How hard is weight loss?
How is it that everywhere you look on social media people are posting these incredible transformation photos, making it look easy, whilst on the other hand everything you’re trying is just not budging the scale.
Well, therein possibly lies the answer. We’ll come to that later.
One of the biggest reasons people are successful with their weight loss transformation journey is because they’re certainly avoiding these things.
How do I know? From my personal experience. I’ve been there before, trying so hard to lose weight that you’ll embark on the next craziest thing to shed even just a few inches. And then I reconfigured my approach, stopped doing these things and get amazing results.
In fact, now I find weight loss so easy it’s almost like a switch I can turn on and off.
So, I’m now going to reveal to you that by avoiding doing these things you’ll be able to do the same and be successful with your journey.
Lack of sleep
Sleep is a fundamentally important component as to whether or not you lose weight. I mean, sleep is fundamental to life. Without it you can’t function properly so it only makes sense that it also plays a vital role in weight loss.
In some ways, it’s the star of the team. The VIP. The captain who leads you to triumphant victory through the most uncertain of times. Mr reliable.
It’s true, sleep is that important.
If you’re a fan of The Rock (I was a true fan, even before his movie days. I could always smell what The Rock was cooking) you might be looking at his Insta thinking ‘this dude wakes up at 4am, sleep can’t be that important’. Well, I can tell you for a fact now, you don’t get that big on 4-5 hours sleep. You bet your bottom dollar he’s getting his sleep in.
7-9 hours is what you should be aiming for every night. This is mandatory. In fact, studies from the National Institute of Health claim that adults and children with poor sleep have a 55% and 89% greater risk of becoming obese.
It doesn’t matter if you get shut-eye at 12am and wake up at 7am or go to bed at 11pm and wake up at 6am, just make sure you’re getting at least 7 hours kip.
Sleep affects everything you do. Besides, I LOVE sleep. Why wouldn’t you want to be wrapped up under the covers for any less than 7 hours!? Okay, I understand we get a bad-night’s sleep now and again or end up staying out later than expected, but overall, you should be aiming at hitting 7-9 hours sleep.
If you’re not, you’re essentially causing yourself to become sleep deprived which affects every decision you make, consciously or subconsciously. It’s like being drunk, just not as fun. You’re not thinking with clarity and end up fighting a losing battle with yourself, and ultimately weight loss.
In fact, sleep is so important in regards to weight loss I’ve written an entirely separate article just on how sleep contributes to being successful or not to trim a few pounds. You can check it out here.
If you’ve had a rough weekend and end up only getting in a few hours of shut eye, you’re starting off the week with an uphill struggle. Imagine if you were competing in a 100m race with 7 other people who all got in their 8 hours of sleep. You’re effectively starting off that race 20 metres behind everyone else. You’re at a massive disadvantage and you haven’t even begun.
Because you’ve woken up sleep deprived on Monday, you might end up popping to Starbucks on the way to work and grabbing a Caramel Frappuccino and slice of cake for convenience. Lunch comes round and you realised you forgot to make one. That means it’s the cafeteria lasagne and fries and maybe another cheeky latte with cream because you’re still feeling groggy. Gym or exercise after work? Nah no chance, too tired. You get home and think, ‘diets gone out the window today already, I’ll just order a take-away tonight.’
Lack of sleep is directly influencing those decisions you just made. Get your sleep in-check. Priority number one!
Not drinking enough water
Ah man! Water is so underrated!
If I had a dollar, no wait, if I had a sterling pound for every time I said that I would be filthy rich.
Sleep and water should be best friends. They’re both essential for life! And… they’re both essential for weight loss.
There are 3 main reasons why you should be drinking plenty of water whilst you’re trying to lose weight:
1. It actually helps you to burn more calories - Some studies have shown that within ten minutes of drinking water, it can help burn more calories when resting by up to 30%. This can last for up to an hour. If you want to be really particular, other studies have also suggested that when you consume cold water, the body uses even more calories by converting that cold water back down into body temperature.
2. It helps limits the number of high-calorie drinks you consume - Water is the perfect substitute for that caffe latte or can of coke you were planning on drinking. Why? Because water has zero calories and is the best drink for clenching your thirst. What’s even better, depending on what county you live in it’s free!
3. Helps reduce appetite and hunger cravings - Okay, drinking water on it’s own won’t make you feel full for the entire day. However, if you consume water alongside a nutritious meal, it certainly helps to make you feel fuller for longer periods after it. People can often mistake being hungry with being thirsty. If you’re worried about going out for dinner with friends and thinking you’re going to over-indulge on delicious chocolate lava cake, try downing some water just before you go out and see how you feel. It may limit your appetite.
So, how much water is enough exactly? A good benchmark to aim for is 2 litres a day. That’s 67 fluid ounces.
A strategy I like to use to ensure I’m hitting my 2 litres a day, is to down a pint of water as soon as I wake up and just before I go to bed. That’s 1 litre done in 2 drinks. All you have to do then is ensure you have a few drinks throughout the day to fill the missing piece. Keep a cup or bottle by your desk at work and sip it throughout the day.
Stress is the devil. I genuinely mean that as well.
There was a time when I was at university and part of my course was to code a website. I was not a coder. Still not one today. I was on an IT Management for Business degree but some of our modules over-lapped with the computer science lot. Our lecturer therefore assumed that the people in my cohort could code and basically left us to our own devices. No help.
I didn’t have the faintest clue where to start. This was in like the first two months of me starting my degree and for the first time in my life I experienced what actual stress was like. £9000 spent, failed at the first hurdle. Money wasted, no back-up plan, complete flop.
I would go into the computer rooms at Uni, sit down, try to code something for two hours and leave feeling more confused and frustrated on how to build this website which seemed an impossible task.
You’re probably wondering why on earth I’m telling you all this and what it’s got to do with not being able to lose weight…
Well, I can tell you that I felt horrible, internally and externally. My skin, spots, mood, sleep and, especially my weight went all over the place. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, no motivation to get in the gym, my diet was a goner.
Luckily, after weeks of not getting anywhere, I teamed up with someone who knew what they were doing. They were my saviour. They helped me build my website and submit my coursework on time, no thanks to my tutors.
Guess what happened after.
My stress disappeared.
My skin was better, the soul that was sucked from my face had returned and my body started to look alive again. The best bit, my weight was starting to stabilise again. I was back in the gym, packing on muscle again. I was looking leaner and healthier.
Stress is an actually a chemical inside your brain which has real physical effects on your body. I’ve experienced it. I’ve seen it first-hand. There’re ample reasons why stress prevents you from losing weight.
One of the major reasons is that stress slows down your metabolism through increased cortisol, influencing your food choices and disrupting your blood sugar and glucose regulation.
I understand that stress isn’t a switch we can just turn off and ignore when we face difficult times. Often, it may be due to things outside of our control. We can however try to limit how much we react to stressful moments. Don’t let it affect us to the extent it affected me back in my University days. A great way to do this is by regularly exercising, drinking 2 litres of water per day, getting quality sleep and choosing healthy foods choices.
I don’t want you to have to experience what how I felt during the first term of university and I don’t want it to prevent you from reaching your weight loss goals.
These little snakes are everywhere you go. Hiding in the nooks and crannies. Even the healthiest of foods can often contain very high calories. Take nuts for example. Harmless little handful of walnuts is close to 200 calories. That’s basically a mouthful for me!
But the one’s that are really dangerous are the ones we dismiss as not even counting as calories, or worse yet, don’t even realise they contain calories. I’m talking about the ones that are hidden in the form of liquid calories, or the dressing on the salad you don’t even realise is there because it’s been mixed in.
Might not seem like much, the odd tablespoon here and there, but do this a few times a day with each meal and it really starts to add up.
Remember, weight loss is fundamentally about calories in vs calories out.
If you’re consuming these hidden calories on regular intervals, it’s likely your calorie intake will be way too high to actually lose any weight.
Let me give you an example of some of the most common ones:
Don’t get me wrong, oils are an essential part of our diet and very useful for cooking. Olive oil is actually a great source of healthy fat. If you’ve decided to go Keto, you’ll be aware that by adding in some extra olive oil with your cooking, is a great way to get added fat into your diet.
However, you still need to be extremely careful with the volume you decide to use. 1 tablespoon of olive oil contains 119 calories.
Do you actually know what 1 tablespoon of olive oil looks like? I didn’t before I decided to get a spoon and measured it properly. Let’s say for example, without realising, you’re actually consuming 2 tablespoons of olive oil instead of 1, with your lunch and dinner. That’s a total of nearly 500 calories just from olive oil. That could be enough to prevent you from being in a calorie deficit and therefore losing weight.
Salads with Dressings
You might have heard of this one before, about how some salads actually contain a lot of calories. Similar to how much oil you put in the pan, are you actually aware of how many those extra calories really add up to?
If you go out to a restaurant and order a typical chicken Cesar salad which contains almonds, ranch blue cheese dressing, cheese, croutons and even some bacon, you could be looking at closer to the 1000 calorie range! Might feel like a light brunch but it certainly isn’t.
I love Nando’s. Big fan. Cheeky Nando’s as we say here in the UK. Don’t know why, something about it is just cheeky. Perhaps like the fact that the hummus and pita bread with Peri-Peri Drizzle sprinkled over the top, often thought of as a ‘cheeky’ appetiser is a is a not so cheeky 791 calories!
That one really hurt when I took the time to find it out. A bit of stab to the heart. The worst part about it was that it would barely touch the sides after I finished it. I would then go on to smash a half chicken with chips, coleslaw, mash, salad and more Peri-Peri Sauce. No wonder my weight was going up every week.
The point is, I was aware that the Peri-Peri Drizzle contained extra calories, just wasn’t aware it was that many!
This is a big one.
I’m not going to lie, I myself are also guilty of this one sometimes. We often think that just because it’s in the form of liquid, for some reason or other our mind likes to think they cannot possibly count as calories. It’s not food, therefore it can’t possibly constitute as a calorie.
But… they certainly do.
Liquid calories are some of the sneakiest ones out there.
Maybe you need a quick burst of energy after lunch so you drink a Rockstar energy drink. 280 calories. Perhaps your friend calls you to see if you fancy grabbing a quick coffee and you end up buying a Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino. 590 calories. Even a delicious smoothie packed with tons of nutrients can be close to 400 calories depending on the cup size and if it includes any added sugars, which they often do.
It doesn’t stop there though.
Essentially everything you consume, apart from zero-sugar calorie drinks like water contain calories.
Apart from celery.
There was an old claim to fame when I was in school, when you ate a stick of celery you would actually burn more calories through the chewing, swallowing and digestion of it. Although celery is incredibly low in calories – about 6-10 calories per stick, the jury is still out on whether you burn more calories than you consume by eating it. If you ever happen to do an experiment on it to support that claim, be sure to let me know.
Anyway, getting back on track, a spoonful of mayonnaise contains 100 calories. A large glass of wine is 200 calories. Nuts are a great source of healthy fats and high in protein but are so dense in calories for the volume they represent.
The point is, you can still have these, you just need to be mindful of the actual number of ‘hidden’ calories in such things.
I would recommend measuring out a tablespoon of these types of foods just once, so at least you get a good understanding of what they actually look like before you consume it. Then take a look at the nutritional value on the pack of the product.
That way you become more aware and mindful of the types of things that contain these hidden calories.
You’ll be surprised at how many added calories you are consuming just from making these mistakes. Most of the time, it’s enough to prevent you from being in a calorie deficit. It could be the difference between losing weight or not.
This is such a simple, but yet effective way to reduce to number of calories you are intaking at any given time.
Likewise, if you’re portion sizes are too big there’s a very good chance you’re still consuming too many calories to enable you to lose weight.
Just because a meal is classed as ‘healthy’, doesn’t automatically mean that it’s low in calories. When it comes to weight loss, healthy and unhealthy isn’t actually a factor for whether or not you lose weight.
Therefore, it’s still extremely vital to control your portion sizes.
Let me give you an example.
You could have the same perfectly healthy and nutritious meal, such as white rice, salad, beans, corn and German sausage, which one of them containing 360 calories and the other 842 calories, all dictated by the size of the portion. Sounds obvious but let me show you subtle that can look like.
If you struggle to know exactly what ‘too big’ is for a portion size, you can use your hand as a guide. This is a really easy method to help you get a better understanding of how we can consider different portion sizes related to different types of food and macronutrient groups.
Alternatively, whether you’re out at an event that offers food or a buffet, always opt for the small plate size. This is a great way to limit the physical volume of food you can have at once. Just remember to only have one! Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of it.
If you do feel the need to have a portion size slightly on the bigger end of the scale, make sure to pack it with more veggies and foods high in fiber. Fiber helps you to feel full quicker, for longer periods of the day, reducing your appetite and the frequency at which you feel hungry.
Something I always find useful to prevent me from scoffing my face like a wild animal, and trust me, sometimes I do, is that when I get a sudden urge of hunger, wait at least 30 minutes after eating and evaluate whether or not I’m still hungry. The reason for this is that digestion roughly takes 30-45 minutes to initiate, so during that window you may think you’re hungry, when in actually fact you’re not. In most cases, after half an hour I feel full and satisfied. Had I of eaten again straight after, I would’ve needlessly been eating the extra calories for nothing.
It’s possible to get amazing results on your weight loss journey. A quick 10 second Google search will verify that, and is enough to enlighten your mind with inspirational transformation stories. People going from struggling to get of the sofa to fitness influencers. These stories truly are incredible and yes, they do happen.
However, these types of stories probably took the best part of 3-5 years of consistent hard-work and extreme dedication. The before and after picture you see is just a miniscule snapshot of all that hard work. Social media can be a deceptive enemy. It’s unlikely you’ll see all the posts of how they through a gruelling HIIT session, nearly passed out and wanted to quit. You only see the highs.
Now, I’m not for one second suggesting you can’t achieve the same kind of huge success stories you see plastered all over the internet. You very much can. I’ve completed incredible transformations myself and helped others to do the same thing.
You just have to set realistic expectations of what’s possible given a specific time-frame.
Some people dedicate their life to getting in absolute tip-top shape. When you actually stop to think about that, how many hours of your life have you put in at all the jobs you’ve ever had. Now think about doing the same, but towards diet and exercise, 7 days a week.
To think you can achieve in 8 weeks what some people have achieved in 5 or more years is insane. It’s ludicrous. It could actually be damaging to your mental health.
However, what you can achieve in 8-12 weeks with dedicated, consistent, hard work and more importantly belief is still very, very good progress. I want you to think of weight loss as a journey. An experience. A fun challenge which will take time and patience, but is fail proof providing you do it correctly.
The longer time horizon you give yourself the more enjoyable it will be. Say you give yourself six months instead of three to complete your goal. Let’s say that goal is to lose 30lbs. So, you either have roughly twelve weeks or twenty-four weeks to lose 30lbs. I personally managed to lose 20lbs in just over ten weeks from the start of June through the end of August, and for those ten weeks that was my only mission. I decided to go full Keto and did a great job.
However, if you’re starting out slightly on the larger end of the scale, with more excess fat to lose, it’s still possible to lose 30lbs in twelve weeks.
For those twelve weeks you’re going to have to give it your all. Fully commit, no questions asked. Be on it seven days a week for twelve weeks. At times it’ll be tough, you might feel like throwing in the towel, downing tools and going home, but in the end, it’ll be extremely worth it.
Go hard or go home approach. Nothing wrong with that if you can do it.
Now, let’s take the same goal, and apply it over the duration of six months or twenty-four weeks. Same goal, longer time-frame. Would you still need to be consistent? Yes. Would you need to be pretty much perfect every day, no cheat meals and missing out on every opportunity to go and party with friends? Hell no!
You’ve got a longer time period to achieve it. You can relax a little bit more. Enjoy the ride. There’s no rush. What’s six months out of your life. If you live to the age of 75, that’s only 0.007% of your life. 75 isn’t even that old. If you live longer, it’s an even lower percentage. That’s nothing! A drop in the ocean.
Okay you could argue that twelve weeks is even less that that, but twelve weeks is still a long time to do nothing but dedicate your time and energy to only losing weight. If you don’t happen to achieve your goal in those twelve weeks because you set unrealistic expectations, you’ll only become disheartened and probably end up giving up.
On the other hand, if you did it over twenty-four weeks, you could even end up surpassing that goal earlier than expected which will give you an unbelievable amount of motivation, satisfaction and belief, likely to spur you on to accomplishing an even better result than the one you originally set.
At the end of the day, it’s all down to you as an individual. If you know you can set a goal and achieve it, giving it all you got, then great! Go out and smash it. Of course, I want you to challenge yourself, but not to the point it’s impossible.
Everyone’s starting point and goals will be different, but you must still set realistic expectations. This will help you to enjoy the journey and stay committed. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you under-achieved, just because you gave yourself a near impossible task of completing to begin with. You’re effectively setting yourself up for failure if you do.
Concentrating Too Heavily On Insignificant Details
Just as I mentioned in the previous section, weight loss is a journey. A journey into the realms of an improved life. More confidence, more belief and better well-being. It takes time and persistence. That’s why there is absolutely no point getting too hung up on the insignificant details along the way.
Let me clarify. Instead of setting a goal and measuring the results at the end of it, instead you end up paying too much attention to how many pounds you lost on a particular week. I know it’s human instinct to want we don’t have immediately. However, it’s extremely likely that you’ll lose weight every week, like a linear process. It doesn’t work that way. In fact, sometimes you might go up, but it doesn’t mean you got fatter. Like I mentioned earlier, weight and fat is different.
Whether the scales go up or down for a particular week out of twelve, sixteen, twenty-four or whatever is completely irrelevant. However, the scales can be just one example.
Another could be comparing your progress to someone else’s, who has a completely different body type, metabolism and genetics. Just because someone has lost two more pounds than you in the same amount of time doesn’t mean they’re doing better than you.
A big mistake so many people make is trying to be perfect twenty-four hours of the day, every day. It’s completely unnecessary, and nearly impossible (unless you’re a robot) to be perfect all the time to achieve results. It’s also highly unsustainable and enjoyable. Who want’s to be perfect all the time? That’s so boring. Be consistent, definitely. Do it 80% right all the time, yes. But to be perfect is only going to make you feel guilty and get yourself down when you decide to eat a burger for the first time in a month. This will discourage you and hinder your progress. Trust me, I know. I’ve witnessed it so many times with so many people.
Broaden your time horizon and focus on the long-term. Getting caught up on things that don’t matter is a waste of time and energy and will only hinder your progression. At worst, it could be a major reason for giving up early or getting disheartened and not giving it your all.
Too much emphasis on cardio
Now I know what you’re thinking. Surely if I want to lose weight then I have to do hours on end on the treadmill? If I want to lose weight then surely cardio is the answer…?
Well, not exactly.
Cardio burns calories, but that doesn’t always equate to burning fat and here’s why.
Let’s say you need to eat 2000 calories per day to lose weight. Your TDEE, which is the total number of calories you burn throughout the day, including EVERYTHING you do, and I mean everything, is 2500 calories. That would put you in a calorie deficit of 500. Perfect.
Being in a calorie deficit for a sustained period of time is how scientifically how you lose weight.
However, hypothetically speaking, say instead of eating your 2000 calorie a day target, you decide to eat 3000 calories and hop onto the treadmill after in hope of burning it all off.
Does more cardio means you can eat more right? No. If you’re lucky, depending on how fast you ran on average for that hour, you might burn close to 450 calories. That would be on the higher end of the calories you could burn. Spoiler alert, the number of calories displayed on cardio machines are normally inaccurate. It displays a higher number than it actually is.
So, the number of calories you burn in a day (your TDEE) is 2500 and you’re eating 3000 calories. To combat that you do an hour cardio every day burning approximately 450 calories. That means your total daily calorie intake is 2650 calories, 150 calories above maintenance.
The point is, you can’t out-train a bad diet. Diet is the most important thing when it comes to losing weight. Making sure you stay in a calorie deficit.
Furthermore, a better option than cardio to supplement your weight loss is to actually to lift weights. Yes, lifting weights doesn’t just make you big and strong, it’s also GREAT for fat loss.
You see, cardio just burns calories. Once your glycogen stores have been depleted (which is your body’s source of energy unless you’re in ketosis), your body will then need to source energy from somewhere else. There’re two options left. Your lean muscle or fat. I’m afraid to tell you that the body doesn’t like to part ways with your fat. It thinks it’s essential to your survival, which to an extent it is. So, what does it do? It taps into your lean muscle for that much needed energy.
I always say that weight loss is all about FAT loss. Losing weight just means exactly that. Losing weight. If you want to lose weight then go to the toilet. You could lose half a kg just from that! Sounds funny but it’s true. Or you could dehydrate yourself and stop eating carbs for just one day so that your water weight goes down. Please don’t do that, I’m just giving an example.
So, what lifting weights does is spike your metabolism briefly, burns calories through the lifting of weights and stimulates your muscles at the same time. In return, it’s much better at specifically targeting fat loss than just pure weight loss. And that’s what you want. You want to maintain as much muscle as possible. Sometimes, you can even increase your muscle mass whilst simultaneously burning fat.
I’m not saying don’t do cardio or cardio is bad for you. It’s great. Especially your cardiovascular. Just don’t put too much emphasis on cardio. First get your diet in check, then start lifting some weights. After you’ve checked those two boxes and still feel the need to incorporate some cardio in, then go for it. Likewise, if you love cardio then be my guest.
Knock yourself out.
Just remember, you may lose some muscle in the process.
I personally like to introduce cardio when I’ve hit a plateau. Use it as a secret weapon. This will kick-start your metabolism back up and help to reduce your calorie intake further, helping you get past the plateau.
Fad diets and unsustainable approaches
Okay, where to start with this one.
I personally love the Keto diet. Think it’s great. Had success with it myself in the past, know countless other people who can also vouch for it, and I’ve personally helped people all around the world to lose weight using the Keto diet. Big fan.
In fact, I actually have a free book telling you exactly how to utilise the Keto diet and the science behind it so you can turn your body into a fat burning machine. You can go to my website to download it for free. Here’s the link -> www.believeinlean.com/ebook
However, is the Keto diet the only way to lose weight? Certainly not. Will everyone enjoy restricting their carbohydrate intake to only 5% or their total calories. I would say no.
There are many other diets that work great… if you follow them, don’t quit and suits your lifestyle and preferences.
Some are completely wacky and do not work because they are so extreme, for example, the Soup Diet. Others are a complete attempt at a marketing campaign.
Choose a diet which works for you. Don’t do Keto for three weeks, then read about the Paleo diet and jump on that for two weeks, before joining Weight Watchers and giving that a go for another month before getting bored again calling it a day completely.
You’ll never get anywhere doing that approach.
If you start a diet which you doubt you can see through to the end, don’t start it in the first place. It’s unsustainable.
I did Keto for 10 weeks, stuck to it all the way through and got amazing results. I lost 9kgs of pure fa during that time. But I wanted to do it. I was ready for it, ready to fully commit, all guns blazing. I fully understood the mechanics behind it and how it works before signing myself up for it.
Some diets are great and some diets suck. You don’t have to do a diet forever, but at least see it out until you complete your mission.
Most importantly, find one that you will enjoy so you can stick to it. That’s the number one thing you should consider before starting it. Otherwise, you’ll be zig-zagging all over the place and won’t get anywhere.
Sometimes it’s about making sure we aren’t doing things just as much as it is to make sure we are doing things.
It’s important to keep things simple when losing weight. Go back to the basics as such. Simple often equals effective.
You need to find something that works for you and is sustainable. Something you can continue to do which doesn’t get boring, ultimately to ensure you achieve the results you deserve.
Go through this list and think about how many of these things you’re guilty of, or have been in the past. Work on getting things like your sleep, water intake and portion sizes in check. Double check the food contents in your food and check for those hidden calories we often dismiss at not existing.
Set yourself realistic expectations. One’s that will challenge you, but you know that with the right attitude you can achieve them. This will drive you on to keep going and get the most out of yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others and think they got there over-night. They went through the same process you’re going through or about to go through.
Once you’ve don’t this, choose something that works for you. Whether that be the Keto diet, Paleo or no particular diet at all. It doesn’t matter. Whatever approach you choose, you must be in a C-A-L-O-R-I-E D-E-F-I-C-I-T. That’s what’s needed to see results.
Don’t get caught up on the insignificant things that don’t matter to the overall picture. Use that energy more efficiently to work towards a longer-term goal. This will help you to be persistent.
If you want to accelerate your progress hit the weight room. If you hate the gym, no problem. Invest in a dumbbell set for home. Do it wherever suits you.
Avoid the things mentioned in this list and concentrate on getting the simple right. Once you’ve done this, you can’t lose.
Get your house in check. But most importantly, believe in yourself. Give yourself the belief you require to go out there and smash it.
You got this.