Founder of the Sports Nutrition Association Alex Thomas on how avoid the pitfalls and complete a weight loss routine that actually works.

There is no doubt that there are a lot of diets and quick fixes out there, but do they work? Honestly, only one thing really works when it comes to weight loss – but how you achieve it is up to you.

Here are the biggest mistakes that I see and how you can achieve your goals.

Cutting food groups

The number one mistake that people make when it comes to weight loss is cutting food groups. Unless you have a particular health condition that means that you can’t eat certain foods, variety is important.

Your body thrives on both macro and micronutrients, and when you cut out an entire food group, it can have side effects when it comes to your health.

Now this also applies to diets.

For example, there have been a lot of claims around the effectiveness of a low-carb diet over the years and the consequence has been mass “Carbophobia” for many people over the past two decades.

However, the literature around the low carb diet as found that there was no significant difference on diet versus fat reduction or total energy expenditure on weight loss with this diet. One major study on this was done by Kevin Hall and colleagues. Kevin is one of the highest regarded researchers when it comes to examining diet effectiveness with regards to weight loss and carbohydrate metabolism.

Additionally, sugar has been targeted for the past two decades, with the UK even bringing in a sugar tax. While it does sound like a good idea in theory, the research doesn’t match up. In fact, in the US, sugar intake has gone down in recent years, but obesity is trending upwards. This likely has to do with the overall net calorie intake increasing, while physical activity decreases.

With diets such as low carb, intermittent fasting trending, issues when it comes to their eating patterns can arise. Both diets cut food groups, which is not suitable for our overall health.

Avoiding packaged food

There has been a lot of noise over the past few years about avoiding packaged food, and sure, anything that is highly processed with refined sugar should probably be limited in your diet as a rule of thumb.

However when it comes to fruit and veggies, snap frozen Australian produce that comes from the freezer aisle can sometimes be even better for you than the produce in the fruit and vegetable aisle. This is because they are less likely to be waxed to make them look better and have pesticide residue left on them.

Similarly, lean meat often comes in light packaging, as does oats, rice and other Wholefoods.

Most people work 40-50 hour weeks and then they have other commitments in their free time. If conveniently packaged food means that they can hit their daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake, in which only 7% of Australians do, then I am all for the convenience.

Following an unsustainable diet

If you are following a very restrictive diet, you are likely to give up if you accidentally have a “cheat day” and never go back to it. You are much better off making a plan that is sustainable, with food you enjoy. Add a glass or two of wine into your weekly diet if that will make you happy.

If you can’t sustainably live your life on your diet, than that is not the diet for you.

You are not in a calorie deficit
The biggest influence in losing weight is being in a calorie deficit. To do that it doesn’t matter what you are eating really, if you are consuming less energy than you are outputting. Having said that, fruit veggies, lean protein and whole grains will make you feel better than foods that are packed with refined sugar.

It isn’t simple to work out how much you should be eating versus how much exercise you should be doing. I would recommend consulting a sports nutritionist or personal trainer to help you. However, as a start use a food tracker app to input the food you are eating and the amount of food you are eating.

You may want to weigh your food until you learn how to identify what works for you naturally. It does take a bit of mental effort at first. Also consider how much your diet changes between the weekends and the weekdays. If you are consistent with your food, it will be easier to track, but you can still make it work even if you have small blow outs on the weekend.

Your output is where it is tricky as that will be variable on your basil metabolic rate, exercise activity, the thermogenic and metabolic effect on your food.

For example, some of us may have deskbound jobs and some may not. As a rule of thumb, if you are in a sedentary job aim for 6000-10000 steps a day. Aim to exercises 3-4 days per week. Try to eat similar styles of food so it is easier to track.

Stay hydrated and get your 7-8 hours sleep per night.

Giving up when you hit a plateau

Finally, you may find that you hit a plateau as you go on your health kick which can be off-putting When you go on a diet or a health kick, there will be a little reduction in your metabolism briefly, but it will be a very small one.

What is happening is because you are in a calorie deficit you will likely have less energy while you adjust to it. This will mean that you will likely be less energetic to do both conscious and subconscious movement, even things like fighting or pacing which you may have done naturally before.

So if you find that your metabolism is slowing a bit, know that it may just be because you are adapting to eating less and therefore your body is naturally moving less due to having less energy than before.

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