4 Common Weight Loss Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

New Year’s has come and gone and with it countless resolutions that “this year is the year that I will get in shape!”

Unfortunately, many of those resolutions are now broken two weeks into the new year. And it’s not hard to see why.

Weight loss can seem like it’s a black box, too complicated for normal people to figure out. You just have to buy this new crash diet or an expensive gym membership and everything will be solved.

The problem is that everything usually isn’t solved. As you fail to lose the weight you want and keep it off, it gets harder and harder to keep trying, especially with a busy schedule.

Weight Loss Mistakes

[box type=”important”]Even if you’re struggling right now, weight loss isn’t as hard as it might seem. This list of four common weight loss mistakes can be changed today quickly and easily. Fixing them will help you finally develop the healthy lifestyle that you need to lose weight and keep it off.[/box]

Mistake #1: Not Eating Natural Foods

Too many diets focus on calories in vs. calories out. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t work this easily.

A prolonged calorie deficit causes your metabolism to slow. This is a survival instinct to prevent you from losing weight in times of famine. When you do lose weight, you’ll be losing both fat and muscle. As you’ll see later, this further drops your metabolism.

And because you’re only focusing on your calorie count, you can eat as many TV dinners as you want under a certain calorie limit.

[box type=”note”]TV Dinners and other processed foods contain refined flour, sugar and hydrogenated oils that convert to sugar in your bloodstream. This spikes your glucose levels and causes your body to store more fat.[/box]

Couple this with the fact diets are restrictive and make you feel guilty about everything you’re eating and you have a recipe for frustration and weight gain!

Ditch the diets and quit counting calories religiously. It’s important, but not as important as supplying your body with the right foods.

[box type=”note”]When you go to the grocery store, only buy foods as close to their natural form as you can. You’ll get more nutrients into your body and won’t have to feel bad about eating when you do. It’s also a diet change that you can stick to for the rest of your life, unlike popular fad and crash diets.[/box]

Mistake #2: Running on the Treadmill for Hours

Running on a treadmill is one of the worst ways to lose weight.

You’d never guess it from the proliferation of aerobic equipment in today’s gyms, but they’re ineffective and about as much fun as getting punched in the face by Mike Tyson.

But you burned so many calories running right?

Think again.

The amount of calories your burned running is your TOTAL amount of calories burned on the treadmill. This includes the baseline amount that you would have burned lying on the couch watching reruns of Arrested Development.

The exact math is different for everyone, but running only burns about half the amount of calories you think it does.

To make matter worse, once you’re done running, your metabolism returns to normal, so you don’t burn any more calories. But the aerobic activity does trigger your body to eat more, meaning the small amount of calories you burned are probably ingested in food.

End result? Almost no weight loss for an hour of mind numbing jogging. Who wants to do THAT every day? Not me.

Mistake #3: Not Focusing on Building Muscle

[box type=”important”]Building muscle is the best and quickest way that you can lose fat.[/box]

But before we go any further, I don’t want to hear it ladies. Lifting a few weights is not going to make you look like the She-Hulk. If that were the case, every guy in the gym would have a superman chest and arms so big they could be used as baseball bats. And a small amount of muscle replacing fat looks better than not having it there. Don’t believe me? Google around for some before and after pictures and come back.

Now, one pound of muscle burns an average of 75 calories a day, even if you’re just sitting around drinking a beer. Just three extra pounds of muscle on your body burns enough calories to get rid of one pound of fat a month. Without you even having to do anything.

If that didn’t perk you up, maybe this will. Studies have shown that after weight training your metabolism stays elevated for up to 48 hours. Every time you lift weights, you body burns extra calories for the next TWO DAYS.

Take that treadmill.

Mistake #4: Training For Too Long

Now that we’re trying to build muscle, you have to be aware of the next big mistake people make – training too often.

Your muscles only rebuild when you’re resting, so for the biggest gains from your weightlifting you need to make sure that you are giving them enough time to recover and rebuild. Your body is still also burning extra calories for two days after weightlifting anyways, remember?

In addition to mental burnout, training for more than 60 minutes at a time increases the amount of cortisol and free radicals in your bloodstream. This causes your muscles to break down and makes your recovery period longer.

[box type=”note”]For the majority of people, you should ideally workout 3-4 times a week for no more than 45-60 minutes. It’s healthier, more efficient, avoids burnout, and lets you schedule around your busy day.[/box]

What To Do Next

Even just by fixing these four mistakes, you know more about losing weight and keeping it off than the majority of the people in your gym. Here are the major takeaways you should start incorporating into your daily schedule.

  1. Only buy and eat fresh, whole foods. Avoid anything with packaging if you can. The more raw foods you eat, the healthier you will be and the more weight you will lose.
  2. Stop counting calories. It makes you feel guilty about eating, so you’re more likely to break the diet. And it’s not nearly as important as the types of food you eat.
  3. Don’t put all your hope on the treadmill. Running is a good workout occasionally, but it’s a terrible way to lose weight. And it’s about as much fun as banging your head against the wall.
  4. Start lifting weights. Strength training and building muscle the most effective way to lose fat and keep it off.
  5. Make your workouts short, enjoyable, and fun. And don’t forget to give yourself enough time to rest.

[box type=”important”]Stop following the popular advice that leaves you frustrated and gaining weight. Take these steps now and start building the body of your dreams today.[/box]


Chris is a former D1 athlete, fitness nerd, and currently runs The Evolved Man, where he is trying to build a race of superior men through effective strength training and eating food the way nature intended.

4 thoughts on “4 Common Weight Loss Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

  • January 15, 2012 at 6:39 am

    Your statements about weight loss and running are absurd. So you don’t like running, ok then don’t run, but trash it lie it’s a waste of time. In a year’s time I’ve gone from barely surviving a 1 mile fun run to now training for my 2nd half marathon. Running combined with aerobic exercise and eating whole foods has got me down 67 lbs and m still losing.

    • January 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm

      @nolimits72 First, I’m glad that you’ve found something that works for you to lose weight. Running can work for some people. But when you look at the aerobic type of running the most gym goers do, it is incredibly inefficient compared to other types of exercise.

      Most of the calories you burn in a day are burned through your base metabolic rate. The calories you burn working out are a drop in the bucket compared to this. So if your goal is losing weight, you’ll see your biggest gains by trying to manipulate this. And hands down the best way to get a higher metabolism is by building muscle.

      Exercise also causes your body to release the hormone Ghrelin, which stimulates your appetite to make up for the amount of calories you lost working out, and negating many of the weight loss effects of running since your metabolism isn’t changing.

      Another big problem with running is that the more running you do, the less calories you will actually burn. Many of the gains in speed, especially at the very beginning are due to your body becoming more efficient at using your running muscles. As your body is more and more efficient, you burn less and less calories.

      It did work for you, but for someone who is frustrated at losing weight, running isn’t the place spend all your energies. If someone did want to run, I would recommend interval training instead of the slightly sub-aerobic “fat burning” zone that is programmed on many treadmills. It gives your heart a better workout, you only have a run for a short time for the same results, and you get many of the same metabolic after effects that you get with weight training.

  • January 14, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Where are your citations for any of this? I can’t believe that a combination of lowering your caloric intake and increasing your physical activity, even if it is just through cardio, does not lead to weight loss. According to the article it doesn’t really matter what I eat, as long as it is natural, or close to being in its natural state, which sounds restrictive to me.

    • January 15, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      @Shenanigans Eating less calories than you burn is part of how you lose weight, but it’s not the whole story. One place to start for some more information on how different foods affect your body differently is this video here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNYlIcXynwE or the book “Why We Get Fat”

      For the exercise portion, see this on why exercise won’t make you thin – http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/sep/19/exercise-dieting-public-health

      What you eat is just as, if not more, important than the amount that you eat. And if you’re eating the right foods, it’s generally hard to eat enough that you’re going to stay overweight. How many vegetables would you have to eat to pack on weight?

      You can put away the calorie counter and feel good about what you’re eating because you’ll be losing weight and improving your health at the same time. If you want to have a lifestyle that you can stick to instead of a crash diet, this simple fact is very important. Moderate calorie counting can come later if you decide you need it instead of being part of a crash diet that you won’t stick to and result in your weight yo-yoing around.

      As far as the diet being restrictive, the only foods that you’re cutting out are foods that have only been around for the last 50-100 years. How many different combinations of vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, and the occasional grain can you put together?


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