Dieting can be quite demanding, but with the proper tools and the right knowledge, it's simpler than you might think.
I'm a big fan of simplicity, and I would even argue that you are doomed to fail if your diet regime isn't simple.
I've gone on plenty of diets throughout the years. Consequently, I've discussed weight loss with hundreds of different people.
Thanks to the time I spent at the University of Maryland, many of these people had backgrounds in nutrition and exercise science, sports medicine, and food chemistry.
After gathering much information on dieting, I noticed that people tend to go to one extreme or another.
They either go on some strict and unsustainable diet or try to find a lazy approach like supplements or fat loss pills.
It's either maximum effort or as little effort as possible.
Well, I'm here to tell you that you need a balance to succeed. You have to put in the effort, but you need to make it easy for yourself.
Our culture is one where people want what they desire immediately. They want the job, the money, the relationship, the car, the house, or the physique as fast as possible.
Furthermore, they convince themselves that once they achieve those things, they will finally be happy.
When it comes to dieting, the quickest ways to lose weight involve crash diets like low calories, high protein, and low carbs.
On top of all the nutritional stress they place on their bodies, they perform hours of steady-state cardio and intense weight training almost daily.
They do this because they believe that doing more will help them achieve their results faster.
I'm here to shed light on the three most common dieting and exercise mistakes and explain how you can avoid them.
1.) Low Calories Crash Diets
Low-calorie diets involve reducing caloric consumption to a ridiculously small amount, around 800-1200 calories per day. I even consider a 1700 calorie per day diet to be extreme.
I love using this quote:
"Take the long road because it's shorter."
I don't know who said it, but that person was quite wise.
It takes incredible effort to sustain a low-calorie diet but almost no effort whatsoever to gain it all back. Going on an extremely low-calorie diet eventually leads to excessive cravings (study).
On top of that, each time you try a low-calorie diet and fail, you become more convinced that you cannot reach your weight loss goal.
Another consequence of these diets is that they don't allow you to achieve the results you want.
Yes, you will lose weight.
Yes, you will lose body fat.
But low-calorie diets breakdown muscle mass. If you are lucky enough to reach your goal, you inevitably end up with the infamous "skinny fat" look.
When you go past a particular calorie deficit, you risk losing muscle mass because cortisol levels start to rise (study).
Rather than viewing a diet as an ends-to-a-means, try viewing it as a change in the way you eat food.
You need to accept that if you are to succeed in your weight loss endeavors, you have to go slowly.
When you go slowly, you'll enjoy the process! A deficit of 1800-2100 calories per day allows you to eat enough food to lose fat, sustain muscle mass, and satisfy your hunger.
2.) Restricting Macronutrients
Another diet mistake I see all the time is with the type of diet. The keto diet, the Adkins diet, and the paleo diet are examples of poor macronutrient diets.
The secret to losing weight is to eat in a mild calorie deficit for an extended period and consume adequate amounts of fats, carbs, and protein.
Weight loss and weight gain always come down to calories in versus calories out. It is fundamental thermodynamics at play (study).
If you eat fewer calories than your body burns, you will lose weight. Conversely, if you eat more calories than your body burns, you will gain weight.
This is entirely independent of dietary carbs and fats.
While carbs receive the most hate in the fitness community, protein receives way too much credit!
A diet high in protein, on the scale of 160+ grams per day, limits how many carbs and fats you can eat.
Carbs are essential to support your exercise and aid in recovery. Fats are crucial to maintaining proper hormonal balance in your body and satisfying your hunger.
- Protein: 25-30%
- Fat: 25-30%
- Carbs: 40-50%
This macronutrient split exhibits an appropriate balance of fats, carbs, and protein.
People try to over-limit calories or a specific macronutrient way too often. They also believe that they must throw away foods that they love to lose weight.
Don't get me wrong, eating whole foods is crucial to restoring your body's health to a thriving state, but you do not have to give up your favorite foods cold turkey.
You can reach your goal physique by eating the foods you want, and you can still have a healthy body. It all comes down to balance.
Get the proper amount of healthy foods in your diet that make your body healthy and full, but still eat the foods you love.
Doing this satisfies any cravings you may experience and limits the willpower you have to use to stay on your diet.
3.) Overdoing Exercise and Cardio
The last weight loss mistake has to do with overtraining, especially in the realm of steady-state cardio.
When you eat in a calorie deficit, you are already putting stress on your body. Overtraining exacerbates this stress and intensifies both hunger and food cravings.
Again, the only factor determining if you can adhere to your diet in this state is sheer willpower.
Many people think that you need to do hours of cardio and weight lifting to lose weight. However, you've made it this far in the post, so you now know that caloric restriction dictates weight loss.
The net consumption of calories is independent of exercise. Yes, you burn calories by exercising, but if you eat 3000 calories after an hour of running, you will not lose weight.
Like I mentioned before, people seem that think that more is more when it comes to weight loss.
I'm here to tell you that less is more. When you create a regime that is simple and enjoyable to follow, you succeed.
This concept applies to your workout routine also. You do not need to hit the gym 5-7 times per week for two hours each day to lose weight.
The common thread in each weight loss mistake is that most people who try to lose weight make it so difficult.
They design their routines to be way too extreme, and their bodies give out on them eventually.
Instead, make your diet and exercise routine as easy as possible. Don't force yourself to rely on sheer willpower to withstand the difficulties that come with losing weight.
The optimal frequency is three workouts per week for about an hour.
Focus on getting stronger in your weightlifting sessions and incorporate a high-intensity interval training session to burn some extra calories.
I also highly recommend you shoot for 10,000 steps a day. Walking is a relaxing form of cardio, and 10,000 steps per day will burn roughly 300-400 extra calories.
Park further away from the grocery store or your work building to increase the amount of walking you do each day.
What Weight Loss is All About
I've made every single one of these dieting mistakes on my weight loss journey.
I reduced my calories below 1500 per day, cut out carbs, ramped up my protein intake, and ran for miles daily to try to lose weight.
I made little progress and experienced a ravenous appetite that I could not control. I also had no idea what I was doing in the weight room, but I convinced myself that I was a pro.
I injured myself lifting weights eventually and spent months in physical therapy. During that time, I gained a lot of weight.
When my physical therapist cleared me to start hitting the gym again, I knew that I needed to take a different approach.
That's when I started to research effective methods to lose weight. I asked everyone around me for advice and came up with a bulletproof way to design a workout routine.
It took me only a few months to lose the majority of my weight and gain a lot of strength and muscle.
I found out that losing weight doesn't have to be a miserable experience. You can eat a lot of food and continue to lose weight.
You don't need to run for 2-3 miles each day, nor do you need to lift weights 5-7 times per week.
If you follow the advice laid out in this post, you will be well on your way to achieving your weight loss goals.