Five Common Mistakes People Make When Trying To Lose Body Fat

Screenshot 2021-02-02 at 10.06.11
Sean Wilson

Sean Wilson

Trying to lose body fat but not seeing the results you want? Here are five common mistakes that could be affecting your progress.

Losing body fat can be a long, arduous process for a lot of people. It requires plenty of hard work, discipline, and determination over a long period of time but, despite having all this, people still find it difficult to lose body fat at the rate that they want. As a result, they then become frustrated at the lack of reward and progress for their efforts and soon give up.

It is important to know the right things you need to do to lose body fat before acting on them. You may be working hard, but the question is, are you working smart? Hard work is one thing, but if you are doing the wrong things consistently, you are less likely to see the results you want. Is this you? Here are five mistakes you may be making when trying to lose body fat.

Not Following a Plan

A common mistake for people is not having a plan in place to get them to where they want to get to. The exercise may have been increased, the diet may be a lot healthier, but if you are not sure of exactly what you need to do and how to do it, your efforts are more than likely going to go without reward. Following a good, structured, and simple plan is essential because it gives you clarity about what you need to do to lose body fat and how you are going to get there. This applies to training, nutrition and lifestyle and will allow you to focus your energy towards performing the tasks to the best of your ability. Then, once you become familiar with a good plan, it will soon be ingrained in your memory and become a lifestyle, rather than a challenge. So much about losing body fat is about changing habits and once you do that, your body shape will change as a result.

Obsessing over scale weight

Another very common mistake is worrying too much about how much you weigh on the scales. People often become depressed if their weight does not go down rapidly but this does not mean that you are not making progress. Tracking your weight is still important because it tells a certain part of the story (if you are becoming lighter, for example) but it is not the primary indicator of fat loss progress. If you do not have much muscle tissue to begin with, are doing resistance training sessions and in a calorie deficit consistently, you are going to be adding muscle (toning up) and losing body fat. Therefore, because muscle weighs more than fat, your weight may not change drastically, to begin with.

However, adding muscle and losing body fat means that you are adding a better structure and shape to your body and in the process, improving your body composition (how you look). So, during the first few months, there may not be a huge drop in weight, though after 8-12 months, the rate of muscle tissue growth is going to be much slower and will soon grind to a halt by still being in a calorie deficit. Yet your body fat will keep dropping and because almost no new muscle tissue is being added, your weight will start to decrease much quicker. So, it is important to remember that scale weights do not tell the whole story, and provided you are doing the right things, you will still make great progress without decreasing your weight by a huge amount.


To lose body fat, the most important thing is that you are consistently in a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you are consuming) for a sustained period of time. However, people often misunderstand how big that deficit has to be and end up dropping their calorie intake by a huge amount, and while you may see home initial weight and fat loss, there are two big issues that come with this method. The first is that eating too few calories will drastically slow down your metabolism (the range of biochemical processes that occur within your body to break down food into energy) and soon put a halt to the fat-burning process. Therefore, all your hard work in the gym and supposed ‘discipline’ with your nutrition will be for nothing.

The second issue is that it is not sustainable. Under-eating will not only lower your energy levels and negatively affect the quality of your workouts, but it will also make your quality of life pretty miserable and often lead to you giving up altogether. So much of nutrition is about sustainability and if you are not enjoying your diet, you are less likely to stick to it in the long run. As well as it being ineffective for your fat loss, starving yourself will affect your overall mood, which can then have a bad impact on your relationships with people and other areas of your life.

So, the important thing to remember is that your calorie deficit has to be moderate, which is usually 400-600 calories below your maintenance level (the calories you need to consume to stay the same weight and look the same, based on your activity levels). By doing this, you will lose body fat more consistently but also enable your metabolism to function properly, keep your energy levels to a relatively high level and maintain the muscle tissue that you worked hard to develop. For more on this, check out the free Weight Loss and Fat Loss Framework on my services page.

Too much cardio and not enough resistance training

A trap that many people fall into is thinking is that in order to lose fat, you need to ramp up your cardio output and use that as your sole source of exercise. Although cardio does indeed burn plenty of calories, the more efficient you become at cardio, the fewer calories you are going to burn from it. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, too much cardio will lead to a ‘skinny fat’ physique, where you do not have a proper structure and shape to your body and you instead have a much smaller frame, with some fat still hanging on.

By consistently doing resistance training as your primary source of exercise, you are going to build muscle (tone up), which will not only add a better overall look to your body, but also increase your fat-burning process because the body requires lots of energy (calories) to maintain lean muscle tissue. Also, resistance training sessions burn a lot of calories themselves but do not make the mistake of thinking that you have to do as many reps as possible with light weights to burn fat. 

This will only lead to your endurance improving and will not actually have a positive effect on your rate of fat loss. Stay within the hypertrophy rep range of 8-12 reps (I would usually recommend 10 reps) and keep lifting heavy so that you add/maintain muscle tissue, burn lots of calories and improve your strength as a result. Combine this with a sustainable form of cardio (usually low-intensity cardio e.g. walking) and a moderate calorie deficit and you will be well on your way to losing body fat more efficiently.

Lack of patience

Another common mistake is very much a psychological one. Many people expect to see dramatic results in 2-3 weeks and get upset and depressed when they do not see instant results, which can lead to them giving up. However, the reality is that, provided you are consistently doing the right things, losing body fat and improving your body composition (how you look) is going to take time. Like most things, success does not happen overnight and it instead requires consistency over a sustained period of time before results start to appear.

Your rate of fat loss in the first few weeks will be the quickest because it is easy for the body to use the required energy from fat storage when you have plenty of body fat, to begin with. The longer you stay in a calorie deficit and the less body fat you have, however, the harder it then becomes for your body to burn more fat and therefore the rate of fat loss will decrease, especially when you get below levels of 15% body fat. Patience and consistently sticking to the right plan is going to be essential to you getting your body fat levels down.

So, when looking to burn body fat, make sure that you are not making these mistakes as they can be detrimental to your progress and can often lead to quitting. Follow a good plan and consistently do what is required over a sustained period, and you will start to see great results when it comes to this fitness goal.

Photo Credit: Envato Elements

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