Throughout my years as a personal trainer, I've talked to a lot of people over 40 who were trying (unsuccessfully) to lose weight. On episode 555 of the 40+ Fitness Podcast, we discuss the 7 most common weight loss mistakes that people over 40 are making.
Today I want to share with you the seven weight loss mistakes that I see most people over 40 make. And these are really important because if you're making these mistakes, it's going to make weight loss much harder. So let's go through these seven weight loss mistakes and see if you're doing any of these. Okay?
Cutting Calories Too Much
The first one is cutting calories too much. A lot of people will drop their calories down to some drastic number in the hopes that they're going to lose the weight faster or begin losing weight again if they've stopped. And so I want you to think of body fat in the same terms that we would look at like our country's strategic reserves of oil.
OK? We keep those barrels of oil and gasoline. We keep that stuff in reserve because we know at some point we might need it. Okay? And what happens when you cut your calories too much is you're signaling to your body that you're going to war. And if your body believes that you're going to war, it's going to cling on to its energy reserves as much as possible, meaning it's going to hold on to that body fat. And so you actually are training your body to lower your metabolism and thereby not release that fat because it's afraid it's going to starve to death. And so while you're not really going into a starvation mode, that doesn't happen for many days. You are telling your body to function on less and your energy levels will go down whether you recognize it or not. When you work out, you're not working as hard, so it really cuts back on a lot of things and it keeps you from optimizing your health. So instead what I recommend is, yes, cut your calories a little. Your calories should never go below 1200. 1200 is the basics of what your body needs to survive.
Just with basic function, if you're down around the 1200 or below 1200, your body is going to struggle to function, right? It's going to turn certain things off and that's not a good thing. So if you just cut back your calories a little bit from what you would normally eat and then just move a little bit more than you normally move, you're going to create a slight deficit for a while. Your body will adjust. But you just rinse and repeat this. Instead of dropping down to say, 1500 calories, take a look at what you're eating today. And if you find that you're eating about 2000 calories, drop it down to 1800. And then just try to add a little bit of extra walking, a little extra movement into your day and see if that works for you. Give it a couple of weeks and see where it goes. But you have to make sure that you're not hungry because if you let yourself get hungry all the time, you're going to fall out of it. This is not going to work and it's not going to be sustainable in the long term. You're going to train your body to function on fewer calories and then you're not going to want to eat fewer calories because you're going to be hungry, and that's going to create a problem for weight loss.
Being a Scale Fanatic
The second mistake that I see people making is being a scale fanatic. Okay? Your worth is not determined by the number on that bathroom scale. It just isn't. That's not who you are. And the scale is measuring more than just body fat. So even if the weight is going down is not a good thing all the time. You could be losing muscle. If the weights going up, that could be a good thing, because now you're rehydrated instead of being dehydrated. So the scale is not you, and it's measuring more than body fat. And then the other things happen. You may step on the scale and weigh a pound more than you did yesterday. But I can tell you, I know you didn't eat enough food yesterday to gain a pound. That's 3500 calories. And you know you didn't eat 3500 calories. So if you let yourself believe that you're getting fatter, that's a huge mistake because it's not true. The other part of this truism stuff, when we're looking at this being a scale fanatic, is that it's never going to be a straight line. You're not going to consistently lose half a pound every day, each week.
It's just not going to happen. There's going to be spikes up and spikes down based on body water, hydration, and just things are sticking around in your system. Yeah, the poo is going through your system. If you didn't have your regular break, then maybe you have some of that in you. That's why you weigh slightly more or didn't lose weight. So it's not going to be a straight line. And so if you find when you step on the scale, that number is hurting your feelings, or that number is how you are now going to live your day, you really need to change your relationship with your scale. I don't recommend people weighing themselves every day if they feel they have an unhealthy relationship with the scale. I encourage you to weigh yourself about every four days, maybe once a week. Give it a little bit of time so you're seeing a trend over a few days and a week or four days, something like that, gives you enough time to make some course corrections. If you go through two weeks and what you're doing isn't working, then you might want to tweak it a little.
Not a lot, but a little. So don't be a scale fanatic. The scale is not the number you're interested in. It's body fat. And if you want to lose body fat and you want to measure that, start measuring your body in the places where you carry body fat. And that's when you're going to see that you are actually getting smaller. Might not show up on the scale, but then, you'll know.
Cardio and More Cardio
The third weight loss mistake that I see a lot of people making is they become cardio bunnies. They're cardio and more cardio. It happens every year in January. You go into any fitness place and you're going to see all these newbies that just joined the gym and they're all on the cardio equipment and that's all they're going to do. And then they're just going to do more of that and more of that until they finally fall out. You've probably heard the statement that abs are built in the kitchen and that's the true fact. You're not going to lose weight just by doing cardio. I mean, I've seen people come to the gym and stick with it and they're there five days a week on the cardio equipment.
And over a year you don't see any change in them at all. They're literally the same size as they were a year ago and they're doing the cardio. So the cardio is not going to get you there. What you eat and how much you eat is what's going to move your weight. It's what's going to help you lose the weight and lose the body fat. So we want to eat whole food and we want to make sure that we're getting adequate nutrition and we're eating just enough to stay healthy and lose some weight. Okay, so cardio is a tool. If you want to have more stamina, cardio is a great tool for that and it can help you with your weight loss goals, but it is not the way to do it. And just doing ever more cardio is not the answer to weight loss.
Drinking Your Calories
Weight loss mistake number four is drinking your calories. Now this could be juices, smoothies, protein drinks, alcohol. We drink a lot of calories and some people don't even want to count those calories, but they can be quite significant. One of the problems that happens when you're drinking calories is one, a lot of the things that we drink are calorie dense and not nutritionally dense.
So alcohol is just empty calories. That's all it is. You might enjoy it, but it's not helping you lose weight. A lot of people will take these shakes as a way of losing weight and their meal replacement shakes, but again, they're not going to satiate you long enough for them to be effective over the long haul. And what's going to happen when you stop drinking those shakes? You're probably going to put the weight back on again, even if it did work for you. So avoid drinking your calories whenever you can. Eat whole food, chew it up. Make sure your body is going through the digestion process because there's an energy cost to digestion. And if we are drinking our calories, it's already digested practically just goes straight into our system. And you want to slow the process down so you feel full longer and your body burns energy, digesting the proteins and the fats and the fiber. You want that. You want that slow steady burn of calories over time and not just the big hit dose of boom here it is.
Going it Alone
Number five, going it alone. Now there are people that can, there have been people that do but most don't.
Okay? Now that doesn't mean you're a bad person and it doesn't mean that you lack what you need willpower and motivation. But what you do is bring on a team. And when you have team members with you it makes your success better. It makes it easier. It makes it sustainable. It makes it a part of you. So having a workout buddy or a walking friend, hiring a coach, having these team members, having these partners and coaches they're all going to help you be more successful. They're going to help hold you accountable. And accountability is one of the most significant motivators out there. Some of us are self motivated and that's great. That intrinsic motivation is really good. But if you don't find yourself 100% intrinsically motivated to do your workouts every day, to do your movement every day, to do your eating the right way every time then you're going to struggle. But having an accountability partner is really really important and a lot of programs including my own are built on the structure of accountability. Okay? The other thing that going it alone means that sometimes you just don't know what the next step is.
I mean you know you're on a diet you're going to try this diet but how do you transition off of that way of eating after you've lost the weight and not getting it all back again? So having someone there to provide a little bit of guidance and support can also be very important on your journey. Otherwise you might find yourself chasing after all the snake oil salesmen that are trying to get you to do something else besides having a healthy diet. And that leads me to the next one.
Looking for an Easy Button
Weight loss mistake number six is using the easy button. Okay? There are pills, there are shakes, all kinds of things out there that are sold to help you lose weight because it's a multi billion dollar industry to help you lose weight. The problem is that most of the time these things don't even work and many times they're quite dangerous. There was a drug on the market called Finfloramine. Okay? So they call it FinFan and basically FinFan was a drug and it was quite effective but it was also quite effective at destroying people's hearts and the heart valves in particular. And the sad part of this was that there have been supplement companies selling weight loss supplements and putting some of these banned substances in their products so they would be effective.
And so when you start trying to go down this road of trying this pill or trying that thing just buyer beware. They may not have your best interests at heart. They want to sell product and if they can give you a product that shows it's working but in the long term it's hurting you. They're going to sell a lot of product, they just are. Okay? So just realize that these guys are out there trying to sell you something. There is no easy button. There just is no easy button.
Not Getting Your Mindset Right
And then the 7th weight loss mistake is not getting your Mindset work done first. Too many people approach this with a strategies and tactics first model. They're going to go on this particular diet, they're going to exercise this many days per week on the treadmill. They got it all planned out, all these strategies and tactics. But then they stop. And why do they stop? They stop because they didn't get their mind right first. So you want to start your process by thinking about your why. Why do you want to lose this weight? If it's not important to you, not important enough, not emotionally important to you, then you're going to struggle.
You just are. So getting your why together, being very specific about why this is important to you, to get off your medications, to be healthier for your children and grandchildren, to not be in a nursing home when you get older. Those are all very compelling why's that I and some of my clients use every single day to make sure that we stay on track. Okay? The other thing that Mindset brings to the table is it helps you have the patience and for you to have the right pace in mind as you go forward. Because too many people want to lose the weight fast. And fast is not good when it comes to weight loss. It's not sustainable and it's not something that's going to stick long term. So having the mindset that this is going to take a while and I'm just going to keep chipping away at it and this is the pace I'm going to be able to go because I've got all of these other things going on in my life and I can't just diet and exercise all day long. The folks that are on the Biggest Loser program, that's all they do for the whole time they're in the camp.
They just work out and they don't eat much and that's how they lose that much weight. But most of them go home and they don't have that structure and they have to go back to work and you have to get back to normal lives and they gain the weight right back. So having the patience and going at the right pace makes it sustainable for the long term. Also, Mindset helps you deal with Pitfalls and Saboteurs. Now I talked a little bit about Saboteurs a few weeks ago and we can talk about some of the Pitfalls, but every one of us is going to have something happen or some struggle. Someone brings donuts to the office and God forbid I ate one of them. We're going to have those without the right mindset, a lot of people will go completely off the rails and say, hey, I blew it. I blew it with the doughnut, so I may as well go eat lunch with the group, and I may as well have a terrible dinner and some drinks tonight. They ruin the whole day instead of having one bad incident. So having the right mindset helps you maneuver and get where you need to be, even when you have a slip up.
And then the other thing Mindset gets you to do is it helps you keep the weight off because now you're thinking in terms of developing a healthy lifestyle, and you're not thinking about a temporary diet. You're not thinking about this as I'm going to diet because my daughter is getting married in November, and I want to weigh a certain weight and be a certain size by November. You're not thinking in those terms. You're thinking in terms of, okay, my daughter's getting married. Grandkids might be coming up within the next three to five years. I need to be fit to be the best grandfather I can be, right? I want to be able to spend time doing active things with them. And so that's my motivation. That's my why, that's my mindset. And that has to become a lifestyle and not a diet. I'm not going to diet for three to five years. I'm going to have a lifestyle for three to five years. It's going to help me ready, and that lifestyle is going to stick with me for the rest of my life. So the right mindset work done first is so important to this process. I put it number seven, but it's really in my mind, number one.
So to kind of summarize these a little bit, the seven weight loss mistakes most people over 40 make:
- Cutting calories too much.
- Being a scale fanatic.
- Cardio and more cardio.
- Drinking calories.
- Going it alone.
- Using the easy button.
- Not getting your mindset work done first.
Now, in my opinion, and a lot of people believe this as well in this industry, a lot of them don't. They want to sell you something that's not going to help you. But I believe that a healthy lifestyle is what you should charge after, and that weight loss will end up being a side effect of doing the right things for your body. Movement, food, and stress are all information to your body. Your body is looking for information on how to operate for you. And if you're giving it the right food and you're moving the right ways and you're reducing your stress, the bad stress, your body is going to respond by making you healthier. And when it's healthier and it gets the information that this is going on good, you're getting a good communication in your body, then your body can sit there and say, you know, it's probably okay for us to get rid of this strategic reserve body fat that we have here, because we don't really seem to need it.
There's plenty of food. I'm satiated most of the time. We're moving, we're active, and we're getting enough. We're getting the nutrition our body needs. It's going to let go of that body fat. It will.
I want to finish with a quote by Michael Pollan. He wrote the book, In Defense of Food, and I think this kind of wraps up weight loss advice into seven words and one sentence. Three sentences, okay, but seven words. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Okay. So if you start putting the right food in your body and the right amount of food in your body, and you're moving and you're managing stress, the weight will come off. So don't fall for one of these seven mistakes. And if you are, it's time to make the change. So check us out. Come to 40plusfitness.com and see what's going on there. I have some challenges. I have my be fit for task program. Check it out at 40plusfitness.com/bfft.
[00:21:09.110] – Rachel
Hey, Allan, your seven weight loss mistakes are really perfect. I think I've made every single one of them at some point or another, and we might as well start with number one. Cutting calories too much. I know that I have done that.
[00:21:25.200] – Allan
Yeah. No one really knows how many calories your body needs, but we do know that there's a lower limit. We know there's just some point where your body is not getting the nutrition it needs to survive. Now, where is that line? Well, Ansel Keys did a study in 1944 called the starvation diet, or starvation. They want to study starvation. They wanted men to lose 25% of their body weight. And so they cut their calories down to 1570. And these men went nuts. They were doing self inflicted injuries. They couldn't let them leave. They kept them locked up in the University of Michigan stadium. If they left, they had to go with a buddy, and they do the buddy system to make sure that neither one of them cheated, and they needed them to lose 25% of their body weight. It was insane. These guys went insane. And that's at 1570.
[00:22:23.780] – Rachel
[00:22:24.830] – Allan
For a normal person. And the point being, though, is food today is very different. It's not just that you're not getting the energy that your body might need to function well. It's that you might not be getting the other nutrients that your body needs because you're just not eating enough food. And so, you know, yes, you can cut your calories down and lose the weight very fast. But the problem is other systems, other things start to shut down. And so people will talk about extended fast and things like that, and those can be done and managed. But almost every person that does an extended fast gains every one of those pounds back as soon as they stop the fast. So it's not an effective way to lose weight and keep weight off. The main point being is find the right level by experimenting. But don't just go on and say, well, this little formula says I should be eating this many calories. Therefore they didn't calculate that formula for you. They calculated the formula based on average people with normal functioning, this and that, wanting to lose weight. And there is no straight line to any of this.
[00:23:43.040] – Allan
There is no formula. Your body will burn more calories one day than it does the next and then more the day after. And there's no rhyme or reason exactly, other than hormones and the types of foods that you ate and when you ate them and your activity level, all those different things play into this. This is like trying to use plus and minus to deal with calculus. And there's a lot more operators out there in calculus than just plus and minus. So you can't just go at this and say, I'm just going to do the calories and calories out. It'll help you cut a little bit of body weight. It will, it'll work. It does work. The math makes sense in the short run. But if you're looking at making this sustainable and doing this over the long run, just cutting calories down to some very low number is not going to be sustainable. And unfortunately, as soon as you go back to eating the way that you ate, you're going to gain that weight back.
[00:24:43.470] – Rachel
Well, it's important to notice too. I mean, ages and ages ago when I used one of those food diaries, those online apps that you can use nowadays, I plugged in. I wanted to lose five or £10 and it set me at a 1200 calorie day for dieting. And at the time, I didn't know any different. Like I didn't know that 1200 calories was probably way too low. And I did my best to eat appropriately. But there's a lot of things wrong with this picture. It's just not enough calories. I was getting fatigued. I wasn't choosing the most nutrient dense foods. Number four is drinking your calories. Those diet shakes that you can drink are low calorie and they're supposed to be these meal replacement things, but those certainly aren't satiating. I mean, just a snowball of mistakes that happened and I really didn't get anywhere with it, to be honest.
[00:25:45.210] – Allan
And here's the point where I can empirically show you that the math doesn't work. Because that same company that puts out those same numbers who won't be named here, there's value to what they do, but it's not as valuable as a lot of people think is. They will tell you you had a great day. If you eat like this every day for the next six weeks, you will be down to your goal. Okay? But you notice as you weigh yourself, you're not losing that weight the same every day, or even every week, or even every month. There's declining results. And so what's happening is you're breaking the formula. And unfortunately, once you break that formula, what, are you going to recalculate the formula? Well, okay. Again. Now we're starting to get into calculus.
[00:26:43.230] – Rachel
[00:26:45.390] – Allan
If you just try to cut your calories and that's all you're going to do. I can just tell you overall, that doesn't work for 99% of the people. It might work for you, but that's only if you're going to be doing it very smart. Cut a little, move a little bit more. That might and can be sustainable. But you're not giving your body the nutrition it needs. You are destroying your health. You are not helping yourself.
[00:27:11.580] – Rachel
Well, I think that you just hit the nail on the head is that you can't just cut calories. You can't just say, I'll eat less of a salad, or less vegetables with dinner, or less this and that. You really need to focus on what less nutrient foods you can cut out of your diet. Drinking less calories and pops or teas or extravagant coffees. Can you swap out a cereal, sugar laden cereal, or donut at breakfast or maybe some eggs instead? You really need to focus on the nutritional part of it and what nutrients your body needs versus the fun to eat stuff. It's an easy place to cut.
[00:27:52.650] – Allan
Yeah. And sometimes it's not about eating less. It just isn't. It's about finding the right foods that your body needs so your body can actually feel cared for. If your body is in a mode where it feels like there's no food because realize your internal organs. Your body doesn't have eyes. When you stop feeding it food, the signal it gets is there's no food. That's the one signal, no food. She's not eating. There's no food. Okay. You stop moving. It's like, oh, we're in danger. We're hiding. All these signals are bad signals. Whereas if you're out and about doing things and you're eating good nutritious food, the signals are all clear. We don't need to hunker down. We don't need to hold on to this extra body fit. We just don't. We're storing it because we're afraid of what might happen. That's the body's control and protection. So you start teaching your body, we're in a good place. I'm not stressed, I'm sleeping good. I'm getting movement, and I'm eating well. Your body will say, oh, okay, well, maybe we don't need this body fat, and it starts to shed it. And if you keep feeding at those signals good.
[00:29:14.670] – Allan
The side effect is it will say, okay, we don't need to store this much body fat.
[00:29:19.330] – Rachel
Yeah, I like that. I like that approach. The weight loss is a side effect. If you take good care of your body, then your body will do what it needs to do and you'll be healthier and more fit for it.
[00:29:32.940] – Allan
And then in the end, is being skinny the answer is weighing lesser, because you could be skinny and unhealthy. You could be skinny and frail. You can be skinny and diseased, or you can be healthy and vibrant and likely still be able to get to a comfortable body fat percentage that way. And so I will always err on the side of the healthy, improving your wellness over what you weigh any given day, for sure.
[00:30:08.820] – Rachel
My goal is not to be skinny or to be focused on the number that's on that scale. My goal is to be healthy and fit and able to do the things that I want to do to live a happy life.
[00:30:21.400] – Allan
Yeah, but the problem is, if I had written the title, the Seven Health Mistakes People Make over 40, no one would have paid attention. But I put that word weight loss, and suddenly ding, ding, ding, everybody's clicking everybody's.
[00:30:34.910] – Rachel
That is so true. We've all been there, though. Like I said, I gained a lot of weight with both of my pregnancies, and I spent a lot of time trying to lose it. And like I said, I have made every single one of these seven weight loss mistakes in that attempt to lose that extra weight. So if we could steer people to realize that these are mistakes, that cutting calories drastically is not the answer, that doing tons of cardio is not the answer, and to please don't focus on your scale all the time, 24/7. That is definitely not the answer. Then we've probably cut some corners that people can focus on what they can do to lose a little weight, but primarily get healthier.
[00:31:17.740] – Allan
Yeah. I just came up with a million dollar product idea.
[00:31:21.770] – Rachel
[00:31:22.950] – Allan
Sneakers with scales in them.
[00:31:25.160] – Rachel
Oh, my gosh.
[00:31:28.850] – Allan
Bluetooth to your phone. Tell you what you weigh at any point in time in the day.
[00:31:32.410] – Rachel
Oh, my gosh. I don't want to know, Allan. I just don't want to know.
[00:31:38.270] – Allan
I just said that out loud on the podcast, so I'm sure it's going to show up on Indiegogo soon.
[00:31:42.900] – Rachel
[00:31:46.070] – Allan
All right. Well, Rachel, I know you've got your hike to do. Tell Mike I said good luck to both of you. Thank you. I wish you well on that. I'm looking forward to in a few weeks when we get back together for this, having that conversation and understanding how your trip went, the good, the bad, and probably some funny interesting stories.
[00:32:07.320] – Rachel
I'm sure there will be.
[00:32:09.590] – Allan
And then, of course, I'll be driving around the United States and enjoying my time there with family. So even though you guys are listening to this on September 13th, Rachel and I will probably about that time, be talking to each other again for around the first time in a few weeks. So it's been great talking to you, Rachel, and then I'll talk to you in a few weeks. For everyone else, it'll seem like I'm talking to you next week. So be safe, enjoy yourself, and we'll talk then.
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