There’s more to effective, sustainable weight loss than the overly simplistic calories-in vs calories-out paradigm. We need to start thinking of our bodies as less like a bank account and more like a chemistry lab. So calories, diet and exercise are only part of the story. Food, lifestyle and environment can all affect our hormones, which fine-tune our weight control. Here are some of the most common reasons for weight loss plateaus…..
You’re not really ‘eating clean’
Consuming foods that are as close to their natural state as possible is ‘eating clean’. A good tip is to only buy foods you find in the outer aisles of the supermarket. And don’t try fool yourself into thinking those chocolate covered raisins are good for you just because you bought them in a health food store!
You think low-fat foods are healthy
Convinced that you’re doing the right thing by choosing that low-fat yoghurt? Well, you’re probably consuming sugar (extra calories!) and additives that you wouldn’t have gotten from the full-fat version. Eliminating the fat means losing a lot of the flavour. Hence the added sugar, artificial sweeteners and other additives that won’t do your waistline or health any favours.
You haven’t ditched the bread
Even wholemeal bread can spike sugar & insulin levels in the blood. Insulin is a fat storing hormone that keeps fatty acids locked up in cells. Try swapping the lunchtime sandwich for more protein and veggies instead.
You think diet drinks don’t promote weight gain
Something that has 0 calories and 0 fat couldn’t possibly cause weight gain, right? Not true! The artificial sweeteners in zero-cal drinks trick the body into thinking that it is getting sugar, and when it doesn’t, it starts to crave the real thing – which encourages over-eating and excess calories.
You’re not lifting weights
No, you won’t get bulky like the guys in the gym! Woman are not hormonally capable of packing on muscle like men, but lifting weights will give you a toned athletic appearance and avoid the dreaded “skinny-fat” look. Increased muscle mass means increased metabolism. If you really want to change your body shape a good tip is to “train to failure”. This is when you get to the stage that you couldn’t do another rep if your life depended on it! Ideally, you should be lifting a weight that is heavy enough to get you to failure within 15 reps. If it doesn’t challenge you – it doesn’t change you.
You think cardio is the best form of exercise
Running for three hours straight won’t do you any favours. It releases too much cortisol which compromises muscle mass. The body also adapts very quickly to this type of exercise, so you will need to do more and more to get the same effect. Another negative to chronic cardio is that it dramatically stimulates appetite – and drives cravings for carbohydrates.
You don’t know about HIIT
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been proven to be far superior when it comes to burning fat. Jog or walk for a minute and then sprint all out for 30 seconds. Repeat 6 times. Do this 2-3 times a week. Not only is this more effective than cardio, but also more efficient! The trick is to get as close to your maximum heart rate as possible using the routine that suits you best. Studies show that HIIT boosts metabolism for up to 36 hours after exercise, as the effect of all that intense exertion kicks your body’s repair cycle into hyperdrive. While steady state cardio seems to encourage muscle loss, studies show that both weight training and HIIT workouts allow dieters to preserve their hard-earned muscle while ensuring most of the weight lost comes from fat stores. HIIT also stimulates human growth hormone, which is a our fat burning, anti-ageing hormone. Win-win!
You’re having too many late nights
Human growth hormone (as mentioned above) is a fat burning hormone that spikes during sleep – so aim for 8 hours a night. Studies also show that not getting enough sleep drives people to overeat the next day. Quality of sleep effects fat loss too, so make sure you minimise light and noise in your bedroom.
You’re constantly stressed
Cortisol is our stress hormone that promotes fat storage. Specifically, the body directs fat storage to the belly. This is the body’s survival mechanism for protecting the vital organs located in the abdomen. Proven methods to de-stress include exercise, spending time in the outdoors, talking it out with a friend, listening to music and, although it may be the last thing on your mind – sex!
You’re nutritionally deficient
Micronutrient deficiencies will tend to induce a strong appetite for food, as your body tries to get you to obtain more nutrition. As mentioned already, this is a major reason why ‘empty calories’ such as diet drinks can be fattening. Vitamin D, magnesium, iron and B vitamins are commonly deficient in the Irish diet. This can affect your mood and leave you feeling lethargic, making you more likely reach for a sugar fix and less likely to go to the gym.
You’re a ‘sugar burner’
Healthy people can burn sugar or fat for energy. Most overweight people, however, are sugar burners. If carbohydrates form the majority of your diet then your ability to burn stored body fat will be impaired. We store a very limited supply of glucose in the body and once it’s gone hunger sets in. If your body is used to burning sugar, you’re going to crave sugar. Energy crashes and the inability to go 3 hours without eating is a clear indication that your body is not effective at burning fat. To become ‘fat adapted’ reduce your carbohydrate intake and up the healthy fats. This will train your body to burn fat as its preferred source of fuel.
You’re not giving yourself enough time
There is no such thing as a quick fix. Approach weight loss with the right mind set and you will achieve your goals in due course. An all-or-nothing attitude leads to yo-yo dieting, which lowers metabolism.