By Darren Ho
We have heard it all and some of us have tried it all before – weight loss remedies, methods and fad diets that promise to aid us in the battle of the bulge but end up leaving negative effects on us in the long run. So what is it that baffles so many of us? Why is it so difficult to lose the excess weight and then to keep it off? Here are the top seven problems people face when trying to lose weight:
I can never emphasise on this one enough. Most of the people I know who are battling the bulge start off on a high because they are eager to do something new. All of that is great until fatigue and the reality of training sets in. There’s no way to hide it from all of you, training is tough work and it does get monotonous from time to time.
Once the adrenaline is done and we resume our normal selves, that’s when our body begins to break down. We also often forget that our bodies are now finding ways to become more efficient to the training that it is being subjected to and most of us will assume that training harder and longer will solve this problem.
All of a sudden, we can no longer go the same distance as last week or the deadlift has stagnated (worst yet, the numbers have dropped). This results in a panic that we need to train even more which ultimately leads to injury or a complete breakdown of the process of becoming active.
Make sure you plan your training schedule and take breaks when your body is tired. Even if you’re skipping one day because you’re not up to it, it’s perfectly fine as long as you know that you will get back to it and that you have been training hard. Rest is when the body grows and shows results!
2) Under-eating and eliminating carbs
Everyone is probably guilty of this at some stage. For most people starting out, this has become a big problem that has led to see-saw results or to some of us even putting back on all the weight. The irony of it all is that our bodies, regardless of how active or non-active we are, requires food to fuel itself, recover and to lose weight (yes, burning calories takes energy too!).
Many of us go on a carbohydrate starvation process when we’re trying to lose weight, which means we cut out everything that has carbs in it. While this has shown to have fast results, it has also shown to be non-sustainable by our bodies. Carbohydrates are the building blocks of energy and when deprived in large quantities, our bodies begin to crave sugar for quick and fast energy replenishment.
Ever found yourself cutting carbs and eating more sugary snacks? That would be your body requiring more carbohydrates to fuel itself. Instead, consume carbs from other sources such as leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes and other real foods. Cut out the processed food found in cans and packages at the supermarkets and you will be just fine.
If you do not fuel enough, your body cannot possibly recover and worse, it begins to consume those muscles that are now being developed during your workouts. Why? Because muscles release more calories when consumed as compared to fat. So if you find yourself working out but actually being more flabby and you have been cutting out all of your carbohydrates completely, now you know the problem! Eat properly; your body needs it!
3) Idolising others
We often look at others and wish we had their killer bodies without realising that there are so many factors involved in getting there. First of all, we must learn to accept that genetics plays a part in all of this. Some of us put on weight far easier than others while some can’t seem to put on weight no matter what they do.
Next, consider how long and how much effort the other person must have put into their training regimes to achieve what they have and compare it to where you are right now. If you were to ask around as I did with my group of cycling pals, most of them have been cycling for at least five to 10 years while I have only been doing it for a measly year and a half!
Remember, looking at other people and their bodies serves no purpose for you because it’s not your body in the first place. Instead, focus on a long term plan that will yield health benefits for you rather than just looking good. Good looking people have insecurities too!
4) Taking it too extreme
Cutting out all the sugar or fat or maybe even one of those slimming teas? They may work for a while but ask yourself if it is a trend you can follow or even afford for life. Extreme methods work for short term results but they also always indicate that a proper diet plan and exercise routine is required for optimal results.
It’s all about hard work, dedication and being fair to your body. When you lose weight rapidly, most of the loss is coming from water and muscle. Your fats are actually retained by your body for sustenance and it begins to break down your muscle for the calories that you need on a daily basis.
Once you’re off the diet and worse yet, if you don’t exercise, your muscles never recover and your level of fat continues to increase. The results are demoralising to so many that they have given up trying. Stick to real foods and stay active. Walk the stairs or better still, do a ruck walk (carrying a backpack with weight and doing a 30-minute hike) if you cannot fit running into your system. Cycle, swim, run, gym, choose anything that works for you and make sure you stick to a plan while eating sensibly. The results will show; it just takes time and patience.
5) Losing weight for the wrong reasons
So many of us aim to lose weight because we want that number on the scale to drop, which leads to us resorting to short cut methods, diet fads and all the other common mistakes made. The aim for losing weight should not be linked to numbers but because we want to lead a better, healthier and more active lifestyle.
Obsession with numbers can lead to all sorts of medical conditions and it rarely leaves us satisfied. When you embark on this adventure, always prioritise your health above anything else and do it for the right reasons. It is tempting to go overboard but at the end of the day, it does not necessarily mean that a slimmer person is healthier than a person who is less slim (and vice versa). Focus on staying healthy because your body deserves to be treated that way, not because you want to look good for the world to see.
6) Not improving on what worked
So that 5km run worked and has been working for you all this time; runs become comfortable, too easy, but you think that because it’s worked before that it will keep working… right? Not true! Once our bodies reach a natural state of efficiency, we need to increase the intensity, duration or distance of the workout to ensure that we are continuously challenged.
Now, obviously we cannot be running thousands of kilometres to keep challenging ourselves but throw in a little cycling, weights, gym sessions and increase the speed and duration of the runs for greater effect. Keep challenging your body to achieve more and you will be more than satisfied with the results.
7) Setting unrealistic deadlines
So you decided to go down the path of adopting a healthy lifestyle and have incorporated exercise into your daily routine. You go at it for a couple of weeks, stand on the scale and realise you have not lost any weight. In disbelief, you try every scale in the gym but the results are the same and you become demoralised.
Your initial routine breaks down because you start to think that it’s not worth the effort. Guess what? You are not alone. Many people give up on their diet and exercise plans because they set unrealistic deadlines for themselves. No one loses weight or becomes fit in a matter of days or weeks.
It takes months to see visible results at times and weight loss is usually calculated over the course of a year. This may sound demoralising but it just strengthens the fact that all of this has to be a lifestyle and not some fad that we all adopt just to look good. So, give it some time and you’ll see results soon enough. Just remember to keep eating properly and to stay active!
There you have it! Based on my own experience, these are the seven most common weight loss problems that people face when they embark on this exciting journey. Hopefully it gives all of you an idea that these problems are faced by everyone and not just by select individuals. Keep faith and stay the fight! You’ll get there.
Darren Ho was once overweight, hitting 142kg for his height of 1.76m. Once training on the tennis national team, Darren let himself go when his career picked up, giving himself the excuse that he was busy and balance was not important. When his health started failing, Darren realised he couldn’t live like that anymore. Deciding to do something about his weight, he recalls how painful his first attempt to jog was – a total of 200 metres was all he lasted, before he collapsed to the ground in breathlessness. Finally, after a year of cleaning up his diet, cutting the alcohol and processed foods, as well as a regular exercise regime, he lost over 60kg, kept it all off and is fitter than before. All opinions expressed in this article are his.