Fat loss is the most common fitness goal. It seems easy on paper, but it’s a lot tougher to achieve in reality.
Whilst the basics of fat loss revolve around hitting your protein goal, eating your veggies and ensuring a calorie deficit, it’s often reasons beyond that which derail your best efforts.
Here are the top five:
1. You’re Eating Too Many Calories
This sounds too simple, but in the majority of cases, people are eating way too many calories.
This is especially true with new clients who walk through the door, who up till then had thought eating well Monday to Friday was sufficient.
In 90% of new clients we see who had been trying to lose fat, it’s almost always the weekends that really let them down.
If you’re dieting hard Monday to Friday, but like to relax on weekends, all too often this can bring you out of a weekly deficit and into maintenance.
There’s also a belief in many people that if you don’t eat carbs, you can eat all the protein and fat you like. This is false – calories do count!
Controlling your calories is still the easiest way to drop body fat. To keep an eye on them, start keeping a food journal and write down everything you eat.
2. You Don’t Move Enough
When you hear someone complain about their ‘slow metabolisms’, more often than not, unless they’re diagnosed, their real problem is a lack of movement.
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR), plus the thermic effect of the foods you eat, added to something known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) makes up your energy requirements.
This NEAT is an important part of the equation, and where you can easily get tripped up. Depending on how active you are, it can make up anywhere from 15 to 50% of your total energy expenditure, which can really make the difference between a caloric maintenance and deficit.
It essentially counts for all the ‘non-intentional’ exercise you do in the day.
Almost all our clients, when they walk through the door, are sedentary office workers who may or may not ‘workout’. Their NEAT is also extremely low, which can make losing body fat tougher later down the line, as the energy deficit is less established.
An easy fix here is to start tracking your steps, aiming for a minimum of 10,000 steps a day.
How can you fit this in your day?
Start walking to the station, taking the stairs instead of the lift, go out for lunchtime walks etc. The possibilities are endless. The key is to build movement into your daily routine.
A more extreme example of the importance of NEAT, is in the latter stages of transformations, when the low calories and body fat can really drain your energy.
You may start feeling lethargic, tired and lazy and will unintentionally move a lot less. If you’re not careful, you may reduce your calorie deficit and slow down fat loss.
This is when you need to be conscious of staying active, going for walks, and hitting your step targets.
3. You Think ‘Healthy Foods’ are Calorie Free
It’s easy for the average person to get sucked into marketing scams in the fitness industry.
The promotion of ‘healthy foods’ may be close to the worst.
‘Healthy’ salads, ‘healthy’ teas all sold in ‘healthy’ shops all around major cities. The problem is when you add up all the ingredients packaged inside, it can account for a lot more than you might think.
The other issue we almost never fail to see is the over-consumption of ‘healthy foods’ such as nuts, nut butters, and dried fruit.
These foods are great, but incredibly calorie dense.
If you’re not exerting portion control on your nuts, it’s very easy to finish a bag of 100 grams which can add up to well over 500 calories in one hit.
In fact, in the past, we used to advise a ‘handful’ of nuts to go with your meat in the morning for breakfast. What we found was that a client’s ‘handful’ was very different to what we had in mind, and would end up throwing their calories way off balance.
If you’re going to add nuts to your diet, either weigh it out or be very diligent with your portion control.
4. You’re Not Consistent Enough
When we put our clients through 12 to 16-week transformations, we always see the most dramatic changes occur in the last 4 weeks.
What the exact science is, we’re not sure, but there’s always something magical about the way a transformation comes together in the closing stages.
Our guess is it has to do with the incredible consistency and diligence we expect of our clients over a long period of time.
In the age of information overload, programme hopping is one of the biggest roadblocks.
During our initial interviews with clients, the confusion surrounding fitness has led them to try almost everything under the sun but never sticking with one.
Here’s how it goes:
- You start a diet, and lose two pounds in the first week, great.
- Following two weeks you lose 1 pound per week, great.
- Following week you lose nothing, doubt.
- Following week you lose ½ pound, panic.
- You feel disheartened, binge eat, and start a new different diet.
This vicious cycle is an epidemic and one that needs to break.
Our best advice is to pick ONE reliable resource, follow their advice, and stick with it for 3-4 months AT LEAST.
With consistency come ingrained habits. The clients we see who stay in shape the longest follow these basic five habits:
- Eat every 2 to 4 hours.
- Every meal must contain protein
- Eat veggies at each meal
- Eat a mix healthy fats daily
- Keep your carbs low glycemic and timed after training and/or before bed
5. You Don’t Have a Goal, any Accountability or the Right Support
As much as we believe that we should be internally driven to achieve our body composition goals, it’s only human nature to want to feel part of a group, have support, and be held accountable to a goal.
The reason our clients do so well at Ultimate Performance is our ability to provide continuous support and hold clients accountable to their goal.
How to Set Your Goal?
Following the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time) principle is a good place to start. Just saying you want to ‘lose some body fat’ is a recipe for zero progress.
A better goal would be:
‘I want to lose 15 pounds (specific) of body fat in 10 weeks (measurable, achievable, time) so I can look great on holiday! (relevant)’
Once you’ve set the goal, you need to create accountability.
One way is telling all your friends and family what you’re trying to do, which will not only build accountability but also create a support network to help you achieve your goal.
The social element to body transformation is underrated. Your social support can really make or break your goals, so it’s vital you’re surrounding yourself with the right people.