Often, when you start on a weight loss journey, the initial enthusiasm and combination of good diet, lifestyle and exercise kick starts metabolism and the weight loss that accompanies these changes makes us extremely positive.
However, in a few weeks (usually the 5-6 week mark), our body gradually adjusts to the dramatic changes and tries to establish homeostasis, which is a balance between its internal and external conditions even when its external environment has changed. The body is very well-designed to conserve energy, or in this case, to maintain its energy stores. Therefore, despite the changes in diet and exercise, after a few weeks you might find you have reached a plateau. This is usually because a) you have done too much and feel burnt out or unmotivated or b) you have cut too many calories at once and cannot maintain the diet.
The following are common diet mistakes, and simple ways to overcome them.
1) Training Too Much
By training too much (running faster and longer, lifting heavier weights and doing more sets or more repetitions) at the same time as a calorie-restriction, you provide the perfect setting for burnout, meaning your body has no stores from which to expend energy. This causes more energy-deficit than the body can tolerate, leading to fatigue and eventually a person loses confidence in the diet.
The optimum training a person should do when embarking on a healthy diet, is a weight session 2-3 times a week for no more than 60 minutes per session. The purpose of this is to activate muscles into reviving their energy-burning role. Moderate cardio exercise should be sufficient for fat loss in conjunction with the weight training.
2) Ignoring the Whole Body Picture
When starting a diet we tend to also focus on problem body areas and try to lose weight from that area, such as a flabby tummy or love handles. However there is no such thing as “spot reduction’. No matter how many crunches you do, fat loss has to take place over all rather than in highly isolated spots. You would be better off doing whole-body workouts targeting the big muscle groups, such as the shoulders, back, gluteals and quadriceps using exercises like push-ups, squats, pull-ups and rows, making sure your abdominals are engaged in each exercise.
3) Losing Muscle
The whole point of changing your lifestyle to get healthier rather than lighter and weaker. If you lose weight but the weight loss is due to muscle loss, then you are going to get weaker and fatter in the long run because you will have less muscle to keep your metabolism high. You need to feed the muscle high quality protein while depleting fat stores. Your fat loss should be tracked using a fat loss scale, the way you look and the gains in strength.