“Nothing I try works – I just can’t lose weight!”

You might know someone that says this… It might even be you.

Everyone’s body follows the same principles – eat less, lose weight. But getting this into practical terms for your life and doing it well enough to see results is a different story.

The whole process is frustrating especially when you know how to do this and you’ve done it before… but now you’re stuck at a “too heavy” weight and can only reminisce about having abs.

OR you don’t even know where or how to start.

First, let’s take a couple of steps back.

You might have noticed that every “diet” imaginable has success stories (yes, even the “breathing diet”…) but most fail to miss the point – WHY each diet works and why they work for some and not others.

What does every successful diet have in common?

They all share a few simple ideas:

  • Caloric deficit (NO deficit, NO fat loss!)
  • Focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods
  • Making adjustments as you progress
  • Taking back CONTROL of the food you eat

Sounds easy enough on the surface, but the most important factor is learning the SKILLS required to accomplish each step of the process.

This is the difference between being STUCK… or losing weight long-term.

IF you have the skills required:

  • you know how to tackle each obstacle,
  • you can stick to your diet and exercise plan long-term and get to your goal, and
  • you know what to do when you fall off track.

IF you don’t:

  • you keep starting or stopping,
  • you feel very frustrated at the process, and
  • you make some or all of the mistakes/blind spots listed below.

Feeling stuck in a rut and frustrated, stressed and angry because this isn’t working for you means you are missing the skills required somewhere along the line.

This can’t be understated – the same skills you were using to get and stay fit before may not work (Back in college, high school, or another point in time.) If your body and life have changed, so do the skills required!

Like learning to drive, you wouldn’t jump into a car without knowing how, try to drive it, then beat yourself up for not being able to, right?

The same is true for living a healthy lifestyle and losing weight. You may have learned about the theory behind nutrition & exercise (how to read street signs, how a car works, what all the numbers mean), but now you need to learn how to turn that theory into results for your body and life (every car and every road is different!).

Okay, the car analogy is falling apart a bit here.

But all this simply means is understanding which skills you need to improve.

Here’s an easy way to figure out what skills you need.

What skills do I need to learn?

Let’s start with the nutrition side of things to give us some context for the skills required. Here are 5 nutrition habits to make healthy eating a LOT easier:

  • Eat slowly to 80% full
  • Eat 2 servings of vegetables with each meal
  • Eat 2 servings of protein with each meal
  • Eat 2 servings of carbs with most meals
  • Eat 2 servings of fat with most meals

That’s a simple framework… from there you make adjustments as you progress (increase or decrease carbs and fat to manipulate calories to lose more weight, improve hunger management, etc.)

Here’s a simple serving size guide:

  • 1 vegetable serving = 1 fist
  • 1 protein serving = palm of hand
  • 1 carb serving = cupped handful
  • 1 fat serving = 1 thumb

(For a more in-depth view of the nutrition habits above, I wrote a post on the perfect meal template, check it out here).

Now, an easy way to figure out the skills required to start losing weight is to look at the 5 habits above and ask yourself, “What is stopping me from eating like that?”

More specifically,

  • What is stopping me from preparing most or all of my meals?
  • What is stopping me from making the switch to healthier meal options?
  • What is stopping me from getting more protein and vegetables with each meal?
  • What is stopping me from exercising in some way daily/several times a week?

Those are just some examples.

The answer can be as complex as “I don’t know where to start” TO “I just don’t like vegetables”. The answer to both can be simple – start with any habit and go from there, and find recipes that hide the fact that you’re eating veggies from you (or the kids).

Let’s break it down further…

Sometimes it’s a lack of knowledge (Skill required = learning and knowing how to implement the information!)

Or a lack of motivation (Skill required = tapping into what matters most to you, and then acting even if you don’t feel it! Yes this is a SKILL, you get better at it over time)

It could also be:



“What am I supposed to eat?”
  • Learn what you need to do to get to your goal
  • Being able to understand and identify macros (carbs/fat/protein)
  • Being able to apply knowledge about carbs/fat/protein to real life meals and goals
  • Learning to cook to make some basic meals!
“I don’t have time to get fit right now”
  • Effective time management
  • Making simple, quick recipes
  • Meal prepping
“I keep giving in to cravings”
  • Grocery shopping effectively to avoid buying junk food
  • Knowing what to replace it with
  • Preparing enjoyable meals that are filling and nutritious
“I’m always hungry and eat past full”
  • Paying attention to hunger cues
  • Slowing down when eating (feeling full takes time!)
  • Eating until satisfied and not FULL (Yes, this is also a skill. It’s not easy to do right away)

Right away you can tell there’s no quick fixes or 30 day transformations here. Getting good at this is like anything else worth doing – it takes time to get started and learn, but once you’re out the gate it only gets easier with time.

The most important skills include paying attention to your hunger cues, knowing how to prepare and store food, knowing your way around a kitchen, understanding which foods are carbs/fat/protein, tapping into your motivation, and keeping track of your progress.

A good coach will help you uncover all of these and get you on the right track. These skills don’t come overnight but they are all crucial to doing this long-term and keeping the weight off for good.

I get the skills, but it’s still not working…

Now we do some troubleshooting. It’s important to be aware of the huge blind spots and mistakes we all make on this journey. There are a couple I’ve seen in clients that can make all the difference,

Blind spot

What happens

Underestimating calories in/snacking/drinking
  • Snacking and drinking can sometimes be mindless activities which equals LOTS of extra calories. Avoid drinking your calories!
  • Things like fats from nuts/seeds which are calorie-dense become much MORE calorie dense when turned into butters
  • “Healthy” foods can still make you gain weight! Avocado is calorie-dense as fuck, you shouldn’t put it on everything
Not lining up BEHAVIORS with GOALS
  • To put it bluntly, large weight loss goals require large effort
  • Wanting to lose 50lbs but working out 2x a week and not prepping meals, cooking or keeping track of your progress will make this process MUCH, MUCH HARDER. The effort needs to be there
Over-analyzing the numbers
  • Calorie counting cannot be 100% accurate. If you do it, use it as a guideline and use your results to make adjustments. Don’t get sucked into the numbers and beat yourself up over it! Too much stress and frustration = giving up early.
  • The weight scale will constantly fluctuate. Notice the weekly trends (scale once a week) and go from there. Don’t let the scale play with your head
Trying to do it all “like I used to”
  • Taking too much on at once and feeling frustrated, stressed and angry because it’s not working means you are missing the skills required somewhere along the line
  • The hard truth is that yes, maybe you have done this once before… but if your body and life have changed, so do the skills required to tackle this now. Be aware of that

Succeeding at this can have a lot of moving parts at all times, and it can seem overwhelming or annoying (especially with all the fitness misinformation out there…). Understand that the process IS uncomfortable.

You will be a little hungrier than you usually are, eat less than you want to, move more than you normally do, and do it all for longer than you’re used to. That’s the process.

It’s normal to feel uncomfortable, a little discouraged or confused, or have low motivation SOME OF THE TIME. But understanding this process can help you get there faster.

Systematically approach your life in this area, let go of the fads or tricks, learn what YOU need to succeed and with a lot of little habits and a lot of time you will eventually become the person you want to be. No lie!

Author Bio

Ridwan Mao shows busy men simple, practical steps for improving for their bodies and lives on his blog. His goal is to show you how you can start seeing results TODAY, even if you’re struggling with time, energy and motivation. Take action at www.ridwanmao.com

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