4 weight loss mistakes that executives make, according to a nutritionist and exercise scientist

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After five years of working with executive clients to improve their body composition, fitness and health, I’ve been able to observe four common mistakes that curtail weight loss attempts.

Strong performance in the business sphere often comes at the cost of health, in particular, an expanding waistline resulting from an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and propensity to overconsume.

Fat loss is a science, not a dark art, requiring the modification of food and fluid intake alongside physical activity, but it’s easy to get caught up with fad diets or set ambitious goals that exceed current physical and time capacities.

Failing to assess the current regime

Most people rely on their perception of what the current regime looks like, which means they underestimate food intake and overestimate physical activity.

It’s imperative to build an accurate picture by tracking food intake and physical activity using an app, spreadsheet or notebook for seven days to gain a solid idea of energy intake and expenditure.

It’s common to find that the big lunch they thought was “once per week” is actually happening two or three times, and the Monday workout that gets cancelled “every now and then” hasn’t happened for two months.

Personalisation facilitates progression, which means that taking the time to understand their regime and identify specific improvements that can be made will help target the right areas.

Big goals and short timeframes

High performers in the business world often have high expectations for results in their personal life as well, leading to ambitious goals with relatively short timeframes.

Losing 10kg in two months is possible, but it will often require adherence to a training and nutrition regime that is hugely different from their current version.

Not many people can successfully go from minimal dietary structure to a perfect diet as soon as the clock hits 12am on Monday morning, yet many executive clients back themselves to do it.

Setting goals with longer timeframes is important for creating a realistic and adhereable strategy, plus they can always increase the challenge once you’re getting results.

Poor dietary return on effort

With a busy mind and schedule, there is a certain amount of mental exertion that can be allocated to the weight loss attempts, particularly in the early stages when new habits are being formed.

Cutting 150 calories from lunch every weekday equates to 750 calories over the week, but if they enjoy the meal less and get hungrier earlier than usual in the afternoon, there’s every chance this change won’t last.

Instead of dealing with that five times per week, often we can modify a single long lunch or dinner that often turns into a splurge, saving the same amount of calories while reducing the impact on the workday.

Only doing on type of exercise

There are plenty of executives who have been doing the same 5km run or bike ride four times per week for years on end.

Initially they gained fitness and maybe lost weight, but eventually, performance plateaus and the body adapts to the fixed duration and intensity.

A combination of resistance training, steady-state and metabolic conditioning allows training to be invigorating and seeing progress with every single session.

Often the repetitive training is steady-state cardio because it can be done solo and has minimal disruption when travelling, so it can be good to add some resistance training variety into the regime.

Two resistance training sessions every week is a great place to start, even for the most avid runner or cyclist.

Tom Fitzgerald is a nutritionist and exercise scientist specialising in body recomposition. See more at Integrated Fitness & Nutrition.

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