Have you ever heard the term ‘skinny fat’? Well, that’s me. Or it used to be anyway.
For years I struggled with diets and exercise, trying every diet you could imagine – from shakes, to weight loss biscuits (cookies) and avoiding everything with fat in it – in an attempt to lose my ‘saddlebags’.
Back then my idea of losing weight was to eat as little as possible and do as much cardio as my body could handle. That’s what the books and magazines told me. I didn’t care if I lost water, fat or muscle – I just wanted the scale to go down.
So I would bounce back and forth between starving and bingeing, exercising twice a day, then not at all. And the end result? I became skinnier and smaller up top – and my saddlebags got bigger. I looked worse than when I started! How could this be?
All that yo-yo dieting took a big toll on me. I felt like a complete failure and I was worn out physically and emotionally. I was totally sick of myself and the whole weight loss industry.
There WAS something good to come out of this demoralizing process, however. In fact, now I’m even grateful! Going through these exasperating experiences gave me a deep understanding of what people like you are going through.
I know most ladies reading this page will relate to this story as I receive hundreds of emails from women all around the globe frustrated by their confusion and seeming inability to become the lean, fit, happy and healthy person they desperately want to be.
Maybe you have just a little weight to lose, or perhaps you have quite a bit. Whichever way I am going to reveal to you 7 of the BIGGEST mistakes ladies make when it comes to dieting for weight loss, and how you can avoid them and start making massive progress rapidly.
BIG MISTAKE #1
You Are Afraid to Eat Fat
When you hear the word ‘fat’, what thoughts run through your mind? ‘Avoid at all costs’, ‘Will make me gain weight’, or ‘Not part of a healthy diet’? Many people still have a negative perception of dietary fat and believe that in order to look good, fat should be eaten in miniscule amounts.
Unfortunately, this thought process is flawed in many ways and if you don’t correct yourself, it could hold you back from looking and feeling your best.
Let’s have a quick look at some common misconceptions you may have.
Dietary Fat Will Make You Gain Weight (Body Fat)
Hands down the biggest reason most people limit their fat intake is because they feel fat ingested will turn to fat on their body. Just because you eat fat, it doesn’t mean it automatically gets deposited as body fat.
It’s only when you overeat that there’s a problem. Even carbohydrates and protein can get converted into body fat if you take in more than you need. At the end of the day, calorie and activity balance along with your metabolism, determines whether you gain or lose weight.
Low Fat Diets Are a Healthy Way to Eat
Over and over you’ve heard about high fat diets increasing your risk of developing heart disease and some forms of cancer. As obesity is rising at an alarming rate, more and more people are being told to limit the amount of fat they are consuming as a way to battle these two conditions.
What you must remember here is that in general it’s the highly processed foods that are causing the problems. We are eating too many fast food meals of hamburgers and French fries, donuts, pastries, fried foods and creamy sauces, all which are laden with toxic trans fats, often sugar, and not to mention calories as well.
Trans fat, the type that’s found in many of the foods listed above, is the type of fat you absolutely should avoid. This type of fat is toxic – it will react negatively in the body and promote disease.
Saturated fats (such as those contained in animal products and dairy) have had a bad rap in the past but it’s now coming to light that saturated fat is not at all bad for you. No studies have actually PROVEN that saturated fat causes disease or holds any risk whatsoever! Imagine, being able to eat butter and cheese without feeling guilty…
Of course you’ve probably heard a lot of good things about fish oils. Fish oil contains the essential omega 3 fats. They are considered essential because your body will not produce them on its own – so without an intake through the diet, you’re going to be falling short.
Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and prevent a number of different diseases including arthritis, heart disease and some forms of cancer all while helping to keep your cholesterol level in check.
Omega fats can also boost your level of insulin sensitivity, which will go a long way towards encouraging a leaner body.
In summary, fats (the good kinds) will benefit your heart, metabolism and immune system function, protect the internal organs, regulate reproductive hormones, maintain body temperature, and help with digestion – amongst MANY other things.
How Fat Helps With Weight Loss
In the context of weight loss, dietary fat can prove to be quite helpful. Having the healthy variety in the correct serving size will help to provide a long-term, even supply of energy so you can make it through your day without experiencing energy lulls and tiredness.
Additionally, it is also the macronutrient that is broken down most slowly and therefore will help prevent hunger and cravings between meals. Anyone who’s ever been on a weight loss diet knows that when hunger strikes, willpower often fails. All it takes is a small amount of fat in your meal to make a huge difference in satiety level.
One of the most beneficial fats for fat loss is actually one of the saturated fats! Yes, coconut oil is a saturated fat, but classed as a medium chain triglyceride. These fatty acids react in your body in a most beneficial way. MCT’s can be broken down and used as a fuel source immediately – rather than circulating in the blood and being stored directly as body fat like other longer chain oils.
Adding coconut oil to your daily diet can help to increase your metabolic rate and promote faster overall weight loss, so if you’re serious about losing weight, it’s one not to overlook. Plus, it has anti-fungal properties, can help to enhance your energy level and endurance, and also offers antioxidant support.
Serve Up Your Fat Correctly
Now you know that healthy fat in moderation is perfectly acceptable (and in fact desirable) on a diet program, let’s talk about how to add it to your meal plan. The following are examples of one serving of fats for the average 55-65kg (120-140lb) woman. Depending on your activity level, try and include two to four servings each day based on your own energy requirements.
- 15 almonds
- 8 half walnuts
- 1 tbsp. natural nut butter
- 1 tbsp. olive oil, flaxseed oil or coconut oil
- 60g (2oz) avocado
- 100g (3.25oz) salmon (which is also a significant source of protein)
- 1 tbsp. organic butter
- 1 tbsp. heavy cream
- 30g (1oz) full fat cheese
So DON’T fear fat any longer. Be smart about the type of fat you choose and how much you dish up onto your plate. If you do, I guarantee you’ll not only be surprised, but delighted, to see yourself losing weight as well as experiencing improved energy and overall wellbeing.
BIG MISTAKE #2
Carbohydrates Confuse You
With all the low and no carbohydrate diets plastered on the front of magazines these days, you may find yourself developing somewhat of a carbohydrate phobia. More and more people are starting to cut out all the carbohydrates in their diet, thinking this is the quickest, best and only way to lose weight.
But is it really? Umm, nope. Let me explain why.
The Impact of Carbs on the Body
Whenever you dramatically reduce your carbohydrate intake, there will be significant impacts on the body. Since the brain runs strictly off glucose as fuel (which is created when carbohydrates are digested), when carbohydrates are removed, the brain will suffer. You’ll notice you feel ‘foggy’ in your mind and experience reduced concentration levels. You also may get headaches and feel incredibly lethargic. If you’ve tried a low carb diet in the past, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Because carbohydrates hold water, another big problem with these types of diets is that much of the initial weight you lose is simply water weight. Therefore, if you fail to continue with the diet you’ll find you gain back the weight you lost very rapidly. For any dieter, this relapse into a carb-dense diet can be devastating emotionally and can lead to binge eating sessions – a sure fire recipe for fast weight gain.
Carbohydrates and Your Appetite and Mood
If you’ve ever tried a low carb diet you (or others) probably noticed you felt grumpy a lot of the time. This is not only because you are restricted from eating certain foods you enjoy but because of the physiological effect that carbs have on your brain.
When you stop eating carbohydrates your brain stops regulating serotonin, a chemical that elevates mood (and suppresses appetite). And only carbohydrate consumption naturally stimulates the production of serotonin.
Serotonin is crucial not only to control your appetite and prevent you from overeating; it’s essential to keep your moods regulated. Carbohydrates raise serotonin levels naturally and also act like a natural tranquilizer so you’ll sleep much better with some carbs in your diet.
Carbohydrates and Your Workout Program
Anyone who is performing intense physical activity will notice an even greater impact on a low carbohydrate diet. In order to create the muscular contractions necessary for resistance training, glucose must be present. When carbohydrates are not consumed, your strength level will be sapped and you’ll feel drained of energy very early into your workout.
Carbohydrates make up your muscle glycogen stores, which is the form of energy that powers you through your workouts. After only a few short days of being on a low carbohydrate diet, these muscle glycogen stores will rapidly become depleted, which further makes it difficult to maintain your usual workouts. Imagine you are a car running on four cylinders. Take away two or three of those cylinders, and this is what it feels like when training on low carbs!
For best results and greater recovery from your exercise program, and to ensure you are still losing body fat, carbohydrates are essential to refill the used muscle glycogen. I recommend dieting in blocks or ‘phases’ – using higher carb phases combined with lower carb phases You can read more about dieting in phases here
Choosing Carbohydrates Wisely
There are several ways to keep carbohydrates in your diet while keeping extra body fat at bay. Be choosy about which ones you eat, be careful to choose appropriate portion sizes, and schedule the majority of the carbohydrates you consume before and after your workouts when your body is going to utilize them for energy and recovery rather than fat storage.
The best sources of carbohydrates to consume on a regular basis are complex carbohydrates including oatmeal (unsweetened varieties), brown rice, sweet potato, whole grain bread, and whole grains. As often as possible try to avoid highly processed, ‘man made’ carbohydrates such as white bread, muesli bars, sugary cereal, cakes, and ‘energy bars’.
Fruit is a carbohydrate that confuses many people but the important thing to know is that you can have fruit on a fat loss diet in moderation. Fruit does provide natural sugars but it also contains plenty of fibre and vitamins. Aim for one to two pieces a day when you’re more active. However, you should always eat fruit (or any carbohydrate) with a protein source to lower the glycemic index and lessen the insulin (and fat storage) response.
Those who are athletes performing hours of training a day may require much higher carbohydrate levels, but even then they should still choose mostly wholesome sources to promote good health and steady energy levels.
For most other people aiming for weight loss or maintenance, choose complex carbohydrates once or twice a day and then stick with lower calorie fibrous vegetable sources for the remainder of the day.
In summing up, low carb diets have their place but they should not be followed for long periods of time.
In moderation, carbohydrates are a healthy part of a good nutrition program when you understand how to consume them. If you choose properly they will not cause you to overeat and gain weight but will provide you with optimal sleep and stable mood patterns, as well as the energy you need to get through your day and importantly, your workout sessions. And not least, they also make your meals much more interesting!
BIG MISTAKE #3
You Don’t Eat Enough Protein
Protein is an important part of the equation when following a weight loss diet as it helps in a number of ways.
Protein when consumed alone or with other food groups helps to stabilize blood glucose levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. This in turn will help with satiety, leaving you feeling fuller and satisfied for longer – lowering your insulin levels to help prevent cravings and the need to indulge in other foods.
Protein has another great thing going for it, something you may not even be aware of. Protein can actually increase your metabolism and help you to lose weight faster!
The body has to work harder to break down protein in the body – much harder than it does for carbohydrates or dietary fats. So, when digesting protein as opposed to carbohydrates or fat, your body has to expend more energy (or calories). This is what we call the ‘thermic effect’ of protein.
When it comes to weight training, the role of protein is especially important. If you supply your body with enough protein to ensure the growth of lean muscle mass, you can build a more aesthetically pleasing body shape.
When figuring out how much protein to consume, we need to compare apples with apples. The usual Recommended Daily Allowance for protein is based on your average couch potato, and not an athlete or even someone who trains regularly.
You see, when you exercise, protein stores are broken down and used for fuel – so if you don’t get adequate dietary protein, your body ends up burning its own muscle tissue instead. It has been shown time after time that when combined with the correct training, protein, consumed in smaller amounts throughout the day with a combination of other foods, is the best way to attain the body of your dreams!
So how much protein do you need?
A good (and easy) rule of thumb is to always include some form of protein (a little fat can be added too) at each meal or snack. For instance, you can simply add some cottage cheese, Greek yoghurt or a protein shake and a few nuts to your (low sugar) cereal or fruit.
Other good sources of protein are eggs, lean cuts of chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, kangaroo, fish, sardines, and so on. While nuts do contain some protein, they are not considered a protein food as such and should be counted as a fat. Yoghurt and milk also contain some protein, but are considered carbohydrate foods.
So remember, protein is important to help repair and build lean muscle tissue which in turn accelerates metabolism making it far easier to lose weight, along with helping to lower the insulin response in your body and to help you feel fuller for longer.
Protein really is a dieter’s best friend!
Want some of my favourite high protein fat burning dinner recipes? Go Here.
BIG MISTAKE #4
You Don’t Pump Iron
One of the biggest weight loss mistakes I still see women making is choosing cardio exercise at the expense of weight training.
While cardio will definitely help (and has numerous other health benefits), in order to reshape your body it’s absolutely essential that you make weight training an important part of your weight loss program. Weight training will do far more for your weight loss efforts, both in losing the fat and keeping it off long term, than a daily jog around the block will ever do.
First, a challenging weight training session burns calories during the actual workout.
Second, research shows that intense weight training elevates your metabolism for up to 39 hours after your actual workout. In other words, after you finish your weight training session, your metabolism has been stimulated so you will be burning more calories while doing nothing!
Your metabolism continues to burn more calories than normal for up to 39 hours after you’ve stopped your workout. This doesn’t happen with typical low/moderate steady state cardio programs.
The carbohydrates you eat will power your weight training sessions (which is why you should never completely or permanently remove carbohydrates from your diet!). The more intense the session, the more you will deplete your carbohydrate stores and the more fat is burned during the recovery phase, i.e. after the workout and during rest.
As the intensity of the training increases there is a proportionate increase in fat burning after the workout.
Remember this is extra fat loss, above and beyond the calories burned during the actual training sessions. It also doesn’t include the extra calories burned from the higher metabolism due to added lean and shapely muscle.
Adding lean muscle is another extremely important benefit of resistance training. Now ladies, don’t be scared when I talk about ‘adding lean muscle’. No, you won’t end up looking like the female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger – it’s just not physically possible. We ladies don’t have enough of the male hormone testosterone to promote that kind of muscle growth.
In reality, adding lean muscle is quite difficult, but just a few additional pounds of muscle will completely change the way you look – in an amazing way! Muscle burns calories even while resting.
So, the more lean muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolism and the more calories you burn each and every day while doing nothing. This translates to ‘you can eat more food without getting fat!’
On the flip side, if you don’t workout with weights while you are dieting, two very bad things will occur.
First, much of the weight you lose will be muscle. This in turn causes your metabolism to slow down, making progress grind to a halt, leading to rebound weight gain (and more). If you’ve tried any of the fad diets going around, there’s a good chance you will know what I’m talking about.
Pure and simple – you cannot lose weight permanently (or look great naked!) without incorporating weight training. If you’ve never done resistance training before don’t be intimidated. Start off slowly with some simple bodyweight workouts and progress from there.
BIG MISTAKE #5
You Don’t Eat Enough
As you probably know all too well, we women have a tendency to go on fad diets that promise rapid weight loss… only to gain it all back again… and again.
This rapid loss followed by even more rapid regain, contributes significantly to stubborn fat deposits because your body now begins to hoard fat – and next time around your body is even MORE reluctant to release this stored fat. Repeated cycles of weight gain and weight loss also compromise skin elasticity which makes problems such as cellulite even more pronounced.
It’s unfortunate that a large percentage of women fit into this yo-yo dieting category. But before you go gung-ho into any type of fad diet, let’s look at the reasons why many women fall for them, time and again – and why they will be left ruing that decision very quickly. After attempting what I call a ‘starvation diet’, most people experience a significant rebound effect for two reasons.
One, they have damaged their metabolism through severe calorie restriction, and two, they have no idea how to eat properly or ’normally’ after following such a restrictive diet. Your metabolic rate essentially stands for how many calories your body burns off per day simply to stay alive. This includes keeping your heart beating, your lungs functioning, and your digestive system working properly.
The metabolism will slow down usually due to two reasons:
- A loss of lean muscle mass due to inactivity
- Prolonged periods of low calorie/low carb dieting where the metabolic rate adapts by becoming more efficient to preserve life
The human body is a very smart piece of machinery.
The less you eat, the more efficient your metabolism becomes and the less energy (calories) you will burn. It is your body’s natural way of protecting itself when it’s starving. The only way to continue to lose weight then, is to eat less food.
But this becomes difficult because your appetite suppressing hormone, Leptin, drops significantly when dieting causing a myriad of other hormones in your body to react to force you to eat more food – so you’re ALWAYS fighting hunger.
Not a fun way to live!
Because it becomes impossible to fight your hormones, the consequence of this constant hunger is an all-out binge fest. And because your metabolism has now slowed down, your body will HOARD all the calories from that binge and store them as unsightly body fat for protection against future starvation. While it’s possible to lose a significant amount of initial weight on a very low calorie diet (VLCD), most of that weight loss is just water and valuable muscle and this will cause long term damage to your metabolism and make losing weight permanently a much more difficult and unpleasant process.
It’s not all bad news however!
There IS a simple way to incorporate bouts of fast weight loss with more moderate weight loss, to avoid the all the negative side effects. It’s done by dieting in ‘phases’ or blocks. By that I mean, reducing your carbs and calories for a short time and then increase them again.
This diminishes cravings and hunger by keeping Leptin, your appetite regulator hormone high. This way of eating will keep you satisfied, and your blood sugar levels stable and makes being fit and healthy a lot more fun! Discover more about dieting in phases.
BIG MISTAKE #6
You Try To Eat Food You Dislike
Ok, I’m a BIG, HUGE (MASSIVE even), believer in not having to eat food you don’t like, just to lose weight. Seriously, that’s no fun. Not only that, I assure you, the novelty will wear off very quickly and you’ll likely make up for it in a very big way.
One of the biggest keys to long term weight loss is enjoying the food you regularly eat.
If you aren’t fond of certain foods and your diet plan calls for eating them regularly the novelty will wear off pretty quickly. I know, because I once tried to follow a diet that only allowed eggs or meat for breakfast and I lasted all of 4 days.
Hey I don’t mind eggs and they are an extremely healthy and nutritious food – but I just can’t do eggs every day.
Basically, your weight loss diet has to be DOABLE!
If you can’t stick to it, then it’s worthless! Wouldn’t you agree? So how do you eat foods you like and still lose fat? First you must look for healthy alternatives to the unhealthier foods you like to eat.
Chocolate is a big problem for many women.
So let me tell you my little chocolate secret.
I rarely eat chocolate anymore – and that is because I’ve found what I consider to be the perfect substitute – one that I can indulge in at least once or twice every single day.
I take my favourite chocolate whey protein powder and mix it with a little water to make a smooth paste. I (sometimes) add a teaspoon of raw cacao powder to make it even more ‘chocolate-y’. Then I may add either of the following:
- A tablespoon of natural, creamy peanut butter (or almond butter)
- A handful of frozen raspberries and some natural Greek yoghurt
I honestly feel like I’m cheating when I eat this.
And the best thing, it COMPLETELY satisfies my sweet tooth and any cravings I may have for that chocolate taste. Not only that, it’s a completely ‘on plan’ weight loss snack that I look forward to every day!
If you’re not ready for that, then something else you can do is to swap your usual chocolate out for dark, organic chocolate. This is a healthy version of the real thing, and you’ll only need a square or two.
Those are only a couple of examples, but honestly, there are healthy versions of many if not most of your favourite foods/meals. All it takes is some creativity and improvisation.
For some inspiration, get 10 of my favourite fat burning go-to dinner recipes here.
BIG MISTAKE #7
You Won’t Seek Help
As is our tendency, we like to think we can figure things out on our own. We don’t like to ask for help, and often we are afraid of failing.
And even when we know what to do, we don’t often do it! And that’s really frustrating.
Having been an online personal trainer and coach for over a decade, what I DO know is that people who have access to experienced mentors and are surrounded by other driven people – and who actively take advantage of those resources – are much more likely to reach their goals than those who don’t.
In short, people with mentors and social support figure things out faster, make fewer mistakes, and are pushed to succeed by those around them. It’s a formula for success, especially in weight loss.
In hindsight, I would have given my right arm to be able to have a coach who could have sorted out all the ‘BS’ for me – and saved me from years and years of frustration, heartache and unhealthy habits.
But unfortunately, most people seek neither mentorship nor support.
So a word of advice…
Get some help, surround yourself with supportive people and shut out as much negativity as you can. All too often there will be negative friends, family and work colleagues just waiting for an opportunity to bring you down. Steer clear of these types of people as much as possible, and find weight loss support and encouragement in other places such as online forums, a trainer or online coach, or other gym goers. You’ll be giving yourself the best opportunity to lose the weight you want.
So there you have it – my top 7 diet mistakes that women make. Maybe you’re not making ALL of these mistakes at once but I almost guarantee you can relate to a few.
And let’s face it – it’s not JUST about looking good. It’s also about your immediate and long term health and wellbeing. It’s about feeling vital, energetic, and happy. It’s about enjoying your life and lifestyle, keeping up with and being a role model for your kids, now and into the future.
If you find yourself making some of these mistakes, I do hope you’ll get off the yo-yo dieting roundabout by following the advice I’ve provided. It’s time to put mistakes and failures behind you and start reaching for SUCCESS in a healthy, enjoyable way!
Interested in a healthier, more enjoyable way to lose weight that doesn’t leave you deprived and hungry? Click below for details.