Losing weight isn’t easy, and there are a lot of ways to make mistakes on the road to better health.
Even relatively fit, healthy women may find themselves making these weight loss mistakes. Be sure to avoid these pitfalls, and you will find yourself on track to a fitter and healthier you in no time.
1. Too Little Protein
Protein is a big deal when it comes to weight loss and muscle gains. It seems like you can’t enter a gym without hearing about what kind of protein shakes to drink, how much protein is in your food, and the best times of the day to eat it.
Protein is needed to build, repair and maintain tissues in your body. It can help you feel full and satisfied after a meal, leading to decreased snacking and less calorie intake and help with weight loss. Many women, however, get caught up in fat content and counting calories, forgetting that the quality of what you eat is what’s most important.
The truth is most of us carnivores won’t ever be lacking in protein, but for vegetarians, yo-yo dieters or people who under-eat, a lack of protein can be seriously debilitating. If you’re feeling tired, craving sweets all the time or find that your hair is falling out, you may want to consider increasing your lean protein intake.
2. Endless Crunches
Women will devote hours to crunches and ab routines in an effort to get a rock-hard midsection. While building up core muscles will help you get the shredded look you desire, crunches alone won’t cut it. This is because it’s very difficult to target fat loss from specific areas of the body. The goal is to melt overall body fat, in order to reveal your ab muscles underneath. To crank up your metabolism and melt fat, try HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) exercises. HIIT is one of the most effective ways to burn fat fast. Combine your HIIT cardio with core-strengthening ab exercises and compound movements — rather than endless crunches — and you will start to see flat abs.
3. The Same Routine
Have you ever seen “Same Sally” at the gym? Every day she goes to the exact same elliptical machine, plugs in her earbuds, and cranks out the same 45-minute cardio workout, followed by the same machines in the same order. Don’t be a “Same Sally.” Your body will begin to adapt to your workout, and it will become easier and less effective. By changing up your workout and upping the weight, reps, or intensity, you can keep your body from hitting a plateau. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new, like a class that you’ve been too afraid to try. Working out with a friend can also help keep you out of a rut — take turns picking the exercises or classes you will try for the day. The same routine will only get you the same results, but a varied routine will keep you on the path to fitness success.
4. All Cardio And No Strength Training
Cardio exercises are very good for you — they can help burn fat, improve your overall fitness level, and increase your cardiovascular health. Cardio without strength training, however, is like riding a bicycle with a flat tire. You may get where you need to go in the end, but you could get there faster and with less effort if both wheels were working properly. Strength training increases muscle mass, which will help your body burn calories more efficiently. It also helps improve bone density (essential as we age), gives you more power for your cardio exercises and gives you those toned, shapely muscles we all want. Don’t worry about strength training making you too bulky; for most women, it’s very extremely hard to pile on heavy muscle. It won’t make you bulky, but it can help make you more fit.
5. Skipping Meals
To burn fat and lose weight, you need more calories being exerted than calories coming in. This advice has led many a well-meaning (but misinformed) person to skip a meal or two in an effort to lose weight. The problem is that skipping meals can actually lead to weight gain, increased hunger, and more snacking throughout the day. Breakfast is the most missed meal of the day, and studies have shown that breakfast skippers eat less vegetables and more sweets than breakfast-eaters. Skipping meals can also lead to extreme calorie restriction. This kind of extreme eating is not sustainable, and often leads to binge eating and yo-yo dieting. Instead of skipping meals, try to eat healthier, smaller portioned meals to keep your energy up.
6. Avoiding Entire Food Groups
Carbs are not the enemy. Neither is fat. Unfortunately, in an attempt to lose weight, these two food groups are most often villainized and shunned. Carbohydrates provide the body with its preferred source of fuel, which is glucose. Your body needs carbs to have the energy to get through a workout, not to mention for brain function. (This is why you may feel foggy if you jump on the no-carb bandwagon.) Fat is also needed to protect brain tissue, and to absorb vitamins that protect your cells from oxidative damage caused by workouts.
What your body doesn’t need is added sugars, artificial additives, or processed and manufactured foods. Instead of trying to cut out an entire food group that your body needs to function, try cutting out weight-loss shakes and bars that you purchase from the store, instead. Complex carbohydrates like whole grain oatmeal, and healthy fats like avocados can help you feel full longer, snack less, and ultimately lose more weight than if you cut those food groups out entirely.
By avoiding these six weight loss mistakes, you can avoid weight loss plateaus, dangerous diets, and hours of crunches that don’t flatten your abs. Losing weight and improving fitness is a lifelong journey, and there are no shortcuts. Find a way to work strength training and cardio into your life, and eat a variety of nutritious, whole foods. When you work towards having better health overall, you won’t have to worry about making mistakes.