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Five Reasons People Fail in Achieving Their Fat-Loss Goals, by Mike Mahler

Posted Oct 29 2009 11:00pm
Every January, millions of people make New Year's resolutions to lose fat and get healthier. They start off with extreme enthusiasm, telling themselves this is the year they'll finish what they start; this is the year they'll finally divorce that unwanted fat that's been their companion these lo, too many, years. This is the year they'll get healthy, energetic, and reclaim their sex drive that's has been dormant since the Clinton administration. A few weeks later, frustrated by their body's inadequate, less-than-magical transformation, they return to spending their time on those ever-productive activities: eating junk food and watching late-night television. Why work hard to make meaningful changes when instant gratification is ever-available? Many people start with the best intentions, but few people follow through. There are many reasons people flake out, and in this article I'll focus on five major reasons people fail to achieve their fat-loss goals and how you can avoid these common pitfalls. Let's get started.
1. Expecting Miraculous Changes Overnight

It's laughable how people who've been fat for years will expect miraculous changes in mere weeks. I've had online training clients whining because they don't notice any big difference after two weeks training! You didn't get fat overnight, nor will you get fit and in shape overnight. Did you get fat in only a few weeks? No, it happened gradually, over the course of several months, or even years and it's unreasonable to expect total physical transformation in a few weeks. Worse, if you've spent several years fat, your body has created a set point to keep you at that weight and it takes months of consistent training and healthy nutrition to overcome that tipping point, then push the body into the desired direction. Most trainees give up long before they hit this tipping point, which is a real shame. Why do people give up so easily? One, we're a quick-fix society, lacking patience and perseverance, we want changes now! Marketers are aware of this trait and feed us the lies we want to hear. How many advertisements have you seen wherein fat people acquire their dream physiques in twelve weeks--or less? What about ads for diet pills promising a thirty-pound fat loss in thirty days? The part the shady marketers leave out is that people who've been in great shape can let themselves go, then shape up in twelve-weeks. It's far easier to get back into shape then to get into good shape for the first time.

The reality (that which people don't want to hear and unscrupulous marketers don't want you to know) is that it takes many months--and even years--of dedication to transform your body and your health. This is why you must make it a part of your lifestyle, not a thirty-day distraction. Your commitment to the long haul of acquiring desirable levels of health and vitality (and maintaining them) means you'll have to eat right, and work out consistently, for the rest of your life. This is reality: accept it and overcome your "instant results" addiction. Your only goal for your first month of training is making proper diet and exercise an effective part of your lifestyle. Note your starting weight, and take some measurements for a baseline (but neither weigh yourself every week or nor check your measurements) then shift your focus to regular training and healthy eating.

2. Focusing On Calories

People overemphasize calories when trying to lose fat. How much you eat is a critical factor in fat loss, but what you're eating is more important. Do you think 1500 calories worth of Snickers bars has the same effect on your body as 1500 calories of high-quality protein, green vegetables and essential fatty acids? The Snickers option, void of nutrition, won't help you reach your goals, while whole foods will. Focusing on calories creates an illusion that as long as we don't exceed a caloric number, we can eat what we want. Sure you may end up losing weight, but not the kind you want. Say "goodbye" to lean muscle and "hello" to skinny fat! Remember: you don't have to take up a lot of space if you're fat.

Some people say that overeating healthy food will make you fat. After all, calories are calories and too much of any food will add fat. In theory, that's true, but when was the last time you binged on broccoli? Have you ever had an insatiable desire for more and more steamed vegetables? Have you ever eaten a cup of raw almonds, then went on to eat five more cups? Unlike overly-processed, sugar-laden foods, healthy, whole foods nourish the body. When you consume the correct amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, you'll find you don't need to eat so much to feel satisfied. Bonus: your body actually puts high-quality nutrition to good use, bringing your physique goals closer within reach. Translation: you'll have more energy and feel (and look) better. Processed junk foods are a caloric waste, lacking nutrition and leaving the body feeling cheated and unsatisfied, thus grasping for more. This is why you might eat an entire box of Cheerios and still feel "hungry", or grab a fast food repast, then crave a refuel a mere two hours later. Besides their utter lack of nutrition, these foods of commerce actually tax your digestive system, wasting your vital energies. Focus on healthy food, that your body can easily assimilate, and you'll no longer need those afternoon naps at work...then you can stay wide awake and pretend you're actually working!

Instead of counting calories, focus on eating healthy food; eat as much as you want until you're satisfied. Don't buy any junk foot or keep any on hand, if you have it around you won't resist, but it's unlikely you'll drive to the store in the middle of the night to get your cookie fix. One hundred per cent of your food, six days a week, should be the highest quality nutrition possible. Then, one day per week, have a "cheat" day in which you eat whatever you want in whatever quantities you desire. Not only is this great mentally, but it gives you something to look forward to. According to Joel Marion (The Cheater’s Diet) this eating schedule has hormonal benefits, since weekly "cheats" boost leptin (a fat burning hormone) levels. Leptin levels dive after a few days of caloric restriction, causing weight loss to come to a halt. You must continue lowering calories to keep the weight loss going, which results in misery. A more effective (and realistic) approach is scheduling a no-holds-barred cheat day each week. This ramps up the leptin levels--and keep them up--for several days. Have fun with your cheat day and enjoy it guilt-free.

3. Following a Low-Fat Diet

Low-fat diets are a crime against humanity. Fat is an important macro-nutrient which should compose at least 20% of your overall calories. Higher levels of healthy fats are even better. Healthy fat keep our skin supple, is a great source of steady energy--keeping blood sugar levels stable--and is vital for healthy hormone production. Low-fat consumption equals low testosterone production in men and low progesterone production in women. You low-fat dieters can kiss your sex drive and vitality goodbye! Further, these hormones are critical for building and maintaining muscle mass and the less muscle mass you have, the more likely you are to become fat and weak.

Not only does adequate dietary fat intake positively benefit physique composition, but people on low-fat diets tend to be irritable and hungry. Healthy fat sources, such as pistachios, raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, olive oil, avocados, Udo’s Choice oil and coconut oil are all great options. Snacking on almonds and pumpkin seeds during the day will keep your hunger at bay and works very well for anyone trying to lose weight and gain energy. You can even eat a tablespoon of oil between meals to stave off hunger. Make sure to have some fat with each meal and you'll feel satisfied much longer.

4. Too Much Cardio

We all know people who are cardio addicts, yet month after month they fail to improve their body composition. On paper, cardio seems the way to go in order to burn fat and get leaner but the reality is you need to build as much muscle as possible to win the fat-loss battle. Let's differentiate muscle from bulk: you can have a high ratio of muscle without looking bulky like a bodybuilder. A great example is sprinters: sprinters look great, with lean and muscular physiques, while marathon runners, who are the ultimate cardio trainees, display the classic "skinny fat" physique. Just because you don't take up a lot of square footage doesn't mean you're lean and fit! You can be small, yet have a high percentage of body fat, and even the lean, long-distance runners and triathletes who do have low body fat levels, are scrawny specimens, with pronounced muscle wasting. A healthy, clean diet, combined with a training program focused on muscle-building, is the best way to kick ass and take names in the fat-loss war. I don't mean you shouldn't do any cardio at all. Cardio is important for heart health and can be an effective way to lower stress levels. Fortunately, there are alternatives to endlessly peddling that exercise bike, such as circuit training. Circuit training is a form of high-intensity cardio that's terrific for building muscle and raising the heart rate. Circuit training provides more benefits, in less time, than mid-range cardio. Bonus: in addition to saving you time, it gets you faster results. Now, there's a combination to get you workaholics excited!

Here's a sample circuit-training workout to get your heart pumping and give your fat-loss program a boost:

Circuit 1

25 reps (keep triceps close to the body)
10 reps
Squat Thrust
15 reps
Bodyweight Squat
25 reps
Start off with 30-second breaks between each exercise and do five rounds. Your long-term goal is to work up to five rounds with no breaks in between each exercise. Adjust the reps, as needed, for your current fitness level. Do this program three times per week.
5. Majoring in Minor Things with Your Weight-Training Program:

Most trainees, both male and female, miss the boat when it comes to weight training. Men spend too much time doing arm work, while women spend too much time doing leg extensions and leg curls. Focusing on isolation exercises is a waste of time and does little in assisting fat-loss. Performing lots of curls and tricep push-downs, when you're fat, just builds muscular arms that no one can see anyway, socked away, as they are, beneath a thick layer of subcutaneous fat. And this goes for you ladies, too--regarding the legs and glutes--you may be exacerbating your body issues.
A far more effective approach is focusing on what I like to call transformation exercises. These exercises work several muscle groups at once--not just any muscle groups, but the big muscle groups making up a large percentage of the body. Transformation exercises, such as the barbell squat, the barbell deadlift, and the barbell (or dumbbell) clean-and-press, are all powerful exercises having a dramatic effect on your body. Other noteworthy transformation exercises are weighted dips, pull-ups, bent-over rows, and the ever-popular bench press.
Make these exercises the focus of your weight-training program and you'll notice big changes. In fact, if you're really pressed for time, with only fifteen minutes to devote to weight-training a few times per week, then build your program around the clean-and-press and the deadlift. (By the way, I don't for a minute believe you haven't more time than 15 minutes to train, given the average American watches four hours of TV per night.) For those of you willing to make an honest self-assessment, and put some time into strength training, try the following full-body program, which shouldn't take more than forty-five minutes. Once you adapt to it, you should be able to complete these workouts in thirty minutes :
A-1: Dumbbell Clean and Military Press 2x6

(clean before each press)
A-2: Barbell Bent-over Row 2x6
Do A-1 and A-2 in antagonistic fashion. One set of A-1, then a one-minute break, followed by a set of A-2. Continue until you've completed three sets of six for each exercise.
B-1: Barbell Squat 4x6
B-2: Romanian Deadlift 4x6
Do B-1 and B-2 in antagonistic fashion. One set of B-1, then a one-minute break, followed by a set of B-2. Continue until you've completed four sets of six for each exercise.
A-1: Incline Dumbbell Press 2x6
A-2: Pull-up or Lat Pulldown 2x6
Do A-1 and A-2 in antagonistic fashion. One set of A-1, then a one-minute break, followed by a set of A-2. Continue until you've completed three sets of six for each exercise.
Barbell Deadlift 4x5

(one minute breaks in between each exercise)

A-1: Barbell Clean and Military Press 2x6

(clean before each press)
A-2: One-arm Dumbbell Bent-over Row 2x6
Do A-1 and A-2 in antagonistic fashion. One set of A-1, then a one-minute break, followed by a set of A-2. Continue until you have completed three sets of six for each exercise.

B-1: Barbell Squat 4x6

B-2: One-arm Dumbbell Swing 4x10 each side

Do B-1 and B-2 in antagonistic fashion. One set of B-1, then a one-minute break and then a set of B-2. Continue until you have completed four sets each exercise.

In conclusion, get over the quick-fix solutions for fat loss. Just as you took the time to get overweight, you'll need to take the time to lose that excess fat. Form a long-term approach and focus on lifestyle changes you can live with. There's no point choosing a nutrition plan you'll only follow for a few weeks; find a nutrition plan you can follow for life. Some people do well on four-to-six small meals per day, while others may prefer snacking during the day, then having their main meal each evening. You'll need to experiment to determine what works best for you, and the same thing goes for strength training. Not every weight training exercise is right for everyone. Focus on compound exercises, and their variations, to discover what works best for you. Experiment with high-intensity cardio and compound exercise training to discover those options you'll enjoy most. Training has to be fun in order to be maintained.
About the Author:

Mike Mahler is a strength coach and kettlebell trainer based in Las Vegas. He is the author of The Aggressive Strength Solution For Size And Strength. Sign up for his free online magazine at
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