Fat loss should be easy. It certainly looks easy on paper. What makes it tough is the fact that we tend to over complicate things. The human mind comes up with all sorts of ideas that seem legitimate at the time, but are really just excuses to avoid change. My goal in this post is to call out the common lame excuses that get in the way of hitting fat loss goals. I don’t want this to be some generic bland post. Let’s dig deep into excuses. I’ll list some ones that I see consistently, but would love for you guys to continue in the comment section. I love digging into the psychology of achievement, success, etc. This should be fun.
[I honestly believe that successful fat loss is "all in your head" to a certain extent. While jamming a key in your ear isn't recommended, take some time to read this post and see if you are victim of any of these tricks that the mind plays.]
“I Don’t Have Time to Get In Shape.”
I’m hesitant to put this excuse first for fear that this post might look like a generic fitness article. This is talked about all the time on fitness sites. I’m not going to give you the typical response about how “you have to make time”, or that you may have to watch less TV, etc. What I will say is that see if you can get in at least 1 intense exercise sessions per week…and make sure your diet is dialed in to the max. My buddy Martin Berkhan over at Lean Gains is one of the most ripped guys I know. He does brief and infrequent intense workouts…but has mastered his diet to get amazing results. Clarence Bass is another guy who trains just 1-2 times per week and is in better shape than 99.9% of the humans on earth.
“I Should Skip My Workout Today So I Don’t Over-Train.”
This is true to a certain extent, but happens much less than what people would have you believe. John Barban believes that this happens in high level athletes much more than the average gym-goer. Many people mistaken being under-conditioned as being overtrained. If you are training 5 days per week or less, this really shouldn’t be an issue. Don’t take this as an exact figure…it depends upon how intense your workouts are, how long, etc. The main thing is to not use this as an excuse simply because you feel tired. Here is the link to a podcast John recorded recently on the subject of over training: Are You Overtraining?
“I Need to Eat More Protein to Repair My Sore Muscles.”
Many people believe that if their muscles are sore, they can get away with eating more food. The thought process is that the extra protein and extra calories will go towards repairing the muscles and won’t impact body fat levels. This is a false assumption! Don’t ever base your food intake on being sore or lack of being sore. This is a fat loss head game for sure. I have been fooled by this one on more than one occasion. This is a bad one, because it “almost” seems logical. If you can defeat this particular head game, you will have a much easier time getting lean.
[Unfortunately, the tricks that your mind plays on you don't seem bizarre like this lizard lady. They seem perfectly normal and logical.]
“I Should Rest and Take A Nap to Insure My Muscles Grow.”
Don’t take it easy the rest of the day, just because you had a good workout. This kind of defeats the purpose of training. One of the benefits of a training is to burn calories “above and beyond” what you normally burn throughout the day. If you compensate by being less active than normal, you won’t get ahead very quickly. I have actually seen people go backwards in their fat loss efforts by resting much more than normal outside of the gym. Go about your day “as if” you didn’t have a tough workout for best results.
“I Need to Eat Every Few Hours to Insure A High Metabolism.”
Meal frequency doesn’t matter…it is all about calories. I like eating 1-2 times per day a lot of the time, my girlfriend likes to eat a little more often. We both stay lean because it is all about calories and not meal frequency. If you like to eat often, that is cool. If you like to eat less often, that is cool as well. The only problem is when people feel compelled to eat 6 times per day, because they think it is what they are suppose to do. If you eat every few hours you have to be extremely careful about portion size. Just one big meal mixed in with 5 other feedings will halt fat loss. If you are good at eating small portions then this will work. If you like bigger meals, lower your meal frequency accordingly. Note: There are some dieters who use the “6 meal per day” rule as a way to eat non-stop throughout the day and “appear” as if they are dieting. The biggest woman at my last job was a prime example of this.
“If I Feel Hungry When Dieting, Something Must Be Wrong.”
There is a stigma attached to allowing yourself to get hungry while dieting. I’m going to make a bold statement—> if you want to get lean, you will be hungry from time to time. Here’s another bold statement—> sometimes you will have low energy when dieting. Losing weight isn’t a miserable experience the entire time, but you do have to go through the occasional uncomfortable period. The best approach is to find a way to get into a calorie deficit that minimizes the discomfort. When you get hungry, remind yourself that you can’t avoid the discomfort 100% if you want to get lean.
“I Can Eat As Much XXXX As I Want on This Diet.”
The idea that you can eat as much of any food item as you want, is simply a bad strategy. If you eat to get stuffed, even if the food is low-cal like salad, you are teaching the body that you must be full to be satisfied. My belief is that you should train the habit of stopping before you are full on every meal. Training the habit of getting stuffed when eating means that your splurge meals become mega-calorie events. This has been something that I have tried to work on the past 6 months and it has been tough. I have no problem eating 8+ pieces of pizza, so stopping at 3-4 takes some strong mental discipline. What has helped is eating smaller salads, soups, etc. I just try to never get stuffed anymore, even if it close to zero calorie food like lettuce.
“I Look Lean in the Gym, So I Must Be Losing Body Fat.”
When you lift weights your muscles temporarily look larger than normal (even with low reps you will get a slight “pump”). Since your muscles are pumped a bit and your body fat levels stay the same, you will appear to be at a lower body fat percentage. This throws a lot of people off. When summer hits and they go to the beach they don’t look as lean as they thought they were when in the gym. Don’t ever judge your progress by what you look like in the mirror at the gym…during your workout or after your workout. Wait about 24 hours if you want a realistic view of your progress.
“I’m Losing Weight, But Look Flabbier. Something is Wrong!”
This is a bad fat loss “head game”. There are times when you diet where you will appear flabbier than normal. It will look like you are gaining fat instead of losing it. Here is what is happening: Your muscles are pumped up with less glycogen than normal when under a calorie deficit. This causes the muscles to shrink in size. This is a temporary state and they will quickly regain volume with enough calories. When your muscles are flattened out from dieting hard, it can appear as if you have gained body fat. Continue what you are doing and you will work through this awkward stage of getting lean.
So What Are Some Fat Loss Head Games You Have Observed?
I know I’m missing a bunch of fat loss mental blocks. I am hoping to get a large list in the comment section so people can realize that most of us go though the same mental struggles when trying to get lean. I’ve been guilty of almost all of these…and probably countless others. The best way to combat these excuses for eating more or skipping exercise is to identify them. Once you realize that your mind is playing tricks on you, you will be more able to ignore the thought and make positive progress.
Note: I don’t want to go all “Positive Mental Attitude” on you guys, but identifying head games for what they are helps with any goal you are trying to hit.