Mashramani in Guyana and Trinidad’s carnival are right around the corner. You want to show off your physique on the road, the beach or fit snugly into that outfit.

Although you have been working to achieve the physique you have in your head, there is just one problem. You seem to have plateaued and your weight loss drive is stuck in the mud. If this is you, keep reading.

To lose weight or, more specifically, fat, you need to eat less and exercise more. This creates a calorie deficit which forces your body to use fat for fuel. This is simple thermodynamics and can be achieved in any number of ways. For most people, this calorie deficit is usually achieved by dieting. This may involve eating less fat, fewer grammes of carbs, smaller meals, fewer meals, or a combination of these things.

A lot of people are dieting right now. Are you one of them? If so, how long have you been dieting? If it’s more than a few weeks, you should be seeing noticeable fat loss, improved definition, and weight loss.

The trouble is, many people inadvertently self-sabotage their weight and fat loss efforts and end up dieting for many months or even years at a time. Think about it like this: if you need to lose 20 pounds, you should only need to diet for around 20 weeks. If your diet is never-ending, you must be doing something wrong.

Avoid these common mistakes and pitfalls to make your diet successful and, most importantly, something you only need to do once and not for the rest of your life!

Your diet is too restrictive

Monastic diet plans have their place – it’s how bodybuilders lose fat and get ripped in 8-12 weeks. However, while eating nothing but lettuce and steamed fish for each and every meal will cause dramatic weight loss, no one can or wants to eat like this for long.

If your diet is too restrictive, you will inevitably rebel against it and go back to your old, excessive eating habits. This is just human nature. While bodybuilders may experience success eating nothing but lettuce and steamed fish, they also tend to “blow up” and regain a lot of fat as soon as their competition is over and they start eating normally again. Avoid this problem by making sure your diet is sustainable rather than extreme.

You cheat too often

Many diets allow cheat meals and days. There are physiological and psychological reasons for this. Physiologically, eating a big meal boosts your metabolism and helps refuel your muscles with glycogen so you have more energy for exercise. This can also help preserve muscle mass. Psychologically, it provides a mental break which can make sticking to a strict diet easier.

The trouble is, rather than just have one cheat meal a week or enjoy a day of relaxed eating once or twice a month, many dieters cheat almost constantly and end up undoing most if not all of their dietary efforts. It is very easy to consume more calories in one meal than you have saved all week.

By all means, include cheat meals in your diet but make sure they are controlled and regulated so you don’t end up undoing your progress.

You aren’t exercising enough

Unless you really want to starve yourself, you’ll need to become more active to lose weight. Training three times a week is a good start but that’s only three hours a week of physical activity – what about the remaining 165 hours?

To avoid having to eat much less and suffering a lot of unwanted hunger, you will probably need to become significantly more active. This doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym more often, but you will need to look for ways to get up and get moving more every day.

The more active you can be, the easier you will lose weight.

Drinking too much alcohol

A beer or glass of wine at the end of a hard day’s work is one of life’s pleasures for many people but it’s also a source of overlooked calories that could be derailing your fat loss efforts. A small beer or glass of wine is no problem, but many habitual drinkers don’t settle for a small serving and end up consuming a lot of calories in the name of relaxation.

A standard pint/half a litre of beer contains around 200 calories so if you have two, you could end up consuming the same number of calories as you “saved” from eating less or exercising and completely wipe out your calorie deficit. Also, many people find that alcohol is an appetite stimulant which leads to eating more.

If you are serious about weight loss and don’t want to keep sabotaging your diet, you may need to take a long, hard look at your drinking habits.

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