When you want to lose weight quickly and easily you need to avoid making these common mistakes that will prevent you from looking and feeling at your best, says New Body Plan editorial director Joe Warner
Mistake 1: You Focus on Carbs, not Calories
The problem: Carbs have replaced fats as the number one perceived reason for the global obesity crisis, and almost anyone who wants to lose weight starts by saying “I’m cutting out carbs”. While it’s true there are no “essential” carbohydrates – unlike with protein (essential amino acids) and fats (essential fatty acids), which we must consume through our diet to survive – carbs are an incredibly efficient energy source, and many types contain essential micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, as well as pre- and probiotics and fibre for optimal digestive health.
Anyone who has tried cutting out an entire food group will already know it’s a very difficult to do, and inevitably leads to carb cravings that make you obsess about those foods you’re avoiding. So it’s not a a sustainable approach to eating – nor living – and is why almost everyone who “quits carbs” is back eating them – and more than ever before – within a matter of days.
The solution: The only way to lose weight is to consistently consume fewer calories than you burn. The bigger your calorie deficit the faster you’ll lose weight, but dropping too many calories is counter-productive. Why? Because you’ll be constantly hungry and obsess about food – especially those you’ve told yourself you’re not allowed to eat. While cutting back on sugar – especially those found in fruit juices, soft drinks, biscuits and sweets – will go a long way towards reducing your waistline, swearing off all carbs indefinitely will do you more harm than good.
The best approach to losing weight is to time your daily carb intake around exercise or periods of activity. That’s because carbs allow you to recover from training faster, and it’s important that you are fully energised for each session so you can push yourself. The smart choice is always foods closest to their natural form, such as brown rice and potatoes, to keep the calorie count down and get the nutritional benefits that get stripped out of heavily-processed foods, such as white bread and french fries.
Mistake 2: You Focus on the End Goal, not the Weekly Wins
The problem: When wanting to lose weight everyone focuses on the conclusion of their fat-loss challenge: the moment it’s all over and they stand tall and proud in the mirror looking lean, toned and defined. It’s human nature to fixate on the destination and not the journey, and while that’s a perfectly rational mentality when you’ve off on your summer holiday, it won’t work when wanting to lose fat!
Why? Because if you don’t have a “road map” of how to get to that destination of having a leaner and more defined body you’re never going to reach it. Not having a plan is a bit like taking a road trip without a map or GPS: it doesn’t matter how fast you go or for how long you travel, you’ll end up going round in circles – or give up before you get to where you want to be!
The solution: Before embarking on any fat-loss challenge it’s essential you set yourself a realistic but challenging goal with a set-in-stone timeframe. Once you’ve set your goal it’s even more important to break down your “big picture” fat-loss goal into smaller, more achievable weekly or fortnightly milestones.
This approach means you don’t fixate on an incredibly daunting overall goal and instead focus on achieving these small and simple confidence-boosting mini-goals that will quickly add up to guarantee you achieve your objective. For example, say you want to lose 4kg of fat in eight weeks. It’s a challenging goal and entirely possible, but at the start, when you don’t feel fit and have doubts about your ability, it can feel like you’re standing at the bottom of a mountain and you need to reach the cloud-hidden summit. With this mentality it’s no wonder why so many people quit before they even start!
But if you instead break this 4kg fat-loss target down into weekly goals, then you only need to lose half a kilo in a week – that’s only 500g and is entirely possible if you make some time to exercise and think a little bit more about what you eat. Suddenly the weight is falling off you, you’re having successful sessions in the gym and really enjoying training hard and eating better, and before you know it you’re well on your way to that summit with sky-high confidence.
Mistake 3: You Focus on Perfection, not Progress
The problem: When you have a “perfection philosophy” you pile huge amounts of pressure on yourself before making a single positive change to your life. You pressure yourself to make every training session perfect, and every morsel you put in your mouth must be the perfect food in the perfect amount.
You need to get the perfect eight hours of quality sleep at night, and then be perfectly calm and stress-free all day. The slightest imperfection in any of these four areas and there’s the overwhelming desire to quit. You want to throw the baby out with the bath water, telling yourself “I can’t do this”, or “now’s not the right time”, or even worse, “If I can’t be perfect all the time there’s no point ever trying.”
The solution: The key realisation that powers all successful body-transformation challenge it’s that you don’t have to be perfect to make progress! Why? Because perfection is impossible. No one can ever be perfect all the time, so the sooner you realise that the greater your chance of losing weight, improving your health and happiness, and living the fit and full life you want and deserve.
So if perfection is impossible to achieve where should your focus be when you want a better body? Consistency. Consistency is what makes or breaks your transformation challenge. And the best way to achieve consistency is to follow the New Body Plan mindset philosophy we call “Nudge the Needle”.
It works like this: think of a dial with the numbers 0 to 10 on a scale from left to right, with 10 signalling that you’re doing absolutely everything right to lose weight, and zero implying you’re doing absolutely everything wrong.
You previously thought you needed your needle pointing bang on 10 to make a positive difference to your waistline. You now know that’s wrong because perfection doesn’t exist. The reality is that to lose fat you only need your needle to be pointing at 6. That’s it. That’s only just passed half-way! That’s not a big deal at all. You may already be pointing at 4 or 5, so you really don’t need to make too many changes to nudge that needle in the right direction to start dropping weight. And the best bit is that once your needle is at 6, it becomes so much easier to move it up again, to a 6.5 or even 7, so that your spare tyre shrinks even faster!
Mistake 4: You Focus on Complete Restriction, not Controlled Restraint
The problem: This problem is similar to having the belief that to lose weight you need to cut out all carbs forever, in that if you want to get leaner you can never eat you favourite foods or drinks. So, along with bread and pasta, you vow to banish from your life all chocolate, sweets, ice cream, beer, wine and any other products you deem “unhealthy”. Yes, you will lose weight – just like you’ve always wanted – but you’ll spend every day thinking and obsessing over eating those foods you’ve banned. What then happens is you’ll feel thoroughly miserable until you can’t take it any longer and gorge on everything you’ve been obsessing over. And you pile the weight back on!
The solution: In moderation, there’s no such thing as a bad or unhealthy food, but banning certain foods or drinks is a guaranteed way to put that item front and centre in your mind so you never stop thinking about it. So although it’s never helpful to label individual foods with rigid moral labels such as “good versus bad” or “clean versus cheating”, it does make sense to group them in to other less judgmental categories, such as: “eat more often” or “eat less often”; or “makes me feel better” or “makes me feel worse”.
To lose weight you need to ensure most meals contain those foods you know you should “eat more often”, such as lean meat, fish, vegetables and healthy fats, and contain fewer of the “eat less often” foods, such as takeaways, ice cream and booze. You don’t need to be perfect every meal, and the occasional burger, bar of chocolate or glass of wine is fine – life is about balance, after all – but the higher your frequency of eating meals based around foods you should “eat more often” the sooner you’ll build a stronger and leaner body.
Mistake 5: You Focus on Motivation, not Momentum
The problem: Motivation can come from many places and take many forms, and there’s no question that to lose body fat you need to be motivated. The trouble with motivation is that it’s intrinsically linked to willpower, but relying on willpower alone is one of the main reasons why so many people fail to achieve their fat-loss objective – and then feel terrible about it to boot.
Here’s the problem: willpower is a limited resource and when you rely on it alone you waste time, energy and motivation trying to ignore cravings and urges, or trying to break bad habits, or just simply trying to get through your day at work, so that when you really need that willpower – to make it to the gym or to cook a nutritious dinner – your supply has run out and you can’t help but take the path of least resistance, so end up lounging on the sofa surround by empty beer cans and pizza boxes.
The solution: Instead of relying on willpower, put your faith into your ability to make a plan and then stick to it. After all, the less you leave to chance the less willpower you need to exert trying to overcome a situation that would lead you further and further away from your fat-loss goal.
For instance, taking a packed lunch to work means you’re not wasting any willpower forcing yourself to have a healthy lunch when you’re stressed and starving. And packing your gym kit the night before means no willpower is wasted in the morning when you’re in a rush to get you, and the rest of your family, washed, fed, dressed and out the door.
It sounds simple, but the better your plan and prepare, the more positive momentum you’ll have each and every day that makes life so much easier. And the greater your momentum, the more time, energy and enthusiasm you’ll have to eat exercise and life better so you’re constantly moving closer to your fat-loss objective.
Mistake 6: You Focus on Cardio, not Weights
The problem: If you think that the best way to burn off your belly is to lace up your trainers and go for gentle jog then you’re running down the wrong path. Yes, jogging is good for you – there’s plenty of benefits to your cardiovascular health as well as your mental health – but it’s not the most effective way to change your body composition for the better. For a start, it won’t do much to improve your muscle mass or bone strength – key indicators of health, fitness and longevity – and it’s far from the most efficient way of shrinking your waistline, which is one of the biggest factors determining both your short- and long-term health prospects.
The solution: High intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves short periods of intense activity followed by brief periods of rest will burn more fat than jogging or other forms of low-intensity steady-state (LISS) cardio, because you torch calories both while you train and continue to do so long after your session has finished. Resistance training, such as lifting dumbbells, kettlebells or your own bodyweight, is another great way to torch body fat and build a stronger and more defined physique, so long as you follow a progressive and structured training programmes, such as New Body Plan. Indeed, HIIT has a similar effect on your body as lifting weights, because it increases levels of hormones associated with building muscle mass and reducing body-fat levels to help you look, feel and perform at your best.
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