What the hell? You’ve been dieting for a while now, and the results are lackluster at best. Why isn’t the weight coming off? Why are your abs still just a blurry suggestion of abs in the bedroom mirror at 6:00 p.m. when the light is hitting you just right, like that Egyptian tomb scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”? You think you’re doing everything right, but I’m here to be the dick that tells you no, you’re not. I have compiled seven very common blunders that prevent people from losing body fat. You are doing at least one of these, or maybe even all seven. Take a look and see what needs to be fixed, and you will be well on your way to a ripped-up, alpha physique!
- You’re Eating Too Much
Too much of a good thing is bad, and that even applies to the cleanest diet foods. Losing fat is a simple mathematical equation of calories in versus calories out. If you are taking in more calories than you expend, you won’t burn off the fat you want to. People often either don’t realize this basic fat or else choose to ignore it. It’s normal and sadly, usually necessary to experience hunger when you’re dieting. Unless you have the world’s fastest metabolism, you shouldn’t be eating until you feel extremely full, even if it’s in the form of plain white fish and rice as opposed to Taco Bell Burrito Supremes. Yet many men and women who are ostensibly dieting with the goal of getting much leaner will continue to eat larger portion sizes than they should be. How much should you be eating per meal, and how many calories per day? No one can answer that question for you, which is why you will need to track your meals and calories. In the Stone Age before we all had smartphones, you had to log all that in a notebook and do the math yourself. Now you have no excuse not to track your nutrition, as you have a choice of many hundreds of apps for your phone, or online programs if you prefer using your laptop or desktop computer. If you’re not losing weight, you need to eat less than you are now. Again, it doesn’t even matter that you might be totally strict and eating perfectly clean. Too many calories are too many calories!
- You’re on the Fence – Pick a Side!
What happens if you decide to travel east and west at the same time? You don’t move, because it’s not possible. One of the most common obstacles to losing fat is the inability to fully commit to the task. And the reason so many guys— and it’s mainly males that do this— can’t commit is because they can’t wrap their heads around not trying to gain muscle mass, even for a limited time period like 10 to 12 weeks. It’s that inability to throw the necessary mental switch that also prevents many physique competitors from getting in shape for contests. They want to get ripped for the show, but they also want to get bigger overall or at least bring up this or that lagging body part by the time they hit the stage. Instead of cutting back the carbs and calories the way they should, and doing as much cardio as needed, they keep eating to gain and shirk on the cardio because “it will hurt my gains.” Get it through your thick skulls that dieting is not a time for muscle growth, and realize that this is not only OK, but it’s the way it must be. Focus on losing fat and do what needs to be done. You had plenty of time leading up to this to try and gain muscle, and after you’ve reached your goal and lowered your body fat to the point you desire, there will be ample time to strive for gains again once you’ve stayed lean as long as you wanted to. In the meantime, forget about trying to walk on both sides of the road. Pick a side, and in this case, choose to concentrate on dropping weight and body fat. Unless you cut your calories too drastically or go psycho and start doing hours of cardio every day, you will maintain your existing muscle mass. The real bonus is that with substantial amounts of fat stripped away, your muscles will appear to be larger than they were with all that fluff covering them.
- It Kills You to Lose Weight on the Scale
I am the poster boy for this one, probably because I started this journey back in 1983 at a scrawny 95 pounds. That’s right, I wasn’t even heavy enough to be a 98-pound weakling. If you also started off as a little guy, you probably also took immense joy in watching your bodyweight on the scale creep ever upward as the years of dedicated training and eating went by. If you were even close to being a hardgainer, you became not only proud of how much you weighed, but also very protective of that number. You did not want to see it go down any more than a stockholder wants to see the price of his shares go down. You worked much too long and hard to put that weight on to part with even one precious pound. Let’s say you started your diet off at 240 pounds. A few weeks into it, you might be down to 225. For many of us, panic starts to set in. Once we hit 220 or under, the real mind games commence. Oh no, I’m shrinking! I’m wasting away to nothing! Going back to the typical scenarios I’ve both experienced and witnessed related to competitive bodybuilders, many fail to get in shape because they had a weight in mind when they started the diet that they believed was their target weight. For example, plenty of guys have started dieting at about 250 pounds and assumed they would be at the very top of the heavyweight class, which is 225¼ pounds. Many times, they underestimated how much fat they were actually carrying, They get down to something like 225-227 and decide they’re in shape, even though anyone with an experienced and critical eye for physiques would tell them they still had at least 12-15 more pounds to lose to be in very good condition. Believe me when I say I know how difficult it is to be lighter than you are comfortable with. With all my diets, I never wanted to lose weight, only fat. Obviously, this was an insane way to think about the process, because unless you somehow gain muscle (very rare), you will have to accept that you will lose weight and be lighter on the scale. Rationally you understand this is irrefutable, but that skinny kid inside many of us isn’t operating on logic. You’ll just have to drown out his shrieks of protest every time you step on the scale, and instead focus on those cuts and veins making their way to the surface day by day.
- You Refuse to Do Cardio
I can honestly say that when I started lifting weights at home or at my buddy’s house in 1983, I had never even heard the word “cardio.” Most of us got into training and bodybuilding as teens or young men, and the basic goal was to get bigger and stronger. We wanted to pump iron and get swole. We didn’t sign on to walk on treadmills like hamsters on a wheel or climb revolving stairways to nowhere. Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but being ripped was not on my agenda in those foundation years. I was too busy doing everything I could to lift more weight and put more bodyweight on, not even being overly concerned for a long span whether it was muscle or fat. Eventually, we all come to a point where we do want to see some serious definition, and the cardio monster rears its ugly head. Faced with the prospect of doing boring, repetitious, time-consuming cardio, many professional physique athletes will attempt to rationalize their way out of it. I can just rely on my diet! They might even cite one of those rare genetic freaks who managed to display striations on top of striations without doing a lick of cardio). Sorry to break it to those guys, but you were not born with that one-in-a-million blast furnace metabolism. Diet is only going to take you so far on your quest for cuts. Eventually your metabolism will grind to a halt after a prolonged period of lowered calories. That’s your body’s clever survival mechanism kicking in— it doesn’t want to die! To keep things moving, you will need to do at least some cardio. You might be one of the lucky ones who can get by with no more than three 20- to 30-minute sessions per week, or you may have to suck it up and do 45 minutes every damn day. You all have Beats headphones and Pandora on your phones for tunes that get you moving.
- You Feel Entitled to Cheat Meals
Sorry to keep harping on the good old days, but it really wasn’t that long ago that the term “cheat meal” didn’t even exist. Cheat meal? When you’re on a diet? Sounds like you just caved in and blew your diet to me! As more and more people got into fitness and particularly the competitive side of it, the coaching industry grew exponentially. Most competitors in the old days had strong athletic backgrounds in sports like football or wrestling. They were used to working hard, being uncomfortable, and in the case of my sport in high school, wrestling, even starving and dehydrating to make weight. It wasn’t until this new crop came along that we saw people who wanted to look great and get all the attention and accolades that come along with an ultra-lean body, but they didn’t want to put the work in and they certainly didn’t want to suffer one bit, ever. Coaches took advantage of their laziness and proffered a slew of fat-burning drugs like clenbuterol, T4, and even DNP to take some of the effort out of dieting. They also endeared themselves to their prep clients by rewarding them for a week of strict dieting with all-out food binges called cheat meals. I’ve known more than a few of this new generation of competitors who base their selection on which coach to hire on whether they are known to give clients cheat meals, and how often! Before you rip me a new hole, I do understand that refeeds (a meal or several meals with larger portions of clean food) and cheat meals can serve a real purpose to kickstart the metabolism after long phases of very low calories. But like any tool, it can be used, and it can also be abused. Cheat meals should be employed only if and when they are needed to keep the fat-loss process moving forward. Simply having a scheduled cheat meal every week or even more often as a reward for sticking to your diet constitutes abuse of the tactic and makes you a lazy fuck with no discipline in my book.
- You’re Cheating on Your Diet Without Even Realizing It
Any of you who have at least an intermediate level of nutrition knowledge have been through this scenario a hundred times, more often when you happen to be in leaner condition. A family member, friend or some random guy or girl at the gym or a kid’s birthday party will hit you up for weight-loss advice. They assure you “they eat good,” and they truly believe it. Once you have them run you through a typical day of their eating, you’re horrified at how shitty their nutrition really is. They do things like skip breakfast, eat carbs by themselves, and eat fast-food and deli meats thinking they’re making a healthy choice because Jared from Subway told them to. They often go all day without eating much and then gorge themselves into a food coma every night before passing out. But even some of you might be making mistakes in your food choices that sabotage your fat-loss efforts. Do you eat white bread? Do you eat things like breaded chicken or fish? Do you drown your salads in ranch dressing, or your meats in heavy condiments? Do you drink fruit juice? Do you drink alcohol on a regular basis? How about those delicious flavored coffers and lattés from Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks? All these things and more will compromise the results of your diet. You need to educate yourself on what clean eating really is. A dozen Chicken McNuggets from McDonald’s and a chicken breast might contain the same amount of protein, but one has a ton of fat and salt that will keep you further and further away from a clear six-pack and veins on your quads.
- You’re Procrastinating
I doubt many people are as proficient at the art of procrastination as writers, but plenty of guys and girls are champs at putting off the launch of a diet. It’s almost a cliché to see someone stuffing his or her face with pizza or desserts on a weekend as they let you know that their diet begins on Monday. In many cases, that Monday changes to the next Monday, or the first of the next month, or the day after some event they plan on chowing down at like a wedding, a company picnic, or some food-based holiday like Thanksgiving. More and more time goes by, and there always seems to be something on the horizon where they fear they would be missing out on a lavish spread of delicious grub if they were already on a diet. I get it. I wouldn’t want to be eating grilled chicken breast and rice out of a plastic container while everyone around me was inhaling a deluxe seven-course meal topped off with desserts so sumptuous they should be on one of those Food Network baking championship shows. But you all know it’s impossible to get where you want to go if you don’t take the first step. Putting off your diet over and over again increases the odds that you’ll never start, and thus you won’t ever get lean. Accept the reality that to lose body fat and show some sweet muscle definition, you will have to pass up a lot of the foods that put that fat on your body in the first place. You will be around people who are eating things like cheeseburgers and fries, pizza, cake and doughnuts, and you won’t be able to scarf those items down unless you choose to give up your diet. If dieting and eating super clean were easy, 74 percent of men and 60 percent of women in the United States would not be overweight or obese. The hardest part is taking that first step. It won’t be easy to stay on a diet, don’t get me wrong, but more people than we will ever know never even start. Stop putting it off already!