Misinformation about weight loss and diet is everywhere you look. One has to dig through a pile of material designed to sell you on a particular product or diet to find the truth beneath all the lies, false claims, and exaggerated effectiveness of said products and diets.
This is a list of ten common missing ingredients people have for successful weight loss. These are based on my personal experience and the tireless research I have done over the last year and a half as well as the frequency of questions asked on diet forums. I’m putting the most important one first, in case you stop reading.
1. You Have to Eat to Lose Weight – You can eat too little. Your body uses energy to burn fat and build muscle. That energy comes from food. If you don’t get enough food, it can’t work properly and your body holds fat. The biggest mistake I see with beginning dieters is eating too little. Many commercial diets have what I would consider to be unnecessarily low calorie limits. The heavier you are and the more exercise you do, the more you need to eat. Diet isn’t a one-size-fits-all affair. If a program claims that there’s a certain number of calories that will work for every individual, you know it’s a scam.
2. Strength Training is as Important as Cardio – Muscles are the body’s furnace, burning calories all the time even when you are not exercising. The benefit of strength-training continues long after you leave the gym and muscle will help you achieve an attractive body shape once you lose the fat.
3. You Cannot Spot Lose Weight – You can only lose fat over all. So just keep doing your cardio and eating well and losing fat. Your body decides where it comes off first and no amount of ab exercises will make you lose belly fat any faster. You can build the muscle underneath the fat with strength training and this will give your body a more toned appearance when you do lose the fat.
4. Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat – An ultra low fat diet is unnecessary and joyless. There has never been a study that conclusively showed that a low fat diet was the most effective. Healthy fats are wonderful to include in your diet. Olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, dairy and other fatty foods are fine to have in moderation.
5. Carbohydrates Don’t Make You Fat - An ultra low carb diet is also unnecessary and joyless. It is difficult to adhere to as well. Healthy carbs are a vital part of any balanced diet. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts are fine additions to your diet. Again, it’s all about moderation. What actually makes you fat is over-consumption of calories overall.
6. If the Package Says “Diet” or “Healthy”, Beware – Health claims on packaged food mean very little. The regulation of these claims is practically non-existent. Even worse, they usually cover up negative things about the food. If it says “low fat” it’s likely high carb and loaded with chemicals. You’re better off eating a smaller serving of real butter than eating a larger serving of “light butter”. Always read the nutritional info and the ingredients list, pay no attention to the health claims on the packaging. Better yet, eat food that doesn’t come in a package.
7. Restaurant Portions are Out of Control – Even for salads, always look up the calorie content before you eat it. Many restaurants serve entrees that have over 2000 calories. This was shocking for me when I discovered it. You should probably cross restaurants that serve enormous portions off your list, such as Claim Jumper and The Cheesecake Factory. A trick I use is to ask for a take-out box at the beginning of the meal. Then I store what I’m going to take with me for leftovers before I ever start eating. Restaurant meals are almost always enough for 2-4 servings.
8. The Scale is a Terrible Measure of Progress in the Short Term – No matter what you do, you will not lose weight with 100% regularity. Additionally, your weight fluctuates from day to day and hour to hour depending on water retention, food in your tummy, and other physiological processes. It is simply impossible to gain (or lose) fat at a rate of 2 pounds a day. These fluctuations are normal and should cause you no stress. Make sure to take other steps to see your progress when the scale doesn’t cooperate. Take measurements, note how your clothes fits, and always take the time to appreciate improvements to your cardiovascular health or fitness level.
9. You Need to Eat Before and After Working Out – Before you work out, a small snack will give you that extra energy to really push yourself during your workout. Afterwards, a snack that includes protein is vital to muscle repair and recovery. You don’t build muscle or lose fat in the gym, it happens later as you recover. Fueling your workout will give you the maximum benefit from exercise because it will help you work harder.
10. Sweat – When you work out, don’t sell yourself short by taking the easy way. Work out with intensity! Get your heart rate up while doing cardio and challenge yourself with heavy weights when strength training. This goes for women too. Don’t worry, you won’t get big! Women don’t have the necessary testosterone to build large muscles in the first place and it is practically impossible to do so even for men on a lower calorie diet.
Overall, listening to your body is the most important thing. If you feel really hungry, you should eat. If you don’t feel like you tired yourself out in the gym, work harder. And you can do it all out of love and caring for yourself. Weight loss doesn’t need to be punishment.