Stop focusing on calories and fad diets and start eating properly by focusing on whole foods and eliminating processed, packaged foods.
- Jourdan Brown
1. You use the scale religiously
How many people rely on the scale to determine how they look, feel, and view their success? In the fitness world, the scale is held up on a pedestal. We measure our success in pounds. How many pounds have I lost? How many pounds do I still want to lose? The scale can dictate our mood, how we feel about ourselves, and even how we view ourselves in the mirror. Here’s the problem, there is so much more than a number on the scale. Instead of weighing yourself, you should be tracking your success by using body composition measurements.
I measure all my clients (and myself) with the Inbody scanner, my personal favorite body composition measurement. It provides an in-depth look at your body fat, muscle mass, as well as many other quantitative body measurements. Below are the results of two clients I recently scanned:
Weight: 120 lbs
Body Fat: 18.2%
Muscle Mass: Above average
Weight: 120 lbs
Body Fat: 32.6%
Muscle Mass: Below average
Both women weigh the same but have completely different body compositions. Female 1 is lean, with good muscle and ab definition. Female 2 is thin but lacks any muscular definition and carries excess body fat, especially through the abdominal region. With proper training and diet, Female 2 will most likely see an increase in her weight to obtain her ideal body composition. Take-away: Ditch the scale, stop viewing yourself and your success as a number, and schedule an appointment to start measuring your body composition.
2. You restrict calories
I would say the majority of people trying to lose weight have tried calorie restriction at one point or another. It seems like a no-brainer: eat less, and lose weight. Initially, calorie restriction will work if you’re just looking for results on the scale. But remember what we just chatted about?? Long term calorie restriction (1200 calories and less) ultimately results in a lower number on the scale because of muscle loss. On a calorie-restrictive diet, the body will eventually metabolize muscle for energy. Calorie restriction causes a slowdown in metabolic rate, decreased muscle mass, nutrient deficiency, decreased exercise results, and in extreme cases decreased cognitive function. Take-away: Calorie restriction will never lead to ideal body composition. When your body is hungry, it is requiring fuel. By depriving it, you are only hurting yourself. Honor your body’s hunger cues and fuel your body properly, and you will optimize body composition.
3. You eat lots of packaged foods
Here is my number one secret above all, get rid of processed, packaged foods and eat from the earth. Stop reaching for protein bars and other packaged foods that are loaded with unnecessary sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other undesirable ingredients, and start eating whole foods. You can simplify diet into a few things, starting with vegetables, which should be where the abundance of your diet is derived from. The more, the better! Eat them raw, steamed, roasted, or grilled. Strive for variety, color, and seasonal. (tip: any foods with seeds are not vegetables). Protein, ideally organic, pasture-raised, and grass-fed. Try to consume as much variety as possible – fish, fowl, eggs, and red meat. Fruit, berries, apples, mangos, bananas, etc. Fruit should be consumed in moderation but not avoided. Healthy fats, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, 80% or higher dark chocolate. Try eating like this for two weeks. Pay special attention to how you feel throughout the two weeks and at the end. I will guarantee you will feel more energy, better digestion, less bloat, and leaner. Take-away: Make it a lifestyle. Stop focusing on calories and fad diets, and start eating properly by focusing on whole foods and eliminating processed, packaged foods.
4. You don’t drink enough water
Our bodies are made up of about 60% water (fun fact: the Inbody scanner will give you your actual percentage of water in your body). Water is essential to survival. It helps to maintain balanced body fluids throughout the entire body, helps to energize muscles, and keeps skin looking good. Consuming water throughout the day also helps to control hunger cues. I recommend consuming 3-4 liters of water a day, including decaffeinated teas and sparkling water. Try adding lemon, cucumber, or mint to keep it interesting. Take-away: Water is essential to a healthy body. Keep water with you at all times as a reminder to consume water throughout the day.
5. You don’t take any rest days
Last but certainly not least, rest days. According to health guru Mark Sisson, over-exercising, or what he calls “chronic cardio” actually destroys the body. “The popular wisdom of the past 40 years – that we would all be better off doing 45 minutes to an hour a day of intense aerobic activity – has created a generation of overtrained, underfit, immune-compromised exerholics.” (Mark Sisson) Over-exercising, especially at high heart rates, causes chronic inflammation throughout the body and oxidative stress from the production of free radicals. It also causes increased cortisol levels, which ultimately cause the body to store fat. All these factors lead to injury, decreased athletic performance/recovery, elevated resting heart rate, weight gain, and decreased immune function. Takeaway: When it comes to exercise, more is not better. To optimize your body function and burn fat, your approach should be to exercise for short, effective periods and to leave plenty of time for recovery. Below is an example of a workout split to optimize body composition.
Monday – Sprint intervals
Tuesday – Weight training
Wednesday – Active recovery, e.g., a long walk, yoga, kayak, paddleboard, leisurely bike ride
Thursday – HIIT training
Friday – Active recovery, e.g., a long walk, yoga, kayak, paddleboard, leisurely bike ride
Saturday – Weight training
Sunday – Active recovery, e.g., a long walk, yoga, kayak, paddleboard, leisurely bike ride
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