefore you are losing fat which is far more important than losing weight. Especially when you start shedding the pounds of visceral fat, the nasty stuff that accumulates around your organs putting you at an increased risk of developing life threatening illnesses. So, don’t give the scale that much importance – focus on your health and the slimmer figure will soon follow.
2 – They go on a diet
When you cut back drastically on the calories or eliminate entire food groups from your plate you are asking for trouble. Your metabolism doesn’t work in a linear way and tends to be adaptive and reactive: whatever action you take, it answers back. Usually not in the way you want it to as its primary objective is to maintain the status quo. So you need to learn to play its game.
Although some would argue that when you first cut back on the calories you seem to lose both weight and circumference, after 4 to 10 days of low calories and zero carbs you will reach a plateau. Chicken and broccoli can be very nice… but not all day every day. To lose fat you do need to cut back on the calories a little bit but if you deprive yourself of all the foods that you like your willpower will soon get weak and you will start to crave cakes and chips. Eventually you will cave in and go on a binge, cry crocodile tears the next day and start the dieting process all over again. Never really going very far in your journey.
The better way of managing your food intake is to find the combination of macro nutrients (protein, carbs, fibre and fat) that you find satisfying and keeps you full for a good 4 – 5 hours, doesn’t make you dream about a pizza the size of the London Eye, gives you steady energy all day long and yet causes you to lose fat. Once you find your very own Holy Grail of macros you are in fat loss Heaven: you have discovered your unique formula and you are set for success. If you count the calories at this stage you will find that you are naturally consuming less without trying.
3 -They only do cardio
Have you noticed how most chain gyms, on average, have 40 cardio machines and one chin-up bar? There’s a reason for it: most people on a crusade to atone for their indiscretions at the dinner table think that if they spend an hour or more on the treadmill every day they will wash away all their sins. The truth is that they are in fact most likely to make matters worse.
Cardiovascular exercise is awesome and should be a part of every exercise plan because it brings along many health benefits. However, when it comes to fat loss frequent long cardio sessions aren’t your best strategy if you want long lasting results. The reason for this is that long cardio sessions can be stressful to the body and cause cortisol levels to rise. Whereas this can be a good thing and can actually help you lose fat, too much of it can be detrimental and cause you to lose muscle as well as making you susceptible to accumulating belly fat. Not to mention that when we are stressed we tend to crave starchy foods…
Sure, if your body type tends towards endomorph you will benefit from long cardio sessions more than others but still, you could save yourself many hours of drudgery by switching some of your long distance cardio with High Intensity Interval Training plus resistance training. I know, I know… everyone keeps mentioning it… the reason being that it works. HIIT cardio saves you time because you only do it for a few minutes at the time. Resistance training doesn’t need to take up a lot of time either and it will help you build the muscles that will keep your metabolism running at a slightly elevated rate day and night.
4 – They use every machine at the gym during each session
The butterfly approach to resistance training usually stems from the individuals not knowing what they are doing. I see this often when I go to the gym: people doing 10 reps on each machine and then moving on to the next one in random order.
Even when they use the machines correctly they are missing out on an important factor when exercising for fat loss: overload. When you exercise a muscle group to the point of overload (i.e. when it burns so much that you want to curl up and cry) you are stimulating muscle growth. This is what will eventually give you the toned look that so many women want.
And ladies, don’t worry about looking like a man and growing a beard: you don’t have enough testosterone for that. The “bulky” effect that so many women worry about is usually temporary and it’s due to the subcutaneous fat laying on top of your muscles. You will shed this. As your muscles grow your metabolic rate at rest will increase slightly causing you to burn a little bit of fat 24/7. So if you want to succeed at shrinking dress sizes you really want to choose 4 or 5 resistance exercises for your session and focus on working those muscles until you burn like crazy. Whether you do full body workouts or split routines isolating specific muscle groups depends largely on which program you wish to follow and the results you wish to get. But in either case you want to work each muscle group hard. And then rest it.
5 – They don’t have a solid plan
Just as you wouldn’t launch yourself into an entrepreneurial venture on the fly you wouldn’t want to start a weight loss project without a solid plan. This will include a time for researching and discovering how your metabolism works, a time to act on the outcomes of your research, a time to assess progress, adjust the course as necessary, more execution, more assessing, more adjusting and so on until you succeed.
As you get closer to achieving your goals you may want to start thinking about how you are going to maintain your results over time. This plan is perhaps more important than the first one as fat loss is more of a lifestyle than it is a fixed length journey. If you revert to your old habits the moment you hit the perfect size 8 you won’t remain there for long. Should you lose your inspiration half way through you need to read this post.
6 – They don’t get help from a mentor
As cheesy and cliche’ as this sounds, getting help from a mentor can speed up your results in dramatic ways. You know that’s true in your business so you must accept that it’s also true when it comes to fitness and fat loss. And yet so many people think they know it all and rely on YouTube videos to get fit only to end up concluding that “none of this malarkey” works some time down the road.
Choosing your mentor is a little bit like choosing a lifetime partner or a friend: you get along well naturally, you are on the same page most of the time, he or she can fill in the gaps in your knowledge and can explain things in a language that you understand, you respect each other, you feel comfortable calling them up for a chat if you have any doubts, they help you feel good about yourself AND they will help you cut through the fluff to make your transformational journey as linear as possible despite its non-linear nature. Believe me, it works.
So there you have it. The next time you decide that you want to lose weight and look toned remember this post and make sure to avoid points 1 to 5, go straight for number 6 and book a complimentary breakthrough call to make you sure you walk down the right part immediately and save yourself time, stress and money in the process.