Want to drop a dress size? Are these 7 fat loss sins holding you back?
1. Don’t buy into the marketing hype
Many food manufacturers use words like “low-fat”, “fat-free” and “natural” in their marketing, advertising and packaging to try and entice health conscious shoppers to buy their products.
Did you know
“Low-fat” is a relative term, as it could simply mean less fat than the full-fat version.
“Fat-free” isn’t a guarantee that what you’re eating is healthy as it could be packed full of sugar, preservatives or flavourants.
The term “natural” has become a loosely used term that many food manufacturers abuse. Once a plant has been harvested, ground up or its juices extracted, it is no longer in it’s natural state.
“Organic” is another term that is often used interchangeably with natural, which can be misleading. Organic foods can only be labelled as such if it has gone through a rigorous certification process, and has met the many specific criteria required of organic foods.
If these charlatan ‘health’ foods dominate your shopping basket then you’re selling yourself short and will be fighting a losing battle when it comes to your health, and your fat loss efforts.
2. Skipping meals
While controlling calorie consumption is an important element in any weight and fat loss programme, skipping meals is not the best way to achieve this. When you starve yourself your body goes into survival mode, which means any calories you do eventually consume will be preferentially stored as fat to prepare for this state of starvation. Prolonged use of this calorie-cutting dietary approach will also cause your metabolism to slow as the process of digestion has a significant bearing on your basal metabolic rate (BMR).
This metabolic slow-down is further exacerbated by the fact that your body will start to burn muscle for energy when there is no glycogen available and it’s holding on to fat for survival. This is extremely detrimental to your overall metabolism and, subsequently, your fat loss efforts.
3. Mindless eating
Your fat loss efforts in the kitchen need to be deliberate, well thought out and precise. Factors like meal composition, portion size and meal timing are all key factors to consider. For instance, in terms of meal composition, a balanced meal that is packed full of natural foods that include good sources of protein and fibre will ensure you feel fuller for longer. This type of meal also has a greater thermic effect as it takes a lot of energy to digest, which helps to boost your BMR.
Fibre also helps to slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, which mitigates the sugar spikes that can result in snacking. Protein also helps to keep hunger at bay, and is essential for building vital muscle. Portion control is another key element as it is very easy to overeat and consume more calories than are needed at each meal. This is a sure-fire way to derail your fat loss efforts. It is also vitally important that you are mindful of what you add to your meals during the cooking process, or when you dish up. The wrong dressing, sauce or basting can easily double the calorie content of your meal. The same goes for what you drink – never drink your calories. Stick to water or calorie-free options.
4. Choosing foods based on the convenience factor
The isles of supermarkets are packed full of convenience foods that are ready in mere minutes. In our fast-paced pressurised modern lifestyles it can be tempting to pile these foods into your shopping trolley, but the additives, preservatives, sugar and fat content of these foods are detrimental to your waist line, as well as your health. So stay away from the processed, packaged, and pre-made foods. Rather stick with fresh, whole foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. You can also take two nights a week to pre-prepare all the core ingredients of your healthy, fat loss-focused meals to make meal preparation and diet compliance that much easier.
5. Avoid fad diets
There are so many fad diets out there these days that it is easy to caught up in all the hype.
The fact is, most diets don’t work – at least not over the long-term.
They either severely restrict calories or exclude entire macronutrient groups, which is bad for your health and makes this way of eating completely unsustainable. Your best bet is to follow a calorie-controlled diet that suits your genetics, your level of daily activity, and your lifestyle, and avoid going to extremes to achieve your fat and weight loss goals. This is the best, and only, way to achieve sustainable fat loss, and maintain your ideal body throughout the remainder of your life.
6. Ignoring your body’s signals
Eating healthfully doesn’t need to be completely regimented. Eating smaller meals every three hours is sound advice, and is a great guideline to follow, but there is no need to force-feed yourself if you don’t feel hungry, or starve yourself if you get hungry before your next scheduled meal. Having a plan and structure in place makes health eating routine, which is what most of us thrive on, but listening to your body is also an essential part of achieving your goals – even sustainable fat loss. The fact of the matter is your body is a complex organism of inter-related systems. Your energy and hormonal systems both affect your hunger levels. There are also multiple mechanisms that ‘tell’ you when you are full. You just need to learn to listen to these signals, and react in the correct way to ensure you find a healthy balance between your physiological need for food, and your psychological need.
7. Using food as a reward
A number of people view cheat meals as a reward for diet compliance throughout the week, or as a reward for hard work in the gym. The problem with this approach is that you create unhealthy associations with food, especially when you binge or indulge in a cheat meal when you feel that you haven’t earned it.
The guilt associated with this way of eating is psychologically detrimental to diet compliance. The other problem with this approach is that the size of the reward is often commensurate with the perceived level of achievement. Sticking to your diet for the entire week could lead to the drive through of your local fast food joint, for a starter, main meal and a dessert or two. However, that can easily erase all of your hard work throughout the week as you can potentially double your weekly calorie intake in one meal – or a day of cheating with all the snacks that you convince yourself you “deserve”. Rather reward yourself with a new workout outfit, a pampering session at a spa, or a day of relaxation.
Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.