Call it a diet, a healthy lifestyle, a meal plan, a way of eating, nourishment, etc. Call it what you like, but if your desired results aren’t happening, then something needs to be tweaked.
Below are six very common situations.
Mistake #1: Your healthy behaviors are too inconsistent.
You know what gets results. Working out regularly; not eating junk; drinking enough water; getting enough sleep; eating a lot of vegetables; avoiding the foods that make you feel crappy; and eating enough, but not too much.
Here’s what needs to hit home: Most people (and that is probably you) believe they are doing well the majority of the time. Maybe you are. However, practicing healthy behaviors 70% of the week will NOT get you results. To see results that will put a giant smile on your face and make you feel good inside, your good behaviors need to happen 90% of the time. This means that your game face needs to be on nearly all the time.
There is room for a couple splurges a week, maybe a little sleep deprivation here and there, maybe a missed strength training workout a couple times a month. If you eat 3 meals and 2 snacks per day, then you eat about 35 times a week. To be at 90% compliance with good, clean eating, you need at least 31 of those meals and snacks to be good and clean. They need to be a moderate portion, as well.
Mistake #2: You don’t pay attention to the calories you consume.
Calories count. (So does calorie quality!) You don’t have to count them to the single digits. You don’t even have to count them every single day. You DO need to have a very good idea of how many you consume on a regular basis.
If your body needs around 2200 calories to maintain its weight, 1700 calories per day is a good target for weight loss. If instead, you are getting 1100 calories per day for weeks, then you are at risk for losing lean mass and slowing your metabolism (and nutrient deficiencies). I’ve been there. I started weight training in 2009 and for the first few months, my results were strangely slow. Retrospectively, I was probably burning 2700 calories per day. I was eating 1400-1500 calories most days. The weight was not coming off like it should have, and it was frustrating. Mistake.
Calorie counting is kind of annoying and intrusive. It’s not sustainable. However, if you have no idea how many you are eating, I recommend counting for a week and getting a good grasp on your daily numbers. The leaner you get, the more helpful it may be to know your numbers (this goes for protein, too).
For best results, create a consistent moderate calorie deficit. Those calories need to come from nutritious foods. You can use the Harris-Benedict formula online to get an idea of what you need. Fitness Pal users: I’ve seen Fitness Pal significantly underestimate the calories women need, particularly if you have above-average lean mass. Compare Fitness Pal’s estimation with the results from the Harris-Benedict estimate.
Mistake #3: You are following someone else’s diet.
Some people get results and sustain results with a different diet than others. (I am using “diet” as a term to describe a way someone eats, not a weird, restrictive fad diet.) There are SO many ways of eating. You can go vegan, vegetarian, raw, paleo, flexitarian, Mediterranean, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, [Insert an allergen]-free, Atkins, Blood Type, Weight Watchers, Blood Type, etc.
Some of those diets are healthier than others. Some bodies respond better to one type of diet. It’s entirely possible to get lean being vegan. I have met people that have lost significant weight with a raw, vegan diet. Personally, I am not a fan of that diet. It is significantly low in essential, beneficial fats. The Mediterranean diet feels good to many people because it is plant-based. It uses meat and cheese more like condiments. Paleo works very well for people. I am a flexitarian who eats gluten-free and dairy-free as often as I can.
Often, you need to experiment to see what your body is responsive to. Does it feel good to you? Is it sustainable? Recall the first mistake people make. Inconsistency. You may have tried Paleo and said it doesn’t really work, but were you consistent?
Mistake #4: Negative self-talk.
Your mind significantly impacts your results. If you’ve created and stated a dozen reasons why you aren’t getting results, guess what? You won’t see results.
On the other hand, if you imagine yourself easily slipping your once-tight jeans on effortlessly, it will happen. If you visualize yourself turning down sweets and drinks, it will be easier to do so. If you repeatedly imagine yourself succeeding (and do what you should be doing), it will happen.
The phrase I can’t is the most powerful force of negation in the human psyche.
Believe it’s possible.
Mistake #5: You don’t sleep enough.
Lack of sleep is strongly connected with an increased risk for metabolic syndrome, which includes insulin resistance, hypertension and obesity. Lack of sleep is also correlated with higher body fat. Sleep deprivation makes your appetite-stimulating and appetite-suppressing hormones (leptin and ghrelin) all out of whack. This is the main reason you think you’re hungry when you’ve clearly had enough to eat. Adequate sleep makes you feel more awesome and allows sufficient time for your body to rest after really tough workouts. This leads me to the last point.
Mistake #6: You don’t lift weights.
If you want to lose fat, prioritize workouts this way:
- Resistance Training/Strength Training. Strength training is a bang-for-your-buck workout. Get in a great 30 minute strength workout a few days per week. Your metabolism will be elevated for 24-36 hours post-workout. If you do this 3-4 times a week, your metabolism is consistently ON FIRE. If you eat enough protein, you’ll gain lean mass, which will increase your resting metabolism.
- Interval Training. This is a method of training where you repeatedly increase and decrease the intensity of your workout for a minimal time (up to 15 minutes total). Initially, I practiced interval training with running. I don’t run anymore, so I use a wide variety of exercises. You can find a ton of interval training workouts on the web.
- Steady-State Cardio: Steady-state cardio is any workout where you’re at an aerobic pace for a moderate to long time. This is the type of exercise most women prioritize (running, stairclimbing, elliptical, aerobics class, etc). Please note this is the last type of workout you should be doing to lose fat. It’s not nearly as effective as strength training and interval training for fat-loss. I don’t spend any time doing steady-state cardio, actually. Time is precious to me, and I get results from the first two priorities.
Which of these stood out to you? Where will you begin to make changes to get results?