By Rod Navajas
If you are struggling to lose body fat, despite your never-ending efforts, don’t worry, I’ve got some good news for you! First, you’re not alone. Better yet, we can always find an explanation when we find ourselves stuck in this process. Sometimes the answer is staring you in the face. Nevertheless, we prefer to overcomplicate things.
The complexity of the interplay between external and internal factors can be overwhelming when it comes to fat loss (fact!), but more frequently than not, ubiquitous traits amongst people in the same situation are usually responsible for fat loss stagnation. You may find yourself wondering if it’s not a genetic problem and perhaps you are simply not meant to lose body fat as easily. Perhaps it’s the fact that you are not a teenager anymore and everything feels a little too slow. Although these can be contributing factors, it’s not the be all and end all in this process. Before we complicate things, we need to tackle the most obvious (not always) issues. Let’s explore some of the them:
1. The problem with incidental calories
You believe you have been eating all the right stuff, following some basic principles, but yet, the scales seem to not be shifting. You may even be tracking your calories and macronutrients from time to time, but nothing is happening. One common culprit is the consumption of extra calories without being fully aware. This is very common specially with healthy foods. Some examples include the consumption of healthy snacks like nuts and seeds. Although packed with nutrients, these are also packed with energy that can easily stall your progress. Adding too much oil or dressing to your salad and vegetables is also another very common example. Always give preference to healthy foods but be mindful of energy intake.
Tip: Stick to low energy dense snacks, like carrot sticks and fruit. Use lemon for salad toppings. Orange is great too.
2. Weekdays perfection, weekend disaster
Monday kicks in and you are as enthusiastic as a kid in a toy store. Salads, healthy snacks, water bottle topped up…awesome! As the day passes by, your enthusiasm drops and you can’t wait for Friday pizza. Comes the weekend and now the ship sinks down, fast! This is very common amongst people trying to change their lifestyle behaviours and commonly, the weekend is synonym of food freedom.
Although we all need to follow a plan that is sustainable in the long run, which should include the foods we love, having a food coma weekend can easily disrupt all the efforts done midweek. Having a balanced approach where you allow yourself to mindfully enjoy some of the foods you love throughout the week, can eliminate the need for a whole weekend off your nutritional plan.
Tips: Balance is key. A sustainable plan is more efficient than an unrealistic plan. Include some of your favourite foods throughout the week and be mindful during the weekend.
3. Stop drinking your calories
Usually we don’t pay attention to the calories of the beverages we consume. Yet, they can be a curse for someone trying to lose body fat. These can be sneaking in as alcoholic beverages, your daily coffee or even takeaway smoothies. Let’s get to some calorie examples:
- 2 glasses of wine equate to a McDonalds Hamburger. Cocktails are worse.
- A large full cream flat white is the equivalent of nearly 6 tablespoons of sugar
- An individual carton of milk chocolate is as caloric as a 1 slice of apple pie
Tips: Stick to water. Opt for straight spirits when consuming alcohol. If drinking coffee, choose espresso.
4. Eating out too frequently
Meals served at restaurants are usually packed with tasty ingredients. A combination of them makes food taste even better. Salt, sugar and fat in different forms are frequently added to meals to increase their palatability. This triggers your reward system in the brain and makes you want more. For food producers, it’s a great way to increase client base and profitability. For those wanting to lose body fat, it’s not a great outcome. Luckily most restaurants contain healthier alternatives in their menu these days, stick to those.
Consuming more than necessary is very common when eating out too. A 3 course meal can be very detrimental to a fat loss plan if done frequently enough.
Tips: Try to limit the number of visits to restaurants a week for no more than 10% of the total number meals you have in a week (I.e: 3 meals a day x 7 days = 21, no more than 2 meals out per week).Make sure to stick to healthier alternatives like salads and meal
5. Not eating enough plants
Wholefoods like vegetables, are packed with fibre. Fibre makes you fuller without delivering buckloads of calories to the system. Vegetables are also packet with micronutrients such as vitamins and phytochemicals which can help you regulate your hunger levels. We recommend that in most meals half of your plate should consist of fresh vegetables and the good thing is that you are more than welcome to eat more than that if desired. The more, the better!
Tips: Ensure you are eating vegetables at every meal. Rotate them as frequently as possible.