My best friend Hannah, who runs this blog, was asking me if 1300 calories is enough for someone of her height and weight when exercising multiple days per week. If you’re wondering the answer, it’s a big whopping heck no! We did some math (yay us!) and it turns out that to lose 1 pound per week, she’d have to eat 1950 calories per day. She was shocked, and I told her not to feel bad, that eating 1200-1300 calories per day is one of the most common weight loss mistakes! So, thy is why we are here right now. This one is for you, Hannah! The top 4 weight loss mistakes you probably don’t realize you are making:
1. You don’t eat enough. Don’t get sucked into the “magic number” mumbo jumbo and decide that to lose weight, you have to eat 1200 calories per day. Less calories eaten does not equal more pounds lost. This study done in California that the metabolisms of their obese subjects, when eating only 500 calories per day, decreased by 13% in only two weeks. And amazingly, exercise restored their resting metabolic rate back to their normal amount! Take home message: If a person eating only 500 calories per day exercises, and their metabolism increases by 13%, imagine the increase you will observe when you are exercising and eating enough calories to fuel your body! Use this formula to calculate how many calories you need per day. I’m willing to bet that you will be surprised by the result!
2. You don’t motivate yourself correctly. Yes, this is possible. There are two types of motivation: intrinsic (doing something because you enjoy it), and extrinsic motivation (motivation to do something because of an external source like a physical reward). A study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences found that self-determination (intrinsic motivation) was more predictive of adaptive exercise behaviours (sticking to your program), external regulation was found to be predictive of maladaptive behaviours (falling into old habits). Take home message: find exercise that you enjoy and that makes you feel good, and do it! Think about how good it makes you feel, and remember that, not what you want to look like. You do not have to exercise the same way that everyone else does if you do not enjoy it.
3. You judge your progress by the scale or the mirror. Wayne C. Miller said it perfectly in his article in The Journal of Social Issues: “Unequivocal acceptance of the notion that thinness equals health and fitness has been the only health intervention strategy available for many large men and women….. Any intervention strategy for the obese should be one that promotes the development of a healthy lifestyle. The outcome parameters used to evaluate the success of such an intervention should be specific to disease risk and symptomatologies and not limited to medically ambiguous variables like body weight or body composition.” In other words, you do not have to be thin to be healthy. Take home message: do not compare yourself to others, believe that your size is indicative of your health, or put yourself down because you do not look like an oxygen magazine cover model. Try tracking your weight lifted for each exercise, and see how your workouts change throughout the month, or testing your 1 mile time every couple of weeks. This kind of progress is much more indicative of the positive changes that your body is making!
4. Thinking of exercise and healthy eating as a temporary fix. Deciding to lose weight, to get more fit, to eat healthy, or to exercise more, should be a long-term step-by-step process that is incorporated into your life, not adopted half-heartedly to see results and then return to your older ways, only to have to go through the cycle again in a matter of months or years. Take home message: You do not have to exercise 5 days per week, eat clean 100% of the time, and be perfect at your “fit life” right away. Instead, make small changes every day, like drinking more water on Monday, and eating more vegetables on Tuesday, and spending 10 more minutes in the gym on Wednesday.