Updated: Feb 9, 2021
Getting in the best shape possible is difficult, no doubt about it. However, sometimes you feel like you're doing everything right, but you're getting nowhere! Talk about frustrating. The lack of progress has killed more fitness journeys than any other reasons combined.
Guess what? It may actually be you that's getting in your way. Or, rather, you following some out of date advice on what to do! The fitness and nutrition science industries are still rather fledgling. So, things change, and so too should your way of thinking. Let's take a look at a list of 20 items that might hinder your transformation, or keep you plateaued.
1. BMI is Pretty Trash When Gaining Muscle
Alright, well maybe not trash, but at best it's just a tool you should stop paying attention to after your initial read. What seems like a million years ago, my cousins and I used to run around Chattanooga for sushi followed by a trip to Udder Creamery. One of the cousins was in med school at the time and would toast our ice cream with, "Here's to a BMI over thirty!"
Little did we know that in a scant decade we'd be living that very sentiment. BMI is weight to height ratio, so let's take a look at how it breaks down.
<18.5 is Underweight
18.5-24.9 is Normal
25-29.9 is Overweight
>30 is Obese
Ok, so if you want to calculate your BMI (like I just did) then head here. So, according to the good old CDC I'm obese at 30.5 because I'm 6'0" and weigh 225lbs. Nevermind the fact that I've cut 11% body fat, gained 14lbs of muscle and can darn near lift double my bodyweight for reps in less than a year! Furthermore, they recommend that I weigh between 136lbs and 184lbs. I'll never see those weights on a scale again, but then, I don't use a scale.
If your goal is to lose fat, then BMI is alright for you, but pay more attention to your waist measurement. If you're looking to gain muscle mass, then BMI is not the right indicator for you. It fails to take into account muscle mass and the fact that it weighs more than fat, as we talked about in our last post.
2. Stop Focusing on Scale Weight
Seriously. Stop *clap* it *clap*!
Go ahead and check your weight when you get started, and even every now and again, if you must. However, focusing on that scale weight is not going to work out well for you, trust me. Scale weight is only one measure of weight change. Your body weight has so many factors that make it up that your body weight can shift as much as 4-6lbs in a single day.
How much you eat each day, what you eat each day, and the amount of liquid you take in all contribute to water retention and weight. On top of that, increased estrogen levels and hormonal changes that women have can lead to higher water retention. This is all displays on that judgmental floor ornament!
Once again, muscle weighs more than fat, so you may be getting in better shape even when that needle isn’t moving. Try checking how your clothes fit instead. Take bathroom selfies. Measure your waist. Just anything besides getting discouraged by that overpriced paperweight! You’re better than that.
3: Taking in Too Many Calories
Seems pretty straightforward, right? Take in fewer calories and you lose weight.
Even if you're tracking your calories, the majority of folks tend to underestimate the number of calories they're taking in. A study followed a group of individuals with 30+ BMIs, and had them record their diet and exercise. It found that they only recorded about half as many calories, and double the exercise they were actually taking in each day. Calorie trackers can do the same thing, especially if you're just typing in and looking for something "close" to what you're actually eating.
4: Taking in Too Few Calories
Yes, you read that correctly. Taking in too few calories can be detrimental to your system. It wrecks your gut biome, making it harder to digest what you do end up eating. Starving yourself also leads to binge eating, muscle tissue loss (body has to run on something), and tiredness that absolutely can't be shaken. Good luck working out!
It's important to understand that you have a resting metabolism, and taking in under 1000 calories a day is detrimental to it. Once you starve your metabolism, it isn't as easy to ramp back up! So, have a snack... no, not that. A healthy snack!
5: Not Exercising
Ok, I get that this is primarily a healthy eating type of site. So, this next part is hard for me to say, as I was in denial for SO long. Diet alone does not make you healthy. There, I said it. You have to get in there (wherever that is), put in some reps, sweat, burn those calories, boost that metabolism, release the endorphins, boost your mood, be sore the next day, and look better and better!
The truth is, if you are on a calorie-restricted diet and choose not to work out, you can expect muscle loss and a crashed metabolism.
6: Exercising Too Much
Again, you read that right. I've been to this extreme too. Pretty sure I'm there this week. Excessive exercise is not sustainable in the long run. If you do decide to push yourself too far past your limits, you'll have the following to look forward to:
Decreased Adrenal Hormone Production
Injury & Time Off From Training
That being said, lifting weights and doing cardio several times a week has been shown to be a sustainable pace to fitness.
7: Not Lifting Weights
Lift them. You'll gain muscle. Muscle burns more calories naturally. You won't get bulky unless you want to. Just read this if you haven't already!
8: Eating "Diet" or "Low-Fat" Foods
Ok, soapbox! Most of these products are hyper-processed, and some contain straight up poisons. Seriously, look it up. Plus, the ones that are labeled as low fat are usually packed full of sugar so they don't taste like the absolute garbage they are.
Take a fruit-flavored low-fat yogurt, if you will. That stuff has nearly 12 tsp of sugar in it!! You best just get full fat if that's how you're going to do.
Better yet! How about you get some whole food snacks from around the perimeter of your grocery store or local farmer's market. They fill you up, you eat less, and they are packed with vitamins and minerals. Just avoid anything marked light, lite, diet, low-fat, artificial sweeteners, trans-fat, margarine, or zero.
9: Eat Your Protein!
That's right, no matter what type of exercise you're doing you're going to want to eat your protein. It is vital stuff for optimal weight loss.
Takes Longer to Digest
Increases the Feeling of Fullness
Increases Lean Muscle Mass
Decreases Overall Calorie Intake
Tons of Clean Options (Plant-Based Too!!)
Increases Metabolic Rate
Optimal weight loss has been recorded as consuming between .6-.8 grams of protein per pound of your bodyweight. If you're going for those gains (heck yeah, brother!) you'll want to up it to a gram per pound.
10: You Need Some Fiber
So, switching to a plant-based diet has been interesting, to say the least. Finding new things to eat that are balanced, challenges in getting the kiddo to eat it, and convincing the wife that it really can be delicious can be tough. However, what I wasn't prepared for was the onslaught of fiber on my digestive system. I'll have a slightly *ahem* crappy post about this later on down the line. I'll keep it Disney, I promise. However, you'll want to check it out.
However, if you're not eating enough fiber, you could be hindering your weight loss efforts. All types of fiber help with weight loss by... well, moving things along. You can't lose weight you can't eliminate! Plus, some fiber has been shown to create a type of gel in your gut that holds water, helping you not feel so hungry. Cool stuff.
11: Overestimating the Amount of Calories You Burn During Exercise
Manually entering a workout might not be the best idea. Not all of the trackers take into account that different folks burn calories in different ways. So, you may not be able to calorically afford that bear claw after your HIIT training as you thought.
Current gen wearable fitness trackers do a better job of keeping track of what you're doing, but always err on the side of fat burning and continue to eat for the body you want and not for the workout you think you just did.
12: Eating Too Often
Eat when you're hungry, and stop when you're not. Unless you're going for some severe hardgainer type of program, your body knows what's best. Need to skip breakfast? No worries, it's not going to kill any metabolism mojo you got going. There is absolutely no need to eat 14 times a day. Your metabolism won't skip a beat unless you starve it!
13: Be Careful with the Low-Carb Monster
Keto is a proven weight loss program. Even if it isn't exactly the healthiest option. It encourages all types of fat and protein consumption. Pretty appealing to the bacon mongers around this neck of the woods. The folks that show the best results off this diet comment that they just aren't as hungry. To their credit, the pounds just shed off.
However, some people aren't so lucky. Their appetite isn't suppressed, so they tip the balance of their caloric scale by eating more of the fat-heavy diet. No weight falls off of them; instead, it piles on! So, beware of the fats. They are powerful in the ways of the calorie.
14: Sugary Drinks
I gave up Dr. Pepper, what more do you want from me!? I hear ya, Dr. P was also the choice for me. However, I'm proud of you for giving up soft drinks. I hope you've canned the diet drink habit as well (see point 8). All water, all the time. Right?
What!? You're still drinking juice. Oh, it's 100%? So what!? It's 100% sugar. When you juice anything, all you're doing is processing most of the nutritional value out of it and tossing it in the disposal or garbage can. The juiced item came in the form it did for good reason. It was made to be eaten whole!
Ok, ok, some juice every now and again isn't going to hurt you. However, just promise me you'll eat the veggies and fruit whole most of the time.
15: Convenience is Key These Days
Processed foods rule the supermarket. They are quick, easy, and convenient. They last nearly forever, and you can nuke one faster than it takes to bring water to a boil. However, most of the goodness has been processed right out of that food in the microwave.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is practically made up of processed foods, and they are one of the leading causes of the obesity epidemic in which we find ourselves. We've made it cheap to eat poorly, and charge a premium for whole foods! However, I believe there is hope in the form of flash-frozen foods. A good deal of what makes the recipes on this site so cheap is buying fresh frozen veggies in bulk!
So, find a way to eat whole. If you need a place to start, might I suggest the recipe page!
16: Not Tracking Your Caloric Intake Whatsoever
You don't do this, do you? You rebel! Seriously though, tracking your intake is proven to lead to a more significant loss over time, better eating habits through understanding what composes what you eat, and better equilibrium of diet and exercise.
I recommend MyFitnessPal. I'll even be your first friend on there if you're new! Look me up, Gteems.
17: Not Reading the Nutrition Label
It's a bigger deal than you think, and it's so much more than just checking calories, fat, and sodium! My senior project in college was standing outside of grocery stores offering free cereal to folks. All they had to do was choose what they thought was healthier, and they were free to take it with them.
93% of the time, they chose incorrectly. They looked at the calories and took that box almost mindlessly. They missed the fact that the serving size was 1/2 of what the other box was offering. Thus, they actually went home to eat more calories!
Don't fall into a marketing trap set by devious marketers such as myself. We're not all bad, I promise.
18: Unrealistic Expectations
You quit because you didn't have a six-pack in 30 days, didn't you? Shame. Unrealistic expectations have stopped more fitness journeys in their tracks over the years than they really should have.
The healthiest version of you is a continuous project. There is no destination, only the system. You never rise to your goals; you sink to your system. Make it strong!
19: Just Doing Whatever
If you don't have an exercise plan, you'll probably wander about the gym or halfheartedly do some exercises at the house, but you won't see half the results of those with a plan! I see them in the gym all the time. The ones that watch someone fit do something and then go and mimic a bit. No shame in impersonating, but do some research on what program might work for you!
Same goes for our diet. My wife and I sit down every Saturday morning and plan out the week's meals, I prep them with my daughter Sunday afternoons (videos coming soon), and then we schedule out dinners for the week. Sounds like overkill, but you'd be amazed at how it makes us stick to our guns. Oh, it also simplifies the, "So, what do you want for dinner," game we all seem so eager to play.
20: Going it Alone
Some folks thrive on making the fitness journey alone. However, if you're your own weakest link, it might be useful to get a support system. People at work, family members, friends, an online fitness group, or an accountability app like MyFitnessPal (I promise they're not paying me, I just really like the app). These are all excellent choices for a support system.
Don't fail because you think you're alone. Others are looking for a support system; maybe you're it!
I hope that some of these items struck a chord with you. I've struggled with nearly all of them over the past year, and relapse on them often. However, knowing is half the battle!