Of all the people who are struggling to lose fat or to prevent gaining fat, the vast majority are doing so because they’re falling into one or more common nutrition pitfalls.
Diet is an extremely powerful factor that affects your body weight and composition, so any mistakes made in this area will tend to have a very negative impact on your results. As the saying goes, “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet”.
Detailed below are 9 very common nutrition pitfalls that you should be aware of. Avoid these at all costs if your goal is to lose body fat
1. Having affairs with your diet rather than a serious relationship
There’s an old saying that it’s what you do consistently that matters, not what you do once in a while. Too many people have an on-again, off-again relationships with their diet, rather than a consistent, serious and committed one.
That’s a big problem, and it’s one of the most common nutrition pitfalls there is.
Following a good eating plan for a short while, then straying for some time, starting again, then quitting once more, and so on, and so on, is no way to get results.
Think of your relationship with your diet as being similar to a personal relationship. If you don’t take it seriously, if you’re not 100% committed, if you’re not in it for the long haul, it just isn’t going to lead anywhere.
Except disappointment and frustration.
If you’re not able to stay committed to your diet and you continually fall off the wagon, think about why that might be. Perhaps it’s too strict and therefore too hard to stick to.
All good nutrition plans have rules that you have to abide by, after all, you can’t expect to eat all the fatty fast food you want and still lose fat. But they need to be realistic as well. You’re not a machine. A good nutrition plan will therefore focus on good health and fat loss, but your mental state as well. Psychology is always a very important consideration.
Even the best plan in the world is useless if you can’t stick to it. The key to success is to follow an effective eating plan, but one that’s sustainable long-term as well. If you can’t see yourself on your current diet three months and one year from now, then perhaps some changes are in order.
Find yourself a good, sustainable nutrition plan, then stick to it. Remember, consistency is the key.
2. Fearing carbs as imaginary villains
Without a doubt, the biggest imaginary villain of the dietary world has traditionally been the carb. For whatever reason, people have suffered from a widespread belief that carbs should be avoided if someone wants to lose weight, or avoid gaining weight.
Whenever someone has a problem with their weight, carbs are automatically implicated.
These beliefs are seriously flawed however. Just like fats and proteins, your body needs carbohydrates. It won’t work well without them. And just like fats and proteins, if you overeat carbohydrates, you will gain weight.
From that perspective, they’re not any different.
There is one thing that carbs have against them however that makes them more dangerous, though it’s no fault of their own. And that is, their availability.
Take a look around at all the snack foods and junk foods that are available. You’ll find that the vast majority are loaded with carbs, most often in the form of processed sugars. Some examples? How about biscuits, cakes and pastries, sweets, chocolate, chips, flavored milks, non-natural juices, so-called health bars, most processed breakfast cereals, and so on.
While it’s very true to say that carbohydrates are the major culprit behind the current obesity epidemic, you can’t conclude that avoiding carbohydrates will prevent obesity or weight gain, or promote weight loss.
Depriving yourself of carbohydrates is a nutrition pitfall that so many individuals fall for due to misinformation.
First of all, it’s not fair to group healthy, natural carbs with many of their nutritionally-devoid processed counterparts. And secondly, the only reason behind the influence of carbs on obesity in our society is simply because we’re consuming far too many of them, particularly unhealthy, processed ones.
While some individuals are sensitive to carbohydrates and therefore will benefit from a reduction in carb intake, it doesn’t mean everyone should reduce their intake.
You don’t need to avoid carbohydrates for a healthy weight loss diet, and they’re most certainly not villains.
3. Following popular trends
Following popular trends in nutrition is a major source of frustration, confusion and impediment to progress for many people.
Think about why it is that trends actually develop in the first place.
Here’s a hint . . . it’s not because the trending product, program, idea, or whatever, actually works. If that were the reason, we wouldn’t be in the middle of an obesity epidemic right now.
In fact, almost all of them actually don’t work.
Popular trends are one of the biggest nutrition pitfalls out there, and they actually form thanks to powerful marketing and promotion. That’s it.
Take a close look at some of the recent trends and you begin to see just how widespread and influential they can become. Many are household names. For example, detoxing, colon cleansing, Acai berries, the Paleo Diet, gluten-free foods, the Dukan Diet, the Raw Food Diet, and so on.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone with even a passing interest in health, fitness or nutrition who isn’t familiar with most of these.
The problem with paying attention to these trends is that, first of all, as I said, they’re usually rubbish. They’re based more on good marketing than good science. But the other thing is that they distract you from your path. By constantly hopping from one bandwagon to another your consistency goes right out the window.
And as I said in the first point, without consistency you’ll get nowhere.
Of course, this is precisely what the creators of these trends want. They’re not interested in your wellbeing, just your attention.
Don’t give it to them. Keep your focus on your own path and your eye on the prize.
4. Treating food like the enemy
Hating food for what it represents is a nutrition pitfall that originates with a psychological issue, so it needs to be taken seriously. This is where eating disorders can begin.
Food is fuel for your body. It’s not the enemy.
Without adequate nutrition, your body would cease to function. And with poor nutrition, it would cease to function well.
Just like practically everything in life that’s good, however, food can be abused. And that’s where the trouble starts.
To begin with, some foods are better for you than others. Sugary foods, for example, come with many calories and very little nutritional content.
Saturated fats for a great many years were considered to be extremely unhealthy, and contributors to a number of serious medical conditions. It wasn’t until more recently that evidence emerged challenging those long-held beliefs. Nevertheless, like all fats they’re very calorie dense and therefore need to be consumed in moderation.
So it’s far more accurate to say that our choices regarding food are the enemy, not the food itself.
Like any fine-tuned machine, there’s a “sweet spot” for our body when it comes to food where it operates best. Consume too much and you become overweight, sluggish and miserable. Consume too little and the results can be just as detrimental, if not more so.
Quality, of course, is also important.
Truth be told, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional so-called “bad” food, as long as it’s in moderation. And on the other side of the coin, just because a food is a so-called “good” food, it doesn’t mean you can have as much as you want.
You absolutely can become overweight on good, healthy, natural foods. There is such thing as too much of a good thing. Even water, when over-consumed, is toxic to your body.
It’s all about good choices, therefore. If you’re overweight, food didn’t make you that way, your choices did.
Food is not the enemy. It’s not evil, and it should not be avoided.
5. Misunderstanding hunger
It’s very common for people promoting healthy eating and weight loss programs to advise you that you should never go hungry. That when you’re hungry, you should eat.
This is very politically-correct advice however – it’s something that people want to hear. And there’s a problem with it. Because it’s this very mindset that leads a great many people to gaining weight in the first place.
Just as thirst isn’t a reliable indicator of when you should be drinking water, hunger isn’t a reliable indicator of when you should be eating, so this is one of those hidden nutrition pitfalls.
So, am I suggesting you should be starving yourself?
Of course not.
The problem is, there are two types of hunger. The first is real, physical hunger. It comes from not having eaten enough, and it’s your body signaling to you that you need some energy. This signal shouldn’t be ignored, or you would indeed be starving yourself.
The second type of hunger is a psychological one, which develops as a result of your eating habits. Accustom yourself to eating fast food, and chances are you’ll feel hungry as you walk by a McDonalds.
When I was a teenager, I went through a long period where I would never have breakfast (I know, I know, I’m terrible!). I simply wouldn’t feel hungry until lunch time, and that’s when I would have my first meal of the day.
Then one day I decided that I would start having breakfast, because it was the healthy thing to do and I didn’t want to be an outcast of society anymore (kidding!). In the beginning, I would virtually be forcing myself to eat. But after just a few weeks I was actually waking up hungry and eager to have breakfast.
Well, my eating habits simply changed. My brain was anticipating the new meal time and so it was sending signals that it was time to eat breakfast.
Now, imagine someone who has developed the habit of snacking five or six times a day in between meals. Imagine how many destructive hunger signals their brain would be sending them.
Imagine someone who developed the habit of eating so much at each sitting that they would virtually be feeling sick at the end of each meal. When they reach the point of having had a normal meal, they would still be feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
Feelings of hunger, therefore, can be very deceptive and misleading.
This is where some methodology for measuring your food intake, be it calorie counting or simply estimating sensible portion sizes, can be invaluable.
6. Listening to marketing and bro-science
I was in the hairdresser’s a few weeks ago and had the misfortune of having to listen to a lecture the hairdresser alongside mine was giving to his customer about nutrition.
The first statement that caught my attention was, “Did you know that if you eat too much protein, it turns into fat, bro?” He then went on into detail about how carbs are absorbed by the body before and after each workout.
I kind of switched off after the protein comment, but pretty much every other snippet I did manage to hear was equally nonsensical.
Unfortunately, not everyone who dishes out poor nutrition advice is as considerate as the hairdresser by also concluding each of their sentences with the word, bro. So often times, you don’t actually know it when you’re listening to bro-science. And to makes things even more difficult, it can quite often sound like it makes some sense.
It’s also not uncommon for more than one person to give you the same piece of advice, and for them all to be regurgitating bro-science rubbish. That’s because myths and bro-science have a tendency to spread like wildfire for some reason.
That’s why, of all the nutrition pitfalls, this one of the most influential in terms of the number of people it affects.
The only real way to avoid falling for bro-science is to choose very carefully who you listen to for information and advice. Do your research, and be selective.
And it should go without saying never to rely on marketing for your information. Several months ago I was debating someone online about a topic of nutrition, and each time I asked him for evidence to support his statements, he posted links to websites that were actually selling some product.
Amazingly, these same people will often declare that they don’t believe in scientific studies because “they can’t be trusted”. Go figure.
One of the most important things you can learn in health and nutrition is who you can rely on. Take the time to do your research and find your own trustworthy sources. Otherwise be prepared for frustration and disappointment.
7. Becoming obsessed
I talked earlier about the fact that you can have too much of a good thing. Well, this applies to your entire diet plan as well.
Even so, a good number of people would find it hard to consider this a nutrition pitfall.
It’s all well and good having a disciplined lifestyle of wholesome, healthy nutrition. But it can be carried too far, to the point where it starts to have a negative impact on other areas of your life. Some time back, for example, I heard about a case where a woman brought her pre-prepared meal in a Tupperware container to a wedding reception.
That’s pretty extreme.
The truth is though, it’s not always easy to determine the point at which a healthy obsession becomes unhealthy. This is particularly so when you’re surrounded by people who have no interest in health and nutrition, and who won’t hesitate to call you obsessed when you refuse an alcoholic drink or order a salad.
At the end of the day, it’s up to each individual to decide what they’re prepared to accept as far as making sacrifices for their good health. When the sacrifices you’re making are substantial however, or when credible people around you are expressing their concerns about you, it’s always wise to take some time out to think about your choices objectively, and whether they’re serving you as well as they could be.
Obsessions lead to poor, sometimes dangerous choices. They also lead to extreme practices. Neither of these things are sustainable for the long-term, and as I mentioned in a previous point, sustainability is a vital ingredient for success.
8. Letting your “cheats” get out of hand
Cheat meals are a common fixture in many people’s diet plans. Basically, they’re allocated meals whereby someone can eat whatever they choose, so that they’re able to continue enjoying some of their favorite treats now and again.
Psychologically, they’re a pretty good idea since they prevent the feeling of being totally deprived. As long as they don’t get out of hand, that is.
Unfortunately, for too many people they become nutrition pitfalls.
Cheat meals shouldn’t be allowed to turn into an uncontrolled, total free-for-all. Worse still, they shouldn’t be allowed to turn into cheat days. Alarmingly, a number of people actually program cheat days for themselves with no limitations.
It’s very easy to underestimate how much damage a cheat can do. An entire cheat day can very easily wipe out an entire week’s progress, and then some. An uncontrolled cheat meal or two each week can also put quite a serious dent in your progress.
When you consider how difficult progress with fat loss is to achieve, you need to think closely whether they really are a good idea.
Ideally, cheat meals should be controlled in terms of their size to be as effective as possible. This will prevent excessive calorie intake and reinforcement of poor eating habits.
9. Allowing food to control you
Regardless of what foods you choose to include in your diet plan, it’s vital that you remain in charge as far as food choices and the amount of food you eat.
Most people concern themselves only with the immediate issue of calories, not realizing that it’s their mind where the real nutrition pitfalls lie.
Acting impulsively, for example, eating foods that you suddenly crave, or impulsively adding extra portions to a planned meal, is a sure sign that food is in control, not you. Or at very least, that it’s partially in control.
For many people, this is a normal state of affairs. But for someone on a disciplined eating plan, it’s something that needs to be overcome to create a sustainable healthy lifestyle.
In the beginning, this takes discipline. But as time goes by you should be able to assume full control over your eating as your bad eating habits are replaced by healthier ones.
Which of these nutrition pitfalls do you currently find yourself falling into, or did you fall into in the past? Are there any others that are or were affecting you?
Please let me know in the comments below . . .