#1 Eating lots of small meals throughout the day
This first mistake makes you waste a lot of energy and time on unnecessary meal prep.
I’m talking about the false idea that you need to eat several small meals throughout the day to support your metabolism and burn fat.
That’s why most fitness meal plans call for anywhere from 5 to 6 meals per day.
Like I said, people that recommend this high meal frequency strategy claim that it keeps your metabolism high. According to them, this keeps “feeding the fire” consistently, which allegedly supports weight loss.
But is this true? Well, the answer is no.
A meta-analysis concluded the following. “There is no difference between nibbling and gorging when it comes to 24h calorie intake and expenditure.” (1)
In other words, it doesn’t matter whether you eat many or a few meals per day. Consuming the same amount of food impacts your metabolism and your body fat just the same.
On top of that, eating more frequently might even make it harder to lose weight. That’s because, as found by researchers from the University of Hawaii – “eating frequency is positively associated with energy intake.” (2)
This doesn’t necessarily mean that eating more often will cause you to gain weight. And that eating less often will cause you to lose weight. It highly depends on what works for you.
But if you eat many meals throughout the day and it’s hard for you to lose weight, perhaps try reducing meal frequency. Then see if that helps you gain better control over your caloric intake.
#2 Devil’s in the detail?
The next big mistake is focusing too much on the details, rather than the Big Picture. This prevents people from even starting to change their diet.
Losing weight and burning fat is simple on paper. You just consume fewer calories than you burn and you’ll drop pounds off the scale.
But despite its simplicity, you can make dieting as complex as you want.
For example, beginners might wonder whether they should go with organic food or not.
Whether broccoli is better for weight loss than cauliflower. Or whether it’s better to boil vegetables or eat them raw.
And sure, those are interesting questions. But in the grand scheme of things, they’ll either have a very negligible or no impact at all on your weight loss results.
Many people get lost and overwhelmed when they start focusing more and more on the rather non-essential details.
Should you eat red meat or white meat? How long after your workout should you have a protein shake? What’s the best time of the day to eat carbs?
Of course, it’s okay to ask these questions but don’t let such small things distract you from the bigger picture.
Here are the two essential big-picture tips you can follow as rules of thumb. First, be in a calorie deficit. And second, make sure that you eat enough protein every day.
If you can follow these two big picture tips, you will burn fat and improve your body composition.
Don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed with the details. There’s enough mismatching information out there to make your head spin.
From vegan to carnivore, to keto, to low carb, to low fat. You’ll just get lost and stuck in analysis paralysis.
You have to understand that any diet can work as long as it works for you.
#3 Lots of fats over carbs
Another widespread myth is the belief that you have to eat lots of fat, and fewer carbs to burn fat.
For many people, Paleo and Keto diet plans can be very effective for weight loss.
One reason for this is because it limits carbohydrates, which is one of the most overconsumed macronutrients.
Where many low-carb dieters go wrong is that they believe the more fat they eat, the more fat they’ll lose.
The rationale behind this is that studies show that consuming more fat increases fat oxidation in the body.
This is definitely true. However, those who drink MCT oils and add tablespoons of coconut oil to their coffee fail to realize one thing. That is – burning body fat and burning dietary fat are two different things.
Just because you’re burning more of the fat that you eat for fuel doesn’t mean that you’ll lose more body fat.
For that to happen, you’ll have to be in a calorie deficit. Otherwise, your body will simply get the energy it needs by burning the dietary fat that you take in from eating high-fat foods.
And if your body satisfies all of its energy requirements just by breaking down dietary fat, then it won’t need to break down body fat.
At the end of the day, to burn fat you must burn more calories than you consume. And it doesn’t necessarily matter whether you get your macros from carbs, fat, or protein. (3)
Sure, some people find it easier to control their calorie intake on a low-carb, high-fat diet.
But this doesn’t mean you should eat as much fat as possible. Because adding unnecessary calories to your diet will only add extra calories and make fat loss harder.
Next, let’s talk about taking the weekend off when it comes to your diet. Most people work from Monday to Friday and then take the weekend off to recover and enjoy themselves.
This often extends out to their diet. This can work very well, if you’re following a structure to balance your calories.
But it can also completely backfire for those who cycle their calories blindfolded, without knowing what they’re doing.
You do have to be in a calorie deficit to burn fat. But it doesn’t matter if you’re in a calorie deficit on any one particular day.
Instead, it’s about whether you’re in a calorie deficit over the long run.
By letting yourself go on the weekend, you’ll likely undo the calorie deficit that you worked hard for before.
I’m not saying you can’t have cheat meals, or even full-out cheat days every weekend.
But without planning how to balance out those calories throughout the rest of the week, you’ll probably get stuck. You might even gain fat.
You can plan to overshoot by 1000 calories on the weekend (by eating pizza and ice cream). But then make sure you deduct those calories from the rest of your week to maintain steady fat loss.
It can be done. It just needs a little planning.
#5 Eating clean means no weight gain
Another issue is thinking that you can’t possibly get fat while “Eating Clean.”
The fundamentals of eating clean suggest that you should eat more whole foods. These include fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Similarly, you should limit highly processed snacks, sweets, and other pre-packaged foods.
And there are a lot of benefits to this simple approach. In fact, just by eating single-ingredient whole foods, you can lose weight.
Indeed, it probably won’t surprise you that research shows that consuming more fruit and vegetables can aid weight loss/management. (4)
However, eating clean doesn’t reduce the need for being in a calorie deficit. You still have to consume fewer calories than you burn if you want to burn fat.
And that’s where many people go wrong. Many believe that if they eat “clean” and “weight-loss-friendly” foods, they don’t have to worry about how much they eat.
But that’s not true, especially when we factor in “healthy foods” like nuts. These kinds of foods might be high in protein, but they’re also very high in calories and easy to overeat.
The benefit of eating clean is that foods like fruit and vegetables make it easier to control energy intake automatically. (5)
That’s because, compared to the calories they provide, they’re very filling. So they tend to reduce total calorie intake throughout the day.
But this doesn’t make you immune to overeating, especially when it comes to fruit.
This belief that unlimited amounts of healthy fruit will help you burn fat is also a huge mistake.
Beginners that want to lose weight will often reach for fruit and vegetable juices to burn fat.
These juices, however, can contain hundreds of calories and tons of sugar. It blows my mind when clients pack a blender full of fruit, alongside a tiny bit of vegetables.
They drink it thinking that all that sugar is gonna help them lose weight, just because fruit’s healthy.
Instead, they should minimize the amount of fruit, and maximize the amount of vegetables in that smoothie for fat loss.
This carries over to whole fruit as well. If you have 6 pieces of fruit per day thinking that it’ll help you lose fat, you’re very wrong.
It’s going to add a good amount of simple sugars and calories to your diet potentially blocking fat loss. This can be applied with other clean foods too.
The bottom line is that eating “clean” can assist with weight loss, because it usually helps you consume fewer calories.
But if you eat too much clean food, you’re going to push yourself out of a calorie deficit. And that’ll prevent you from burning fat.
This is actually why another common mistake is guestimating your portions and not tracking your calorie intake.
I think it’s very important for everyone to get to the point where they don’t have to track calories. And have a natural intuition based on experience.
However, you may not be familiar with nutrition labels and tracking your calories and macros. If so, it’s very easy to underestimate how many calories you eat and how many you burn.
If you don’t track your food intake, you might think you’re in a calorie deficit even though you’re not.
For example, “studies report that participants significantly underestimate how much they eat. They may also underreport their calorie intake by as much as 2,000 calories per day.” (6)
So, it’s better to track calorie intake by weighing your food and putting it into apps like Cronometer or MyFitnessPal.
That way, you’ll know how many calories you actually consume.
Like I said, this isn’t something you’ll have to do forever, unless you want to.
Instead, once you have more experience with calorie tracking, you’ll likely guestimate your calorie and macronutrient intake more accurately.
This is especially true if you eat the same foods and meals regularly.
Another major mistake is following celebrity meal plans, or fad diets, that you see in a magazine or online.
First, understand that many of the meal plans that you think your favorite actor, model, or athlete follows are completely made up. The celebrities advertising them don’t actually eat that way.
Second, just because something worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s ideal for you. We all have different needs, preferences, and physiologies.
Third, celebrities usually advertise fad diet plans that have no scientific backing. Usually, these are “quick-fix” programs designed to help the celebrity lose weight fast for a certain role.
For example, to prepare for her role in “Dreamgirls”, Beyonce, followed the “Master Cleanse Diet.” On this diet, there were no solid foods allowed for at least 10 days.
The only source of calories and nutrients would come from a homemade sweetened lemon beverage.
The idea is that doing this will detox your body and accelerate weight loss.
Unfortunately, there is little to no evidence that “cleanses” and “detoxes” work. In fact, they most likely don’t.
And this Beyonce Master cleanse diet is actually terrible for your health and body composition for many reasons.
For instance, you’ll be taking in almost no protein. This means that a large chunk of the weight you lose will be in the form of muscle mass.
This is also without mentioning how unsustainable such a plan is.
#9 No water and zero-calorie drinks
The next mistake is not drinking enough water and other zero-calorie drinks. I won’t spend too much time explaining the benefits of avoiding the extra calories and sugars from sweetened beverages.
Instead, I want you to understand that drinking enough water alone can help you reduce your calorie intake.
Research shows that people that drink mostly water consume on average 9% fewer calories daily compared to those who don’t. (7)
By drinking water you’re also less likely to consume energy-dense beverages like soda, beer, or juice.
Water also triggers the stretch receptors in your stomach, which signal your mind that your stomach is already (partially) filled. That on its own helps with hunger management.
So, if you’re not drinking enough water, you’re making it much harder to maintain a calorie deficit.
#10 Not eating enough protein
Eating enough protein should be the centerpiece of almost any diet plan that’s designed to help you burn fat.
This is because protein is the most satiating macronutrient. Therefore, it can help you achieve (and maintain) a calorie deficit.
By not taking in enough protein, hunger hormones like ghrelin will be elevated, which will stimulate your appetite. (8)
A simple demonstration of this can be observed in a study. It looked at the consequences of raising daily protein consumption from 15% to 30% of total daily energy intake. (9)
The participants automatically consumed 440 fewer calories per day. This led to an average weight loss of 11 pounds in 12 weeks – just by eating more protein. (10)
Getting enough protein is also necessary for you to maintain muscle mass on a diet. And maintaining muscle isn’t only beneficial for your appearance.
It’s also very important for your long-term health and your body composition.
So those are 10 major Diet mistakes that you want to look out for if your goal is to burn fat. I hope you enjoyed this article.
Now, if your main goal is fat loss, you will need to adjust your diet and training regimen over time. Your nutrition requirements and preferences will also change.
If you need any extra help, check out the link below. We have everything you need. Including done-for-you programs that help my clients lose 20 pounds or 5% of their body fat in just 6 weeks.
We also provide one-on-one coaching and custom-made nutrition plans for longer-term goals.
To find out more, just click the link below.
- “Studies using whole-body calorimetry and doubly-labelled water to assess total 24h energy expenditure find no difference between nibbling and gorging”.
- Eating frequency is positively associated with energy intake.
- You must burn more calories than you consume. And it doesn’t necessarily matter whether you get your macros from carbs, fat, or protein.
- Consuming more fruit and vegetables can help people lose weight and keep it off.
- Nuts, when consumed in moderation, can help people from gaining weight.
- “Participants significantly underestimate how much they eat and underreport their calorie intake by up to 2,000 calories per day.”
- People who drink mostly water consume, on average, 9% fewer calories per day compared to those who don’t. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16421349
- By not consuming enough protein, hunger hormones like ghrelin will be elevated, which stimulates appetite.
- Consequences of raising daily protein consumption from 15% to 30% of their total energy intake.
- Spontaneous energy intake decreased by 441 kcal/d.