Article last updated: May 2019 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
I made a lot of mistakes on my 18 month fat loss journey, but I still managed to get rid of that chub and get lean for the first time in my life.
Today, I weigh close to 190 lbs and I’m leaner than I was at 177 lbs just 16 months ago with veins starting to appear all over my upper body and hips.
I’m not going to lie, it took me a lot of sweat and effort to build a body I’m proud of, but so far the journey has definitely paid off.
Can you do it too? Yes, I’m sure you can, and you can probably do it faster than me, because I’m sharing the mistakes I did on my journey with you.
However, the post today is not going to be about my mistakes.
It’s going to be about the biggest fat loss mistakes that I’ve spotted while reading through the past months emails and comments I’ve received from you readers.
Some of the mistakes I’ve done myself, while others aren’t.
#1 Low Calorie Dieting
I hear about skinny-fat guys eating something crazy like 1200 calories a day.
Eating like that will result in fat loss (if you can stick to it), but it will also mess up your body’s internal workings:
- The weight regulating hormone, Leptin, will decrease temporarily which results in an increase in appetite
- The stress hormone, Cortisol, will increase which results in you craving unhealthy foods more
- The increase in cortisol reduces your Testosterone levels so you start feeling irritable, have no libido, can’t concentrate and you lose your hard earned muscle
And that’s why most low calorie dieters don’t achieve their fitness goals. They stick to the low calorie diet for a few weeks, lose 10 lbs, then go on a huge binge because of the increase in appetite and cravings for unhealthy foods, and finally regain all the weight back within a few days.
But here’s the good news:
Most skinny-fat guys have about 25-40 lbs of fat to lose, so there’s no reason to do such an extreme diet.
If you lose 6 lbs a month, it will take you 4-7 months to lose it.
4-7 months may sound like a long time, but if you do it right the first time you will be able to stay lean once you lose it.
I lost 60 lbs of fat in about 18 months and I’ve stayed lean since then because most of the lifestyles changes I made during my fat loss, are changes I can stick to my whole life if I need to.
You can’t stick to low-calorie diets your whole life, so do it right the first time.
#2 Not Refeeding Your Body
Returning to the negative effects of a caloric deficit on your body, you can minimize them by doing regular refeeds.
About 2 times a week, I will go to a shawarma place close to my gym, and eat a shawarma durum after my workout.
By doing a regular refeed, I get my body in a temporary caloric surplus which keeps my hormones in good ranges and thereby reduces my hunger and enables me to train harder.
With that said, I’m not recommending full refeed “days” where you eat several crappy meals. That’s just too much.
I’m talking about 2 meals a week.
Every Sunday, put 2 days in your calendar where you eat a refeed meal after your workout.
Stick to this for a while, and experiment with different times for eating them and evaluate what works best for you.
#3 Introducing Intense Cardio Too Early
I use high intensity cardio at times where:
- I want to go from 12% bodyfat to 10% and get in summer shape
- I’m doing a short bulking cycle and I want to minimize the fat gains
This year, I started doing high intensity cardio 2 times a week after my strength training for 2 weeks at a time. I noticed that the cardio helped me burn off that last bit of fat I had on my love handles and make me more vascular.
I’ve also used it during a bulking cycle to keep fat gains to a minimum, and it worked incredibly well since my waist and hip measurements stayed the same while my shoulders and chest grew.
I’m not super strict about the way I do cardio, because I don’t have to be. I just get on the elliptical for 15-30 minutes after my workout, and make sure that I leave the gym drenched in sweat. My heart-rate stays at about 85%.
If I used cardio to get lean back when I was a skinny-fat, it wouldn’t be as effective once I got lean, because my body would be used to it, so I would have to do way more cardio to get the desired effect.
I got lean without using any treadmills or ellipticals, so I’m sure you can too. When you reach that point where you have about 12% bodyfat, and all you need to lose is that last bit of love handles, then you can consider using cardio.
Think long-term and save cardio as a weapon in your arsenal for when you really need it.
#4 “Intermittent Fasting Doesn’t Make Me Lose Fat”
Hi Oskar, I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for 2 months and I haven’t lost fat.
You haven’t lost fat because you ate more calories than you expended.
Fasting for 16 hours a day, doesn’t mean you can eat a caloric surplus and still burn fat. If you think that intermittent fasting enables you to eat a family pizza every night and still lose fat, then you’re dead wrong.
See intermittent fasting for what it is: a great tool to learn how to control your appetite and get rid of the mindset of eating a meal every 2-3 hours.
The tool itself won’t make you lose fat.
For some people it works like magic, since they have a hard time eating a surplus during those 8 hours, while for others it doesn’t work that well.
I don’t do it anymore because I function better when I eat breakfast, but I’m glad I did it; it taught me how to control my appetite and stop obsessing about meals.
If you use intermittent fasting and you aren’t losing fat, then write down what you eat and drink everyday for the next week on a piece of paper, and evaluate what you can cut out or reduce. It’s simple as that.
#5 Quitting Just Before The Finish Line
I’ve been cutting for 2 months and I’ve lost 10 lbs and inches around my waist but I look no different.
Let me explain why:
Most skinny-fat guys are in the 20-25% bodyfat range. When you start cutting, you usually lose about 2-3% of bodyfat a month. So, to get to a lean bodyfat percentage (10-12%), you would have to cut for 4-7 months if you’re doing it right.
However, the sad news is that there isn’t a huge difference between being 14% and 17% or 20% and 25%.
Also, there’s a good chance that you have a tendency to store most of your bodyfat in the love handles, glutes and hips first, so those are the places that will get lean LAST.
Because of this, most skinny-fat guys give up within a month or two of cutting.
I was a victim of this for a long time. I would cut down from about 210 lbs to 200 lbs, but there would be no difference, so I thought that cutting further is pointless.
However, the first time I stuck to my cut and got below 200 lbs, I noticed a HUGE difference in my appearance. My waist tightened up and my hips got narrower, creating that V-shaped look on my upper body.
As a skinny-fat guy you are undermuscled with a small bone structure, so you have to lose more weight than you think to get lean.
After my first real cut, I was surprised to be just 177 lbs at 6″3, even though I trained for almost 3 years.
If you push further after those initial few months of cutting, then you will be surprised about how your body changes towards the end of your cut.
#6 Failing to Prepare Your Meals
Preparation is key in my aspects of life, including fat loss.
After a long day of studying and working out all I want to do is order a pizza and lie in bed watching TV shows.
The last thing I want to do is to spend 1 hour on cooking and cleaning my kitchen, but I get it done because I know that’s what it takes to maintain my physique.
I enter my kitchen and prepare my dinner and possibly make food for several days if I know I’m busy on the upcoming night(s).
This makes it easy to stay lean and lose fat and I don’t even feel like I’m dieting.
When I open the fridge, I have meat and rice ready in tupperware. I just microvawe it and within a few minutes my meal is done.
Furthermore, I don’t keep junkfood or candy in my appartment.
If there’s no candy or junkfood available and my meals are all prepared, there’s no temptation to eat all that crap.
#7 Lack of Sleep
You probably know that kind of day where you go to sleep late, then wake up early to get ready in the morning, and eat your breakfast, but 2-3 hours after you’re hungry again.
Then you eat an early lunch, and by lunch time you’re hungry again. After lunch you snack throughout the afternoon and eat dinner.
This is the way a lot of overweight people eat. Instead of eating 2-3 solid meals a day while feeling great, they make a lot of quick meals throughout the day which have very low nutritional value.
The reason for this starts with sleep, because sleep regulates your hormones.
If you take a game where you can select “easy” and “hard” as difficulty levels, then the lack of sleep increases the difficulty of fat loss from easy to hard.
If you need an alarm clock to wake you up, then you aren’t sleeping enough. It’s unrealistic for most people to sleep perfectly every night and wake up without an alarm clock, but you can still take actions to improve your sleep:
Cut out bullshit like TV, computer games and facebook at night, go to bed as early as possible on week days and sleep in on weekends.
I can guarantee you that if you do this, it will be A LOT easier to be in a caloric deficit while feeling good. I know, because I used to stay up late every night back when I was in high school, then waking up early to get ready for school and snacking throughout the day.
Conclusion: The Biggest Fat Loss Mistakes
Finally, I would like to make a point about the mindset that is needed to transform your skinny-fat body and stay lean for years to come:
You need to be strategic about the actions you take.
If you start at 25% bodyfat, and you desperately start eating a low calorie diet, do high intensity cardio 5 times a week and never eat refeed meals then what will you do once you lean down to 12-15% bodyfat?
You will be at the point where you want to lose that last amount of fat to get ready for summer, but you will already have tapped out all your options to lose more fat.
I hope you learned a thing or two from this article. If you have any questions, then feel free to comment below.