Ten Common Fat Loss Mistakes

One - Counting Calories

Calories are not a measure of weight or fat. Calories are a measure of potential energy. If you reduce your calories it will likely result in low energy levels and fatigue rather than fat loss. In addition, any weight you do lose will be muscle and water, not fat. Losing muscle and water will lower your metabolic rate and make you more prone to weight gain at a later date. This is known as “yo-yo-ing”, you lose some weight, you gain more weight, you lose some weight again, you gain back even more weight... and on and on. Sound familiar?

Most people are not over-fat because they eat vast amounts of calories, quite the contrary, most people are over-fat because they eat the wrong kind of calories by eating foods which cause the body to store those calories into fat cells. Foods such as sugars, processed dairy, grains and soft drinks are at the root of this problem. If calories consumed were the cause of our weight problems we would expect to see calories steadily increasing as obesity levels increased. However, according to the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries & Food (MAFF), Family Food Survey (FSS), Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Food Standard Agency (FSA) and the British Heart Foundation, calories consumed have been declining since the 1970’s

If you are trying to lose weight and body fat you should pay attention to the type of calories you are consuming, not the amount.

Two - Eating 'Low Fat'

Low fat means high sugar. High sugar means fat storage. Fat storage means you get fatter and usually heavier. The idea that low fat foods are good for us is based on the outdated and incorrect idea that fat makes us fat and that we can eat whatever we like as long as it doesn’t have any fat in. This notion has led to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

Why? Because low fat foods are loaded with sugar to make them taste good and foods loaded with sugar cause obesity and diabetes. Often, with low fat foods, the good fats are removed or destroyed and sugar is loaded into the food in place of the fats.

A good example of this is skimmed and semi skimmed milk. Once again, if fat were the cause of our weight problems we would expect to see a rise in the consumption of fats as obesity increased. However, the National Food Survey 1974-2000 shows that fat consumption has declined from 51.7g per person per day in 1974 to 28.1 in 1999.

During the same period, sugar and grain consumption have risen drastically by around 45% with the average Britain now consuming 1150 calories of flour and sugar per day (Flour Advisory Board and World Health Organisation). In the same period, consumption of soft drinks has increased five fold.

If you want to get fatter and heavier, eat low-fat foods. If you don’t want fat storage and weight gain, avoid low-fat foods like the plague!

Three - Eating Grains

There are two main reasons why, despite being vehemently promoted as healthy, grains are very likely making you fat, tired and unhealthy.

Grains break down into sugars very quickly and illicit the same kind of insulin response (the fat storage hormone) as sugar. The difference is that most people consume grains in a far higher volume than they consume sugar. You may well only sprinkle a small amount of sugar on your cereal but your cereal already contains around 40% sugar, on average, and the other 60% or so breaks down into sugar very rapidly, so you are essentially eating a big bowl of sugar, with a little sugar sprinkled on top.

This is also true for other grain based foods. Especially those made with refined grains such as bread, pasta and flour based products. Grains equals sugar and sugar equals fat.

In the last 10 years, our understanding of grain related auto immune dysfunction has increased dramatically. Grains, and the proteins they contain such as gliadin, avenin and wheat germ agglutinin, have a profound and detrimental effect on our immune systems, causing inflammation of the gut (bloating), IBS, chronic fatigue, skin rashes, fibromyalgia, leaky gut and a whole host of other ailments.

There are now over 200 different ailments linked to grain consumption, all of which add up to inflammation and stress. Grains equal stress and stress equals fat.

“Grains are the root of all evil” Mike Boyle, Strength Coach

Four - Drinking 'Diet' Soft Drinks

In studies, mostly conducted by soft drinks companies themselves, the consumption of artificial sweeteners led to an increase in cravings for, and subsequent consumption of, sugary foods, resulting in an overall increase in fat storage and weight gain.

When you consume sweeteners the brain tastes sugar and expects sugar but it does not get sugar so to fulfil that expectation it starts craving, and you start eating, even more sugary foods, resulting in increased fat storage.

Low calorie sodas also contain phosphoric acid which causes leaching of iodine. Iodine is needed for healthy thyroid function. The thyroid regulates metabolism so if iodine is leached from the thyroid, your metabolism can slow down dramatically. As a result the body’s ability to burn fat is reduced, whilst fat storage is increased.

A final consideration with diet soda’s is what psychologists call “risk homeostasis”. This refers to the natural tendency of humans to offset the “savings” of certain risk reductions, say drinking low calorie soda instead of regular soda, by incurring greater risks elsewhere, say by eating a piece of cake with their coffee or an extra glass of wine at dinner, as if by drinking diet soft drinks they have somehow “earned” that extra treat.

The net result is usually more fat storage rather than less.

Five - Doing Aerobic Exercise

Whilst aerobic exercise has some benefits for certain populations, the notion that aerobic exercise, such as long distance endurance training, is a good way to lose fat is based almost entirely on the fundamentally flawed “calorie in - calorie out“ theory. In reality, aerobic exercise presents far more problems than it solves.

Aerobic exercise raises cortisol and causes the release of catabolic hormones which break down muscle and increase fat storage. With aerobic exercise, unlike strength training, there is no release of anabolic hormones which reduce those negative effects of inflammation and encourage the body to grow lean muscle and reduce fat storage.

Aerobic exercise leads to chronic inflammation which is linked to tissue damage, fat gain, heart disease, insulin resistance, diabetes, cancer, asthma, arthritis and a host of serious ailments.

The high levels of oxygen intake associated with aerobic exercise leads to increased free radicals which attack the body at a cellular level, causing inflammation and tissue damage.

The higher the levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, the more likely it is that the body will store fat. Long term aerobic exercise effects gastric function by slowing peristalsis (movement of food through the gut). For the body to absorb and utilise nutrients efficiently so they are used for beneficial growth and development, the gastric system must function correctly.

If nutrients are not absorbed efficiently it can lead to bloating, inflammation, weakened immune system, fat storage and weight gain.

Six - Weighing Yourself

When people talk about weight loss, what they are really talking about is fat loss. If you are over weight it is very likely that the excess weight is fat and so it is fat which you need to lose, not weight. Because body composition is the important factor, not weight alone, weighing yourself to determine how well you are doing with your fat loss plan is at best useless and at worst extremely harmful to your efforts. I cannot tell you how many clients we have seen working hard, sticking to a great plan, becoming healthier and more energetic every day, only to have the whole thing ruined by standing on the scales and inferring failure because the numbers didn’t show what they hoped for.

The key to fat loss is to target health, not weight. If you are getting to bed on time, sleeping better, eating good amounts of fresh, natural foods, drinking lots of good quality water, reducing stress levels, enjoying your work and the company of your friends and family, feeling happier and more energised, your body will start shedding fat and you will look and feel better.

The healthier you are, the less inclined your body is to hold onto fat. So throw out the bathroom scales, work to make yourself healthier, rather than working to lose weight, and you will achieve that lean, healthy look you are working so hard for, without all the stress!

Seven - Drinking Fruit Juice

Whilst freshly squeezed fruit juice can be a good source of vitamins and other nutrients, it’s also very high in fructose. A half pint glass of orange juice has about eight full teaspoons of sugar, 50 percent of which is fructose. That’s almost as much as a can of most soft-drinks, which contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Many people assume that fructose is a good sugar because it is found in fruit and, to a certain extent, that may be true when it comes in its natural form, with the whole fruit including the fibre and natural nutrients which slows down the absorption of that sugar. However, consumption of fructose has been identified as one of the primary culprits in the rise of obesity and diabetes.

It has also been shown to cause a whole host of other health problems such as hormonal imbalances (which increase hunger), increases in abdominal fat, detrimental effects on cholesterol/triglyceride levels, elevated blood sugar levels, high blood pressure and, over time, the metabolism of fructose leads to insulin resistance and increased fat storage.

Add to this the fact that many of the nutrients in store bought “fresh” fruit juices are lost to pasteurisation and deaeration (removal of oxygen), coupled with the addition of chemicals, such as ethyl butyrate, used to give the juice flavour and fragrance, and the product you happily include as part of your fat loss breakfast could actually be making you fatter by the day.

Eight - Skipping Meals

Intermittent fasting, or not eating for an entire day, may have some benefits for some people but, in general, skipping meals is not a good idea if you are trying to lose body fat.

There are two main reasons for this. A key factors in fat loss is managing blood sugar levels. If blood sugar levels are too high, say after a bowl of cereal or can of soda, insulin is released and you start storing calories as fat, you get fatter. If blood sugar levels are too low, as when you don’t eat, energy levels drop, you become tired and irritable, your body breaks down muscle into sugars, you get sugar cravings and you reach for the most sugary snack you can find. Now a flood of sugar hits the blood stream, insulin is released, calories are stored as fat, you get fatter and in addition you have also lost some muscle - great!

Skipping meals also means skipping nutrients. Nutrient deficiency is a leading factor in the rise of obesity. In the West we think of “food” as being abundant so we never consider that we could be nutrient deficient but there is a big difference between foods that just contain calories and foods that are dense with nutrients.

Green vegetables, grass fed beef or salmon are foods dense with nutrients. A box of cereal, loaf of bread or a pint of pasteurised, skimmed milk are all foods which are very low in nutrients and amount to little more than sugar and calories. When you consume low nutrient foods, the body cannot make the enzymes or hormones needed to build muscle, bone, nerves or energy and it starts to fight for survival. Stage one of survival mode is fat storage!

Nine - Believing Media Hype

You cannot turn on the TV or open a newspaper these days without being told of how this pill or that food has been “scientifically proven” to make us healthier, happier and even more popular.

Actors in white coats and glasses tap earnestly on computer screens whilst graphs flow across our screens, “proving” in ways we can’t possibly understand, that science has confirmed the health benefits of each product.

Advertisements for all kinds of processed foods claim to be “clinically proven” to improve our health and, worse still, news readers and TV doctors join us in the morning to attest to the latest study which has confirmed the benefits of some medication which we should all be taking for health problems we didn’t know we had. No doubt about it, science sells.

The problem is that many of these studies are, scientifically speaking, total garbage. The study groups used are extremely small, the studies are not randomised, double blind or ward controlled. They are often observational studies showing correlations rather than causality, and large corporations hire marketing people to present results favourably and use unsuspecting news presenters to announce results to an equally unsuspecting public.

As an example, the Jupiter Study, we were told by BBC’s Dr. Rosemary, proved statin drugs afforded us a 44% benefit in primary prevention against coronary heart disease. Some time later the findings of that study were called into serious question and found to be riddled with inconsistencies, but not until millions of people, doctors included, had been convinced by the media that statins should be handed out like smarties to people who, very likely, did not need them.

In his insightful and thought provoking books Bad Pharma and Bad Science, Ben Goldacre casts a bright light on the shadowy and often unbelievably immoral world of health studies and the media that reports them. If you want to arm yourself against the onslaught of deception and idiocy of media hype I would urge you to read these books.

Ten - Stressing Out

Stress causes the release of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is normally released in a specific rhythm throughout the day. It should be high in the mornings when you wake up (this is what helps you get out of bed and start your day), and gradually taper off throughout the day (so you feel tired at bedtime and can fall asleep).

The release of cortisol as a reaction to stress should be a good thing, helping to reduce inflammation and preparing us for fight or flight situations, however, modern society places us in situations of prolonged, chronic stress which may people encounter from sun up to sun down. Poor sleep, waking up tired, caffeine shots, sugary foods, road rage, more coffee, more sugary foods, stressful jobs, stressful relationships, more road rage, smoking alcohol, electrical equipment, late nights and on and on and on....

Recent research shows that chronic stress wreaks tremendous havoc on your body. Among other things, focusing just on the fat effects, chronic stress will:

- Raise your blood sugar - which will cause fat storage.

- Make your gut leaky - which can cause fat storage.

- Make you hungry and crave sugar - which can cause fat storage.

- Reduce your ability to burn fat - which means fat storage.

- Suppress your HPA-axis, which will cause hormonal imbalances - which can cause fat storage.

- Reduce your DHEA, testosterone, growth hormone and TSH levels - fat storage!

- Increase your belly fat and make your liver fatty - fat storage!

- Contributes to cardiovascular disease - fat storage, obesity, diabetes and death! Fat storage - fat storage - fat storage.