After working as a fitness professional for a decade and experiencing my own fat loss journey, I’m no stranger to the sentence “Help! Why can’t I lose weight? I’ve literally tried everything!” Let me first start by saying, fat loss can be a triggering topic so if this is sensitive for you, I encourage you to skip this one! I also want to recognize that not everyone has fat loss goals while pursuing fitness and health, this is simply for the person that IS looking to achieve healthy fat loss and is feeling stuck. If you would rather listen to a deep dive on mistakes that hinder fat loss, check out this episode of the Fit For Hiking Podcast! Without further ado, let’s dive into seven common, yet sometimes overlooked mistakes that hinder fat loss.
1. Not tracking food intake, inconsistently tracking food intake, or not accurately tracking food intake
Meticulously tracking food intake for the long run, or obsessing over food intake is not the goal with this. However, if you are able to do it from a healthy headspace, getting an accurate snapshot (at least a few days, ideally one week) of your caloric consumption can be crucial to figuring out where you are with your average intake. You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and this ultimately helps you get a better picture on how to move forward. For a lot of clients I work with, it is a huge eye-opener to what they are actually consuming – whether it’s under-eating or overeating. Every little detail matters, even the little things like creamer, sauces, and snacks. This isn’t a strategy to demonize your choices, but instead just honest and gracious insight at where you currently are.
2. Not focusing on NEAT or overall activity levels during the day
N.E.A.T stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis which is all of the little movements that make up your day that cause you to expend energy in a subconscious way. This can be your daily steps, pacing, fidgeting, cleaning your house, gardening, running errands, playing active games, your hobbies that involve movement, etc. Essentially it’s any movement you do without thinking about it. This is a huge component of losing weight, and maintaining your healthy weight. If we are completely sedentary outside of your workout window, even if you workout seven days a week, it makes it really tough to have a high TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).
3. Eating back “calories burned” during workouts or thinking your workouts negate your bad eating habits.
This truth bomb isn’t going to sit well with some, but calorie counters on devices and cardio equipment have absolutely no way of being truly accurate. There are so many components that play into how many calories you burn during exercise so the margin of error with these counters is huge! Aside from the fact that there’s no way to accurately track this, there’s also the mindset portion of feeling as if that exercise made you “earn” your food. You do not need to earn your food. You are a human who’s body is fueled and sustained from food. This mentality also often leads to the reverse correlation of using exercise to “punish” your food choices, which can become a dangerous outlook to have as well. Both nutrition and movement are part of the holistic picture of health, however, the two should only exist within their own lane – not as punishment or payment for the other.
4. Being “perfect” Monday through Thursday, then binging on the weekends
I don’t say this lightly, it is a hard cycle to break if this is how your week typically plays out. I have been there. The black and white “on or off” thought process, and the restrict-binge cycles wreak havoc not only on our physical health, but also our mental and metabolic health as well. To combat this I really encourage you to take a step back from the “all or nothing” methods and start focusing on moderation and adding in the things you enjoy in smaller increments during the week instead of restricting then overdoing it when you “let loose”. It is extremely easy to negate a weekly calorie deficit if you are doing “perfect” Monday through Thursday and then going overboard on the weekends. Instead, incorporating foods and choices you enjoy into the overall plan is a game changer. This practice and shift takes time but it is so worth it. Let’s swap restrictions out for moderation, mindfulness, and honoring our sustainable goals all days of the week!
5. Exercising, but then not prioritizing other facets of health (sleep, nutrition, mindset, stress, etc)
To put it simply, lifestyle really does matter and exercise is extremely over-rated when it comes to weight loss. As a holistic health coach, my job is to look at the whole picture. Getting radically honest with yourself and taking ownership in what areas of your lifestyle aren’t serving you can really create the shift you have been struggling to make happen. Now this isn’t to say you can never have fun, indulge, or enjoy a few “less healthy” things here and there. It’s like having stew without any salt – it’s bland. But too much salt ruins the rest of the dish, or in this case, too many poor lifestyle choices can really affect your overall health. Let’s ditch the detox to retox situations and, again, focus on moderation and holistic health. What do your sleep patterns look like? How are you managing your stress? Do you have meaningful and deep connections? Does a majority of your nutrition come from whole foods? All these things play a role in your health, so I really encourage you to look at your lifestyle closely and do a little audit and realignment.
6. No accountability or honesty with yourself
Whether the accountability is coming from yourself, a partner, or a coach, this is a huge component of overall change. Ideally, we get accountability from multiple facets of life, but if you are struggling to get to that point, there are options for coaching such as our Mountain Metabolic 1:1 Coaching Program. Sometimes what it takes is to pay, so you will pay attention – or in other words, investing your money into something often correlates with investing into yourself. Having someone check in with you and support you is priceless. If you are in a place where you aren’t able to monetarily invest in a coach, set “appointments” with yourself where you check in and see if you are collectively moving closer to your goals.
7. Metabolic adaptation (less common)
It’s important to state that it’s hard to give blanket advice when speaking generally on a blog, and if you are already doing ALL of the previous things consistently, you may need some additional support hormonally/metabolically. This is not meant to be medical advice, and if you suspect something is out of balance with your hormones or metabolism, I recommend seeing a healthcare provider. That being said, your body will naturally adapt and compensate for a lack of energy over time. So, if you are chronically dieting, restricting/binging, skipping meals, under-eating, and then exercising or stressing the body on top of that, you will likely experience metabolic adaptation over time. This will result in your TDEE going down, making it harder for you to lose fat. If this is ringing a bell, and you are looking for support, we specialize in a metabolic restoration strategy with our Mountain Metabolic Coaching. We go a step beyond most programs and personally troubleshoot what’s hindering your progress with our team of professionals including a functional practitioner who specializes in gut/hormone health, a physical therapist, multiple health coaches and personal trainers. We also offer a free guide to a healthy metabolism at this link, and if you’d like to take a look into signs of a sluggish metabolism, check out my blog on metabolic health.
I hope that these seven things can help shed some light in areas that you may have felt stuck in. As always, I am here to answer any questions and point you in the right direction along your health journey!
Happy + Healthy Trails,