How to avoid fat-loss failure
Updated: Jan 2
Sometimes getting fit can feel like an on-going battle even when it seems like you’re doing all the ‘right things’.
You exercise, eat a balanced diet yet still find it difficult to shed those stubborn pounds. There are a number of hidden factors that can sabotage your efforts, read on to see if you are falling into any of these 'fat traps'.
Drinking your calories
In your best efforts to get healthy you’ve wisely dispensed of all sugary drinks, sodas, concentrated fruit juice and caffeine and taken to making delicious home-made soups, fresh juices and creamy smoothies.
While juicing, especially vegetables and green juices can have some amazing benefits, the fibre of the fruit or vegetable is removed so you may not get the full nutritional value of it.
Fruit juices, like orange may even spike your blood sugar levels, which can create energy crashes and eventual weight gain. Fibre, often discarded when you juice, passes through your system aiding digestion, which in turn supports weight loss.
A high-fibre diet can also reduce the risk of stroke, hypertension, and heart disease.
Fibre helps us to feel fuller for longer and when removed or blended we may consume more food than we realise. This is especially true of smoothies, which can typically contain a serving of nuts, an apple, banana, berries, yoghurt, milk and a scoop or two of protein powder all in one go. So it’s important to limit the amount of fruit added to just a handful to keep its sugar content low. Because liquid calories are easier to metabolise, it helps to remember there’s still an ideal balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates to maintain as you would with any foods when losing weight is a goal.
Too much of a good thing
I’m no fan of obsessively counting calories, however there remains a basic principle of fat loss. To lose fat: energy expenditure must exceed intake. Eating the right types of food in the right amounts keeps you energised and satisfied for longer, allowing you to naturally expend more energy than you consume, if combined with appropriate exercise.
However, many of us load up on unlimited amounts of ‘healthy foods’ and eat more food by default. Just because a food’s considered ‘healthy’ does not mean you can eat unhealthy amounts of it.
Take natural nuts for example, while natural raw nuts like almonds, walnuts and cashews are full of essential fatty acids, protein, vitamin E and fibre, they are higher in calories and should be consumed proportionately to the other macro nutrients; carbohydrates and protein.
The exact ratio of macro nutrients each of us needs is dependent on our lifestyles and goals. Though in any case, healthy or not if you consume more than you expend as energy, the remainder will be stored as…you guessed it, fat.
You can help to keep track of portions by preparing meals in advance, noting what you eat in a diary or using an app like my fitness pal to check and modify quantities as needed.
Sleep is a vital and often under-appreciated factor in fat loss. Let’s imagine how your day could go if you didn’t sleep very well the night before…
Late for work after snoozing through your alarm, you get going with a strong coffee, and eat a cereal bar on your commute.
11am: feeling tired, another coffee and a few biscuits.
No time to make a healthy lunch, you grab a sandwich and a diet coke at 1pm eaten quickly at your desk.
3pm: energy dips more coffee and biscuits.
5pm: too tired to go for a run and you forgot your kit anyway. You get a takeaway en-route home. You deal with the kids, dogs, cats and beloved (delete as applicable) watch TV while eating, before Whatsapp-ing until bed time.
2am: forget to switch your phone off, woken by an email notification.
Your alarm goes four hours later…Hello Tuesday.
Lack of sleep affects our moods, appetite, energy, cognitive functions and a key factor for weight loss, hormones. Poor sleep prompts us to make poor health choices. Sapped of energy, exercise motivation drops, we don’t have time to prepare food and turn to quick energy boosts.
Tips for a better night’s rest include: maintaining a bedtime routine, reducing the use of smart devices in the evening, warm baths and avoiding caffeine after midday.
Related to sleep and inextricably linked to hormonal balance is stress. We need an element of stress to survive. Though our bodies frequently interpret everyday stresses as ‘life or death’ situations, biologically at least and respond by releasing ‘stress hormones’ like cortisol and adrenaline to help manage them.
Let’s be honest, most stress tends to happen inside our heads. While this doesn’t make it any less upsetting, rarely do we have to run for our lives from lions.
Yet if you spend a day ruminating over the misspelling of your name on your Starbucks order then chemically your body may not be able to tell the difference.
When elevated, cortisol primes us for action, while adrenaline uses up stores of magnesium, vitamin C and B vitamins, needed to produce energy. So it can be the case that when highly stressed, you’re alert at night and lethargic during the day.
Stress hormones also release sugar into the bloodstream which, if not utilised, can eventually be stored as visceral or ‘belly fat’ around your vital organs.
Nutritional therapy with mood enhancing foods can help to rebalance hormones which in turn can improve sleep, alongside stress reduction techniques such as Tai Chi, meditation, yoga, regular movement and practising deep mindful breathing throughout the day.
These are some of the ‘fat traps’ that can negatively impact your health and weight loss. By being aware, you can take measures to avoid and manage them, which is good for your frown lines, waistline and lifeline!