Mistake #1: Eating too few calories.
It’s safe to eat 500 calories less than you need to maintain your weight. However, if you eat any less, your body will think it’s starving. When you starve yourself, you become leptin-resistant and lose muscle tissue. Your metabolic rate will slow down. Chances are, you’ll wind up gaining back the weight you lost.
So if you want to create a deficit of 500+ calories per day, burn the additional calories through exercise, rather than starving yourself.
Mistake #2: Measuring your progress by weight, not by inches.
When you exercise, you displace fat with lean muscle. So losing 10 pounds could mean that you’ve actually lost 16-17 pounds of fat, but gained 6-7 pounds of lean muscle.
Since muscle is denser (i.e. it takes up less space per pound), you’re likely to lose inches and pant sizes faster than pounds.
And here’s a bonus. Muscle tissue burns more calories per day than fat tissue. So increasing your muscle mass also raises your metabolism. That means you burn more calories while at rest!
Mistake #3: Doing the same exercise routine over and over.
When you flex the same muscles the same way every time you workout, your body recognizes it as a “routine”. It becomes more efficient and hits a plateau. So you see diminished returns.
By contrast, when you challenge your body with different exercises each week, you burn more calories and get more overall benefit. You can also get this benefit by changing the order of exercises.
When your body never knows what type of activity you’re doing next, it can’t get efficient.
Mistake #4: Trying to stick with a boring routine.
When exercise is boring, you’re more likely to quit. This is another reason to change your routine each week, or mix up the order of exercises.
Mistake #5: Not working your legs enough
The best way to burn calories is to exercise your biggest muscle group: your legs and gluts (butt) muscles — lunges, squats, and jumping jacks.
Mistake #6: Resting for too long between exercises
Breathing hard indicates that your heart rate is high. The faster your heart rate, the more calories you burn, and the higher your afterburn, which is the increase in calories you burn while at rest post workout. The afterburn can last anywhere from 3 to 14 hours. When you’re physically active, your metabolism runs higher and you burn more calories throughout the day.
To increase your metabolism after exercise, do more demanding exercises, and take shorter rests between exercises.
Mistake #7: Doing exercises with poor form.
There are two downsides to poor form. First, the muscles you’re trying to work don’t get the full benefit. Second, you could be injuring yourself. Ask for help. If you’re just starting out with exercise, sign up for a few training sessions, so you use proper form and don’t get hurt.
Mistake #8: Waiting for your designated “exercise time”
Instead of waiting for your workout, seize opportunities to burn calories during your everyday routine. Here are some examples:
• Carry heavy groceries a few blocks.
• When unloading your car, carry two bags at a time instead of one.
• Chase your dog.
• Help friends move furniture.
• Park on the far side of parking lots, so you have to walk further.
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
• Walk or bicycle instead of driving.
And most importantly, enjoy. Exercise is meant to help you feel good so find something you enjoy or if you’re stuck in an exercise rut, try something new.