1. YOUR WORKOUTS
The problem: You train like a wimp. In fact, calling it training is giving you too much credit. Listen, you’re not fat because you don’t do enough curls – an exercise that targets roughly 3% of your total body mass. The only way exercise can help with fat loss is by increasing resting metabolic rate (RMR) and the only way to do that is to inflict maximum muscle damage. Be honest with yourself. If it feels too easy, it’s probably not inducing the type of metabolic demand required for body recomposition.
The fix: Work with a qualified trainer to develop a program based on compound lifts. These are exercises that require multiple joints to move the weight. Since you’re using more muscles, compound movements lead to a more pronounced response from the muscle and a bigger release of muscle-building hormones. And remember, the process of maintaining muscle is a lot of work for your body. So the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism and the more calories you’ll burn, just at rest. As for cardio, interval-based workouts will provide a similar “afterburn” effect.
So focus on the big lifts. Think squats, presses, and rows, not pressdowns, crunches, and calf raises. Your body has to work harder to do these movements, which expedites strength gains, muscle building, and fat loss. Soon, you’ll reach a point where you can actually see your biceps. Then it will make more sense for you to add in some curling.
2. YOUR SLEEP
The problem: You stay up too late. A sleep deficit throws hormone levels out of whack. More specifically, poor sleep:
- messes with the body’s ability to process carbohydrates and causes high blood levels of glucose, which leads to higher insulin levels and greater body-fat storage.
- drives down leptin levels, which causes us to crave carbohydrates.
- reduces levels of growth hormone, a protein that helps regulate the body’s proportions of fat and muscle.
- can stimulate the release of additional cortisol — a stress hormone which, in excess, can trigger hunger.
The fix: Stick to a set bedtime as many nights of the week as possible. Start unplugging at least an hour before bed. That means put away the screens: phones, computers, televisions all emit blue light, which suppresses the body’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone that signals that it’s time to start winding down.
3. YOUR DIET
The problem: You lie about your diet. According to research, the average American overestimates how much they exercise and underestimates how much they eat. Thathandful of chocolate you grabbed from the office candy bowl because your day was getting progressively more stressful and the sugar was comforting? That counts. That really happened. It went in your body. These “it was only one cookie” mishaps can accumulate throughout the course of a week and often explain the caloric surplus that prevents many from reaching their goals.
The fix: Though it’s not appropriate for every personality type, tracking what you eat is a good way to eat healthier, lose weight (if that is the goal), and curb cravings. Tracking over the long haul can become tedious but for short periods it can help. But if you’re going to do it, you have to record EVERYTHING. And though I blame sites like Instagram for triggering body image issues, taking pictures of your meals can help keep you honest.
4. YOUR MINDSET
The problem: You’ve convinced yourself that losing weight is all about willpower. Those who have been successful in building and maintaining a lean, healthy physique typically have great self-control but relying on that alone is draining. Willpower only gets you so far.
The fix: Develop habits and routines so that smart exercise and healthy eating become automatic. Put in the work upfront – prepping meals, packing your gym bag, etc. Eliminate the distractions and constantly remind yourself why you’re doing it. After a few weeks, these new habits will become second nature and no longer a chore.
5. YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS
The problem: The people you spend your time with -consciously or not – are sabotaging your diet. However well-intentioned, talking to loved ones about your insecurities can sometimes result in misguided comments and negative feedback about your body or your weight loss efforts. Negative comments can increase stress, which could lead to weight gain.
Do any of these sound familiar:
- “You’re no fun anymore!”
- “What’s the big deal about a slice of pizza?”
- “But I made this meal just for you! You have to eat it.”
- “You don’t need to lose any weight! You’re fine just the way you are.”
- “Can’t you skip a workout just this once?”
The fix: Tell them you’re doing this to get healthy, not skinny. Make it clear that you’re asking them to support you, not to change with you.
If it’s really bad, consider spending less time around them.