8 Common Weight Loss Mistakes

All coaches and clients alike have fallen for one if not more of the following common mistakes. In discussing them (and acknowledging our shared flaws!) we enable growth and a better understanding of the universal challenges that underpin training & dieting.

So as you see your own mistakes below, know that you are not alone!

  1. Setting Yourself Up for Failure: I often consult with clients who tell me they weren’t able to stick 100% to the diet I have given them. However, instead of viewing it as a minor set-back, they succumb to an over-riding feeling of guilt and fall completely off the wagon. If you take the approach that anything less than absolute perfection is a failure, you’re almost doomed from the start. Instead of striving for perfection, learn to accept that slip-ups will occur & don’t allow it to completely de-rail the whole day’s (or week’s) eating. I have always abided by the Pareto Principle in regard to nutrition. That is, provided 80% of a clients’ nutrition is spot on, the other 20% can be more relaxed. Some people like to structure this 20% of food into meals (termed ‘cheat meals’ or ‘free meals’) planned across the week to provide a psychological break from the diet, about which I’ll talk about later. Accepting that dietary perfection is unobtainable in the long-term necessitates planning for those times and achieving a higher level of success overall.
  2. Lacking Preparation: The maxim “failure to prepare is preparing to fail” is as true for dieting as it is for anything else in life. The hard reality of sticking to any kind of structured food plan is that a fair degree of preparation needs to occur in order to succeed. Having food prepared for the day ahead means that you limit variability that could lead to failure. You are far more likely to veer off your diet if you buy your lunch everyday, as we are all prone to make decisions based on what we fancy, or indeed ‘crave’, as opposed to what we SHOULD be eating. This doesn’t necessarily mean slaving away for hours in the kitchen. Preparing food in bulk saves time and is a practice I have maintained over the years with good results. However, if you are extremely time-poor, or cooking isn’t your strong suit, there are numerous companies who prepare and deliver high quality, healthy and nutritious meals to your required specifications. So really there is no excuse to not be prepared, allowing you to focus more closely on other aspects of training.
  3. Using the scales as the only barometer of success: With overweight and obese clients, scales can be a useful way of monitoring progress. However, most scales don’t tell the whole story when it comes to body composition. As someone becomes leaner the use of Callipers, DEXA’s, pictures and measurements take on far more relevance. The advantage of DEXA scans and Callipers is that they account for lean body mass, giving an individual a far more accurate reading of body fat. However, for the ‘Average Joe’ who is overweight and looking to lose weight, scales have their place, but should always be used in conjunction with other modes of measuring progress.
  4. Not Monitoring Progress: Worse than just solely relying on scales as a barometer of success is not monitoring progress at all. How do you know if your diet is successful if you aren’t closely monitoring results? One of the major benefits of having a good coach is that progress is assessed at regular intervals. Not only does this provide accountability to the client, but it can also serve as a great source of motivation if the client sees that progress is being made. On the flip side, if progress is stalling, changes can be made to the diet and/or training to remedy this.
  5. Having a ‘Short-Term’ Mind-set: Too many people go on a diet with a specific deadline in mind: a wedding, a birthday, a holiday, instead of making the diet part of an overall lifestyle. The concept of going on a diet means that there is a thought somewhere of ‘going off’ the diet at some point in the future. The occurrence of ‘yo-yo’ dieters stems from the fact that many people take short-term, extreme strategies approaches,, instead of more manageable, long-term strategies. Diets definitely do work. However, many people are unsuccessful at maintaining weight loss in the long-term. The key factor in this lack of success is people’s execution of the diet, not necessarily the diet itself.
  6. Not implementing a resistance-training program to supplement your diet: Making resistance training part of your schedule is vital. This article isn’t about extolling the many virtues of resistance training, which are numerous. However, weight loss is ultimately about maintaining a caloric deficit. And there are two main ways to create a deficit: 1. decrease caloric intake (via the diet); 2. Increase caloric expenditure (via exercise). Resistance training is extremely important as it can help increase or maintain lean body mass, resulting in increased strength, improved cell health, and an improved hormonal profile. Cardiovascular forms of exercise, such as walking, running, cycling etc. can also be used in conjunction with resistance training and may help to accelerate the weight loss. However, it is important not to get into the mind-set of more exercise always being better. Often, adding too much can become overwhelming, can interfere with recovery between sessions and ultimately place more stress on the body, making weight loss more difficult, due to chronically increased cortisol levels. So always begin with a moderate training program and add more if you feel able. At Clean Health we encourage clients to perform 4 sessions of resistance training per week as a starting point. With 4 sessions per week we have witnessed fantastic results with clients whilst at the same time allowing for optimal recovery between bouts of exercise.
  7. Poor Coaching: I believe it is important to empower your clients & instil them with knowledge that is going to help them for the rest of their lives. To this end, I believe it vitally important to explain to clients the rationale behind why they are making the changes you recommend. If you understand the reason for implementing a change, you are far more likely to stay compliant than if they are just blindly following instructions. The onus is on us as coaches to educate our clientele so that they can make informed decisions going forward.
  8. Not giving yourself a break: A more flexible approach to dieting advocates the use of “Free Meals”, “Re-feeds” and “Diet Breaks”. A flexible approach to dieting seems to be a very sensible way for people to eat, as it allows a degree of freedom from the rigid strictures of following a set diet. A flexible approach can be more beneficial from a psychological and physiological perspective: psychologically it helps to know you have opportunities to be less restrictive and at times indulge in some of the foods you enjoy. It is extremely difficult to sustain a caloric deficit for long periods of time (which is what you’ll need to do if looking to lose body weight). Having short breaks provides a psychological break and stops the ‘all or nothing’ mind-set I spoke about earlier (as in feeling like you have to be 100% perfect all the time, not managing to do that and falling off the wagon hard). Physiologically diet breaks allow the body to up regulate many of the hormones that down-regulate in a calorie deficit (namely leptin, ghrelin, insulin and peptide YY). As these hormones down-regulate, the metabolism slows down and weight loss slows. Having diet breaks allows you to break through plateaus and up-regulate metabolism again. Having a ‘diet break’ doesn’t mean a free-for-all for several weeks. Rather it is a period where calories are restored to maintenance levels and food choices are generally less restrictive, it doesn’t mean a 2-week binge!

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I hope that the above can help to address these mistakes and even avoid making them in the future. Feel free to contact me for any further clarifications or for help with your own training at paul@cleanhealth.com.au

Yours in Good Health
Paul Stevenson