I was going to write about a vervet monkey with a pair of extremely astonishing pastel-blue testicles that I saw in Sri Lanka. I really was. I promise.
But then I thought: ‘Nah. Come on, Egis. Jillian Michaels came out with yet another viral and complete dogshit lecture on protein. People are really confused this time. So why not help them & go over 5 signs that they’ll fail weight loss?’ (following Jillian on social media is the first sign.)
Stay the hell away from the following 5 things and you’ll solve all of your weight loss woes. A bold claim, I know. Just read. You’ll see.
1. Demonizing & Eliminating Foods/Food Groups
As Graeme Tomlinson once noted, we idolize some foods calling them ‘good/healthy/clean’ because we believe them to be ‘better’ for us. By the same token, we demonize other foods calling them ‘bad/unhealthy/dirty’ because we believe them to be ‘worse’ for us.
But what happens when you demonize one food and blame it for destroying your fat-loss efforts? You eliminate it from your diet.
Depending on what you’ve read, you might have put dairy, grains, fruits, and other nutritious foods on a ‘banned foods’ list for no fucking reason at all. Simply because some bigoted douchebag with the IQ of a wasp mentioned insulin or some such crap (FYI—insulin doesn’t prevent fat loss.)
The problem is that increased dietary rigidity is highly correlated1 with binge-eating behavior—the stricter you are with your food choices, the bigger the likelihood is that you will fall off the wagon.
This often leads to feelings of guilt for having failed. Yet again. The more you fail at a new diet, the more desperate you get. Your life turns into a cycle of ‘deprive → binge → deprive → binge.’
So stop demonizing and eliminating foods. No food is just ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ There are shades of gray in between. Sure, 80-90% of your food choices should come from whole, nutritious foods. But having less nutritious ‘fun’ treats every now and then is not going to make or break you.
ANY FOOD CAN BE A PART OF HEALTHY, INFORMED, AND SUSTAINABLE DIET. It’s the whole diet that matters rather than a single food or meal.
Further reading: Healthy Eating ≠ Weight Loss
2. Crash Dieting & Very Low Caloric Intake
Crash dieting involves a very low caloric intake, usually 800 calories or fewer a day. Obviously, you will lose a crapload of weight doing so.
Say, you lose 20 pounds (9 kg) in 30 days. Depending on your initial weight, the first 6-10 pounds (2.7-4.5 kg) would be water weight and the rest—fat and muscle. Which sucks balls because muscle loss during a diet is unacceptable and unhealthy.
If your diet asks you to consume 800 calories a day, you’re doomed. Buttfucked. If you try to starve yourself thin at 800 calories a day, you’re going to binge, fall off the wagon, and gain all the weight back.
Then you’ll be like Oh muh gawd… Nothing works for me. I’ve tried everything.
Weight loss isn’t a race. It’s just you. There’s no finish line. No end date. There is zero fucking rush. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Stop starving yourself batshit crazy.
Instead, multiply your goal weight in pounds by 12. That’s your caloric deficit to lose weight.
If you want to weigh 150 pounds, you would eat 1,800 calories (adjust depending on progress). You’ll be able to eat more and still lose weight while having a caloric budget to enjoy your favorite foods in moderation.
Further reading: Fat Loss Fundamentals (And Shit That Can Just Fuck Off)
3. Relying on Exercise for Your Weight Loss
Weight loss is about efficiency—while exercise has ungodly amounts of health benefits, it’s pretty shit for weight loss. To lose a pound a week, a 160-pound female would have to lift weights for almost 2 hours EVERY GODDAMN DAY. Not very efficient, aye?
Yup, you’ve read it right—a 160-pound female burns about 300 kcal/hour lifting weights. Not thousand. Stationary bike cardio at moderate intensity burns about 360 calories/hour. Are you willing to become a hard-core workout warrior who trains 1.5-2 hours every day?
I bet you could think of at least 47 million things you’d rather do, 99 of which involve sadomasochistic behavior towards your body.
On the other hand, it’s much more sensible and attainable to make small yet sustainable dietary tweaks and reduce your caloric intake. Tweaks like these:
Don’t get me wrong—when it comes to weight loss, exercise, and strength training, in particular, is crucial. But only when it’s used for the right reasons and with the right mindset.
That mindset being: Train for muscle and strength.
Strength training ‘tells’ your body Yo! You need that muscle tissue. Hold on to it. Don’t break it down. Don’t burn it for energy. So strength training preserves or, in some cases, builds muscle while losing fat which will help you look better as you lean out.
Train for muscle & strength; Eat for fat loss
4. Not Having a Diet Structure
Many of my clients hire me to lose fat. So we work together and come up with a structured diet based on their goals, needs, and schedule. Then they submit a check-in every Monday and then I make tweaks to their programs depending on results. Unicorns fly all around us and everyone is happy.
You see, merely having the information on how to eat isn’t always enough for most people to make a change. People like diet structure and they enjoy following it when it’s tailored to their food preferences, lifestyle, and schedule.
- What my needs are? How many calories & how much protein do I need? (for healthy people, the fat:carb ratio is irrelevant for fat loss.)
- How do I track portions? An app? Food journal? Photos? Hand measuring?
- Are my main meals balanced? (here’s how to create a balanced meal that hits your macros.)
- How many times per day do I want to eat?
- Do I have regular meal times?
Having some kind of structure in your diet takes the guesswork out of your hands.
I mean, imagine walking by a construction site. You ask the workers, “Hey, chaps, what are you building?” The chaps reply, “Uhm, er, fuck if I know…” Da fuck they’re gonna build?
The same with you—da hell you’re going to achieve if you don’t know how much, when, what, how often you should be eating?
5. Not Having a Plan to Maintain Your Weight Loss
Most people, when starting a diet, don’t think about what they’re going to do after the diet itself ends. They turn to ridiculous extremes—no bread, no carbs, detox, keto, a diet of bark and beetles…
Let’s say you live in a fairy-tale world of princesses and unicorns where you manage to sustain the eye-watering ugliness of such regimens. What then?
Are you going to cook keto dinner for yourself and a normal dinner for the rest of your family? Are you going to do this for the rest of your life? What about going out with friends? Are you going to skip the dessert because it’s high carb?
You can choose diets that eliminate particular foods or food groups such as keto or paleo. You can even restrict your diet to eating and fasting windows. But you have to be honest with yourself:
Do you enjoy this and can you follow this diet for the rest of your life?
If the answer is no, then stop doing it. Something needs to change.
When working with a client, instead of throwing a daft set meal plan at her, I help her to make small adjustments to her current diet. This doesn’t turn her life upside down nor does it make it hard to socialize with friends and family.
Most importantly—she has a plan to maintain weight loss later—she just follows the same diet that helped her to lose weight. All she needs to do is to adjust a caloric intake for maintenance and carry on with her life because she built a diet that she can do for fifty years. Not five weeks, or five months.
Further reading: Does Intermittent Fasting Cause Special Effects?
Ignoring the above advice is like rubbing your head and patting your belly while defusing a bomb—it’s stupid. The level of stupidity is the same as Jillian Michaels’ lecture on protein or bungee jumping into a shark.
Create a small to moderate caloric deficit. Use an inclusive approach where you add nutritious foods rather than restrict them. Throw some structure in there. And complement all that with strength training. You’ll do fine.
What’s an alternative? Jillian Michaels?