We all know what we need to do in order to lose weight: train hard, eat in a calorie deficit, drink enough water, etc. The information is there; we all know it, even if it’s difficult to follow the advice that’s ever so abundant. But as much as we try to add things to our plate to work toward losing weight, there’s a few that we need to take off! These eight things may just be holding you back from losing the body fat you’ve been working toward, or take you to that next level, if you’re willing to give them up.
Stop Sweating the Small Stuff
First up, we have one that’s all-encompassing. We need to stop worrying about the micro, while ignoring the macro. Meal timing, the “best” foods to eat, sweet potatoes vs. regular potatoes, the list can go on and on of things that don’t really matter. Sure, there’s benefit to having carbohydrate pre- and post-training and training fasted in the morning might not be the best, according to research. But if adding extra carbs is putting us into a caloric surplus or we’re skipping workouts because the only time we have to do them is in the morning, but we “can’t” train after eating or in a fasted state, are we really putting ourselves in the best position?
Why do we do this? Because the small stuff is fun! It’s so exciting to tell your friends you’re trying a new diet and testing extravagant recipes. Even if you’re being restrictive, when you share this news, you’re likely to get compliments or questions. Regardless of who you are, there’s nothing we, as humans, enjoy more than talking about ourselves. It’s true. We enjoy congratulations and being told what we’re doing is impressive.
But, we need to stop. Stop worrying about the micro until we’re consistently crushing the macro. Eat in a caloric deficit, drink water, train hard and smart, sleep well, and decrease stress. It’s that simple. (It’s just not easy…)
On that note, we need to stop stressing. Of course, there will always be stress in life. It’s inevitable. Monitoring stress is critical. When our bodies are in a stressed, the last thing they want to do is lose weight. It seems crazy, but in ancestral times, they didn’t know when they would find berries or be able to kill an animal for food. The body held onto weight, specifically fat stores, as a survival mechanism during these stressful times. See where I’m going with this? Now, in today’s world, there’s food on every corner, but stress is still stress and one of the body’s go-to responses is to hold onto body fat during stressful times.
Unfortunately, stress is unavoidable. However, there are some things we stress about that we can control. The most obvious and ironic example? Stressing about losing weight.
Picture this, you’re so worried about what the scale is going to say that it’s actually stopping you from losing weight all-together. Think I’m crazy? How about when we go on vacation, eat all the fun foods, still move each day, but don’t train, and come back weighing the same or less.
“How is that possible? I ate all of these “bad” foods, didn’t train, and still lost weight!”
Sure, you were likely in a caloric deficit because you were eating less, even if it wasn’t typical foods. But you also weren’t stressed! It’s the same reason that people find they lose weight when they stop trying to lose weight. But it’s more than just stressing about weight loss. We often don’t think about exercise as a stressor, but it is! Our body doesn’t know any different between recovering from a cold and a hard training session; stress is stress. Sometimes, we need to let the body recover from life or illness stressors before we reintroduce training stress.
Stop Obsessing Over the Scale
This goes right along with stress. But we need to let go of our attachment with the number on the scale! Let me pose a scenario:
You wake up tomorrow. Roll out of bed, use the bathroom, and step on the scale. WOAH. Overnight, you dropped all twenty pounds and you’ve hit your goal weight! Shocked, you step off and rush for the full-length mirror. Flipping on the light, you step in front and you see that you look the exact same as when you went to bed. You rush back to the scale, making sure you’re not seeing things. Nope, you’re still that goal weight. Back to the mirror and you look the same as yesterday.
Now, let me pose a question: How are you feeling about this? Are you happy? Upset? Do you feel accomplished? Shocked? Are you overjoyed with your progress or wishing you picked a lower weight?
Here lies the problem with the goal weight. The number on a traditional scale means literally nothing. It’s simply a measure of your relationship with gravity. The scale doesn’t tell you what’s going on behind the scenes. How is your overall health? What is your body fat percentage? There’s been times where people have guessed my weight to be 130-135 pounds and I was actually 150-155 pounds! I’ve been through periods of time when I felt SO GOOD about my workouts and how I was looking, but when I stepped on the scale, I was 8-10 pounds heavier than I expected.
But we can’t let this ruin our day. Instead of measuring progress by the weight on the scale, measure body fat percentage, circumference measurements or how our clothes are fitting, weight lifted in the gym, how we’re feeling and energy levels throughout the day, etc. There is so much more to fitness and life than the number on the bathroom scale.
Stop Drinking Caffeine All Day Long
The morning cup of coffee, the latte from MOKA on the drive into the office, the late-morning refill in the break room, the afternoon energy drink, and maybe a diet soda toward the end of the workday. It’s not hard for that caffeine to add up; before we know it, we’re well over the 400mg per day. One cup, 6-8 ounces, of coffee or one shot of espresso has 85-100mg and the average energy drink can be upwards of 300mg!
While caffeine may have an effect on thermogenesis, or the body’s mechanism of producing heat and energy from the calories in food, it’s not shown to have a significant effect on weight loss itself. However, there is evidence to support a negative correlation between excessive caffeine intake and weight loss. Caffeine raises the stress hormone cortisol. Remember that whole stressing about a food shortage or a life-or-death situation in ancestral times? Same thing here with increased cortisol. Read more about the effects of caffeine here!
Caffeine is also an appetite suppressant, meaning you don’t feel hungry. However, once the caffeine wears off, you may experience hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. In turn, this hunger, may result in overeating or reaching for higher calorie foods to satisfy a craving.
Ultimately, I think one of the biggest downsides of caffeine is that it disrupts our sleep…even if we think it “doesn’t affect us”! Lack of quality sleep can lead us down a whole other path. Instead of sipping on coffee, after coffee, after energy drink, after soda, work to cut down your caffeine intake. You may not be able to do it overnight, but we should work toward it. Drink more water, or even a carbonated water, if you want something different to sip on.
Stop NOT Prioritizing Sleep
Waking up after 4 hours of sleep to crush yourself during an early morning workout is likely doing more harm than good. Seriously. If I wake up and don’t have at least 6.5-7 hours of sleep, I don’t often train that day. Even if I have a workout planned, I’ll move it to another day if I don’t sleep enough or sleep well. If I push through, the quality of my training would suffer, and I would further set myself back on my recovery. Not what I want, long-term!
Regardless of your goal, if you’re not prioritizing sleep, you’re setting yourself back from progress that you could be making. We need to ensure that we’re getting enough sleep, as well as quality sleep. Sleep is the ultimate recharge. It’s our daily rest button that we press in order to recover from the day before.
By not sleeping, we’re essentially under recovering and placing more stress on the body. And we’ve already covered how stress can play a negative role in our health and fitness pursuits! Instead of sacrificing sleep to train harder, prioritize sleep and make sure that you’re recovering when you’re not in the gym. Taking steps like going to bed earlier, stop looking at screens (specifically blue light) at least an hour before bed, avoiding caffeine after Noon, and investing in black-out curtains and a quality mattress and pillows can all help with sleep quality and quantity. I wrote another blog post about it HERE!
Stop filling your day with low-calorie, “frankenfoods”
“What do you think of this bread that’s 45 calories per slice?”
“Fat free cheese is my new go to!”
“Do you use the new sugar-free creamers in your coffee?”
One of the first steps we might be tempted to take when we want to lose weight is to swap in low-calorie, sugar-free, fat-free swaps of all of our favorite foods. It cuts calories and, ultimately, we all know how important a calorie deficit is for weight loss; it’s the most important thing. But these low-calorie swaps aren’t necessarily healthy!
For bread to be only 45 calories for slice, it’s filled with fillers, preservatives and any number of ingredients. Bread only “needs” warm water, yeast, sugar or honey (for the yeast to activate), and flour. But when things are processed for an extended shelf life and to reduce calories, we get all kinds of crazy ingredients.
For the “low-fat” versions of foods, did you know that they’re often just filled with added sugar, fake sugars, or have more carbohydrates instead of fat? Without the creaminess in fat, companies often have to add sugar or other additives to make the food still palatable and enjoyable to eat.
While it’s tempting to add these things in and many of them aren’t “bad” in moderation, we should strive to eat most of our calories from whole, nutrient-dense foods. Our food volume is bound to be lower, but, in my opinion, it’s better for our overall health. We’re getting in micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, that our body needs to function optimally.
Stop using supplements to try and solve the problem
As humans, we want things and we want them right now. We live in a world of instant gratification where we can have nearly anything we want delivered to us in hours via Postmates, UberEats, Amazon, etc. Fat loss is not and will never be one of these things, but that doesn’t stop us from trying!
In 2016, it was estimated that Americans spent 30 BILLION dollars in supplements. And I guarantee this number has only grown in the past three, going on four, years. We’re on the constant hunt for the best pill or powder that will get us there faster or help take away some of the hard work that’s required. But that’s not how it works. Supplements should do just that – supplement a diet that’s already supporting your lifestyle change.
If you’re not already eating your fruits and veggies, a greens powder isn’t going to get you there. If you’re not working hard in the gym, a fat burner isn’t going to help you lose the weight. Actually, it may not do that much in general, but I digress. If you’re not drinking your water, a hydration supplement isn’t going to give you a magic, cure-all.
Now, there’s some pills that may be considered “supplements” that I do recommend:
Multi-Vitamin: Yes, eating colorful fruits and veggies can get you many vitamins and minerals that your body needs. However, unless we’re extremely strategic in how we’re planning our meals, we’re unlikely to fulfill our daily requirements. I take a multi-vitamin daily to ensure that my body is getting everything that it needs!
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is produced by the body with exposure to sunlight. However, if you live off of the equator, it’s so difficult to get enough vitamin D from the sun. Where I live in Wisconsin, it’s nearly impossible from October to April, even if you were to spend hours outside because the sun simply isn’t powerful enough! I always make sure to supplement, especially during these winter months.
Protein Powder: Protein is by and large the trickiest macronutrient that I’ve found people struggle to eat enough of daily. Protein powder can help get us there. However, I still think we should get the majority of our protein from whole foods. Then, just like anything else, the protein is there to supplement our intake. Make sure you’re looking for a high-quality protein powder when you’re shopping and one without additives. My personal favorite is our Unity Fitness blend, but Optimum Nutrition is what I used prior to joining the Unity team.
Fish Oil: Unless you’re eating fish multiple times per week, you’re likely not consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids. These are important to aid against inflammation, eye health, mental health, may help reduce fatty liver, etc. There are SO MANY benefits and we should work to consume enough. This is a supplement that’s worth the money!
Creatine: If you’re looking to build muscle, creatine is the most researched and proven supplement. Your body makes creatine and it is found naturally in food, but supplementing can take you to the next level. The body converts creatine to creatine phosphate which our body converts again and then uses for energy to drive muscle contraction. Now, it only works if you do but it will help you get that next rep in the gym or push the boundaries.
So yes, there are some supplements that I recommend, and you should be taking. But these won’t help you lose weight any faster and you likely won’t notice a difference overnight. Stay away from the pills and powders, unless you need to take things to the next level. They’re NOT going to bring you the over-night success you’re searching for when you buy them.
Stop comparing your progress to others
Finally, we have my favorite one on the list and the best way to wrap up the blog post. But the final thing we need to stop doing to lose weight: STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS.
Two people, even of similar body stature, body composition, age, sex, etc., could eat the same thing for a week and get entirely different results! We can’t measure our progress based on the progress of others around us. It’s unrealistic to expect our changes to be the same as people on social media, friends, or family. What works for one person may not work for another.
Our underlying health plays an important role in our ability to lose weight. This includes many of the things that I’ve touched on thus far: stress, sleep, daily activity, type of training, etc. But when we compare ourselves to others, it’s ultimately setting us back. We start to stress or worry about why it’s “not working” when it may just be working at a slower pace. We’re more inclined to switch up our diet to the latest fad because our friend saw results faster. Ultimately, we need to find what works for us, instead of what works for others. That is where we will find true success in our fitness journey.
There you have it. Eight things that you need to stop doing in order to lose weight. Take some time to evaluate: Which of these things are you not doing already? Are there any you need to stop? Let me know in the comments or send me an email!