I get asked a lot of questions with my job, and I love it.
A pretty common question I get is “what am I doing wrong?”
What am I eating wrong?
What should I be eating?
What diet am I not doing?
The list goes on and on, but it always has the same underlying theme that you’re doing something wrong.
Now, the answer almost always depends, but I have noticed a few common mistakes people tend to make.
So I decided to make a full blog post on the 5 biggest mistakes I see in people’s nutrition, and training to an extent. I specialize in nutrition, obviously, but the two go hand in hand so it’s important to talk about both.
Am I doing this to point out all you’re doing wrong? No, of course not. I wrote this post for the people who haven’t asked me their questions or for the people who are stuck and don’t know where to go next. Even if you have asked the question “what am I doing wrong?” you may not have gotten all of these answers so diligently laid out.
Without further ado, let’s get straight to it.
Mistake #1. Reliance on Quick Fixes
Quick fixes only work some of the time and most often only for a short amount of time. This is by far the biggest mistake I see with most people.
Unfortunately, you’re not really to blame. I was walking through the grocery store the other day and saw 4 different magazines preaching about their 21-day fix or their guaranteed way to lose 20lbs in 10 days. As I was waiting in line, I was scrolling through Instagram and a fellow nutrition coach and friend had just posted her grocery store experience looking through the magazines…literally exactly what I had been doing. I then got in my car and turned on the radio to an add selling a program to “freeze your fat for good”. To be honest, I don’t know the validity of this procedure. It could work…but only for a short amount of time. If you don’t fix the root cause of why you’re not where you want to be and why your nutrition isn’t great, then no quick fix is going to last long term because you’ll just go back to old habits.
Quick fixes don’t address the root cause. It could be food quality. It could be too much processed foods. It could be too much alcohol. It could be that you’re simply eating too much food. It could be a lack of composition to your intake (too little protein and too many carbs/fats). Doing a Whole30 challenge will get you to lose weight…but what happens at the end of your 30 days? You go back to your M-F restricted diet followed by the classic 3000 weekend binge, causing you to lose all that progress you made.
This reliance on quick fixes goes even further. Even if you finally decide to work with a good coach who promises to help you realistically reach your goals, the quick fix mentality is engrained in your mind. One month in and you haven’t lost your desired 15-20lbs and you’re ready to give up.
I had a check in from a client this week. It read “I’m frustrated to see only a couple pound difference being one month in. I’d like to start losing weight now or I’m done.”
I mean, she had lost 3 lbs in one month…and we were adding in food. She went from 1400 calories, feeling like garbage, not sleeping, moody, etc. to 2000 calories, feeling great in the gym, sleeping through the night, boosted sex drive, etc. in one month. I have some clients that achieve the same results in 4 months.
It’s because quick fixes—or the expectation we now have from any diet because of quick fixes—just get in the way.
Mistake #2. Lack of Patience
It. Takes. Time.
Simple as that. Piggy-backing off of the quick fix diet topic, real dieting and making real sustainable changes that last a lifetime take real time.
You can’t lose 20lbs in 10 days. You won’t sustain it even if you do. Your body likes homeostasis. Too much of a change and your body will fight you on it. When you lose weight, your body takes a bit longer adjusting to make that the new normal. If you drop from 200 to 150lbs, your body, at least for a bit, is going to still think your normal is 200lbs, so it will try and get you to eat more food to get you back to 200lbs. This is why you should strive for a 0.5-1% drop in weight each week. This lets your body adapt to your new normal weight and prevent it from trying to trick you into going back to your old weight. Dropping quick weight, like 20lbs in 10 days, simply just won’t last.
I see so many people, clients and non-clients alike rushing the process. One week in to the plan and they’re not even hitting their macros remotely close and I get the question “okay, when are we cutting? I’m feeling good and ready!” I love the enthusiasm, believe me, but if you can’t consistently get the same intake daily, if macros aren’t dialed in, if you’re still eating out regularly and unable to meal prep, if your sleep is terrible, energy sucks, and so on, you just need time.
We can see a delay in progress by as much as 6-8 weeks. In fact, I had a client go through an entire cut for 12-13 weeks with maybe 4-5 lbs. lost. Her biofeedback started to drop, so we pulled her out of the cut, both a little defeated, and 14 weeks AFTER starting her cut, she started dropping weight. From weeks 0-13, she went from 152 to 147. From weeks 14-18, she went from 147 to 137lbs.
Give a macro prescription at least 2-3 weeks before making adjustments. Focus on consistency and quality of your diet/training. Give a plan at least 3 months before changing it (we all know those program-hoppers out there). Check in with your stress levels and keep them as controlled as possible. Monitor other things besides your weight. Track sleep, energy, recovery, hunger, cravings, bodily fatigue, and mental motivation. If the biofeedback is good, then the weight WILL follow even if it’s more delayed.
Mistake #3. Lack of Resistance Training
If you’ve followed me for long, you may think that I hate cardio. Well, I just signed up for an Ironman 70.3 in June 2020…so I must not hate it THAT much.
The reason I seem to dislike cardio is because it is often one of the biggest mistakes I see in people’s journey to weight-loss.
You can’t build muscle without doing exercises that use those muscles and specifically target those muscles. Yes, running “uses” your legs but not in the same way that a squat or deadlift does. Squatting puts your quads through a full range of motion. Loading up on weight, adding tempo, varying the reps/sets, etc. deplete the muscle of glycogen. Through the replenishment process, an adaptation is made and the muscle grows. Same goes for the deadlift, but instead more posterior chain growth than quad growth and development. Running is an impact motion that uses said muscles but not through a full range of motion to have the same growth effect.
If you’re a CrossFitter, then make sure you’re following a good program and your gym has aa methodical training program. If you’re not a CrossFitter, I recommend either paying for a program (see below) or following a conjugate method. You’ll have two days, one upper and one lower, where you’re going a bit heavier with fewer reps then another two days, again one upper and one lower, with lower weight but higher reps.
If you’re in need of a quality training program and simply want it done for you (and also want to save some $$), follow and join one of my favorite coaches out there. He’s got an elite group which gives you access to all of his training programs and a group with any and every resource out there. I write programs, but honestly his programs are where it’s at and he’s a lot cheaper 😉
Mistake #4. Doing too Much
Sustainable weight loss is finding the minimal effective dose to get your desired result.
I see so many people coming to me weight training 5-6 days/week. They’ve got 2-3 days of cardio. They’re “rest day” is an active recovery day where they’re doing hot yoga, more cardio, etc…all while attempting a cut by cutting calories >700, and the list goes on and on and on.
If you’ve done the work to get to maintenance and are in a place to cut, create a deficit first. Start small. Start with a 10-15% deficit with a refeed once a week. Let that work first and wait for the plateau (it will happen, I promise). THEN add in another piece of the puzzle. Maybe increase time between refeeds or switch to a 10:2 or 14:3 approach. Maybe just make the deficit greater by cutting another 10-15%. Again, let that work THEN once you plateau bring in another tool. Add in 1-2 days of cardio. First add in low-intensity cardio (30 minutes twice a week). As you plateau, add in some HIIT finishers. IF you plateau, you can bring in moderate-intensity cardio. Now if you still plateau, you have a whole slew of things you can add on to.
The biggest mistake I see is that you start with everything. You start with the 20-25% deficit, 3-5 cardio sessions, 10k steps/day, and maximum time between refeeds. Well guess what? You’re still going to hit a plateau…except now where are you going to go? The only way to go is down…and you’re pretty far down there, which is going to make adherence and consistency drop dramatically.
Don’t make it harder than it has to be. If a 300-calorie deficit is working…then let it work. I had a client last on one prescription for 10 weeks. Every week, he kept asking when I’d give him some cardio or when I’d make a change. My answer: “If it ain’t broke…don’t fix it.” He was able to lose some considerable weight, and diet for longer than 12 weeks, trusting me and the process and only doing the bare minimum to get there.
Mistake #5. Disbelief in [Yourself/Program/Process]
You probably hear it all the time. “Trust the process.” Unfortunately, it’s true.
If you doubt something is going to work, guess what? It won’t work. If you are 100% committed and truly believe that what you’re doing is going to work, then it will work. There isn’t much science behind this…but it’s the truth and it’s what I see in every client.
The ones that second guess every little thing I do end up not seeing results…or it takes 2-3x longer to see the same results as someone who believes wholeheartedly that it’s going to work.
I can’t remember where I heard this comparison. It was a podcast, but it truly hits the nail on the head. Think of your wedding day. Are you walking down the aisle thinking “Ugh, this isn’t going to work. I don’t know what they’re doing. This is going to end in failure. I don’t know why I’m trying. Does my about-to-be spouse even know what they’re doing. Is that pastor even qualified? They do say divorce happens to 50% of people.” NO (at least I hope not). If you are thinking that, then likely that’s what’s going to happen.
Think of walking up to a barbell trying to PR a lift. If you’re in your head thinking “yeah this ain’t gonna happen” then you’re damn right…it’s not going to happen. However, if you’re walking up to the bar visualizing yourself lifting it and you know with 100% certainty that bar is going up, then it’s going to.
For some reason when it comes to nutrition, we just get in our heads and convince ourselves that it’s not going to work.
The clients who are successful with me are the ones that believe it’s going to work. The clients that quit 2-3 months in are, 90% of the time, the ones that doubted it every step of the way.
Trust the process, even when it seems like it isn’t working. Stay positive and upbeat about it. Reflect and journal if you need to. Get excited when you hit your macros. Celebrate wins. That’s the ultimate secret to weight loss, actually believing it will happen.
There you have it, the 5 biggest mistakes I’ve seen in my time as a nutrition coach.
If you’re making any or all of these mistakes, then apply here for coaching. A LOT of this is mental and it takes working with someone who is experienced in working with others also struggling to see real results. It also takes working with a coach who likely has been through these same mistakes before…and trust me, I have time and time again…so I get it. The way I got through it? I hired a coach to help me…and it worked. Now I’m here to pay it forward.
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.