4 Fat-loss Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Introduction | 4 Fat-loss Mistakes | Fat-loss mistake #1: Exercise | Fat-loss mistake #2: Diet | Fat-loss mistake #3: Sedentarism | Fat-loss mistake #4: Motivation | Fat FAQ

An image of two woman, one fat and the other slim. The slim woman is holding a tape measure around her waist. This image heads the article '4 fat loss mistakes you're probably making'.

So you’re still fat!


But you shouldn’t be because you’ve tried every conceivable fat-loss system, method, theory and fad ever created in the history of the Universe …


And some!


What in the hell’s going on then? Why, after eating nothing but apples for a month, or slurping vinegar like it’s going out of fashion, why have you still got wobbly bits, a muffin top, moobs, back bulges, bingo wings, orange peel, cellulite and calves that look like sausages? In short:


Why am I still fat?


Well, it’s probably because you made one or more of the four classic fat-loss mistakes below. Don’t worry though. This article is going to walk you through each mistake.


Hopefully, as you read the four fat-loss mistakes, you’ll identify where you’ve been going wrong. This will enable you to make changes to you’re your fat-loss strategy enabling you to get the results you desire.


In addition to explaining commonly made fat-loss mistakes, advice and suggestions of how to rectify each mistake has been included. Furthermore, this article is literally peppered with links to relevant resources and tools that are specifically designed to support fat loss.

 

4 Fat-loss Mistakes You’re Probably Making

 

Fat-loss mistake #1: Exercise

A fat man on bike holding his thumb up. He is taking part in weight loss exercises at home in 1 week.

I know what you’re thinking: ‘Exercise! How is exercise a fat-loss mistake?’


This is a natural and understandable reaction of the ‘western’ mindset toward weight loss and changing body composition. But, as I will attempt to show, it is both misleading and potentially harmful. Before you go, I want you to hear me out for a minute.


Perhaps the number one fat-loss mistake most people make is that of placing too much emphasis on the importance of exercise. And while exercise is most certainly beneficial in any fat-loss campaign, it only contributes to a comparatively small percentage of overall calories burned.


Furthermore, if you neglect other lifestyle factors (soon to be discussed), exercise alone is as good as useless. Here’s what I mean.


Few people recognise just how energy efficient the human body is. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise, evolution (read ‘natural selection pressures’) has engineered us to be super conservative with our energy usage.


If the body was as energy efficient as an American SUV, humans would’ve gone extinct at the first famine. Hell, if we were that inefficient, we wouldn’t have been able to go a morning without a meal.


Because famines and food scarcity were very much a part of our species’ past, we have evolved the capacity to sustain output with minimal input. It’s for this reason why we can squeeze so much energy out of every calorie consumed. Consider this example.


Related: The best workout to lose weight

How far do you have to run to burn off a Big Mac meal?

You’re feeling a touch peckish and you could do with a bite to eat. But you made the classic mistake of forgetting to prepare a healthy homemade lunch in the morning. So you decide to pop into McDonald's (read ‘toxic food environment’).


After queuing your way to the front of the desk you ask for a Big Mac meal. In less than 5-minutes you’re swiftly handed a truckload of packaging somewhere in which is your ‘food’.


With a spring in your step and palpitation in your heart, you apprehend a nearby seat and begin to trough your Big Mac meal. In less than 10-minutes, you’ve consumed the lot – gherkins and all.


From start to finish – that is, from deciding to assuage that mild hunger prang with ultra-processed food, ordering it, and consuming it – you ingested around 2000 calories. That’s right, in fewer than 30-minutes you devoured your daily recommended calorie intake.


So, the question I’ve got for you is this. How much exercise must you now do to ‘offset’ those 2000 calories?


Accordingly, you’ll have to run at a competitive pace for about 4-continuous hours. Basically, to burn off a Big Mac, you’ve got to run a marathon!


Not all calories were created equal

Now, I’ve reduced the fat-loss equation down to a calorie-in/calorie-out calculation. However, though sadly still very popular, this method of maintaining a healthy weight is hugely flawed. Why?


For the simple fact that not all calories were created equal: 2000 calories from processed food, which is typically over-laden with sugar, salt and saturated fat, is obviously not the same as 2000 calories from vegetables, fruit and whole grains. The former is ill-health and disease-causing and the latter is health fortifying and disease-fighting.


What this example is supposed to illustrate is that exercise on its own is not nearly enough to burn fat. The single most effective weapon against excess fat is what you put in your mouth. Yes, diet is to fat what rain is to Wicked Witch of the West.


And it is to diet that we now turn.


Related: Try this 21-day workout plan to lose weight.

Fat-loss mistake #2: Failing to focus on Diet and Nutrition

A woman stirring a healthy smoothie. Berries are foods to eat to lose belly fat and improve health.

As the example above attempted to illustrate, diet is the single most important factor for fat loss. The measly 100 calories you expended throughout that 30-minute HIIT workout could be replaced in a moment of weakness. For example, in two custard cream biscuits there are over 120 calories!


It’s for this reason why exercise should be used as an addition, supplementary method of facilitating fat-loss, and not the primary focus.


So, if diet is to form the main component of your fat-loss campaign, what should you eat?

Before we consider the optimal fat-loss diet (if such a thing exists), it ought to be made clear that health should precede any other motivation for why you are making dietary changes.


But why? Surely if my diet is helping me lose weight it’s also healthy . . . right?

The diet myth

This is a prevalent misconception – to wit, a diet that supports weight loss is also good for me. The truth is, some fat-loss diets are arguably detrimental to your health.


This may sound contradictory, but it is not. There are many different ways to lose weight – hundreds in fact. And the vast majority of them, though they may enable you to achieve your aim of reducing overall body fat, compromise health in the long run. For example:


Some diets are detrimental to health

The chief architect and principal proponent of the Atkins diet, which places emphasis on the consumption of fat and protein derived primarily from animal sources, was heavily overweight and plagued throughout his life with heart troubles; his death may have even been indirectly caused by myocardial infarction¹.


Other weight-loss programmes demand their adherents to adopt an ascetic dietary plan that is so restrictive and deficient in adequate nutrition that it almost induces a state of semi-starvation. The detrimental impacts this has on long term health need not be enumerated.


Best diet to lose fat

But the good news is that you can cultivate a diet that will allow you to have your cake and eat it (a poor choice of metaphor I know). That is, you can shape your diet so that it promotes fat loss while also fortifying your health.

Dietary and lifestyle action plan

  • Firstly, over a one-month period aim to cultivate a food environment conducive to weight loss and health. Do this by reducing, removing or eradicating all processed foods, refined carbohydrates and animal protein.

  • Ensure that all meals are cooked from fresh.

  • Establish three meal times – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and stick to them.

  • Cease snacking – certainly on undesirables.

  • Drink clean liquids.

  • Remove alcohol completely from your diet.

  • Move more – much more!


Related: try these 10 vegetarian meal plans for weight loss

Fat-loss mistake #3: Sedentarism

[Sedentarism is] The habits and routines associated with relatively low levels of activity and movement, leading to health-related problems such as obesity.

Oxford Reference – 2020


Wallowing in a state of idleness too often is not only bad for your health, it’s also a great way to thwart a fat-loss programme. Irrespective of what public health advise, 150-minutes of light to moderate activity a week is nowhere near enough.


There are 10,080 minutes in a week. Devoting a mere 1-and-a-bit per cent of that time to physical activity is obviously not going to improve health or help reduce body fat, not in a meaningful way at least. To promote health and beat the blob you’ve got to get more active, much more active.

Sitting is the new smoking!

In his hugely insightful and superbly written book Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest and Health, David Liberman cites ‘one prominent physician' who 'declared that chairs are “out to get us, harm us, kill us” and that “sitting is the new smoking.”’


This perhaps accounts for why emerging studies are starting to draw strong links between sedentarism and disease. According to one recent study ‘being a committed couch potato (defined as someone who sits for six hours or more per day) increases mortality risk for men by nearly 20 per cent and for women by almost double that,’ (Bryson, 2021 (The Body: A Guide For Occupants – p213)).

In addition, ‘people who sit a lot are twice as likely to contract diabetes, twice as likely to have a fatal heart attack, and two and a half times as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease,’ (ibid). Moreover, committed couch potatoes tend to be of an unhealthy weight and carry more body fat. A no-brainer really.


So, in short, a sedentary lifestyle, characterised by sitting too long too often, can increase disease susceptibility while also promoting weight gain. Thus, he or she who wishes to avoid (read: decrease their risk of) those outcomes must – MUST! – start moving more.

Related: what are the best exercise to lose weight from stomach?

Being active doesn’t have to be a burden

Stop panicking! Cultivating a physically active lifestyle does not require that you adopt the daily habits of a Benedictine Monk. Nor does it mean that you can never again enjoy a night on the couch in the company of a family-sized tub of Ben & Jerry’s while bingeing on the latest boxset.


You’ll breathe a sigh of relief to know that increasing activity levels is frighteningly easy.

Not only easy, but extremely beneficial. People who are more active, who walk, cycle, swim, stand and run more report higher levels of personal satisfaction, general well-being and increased vitality.


To increase your daily levels of activity, use the hints, tips and tricks listed below.

5 ways to keep one step in front of sedentarism

  • Spend as much of your days as possible in the horizontal position. On account of the heart having to pump harder to circulate blood, the body uses more energy when we are standing.

  • Always take the stairs, never the escalator or lift.

  • Walk when possible.

  • Set a timer to sound every 20-minutes to prompt you to get up and move. Most fitness trackers come with such a function.

  • Buy a cheap indoor exercise bike and pedal while watching TV.

  • Instead of killing brain cells cut your TV time down and go for a walk or cycle.

  • Do more things standing up.

  • Cycle to work.

  • If you spend most of your waking day shackled to a desk, badger your boss to buy one that elevates. Standing while typing or shuffling paper is better by far than sitting.


Fat-loss mistake #4: Motivation

An image of a fit woman working out in a gym. Next to her is a life motivation quotes. The quote says 'only I can change my life, no one can do it for me'. This image also shows that weight loss at home is achievable with the right home gym equipment and training program.

More than 95% of people who form a New Year’s resolution will break it before the end of January – of the very same year. The most common New Year’s resolution? To lose weight and get fit.


Of every 100 people that buy a book, only 10 will make it to the final page. (And fewer than 50% of that 10 will read the book cover to cover.) The majority of the remaining 90 won’t even see chapter two, opting instead to rot in front of the TV or thumb-swipe their lives away.


The fact that humans are incurable quitters is well documented. And it’s doubtful that there ever was or has been a person who didn’t quit on something they started.


Intrinsic motivation

However, though the link isn’t causal, there is a cast-iron correlative relationship between success and, as Edison famously coined it, stick-to-itiveness. That is, he or she who sets off in search of a goal and maintains motivation and dedication stands a far greater chance of achieving success than the person who quits before they get halfway down the road.


Intrinsic motivation is a powerful force that can help a person overcome even the most stubborn hurdles.


Where are you going with this?


I think you well know. Chances are, if you’re still fat it isn’t because the weight-loss programme is shoddy, or that exercise and a plant-based diet just don’t work for you. No, the reason why you’re still fat has nothing to do with the apparent ineffectiveness of those lifestyle interventions, it has to do with your commitment, self-determination and intrinsic motivation.


There’s no quick fixes for weight loss

You may not want to hear this, but maintaining a healthy weight requires consistent and persistent effort. If you cannot commit to the life-long pursuit of sustaining a weekly exercise regime, keeping active and adopting and rigidly enforcing a plant-based diet, then you can pretty much kiss goodbye to your weight-loss dreams.


Few – if any – health and fitness gurus will tell you that. You’re welcome! Instead of trading in truths they would rather cash in on quackery and quick fixes. But there’s no quick fixes when it comes to health and weight loss. No one ever got lean in fifteen. No one ever forged a fabulous physique in 4-hours.


Like anything that’s worth pursuing, to maintain health and lose weight requires a lot of hard work.


 

To conclude

"The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense."

To help you on your weight-loss journey we have created a 21-Day Weight-Loss Programme. This comprehensive programme, which is completely free, includes dietary advice, suggestions on how to increase activity levels and 21 individual exercise sessions that you can do at home.


Alternatively, you could try the Hungry4Fitness Definitive Weight-Loss Programme. This 4-module course covers in detail every aspect of weight loss including body composition testing, health screening, motivation, barriers to success, diet, exercise and more.


Again, this course is completely free and has been designed by health professionals to support you on your weight-loss journey.

 

Fat-loss FAQ

How do you measure fat loss?

Measuring fat loss is rather like skinning a cat, there is more than one way to do it. However, some methods are easier to conduct and are more accurate than others. Below are four methods for measuring weight and monitoring fat loss.

Just jump on the scales

The single most ubiquitous method of measuring fat loss is weighing total body weight on a pair of scales. Scales, as long as they’re accurately calibrated, are a super-easy, no-fuss method that provide instant and reliable feedback.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

The BMI is a value derived from a person’s height and weight. Though the test is generic in scope it is easy to perform and provides an untrained individual with an insight into how they measure up against the National Institute of Health’s weight categorisation system.

Find out how you weigh-up: Use the NHS BMI calculator.

Take body measurements for weight loss

Girt measurements are another comparatively accessible fat loss measure. To conduct girt measurements, you simply wrap a tape measure around certain segments of your anatomy. The best body parts to measure are the biceps, chest, stomach and thighs.


While girt measurements allow you to monitor fat-loss from specific areas of your body, which many find quite motivational, readings can be inaccurate if the tape isn’t applied exactly the same each time. For example, taking a measure of an inch on either side of the original site could corrupt the reading, leading to a misleading outcome.

Body fat percentage

More technical – or ‘scientific’ – fat loss measures include bioimpedance and hydrostatic testing. I’ll briefly outline bioimpedance because, unlike hydrostatic, you don’t need a scientific laboratory to conduct the measure (just the scales below will do).


The bioelectrical impedance analysis is a commonly used method of estimating a person’s body composition, in particular their fat and muscle mass ratios.


The machine works by emitting a weak electrical current which passes through the body. The voltage of the current is measured and used to calculate body composition – or fat percentage. With this reading you can monitor and track fat loss.


 
  • The perfect fat-loss friend, RENPHO’s immensely well-rated body fat scales monitor weight-loss progress, record historic data, while also sending weekly progress updates to your phone!

  • High-sensitivity sensors and electrodes give you precise body measurements.

  • Highly accurate body fat percentage measurements.

  • Give you an overview of your body and track your daily, weekly and monthly progress.

  • Designed to support you in reaching your weight loss goals.

 

Can fat loss be targeted?

Contrary to what the fat-loss gurus tell you, usually right before asking for your credit card details, you cannot target fat in one specific area of the body. Certainly not with traditional, non-invasive methods – diet, exercise and lifestyle interventions.


The only way to remove subcutaneous fat from a localised area, say losing weight around waist and hips, is through surgery, such as liposuction. Resorting to surgery is not only dangerous but only ever serves as a temporary fix. For the simple fact that it doesn’t resolve the underlying lifestyle habits that are contributing to the accumulation of excess fat.


Also, even if we could target fat without resorting to surgery, it’s arguably undesirable to do so. Why? Because subcutaneous fat, the visible fat just under skin, is not as detrimental to health as is its pernicious counterpart visceral fat – which is fat that surrounds the vital organs.


The person who pops into their local ‘health’ clinic for a quick lipo treatment may walk out feeling good aesthetically, now that their muffin top has been hoovered up. But their vital organs will still be floating in a thick soup of ‘toxic goop’.


And while traditional fat loss methods (dietary reform, exercise and other lifestyle interventions) don’t target specific areas, they will work to reduce total body fat percentage, which includes subcutaneous and visceral fat.

How much fat should I aim to lose per week?

Though you probably don’t want to hear this, it is best to lose weight gradually – almost imperceptibly. Trying to lose too much too quickly is unhealthy and can shock the body. Also, to achieve rapid fat loss requires the implementation of unsustainable diets and lifestyle interventions.


Furthermore, diets and lifestyle interventions that promise quick fat loss results can be very detrimental to your long-term health. Take the Atkins diet as a prime example. On this diet, you are required to abstain from carbohydrates, vegetables and fruit, but increase your consumption of meat and animal protein.


An omnivorous (more a carnivorous) diet has been linked to increased disease risk and premature mortality.


When it comes to fat loss it is best to take your time and aim for a measurable reduction of between 1 and 2lbs per week. That way you won’t jeopardise long-term health for a short-term fix, and you will cultivate lifestyle habits that you can maintain throughout your life.

 

(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)

Blog Author

Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

 

References


¹Kleinfiel. N. (2004) Just What Killed the Diet Doctor, And What Keeps the Issue Alive? (sited online (2020): www.nytimes.com)


²Leiberman. D (2021) Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest and Health. Penguin.


³Bryson. B (2021) The Body; A Guide For Occupants. Penguin.


⁴TVlicensing report on https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/about/media-centre/news/report-reveals-latest-uk-tv-watching-trends-NEWS35.

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