Anjuli Mack is a personal trainer, former bikini competitor, and influencer based in Auckland, New Zealand.
She has been on a “rollercoaster” fitness journey, through fad diets, extreme cardio, over-restriction, and bingeing, and her weight has fluctuated by 22 pounds as a result.
Mack is now “all about being healthy, balanced, and happy,” she told Insider.
In a YouTube video, she highlighted the 10 main lessons she wishes she’d known when setting out on her fitness journey eight years ago.
Mack explained each lesson — like how quick weight loss fixes never work, and you can’t spot reduce fat — to Insider
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Anjuli Mack is a personal trainer based in Auckland, New Zealand, who inspires her 141,000 Instagram followers with her workouts, recipes, and healthy fat loss tips.
The 26-year-old hasn’t always been an expert in fitness and fat loss, though, and describes her own health journey as a “rollercoaster.”
It’s been eight years since Mack became interested in nutrition and exercise, but she admits she initially made lots of mistakes, trying fad diets, developing an unhealthy relationship with food, and having no idea what she was doing in the gym, she told Insider.
Mack educated herself about healthy nutrition for fitness, learning about calories and macros, and went on to lose 22 pounds and compete in bikini competitions, though she says: “I was so lean and tiny but I couldn’t maintain it.”
Now strong and fit but at a slightly higher weight, Mack says she’s “all about being healthy, balanced, and happy.”
“My journey has been such a rollercoaster so I really hope that I can help others avoid making the same mistakes I did,” she said.
The personal trainer shared the 10 lessons she’s learned about fat loss, training, and finding a healthy balance in a YouTube video:
Here, she explains each one to Insider.
1. Comparing yourself to others won’t help you
When Mack was trying to lose fat, she fell into the trap of comparing herself to the women she saw in magazines, on TV, and on social media.
“Looking at social media and comparing myself to others or wanting to look like someone else led me to feeling unhappy,” she told Insider.
“What I should have been doing is what I do now: Focusing on being my best version.”
In her younger years, Mack didn’t realize that the women she was looking at had often been photoshopped, filtered, or were manipulating their bodies using angles and lighting.
“So much of social media is a highlight reel with the best angles and lighting, and I was oblivious to that,” she said.
2. You shouldn’t try and emulate anyone else’s lifestyle
If you’re not sure where to start, it can be easy to think you should just do what you see other people doing, but this would be a mistake, Mack learned.
“You cannot copy what others are doing and expect the same results,” she said.
“We are all so unique and we need unique plans that are tailored to our goals, our body types, and our individual preferences.”
If you don’t like running, don’t go running. If you don’t like weight lifting, don’t lift weights, she advises.
“It’s all about finding what works for you and what you actually enjoy doing and see yourself doing long-term,” she said.
3. Be wary of people selling weight loss products
Looking for fat loss advice online can be overwhelming and confusing, and Mack stresses the importance of treading carefully, because people are often trying to make money from others’ insecurities.
“There are always companies out there that are looking to make money from you. They will sell you quick fixes, detox teas, waist trainers, every type of fad diet and quick fix you can imagine — I know, because I’ve bought them before,” she said.
Earlier in her fitness journey, Mack tried a “detox tea,” but says she never would again.
She warns you should stick to evidence-based advice and scientific research from qualified individuals who aren’t selling anything.
4. Nailing your diet is key
For years, Mack bounced from one restrictive diet to another, never sticking with anything and putting on more weight after each.
But, she says, whether you’re trying to lose fat or build muscle, nailing your nutrition is essential.
“You cannot out-work a bad diet,” she said. “If you’re thinking you can go to the gym Monday to Friday and then at the weekend eat whatever you want, it doesn’t work like that.
“If you want to lose fat, you need to understand that the only way to do so is with a calorie deficit.”
Mack recommends using calorie-tracking app MyFitnessPal to learn how to fuel your body appropriately.
5. Trying to spot-reduce fat is pointless
Many people have particular body parts they want to slim down, but you can’t spot-reduce fat with a particular diet or way of working out, which is something Mack learned through trial and error.
“As women, fat often falls from our stomach, hips, and thighs last due to the way we are built,” she said.
“If you want to lose fat from a particular body part, it comes down to consistency with nutrition and training.
“If you do 100 sit-ups every day, you might build a strong core, but you’re not going to lose fat from your stomach unless your nutrition is on point.”
6. It’s important to know what you’re doing in the gym
Mack says it’s important to ask for professional help from qualified personal trainers, which for her meant ensuring her technique in the gym was correct, making her less likely to get injured. She says she saw better results, too.
“When I started my fitness journey I didn’t know anything about mind-muscle connection, I would never focus on the muscle group I was working, I would just go through the motions,” she said.
“Although I had quite good form I would sometimes prioritize lifting heavier instead of taking some weight off and concentrating on my form.”
Mind-muscle connection — focusing on the muscle you’re working — and concentrating on executing each movement perfectly resulted in Mack making faster progress, but it took working with a qualified personal trainer for her to learn this.
7. No one is looking at you when you’re working out
Mack used to feel embarrassed to use the squat rack at the front of the gym because she thought everyone would be looking at her, but she soon realized this wasn’t the case at all.
“No one actually cares,” Mack said.
“If anything, everyone in the gym is focused so much on their own training or checking themselves out in the mirror that they don’t care what you’re doing.”
Don’t let feeling self-conscious hold you back.
8. Cardio isn’t the most effective way to lose fat, but it’s also not the enemy
At the end of her teenage years, Mack was a complete cardio bunny, spending lots of time cycling and running and, if she ever did pick up weights, performing sets of over 20 reps, because she thought that was what she was meant to do.
When she went to university, she transitioned to only lifting heavy weights, again because she thought that was what she was meant to do.
“They were two complete extremes and I wish someone had just told me that the most effective way to shape my body is through nutrition, followed by weight training, followed by a suitable amount of cardio that is great for overall health,” said Mack.
Mack has now found what she deems to be a happy balance, focusing on weight-lifting but also aiming to hit 8,000 steps a day.
9. Restricting your diet too much just leads to overeating
Mack admits that like many people, she used to restrict herself massively with her diet, then do the polar opposite and overeat because she’d denied herself so much.
“Restriction was a big issue for me and I would have made so much more progress if I’d just been balanced,” Mack said.
She points out that if you’re really strict with yourself Monday to Friday but then eat loads at the weekend, you can easily undo the calorie deficit you’ve created, which is essential when trying to lose fat.
“You’ll find yourself feeling really frustrated that you’re maintaining or gaining weight week after week, and I know this feeling because I’ve been there before,” Mack said.
“I wish someone had told me that calories count at the weekend even if you don’t count them.”
10. Setting clear goals is crucial
Mack says it’s really important to define your reasons for wanting to get stronger, fitter, leaner, or whatever it might be.
“Understanding why you want to do something means you have that motivation when you don’t feel like doing something,” she said.
Mack recommends setting a goal that isn’t just aesthetic-based, like wanting to have the energy to run around with your kids: “It needs to be something that really drives you,” she said.
Mack suggests setting small, achievable goals to encourage the habits that will get you there.
“A goal without a plan is just a dream,” she said.
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