Anyone who has ever committed to a weight loss regime will tell you how hard it is to hit the goals, avoid unnecessary temptations and keep the dream physique while it’s achieved…that is, if you meet them in person and facilitate an honest, thorough conversation.

Flick through the very same person’s social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – the choice is yours), and you’ll likely face a whole different story.  A mecca of concealed insecurities and excessive reassurance-seeking [1], social media doesn’t have any room for the reality of ongoing hard work, belly rolls, muffin tops, opting for carefully crafted gym selfies.

Think about it: just how often do you see honest reflections on someone’s weight loss progress? Although such blogs, forums and social media support groups do exist, you have to specifically look for them. If you opt for a quick search, you are likely to encounter a lot of “before-after” photos with no “in-between” stage, often accompanied by some kind of miraculous weight loss product praises or yet another “revolutionary” diet plan ads.

It is not surprising that most people struggling with excessive weight are constantly looking for quick fixes – after all, this is what all these fit and lean people seem to use, right?

Ironically, this toxic mindset often undermines the progress even following the “quick” radical interventions such as bariatric surgery, as the patients, unable to stick to healthy habits and modify their lifestyles permanently, tend to put the kilos back on in no time [2].

Today, we would like to debunk some popular weight loss myths to point out that the health and fitness journey is anything but easy. This is not to scare you off, however – with the right mindset and realistic expectations you are much more likely to hit the goals and stay in the best shape of your life.

What You Really Need To Achieve Your Goals

Ok, we’ve determined that hard work is the key factor to your long-term success, but you are likely wondering what exactly is included in the package. Keep reading for some suggestions that will actually help you to achieve your personal milestones, unlike, say, Garcinia cambogia supplements of unknown origin (which are also potentially toxic [3]).

A Periodized Resistance Training Program. If you are carrying some extra weight, chances are you haven’t been exercising consistently for a while. In such circumstances, those who eagerly hit the gym and work out every day for prolonged periods of time, risk to overdo it and get injured pretty quickly. Read our article on overtraining.

An injury often means no more intense workouts, and no decent exercise may sabotage your weight loss dynamics [4] by slowing down metabolism and provoking boredom-induced overeating. This is exactly when periodized training comes into play. Periodization minimizes the risk of injuries by strategically planning the workouts in advance, taking into account specificity, intensity, and volume.

The exercise sessions are planned ahead and crafted in accordance with your goals, working around your existing injuries and preventing over exhausting same muscle groups over and over again.

As a bonus, a very recent review [5] revealed that “periodization appears to be a feasible means of prescribing exercise to inactive adults within an intervention setting”, so if you are just getting into exercise, make sure to ask your personal trainer about this approach.

A High Protein Tailored Nutritional Plan. High protein diets are one of the most effective approaches to weight management. By improving insulin sensitivity [6], high protein diets promote increased fat burning, especially when combined with regular exercise. You can learn more about high protein diets here.

This is because the more fat storages you have, the higher your insulin resistance is – and the other way around [7]. For optimal results, make sure your nutrition is tailored to your individual situation and goals – if unsure, talk to a personal trainer or a dietitian.

 

 

A Specific Supplement Stack Suited To Your Goals. This goes hand in hand with nutrition – appropriate supplementation may enhance your progress and prevent fatigue, soreness and injuries. Once again – we are not big supporters of miraculous “weight loss pills”. We are talking more about essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients such as Omega-3.

For instance, many people engaging in intense exercise regimes and consuming strict diets, become deficient in magnesium , which may lead to tiredness, muscle cramps and even heart problems [8, 9] – and supplementation is capable of preventing and solving this.

 

Support & Motivation. The scientists are clear on this one – external support and motivation is crucial for long term weight loss success [10]. Find something that suits you, being that teaming up with friends or hiring a personal trainer, and believe us, that extra bit of support goes a long way.

Weight Loss Tips That Don’t Work

Now that you know what does work, it’s time to talk about what doesn’t. Unfortunately, incompetent advice is very prevalent, so being able to spot irrelevant, harmful suggestions will put you far ahead in your exciting health and fitness journey. So, here are some of the popular myths:

Cardio is the fastest way to burn body fat. Not exactly – regular resistance training is far superior when it comes to weight management. Consider this: after a weight training session, the metabolism remains increased for up to 36 hours, meaning your fat keeps melting after the exercise bout is finished [11].

Cardio, while very important for overall fitness and should definitely be included in your program, doesn’t contribute to a calorie deficit as much in the long run.

 

 

Cut calories to extreme levels. In fact, taking “calories in vs calories out” this far, you’re not doing yourself any good. When getting way below the bare minimum, your body goes into the “conservation mode”, drastically slowing down the metabolism and sabotaging weight loss [12]. So make sure you create a little calorie deficit, but not starving yourself!

Snacking Leads to Weight Gain and Obesity. If you’re snacking on energy-dense highly processed foods, than you’re absolutely right – weight gain and obesity will follow [13]. In contrast, those who snack on whole healthy foods such as vegetables tend to have healthy body mass [13].

Provided you are making right food choices, snacking is beneficial for weight management, as it keeps you full and satisfied, preventing overconsumption at main meals [13].

Eating Close to Bedtime Contributes to Weight Gain. This myth is a long stretch from the studies pointing out that those who make trips to the kitchen in the middle of the night are likely to consume more calories in total – and the truth is, in such instances increased appetite and weight gain is usually related to hormonal imbalances [14]. Provided you are metabolically healthy, it doesn’t really matter when you consume your calories – total daily energy intake is what really matters.

Moreover, by heaving a healthy bedtime snack, you reduce the risk of sugar cravings in the morning, as your energy storages do not deplete as much overnight.

Weight loss requires radical exercise plans. As little as 3 moderate intensity exercise sessions per week provides an excellent weight loss aid [15], and there is absolutely no need to engage in crazy, uber-exhausting workouts, which also make you injury-prone. Instead, talk to a qualified personal trainer to set realistic, achievable exercise goals.

What’s The Simplest Way To Achieve All Of This?

To summarise everything we’ve discussed today, we would like to share a helpful checklist you can refer to when planning your weight loss program. By following the steps below, you will achieve your goals in no time!

Our Step By Step Process

Calculate your daily calorie allowance for weight loss. To remain on track, it’s extremely important to know your calorie allowance. Initially, it’s a good idea to calculate it, using reference books, software or by using our handy diet calculator (free). Over time, when you get a better feel of your needs and energy density of foods, you’ll likely be able to ditch the counting, but practice makes perfect.

Start tracking your calories using My Fitness Pal. A true gem, My Fitness Pal is a free online calorie counter, as well as diet and exercise journal. It’s been out for a while, and as a result, the tool is user-friendly, reliable and has minimal bugs. Highly recommended!

Use a 12 week periodized resistance training program. We’ve discussed the benefits of periodized resistance training before, so make sure to take time to design a personal training program with your trainer.

Measure your progress. Because we see ourselves in the mirror every single day, it’s really hard to notice the subtle changes. By tracking your weight, measurements and performance regularly, taking photos, videos and making notes, you will see the progress very clearly. It’s very uplifting and motivating, so don’t skip this tip! Using an app can help.

Adjust and repeat. If after a while you notice you’ve hit a plateau, don’t get frustrated. All you need to do is adjust your plan accordingly (tweak an exercise regime, for instance) and repeat all the steps! Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Persistence and hard work will help you reach your goals.

Before going on a trip for the first time, you likely prepare the maps, checklists of places you’d like to see and experiences not to be missed. While experienced travellers can sometimes “just go”, being unprepared for the very first journey will likely lead to pointless wandering around and disappointment. Don’t let that be your fitness journey. Use our SMART Goal Setting Worksheet below to focus your efforts.

Conclusion

In summary, there is definitely no “one size fits all” when it comes to fitness in general and weight loss in particular. By tracking your progress and continually incorporating new strategies in your exercise and nutrition program, you will soon develop your very own recipe for long term success and become the best possible version of yourself!

References

  1. Nesi, J. and M.J. Prinstein, Using social media for social comparison and feedback-seeking: gender and popularity moderate associations with depressive symptoms. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 2015. 43(8): p. 1427-1438.
  2. Westerveld, D. and D. Yang, Through Thick and Thin: Identifying Barriers to Bariatric Surgery, Weight Loss Maintenance, and Tailoring Obesity Treatment for the Future. Surg Res Pract, 2016. 2016: p. 8616581.
  3. Semwal, R.B., et al., A comprehensive scientific overview of Garcinia cambogia. Fitoterapia, 2015. 102: p. 134-48.
  4. Stanford, K.I. and L.J. Goodyear, Exercise regulation of adipose tissue. Adipocyte, 2016. 5(2): p. 153-62.
  5. Strohacker, K., et al., The use of periodization in exercise prescriptions for inactive adults: A systematic review. Prev Med Rep, 2015. 2: p. 385-96.Layman, D.K., et al.,
  6. Layman, D.K., et al., A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr, 2003. 133(2): p. 411-7.
  7. Insulin Sensitivity & Fat Loss… Why is it important? 2015.
  8. Clarkson, P.M., Minerals: exercise performance and supplementation in athletes. J Sports Sci, 1991. 9 Spec No: p. 91-116.
  9. Kunutsor, S.K., H. Khan, and J.A. Laukkanen, Serum magnesium and risk of new onset heart failure in men: the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Study. Eur J Epidemiol, 2016.
  10. Locatelli, L., et al., How to support obese patients in a long-term process of change? Rev Med Suisse, 2016. 12(511): p. 584, 586-90.
  11. Clark, S., Fat Loss Wars: Cardio Versus Weight Training! Bodybuilding.com, 2015.
  12. Clark, S., How To Overcome Your Metabolism & Calorie Adaptation! Bodybuilding.com, 2014.
  13. Barnes, T.L., et al., Snacking behaviors, diet quality, and body mass index in a community sample of working adults. J Acad Nutr Diet, 2015. 115(7): p. 1117-23.
  14. Gluck, M.E., et al., Nighttime eating: commonly observed and related to weight gain in an inpatient food intake study. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 2008. 88(4): p. 900-905.
  15. Miller, E.R., et al., Results of the diet, exercise, and weight loss intervention trial (DEW-IT). Hypertension, 2002. 40(5): p. 612-618.