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You’ve probably heard the saying “Success leaves clues.” Well, the opposite is true, too. Over almost 20 years of working with clients, the same fat loss halting culprits show up whenever there is trouble. I know it’s frustrating but the fact that you’re reading this article means that you’re asking questions. The right questions lead to the right answers. Let’s get you over the fat loss hump once and for all.
You’re averaging too many calories - Note how I used the word averaging rather than eating. Fat loss is 100% about calories in vs. calories out. In other words, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Most people understand the importance of burning calories but it’s the averaging that most don’t understand.
Here’s what I mean. Say your daily caloric limit in order to burn fat is 2,000 calories. Most people will try to stay under that limit each day but get frustrated when the limit is exceeded, counting it as a “bad” day. Fat loss occurs over time, so you’d be better served by thinking in terms of a monthly caloric limit. Take that 2,000 calories per day and multiply it by 30 days (2,000 calories per day x 30 days = 60,000 calories per month.) This means as long as you come in sub 60,000 by the end of the month, you’ll be lighter then than you are now.
Are you with me? This principle helps explain why so many people continually fail at fat loss. Most people do well during the week and create a 100-200 calorie deficit per day. This is good… but then the weekend rolls around and they go over budget by 500 calories per day, for example. I’m no math genius but if you create a 1,000 calorie deficit during the week and a 1,000 calorie surplus on the weekends, you can see how that’s a problem.
Herein lies the reason why “cheat days” are a terrible idea along with the “diet starts on Monday” mentality. It all counts. Just because you were “good” during the week doesn’t mean a complete knock-down, drag-out cheat day is warranted. That can and will set you back. Once you understand this, you can use this to your advantage and plan for nights out, beers, chocolate, whatever you’d like.
You’re not drinking enough water - How far could you drive your car without oil? We’ve all heard the stat about how we could survive for 30 days without food but maybe 3 without water. The bottom line - without water, you die and so do your fat loss aspirations.
Even mild dehydration can halt fat loss. Think about it, your body has more important priorities than burning fat - like brain function or maybe organ support, for example. Only when all the critical functions have been handled does your body then begin to prioritize burning fat as fuel. In fact, dehydration will lead to fat storage over time. In addition to ruining your bathing suit pictures, dehydration leads to bad sleep, decreased sex drive (do I need to keep going?), loss of muscle, bad skin, joint pain and on and on.
So how much do you need to drink per day to avoid all of those terrible consequences and set yourself up for sustainable fat loss? Eventually, I want you working up to a gallon a day. I KNOW! That’s crazy talk but let’s take baby steps. If you’re currently drinking 1 glass a day, let’s get to 2 tomorrow and gently build from there. Once you begin to drink more water, your body will begin to crave it and it’ll become easier and easier to drink more and more.
Fun fact: Some doctors suggest it can take as long as 3 weeks to become fully hydrated at a cellular level, so let’s get you drinking (water!)
You have no idea how many calories you’re getting - I had a hard time prioritizing the order of these points but decided to put this one last so it echoes in your head. At this very moment, can you tell me about how many calories you consumed yesterday? Oh and what about how many grams of protein you took down? I can see the deer-in-headlights look from here.
If you don’t know a very close answer to those 2 questions, you are simply guessing with your fat loss. Most people are overdoing calories and underdoing protein without ever knowing it. Eating “clean” doesn’t cut it when it comes to fat loss. Math and science are all that matters when it comes to fat loss.
Tracking your calories, at least for the first 2 weeks, is now a mandatory step for each and every nutritional client I work with. Think of it as a crash course on nutrition. Not only will you be able to make adjustments to hit your numbers, you’ll also be blown away by how much you learn about the numeric value of foods. It is a little tedious but you won’t have to track forever.
Without knowing where you are, we can’t lay out the map to get you where you want to go. That makes sense, right? Save yourself a ton of pain and wasted time and download a free app on your phone right now. My go-to with clients over the years has been My Fitness Pal but there are plenty of similar apps to choose from.