Losing those last 10, 20 or 50 pounds can be one of life's biggest challenges and frustrations. With all the countless ads out there for weight-loss programs and products that promise quick, easy and effortless results, it can make the struggle seem even more aggravating when all the blood, sweat and tears you're putting in don't seem to account for anything on the scale.
If you can relate to these feelings of frustration, and don't understand why things aren't moving in the right direction even though you've followed all the latest "weight loss rules", don't worry! Weight loss is so much more than a simple fad diet or a magic formula- and it definitely IS possible to achieve and maintain. Here are some very common pitfalls that many of us are guilty of, and could be the reason you are not seeing the results you deserve.
Counting Calories and Not Eating Enough
Our bodies are not bank accounts- the theory of balancing "calories in vs calories out" is outdated and based on faulty science, and simply does not work! First off, all calories are not created equal. Our body's use the nutrients and energy from different foods in very different ways. For example, 150 calories from a couple apple slices with a tablespoon of almond butter is digested and used very differently than the same 150 calories from a Coke. It's the quality that matters, and not the quantity in this equation. Counting calories (or points) not only takes way too much time, but it doesn't teach you anything about properly fueling and listening to your body's metabolism.
We all know that someone who can eat whatever they want in endless quantities, and won't put on an ounce. If the calorie-counting system actually worked, then it would work for everyone. But, because our metabolisms have thousands of biochemical reactions going on inside us, we need to understand that everyone is a little bit different and must be treated as such. Rather than counting calories, it is more important to focus on finding out if there are any foods that are causing distress or sensitivities, such as bloating or inflammation, which could not only make you feel terrible but also disrupt normal hormone functions and make losing weight difficult.
Limiting the amount of calories eaten often has the opposite intended effect, and rather than lose weight, "starvation mode" occurs and your body hangs onto its fat stores for dear life, thinking that there is a time of famine since a state of semi-starvation is occurring. It's time to put away the calculator, and instead start eating high quality foods frequently throughout the day based on your own body's metabolic needs. Who would have thought that sometimes it may be necessary to eat more to lose weight!
Not Eating Enough Protein
Protein isn't just something that bodybuilders need to worry about getting enough of- it's a vital part of not only losing weight, but keeping it off! Protein revs up your metabolism for two to three hours after you eat it. So if you are not eating enough, you are actually slowing down your metabolism—and your weight loss! It is also critical to help build and maintain lean muscle mass. It's one thing to be "skinny", but a whole other to be a lean, mean, sexy machine! The more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body will naturally expend throughout the day. Plus, once those extra pounds are off it is always a bonus to see some defined, sculpted muscle tone. Aim to eat 4 ounces of good quality protein at every meal, and 2 ounces at each snack. Some examples of what this looks like:
1 small steak (the size of your palm)
1 cup cooked beans
1 can of tuna
2 tablespoons nut butter
4 tablespoons hummus
Not Eating Enough Fat
Fat has been given a bad rep for all the wrong reasons. The surge of low-fat diets back in the 80's (which were all based on faulty science and skewed results from Ancel Keys) has arguably been the main reason behind the current epidemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. A bold statement, yes, but the truth is that when fat became public enemy #1 in the media, food manufacturers took advantage. Low fat and fat-free products are virtually everywhere now. But the problem is that once the fat is taken out of a product, so is the taste! So manufacturers had to solve this problem by adding sugar, and LOTS of it. So yes, although in fact those eating Twizzlers, fat-free cookies, muffins and marshmallows may be sticking to a low-fat diet, the volumes of added sugar and other preservatives have led to devastating effects and chronic diseases in the body.
Fat does not make you fat-- but a low-fat diet does! Good quality fat is essential for every cell in our body. Not only does it act to help our body absorb nutrients properly and function well, but it also is the best defence against cravings for processed foods and carbs. When you eat fat, a hormone called CCK tells your brain that your body is satisfied. No need to keep eating and eating, as can be the case when following a low-fat diet. So, to keep your body functioning at its peak, and to help keep cravings away and allow your body to burn the fat off your body, include a good quality fat source at every meal and snack. Not only will it help you reach your goals, but also makes food taste SO much better!
Great Fats to include:
virgin coconut oil
olives (and olive oil)
nuts (cashew, almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc)
flax and chia seeds
Fats to Avoid:
Trans Fats (found in hydrogenated margarine and most commercially made baked goods)
Refined oils such as canola, sunflower, corn and other vegetable oils
Eating Too Much Fruit
Yes, unfortunately, it is possible that too much of a good thing can be the reason you're not seeing the results you would like! For people who struggle with weight, anything that contains high amounts of fructose (the sugar in fruit) will make it really hard to lose weight. Fruit is not totally off limits, just watch the amount per day and the types of fruit you consume. For example, berries contain less sugar than a large apple. Also, be sure to pair your fruit with a healthy fat source, to help slow the rate of digestion of the sugars in your bloodstream. So, have a scoop of real whipped cream with that bowl of berries, or slap on a spoon of almond butter on your banana slices. Bottom line- if you are at a weight loss plateau, limit your fruit servings to no more than half a cup (or up to 2 small pieces) of fruit a day. Also try to choose organic so that you are getting the most amount of nutrients possible from them.
Not Eating Enough Non-Starchy, Colorful Veggies
Eating lots of green, leafy vegetables give you the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals you need for weight loss. But they also do something really important for weight loss—they help you detox excess estrogen from your body, which will make it very difficult for you to lose weight. Aim to fill half your plate at each meal with veggies with a variety of different colors to not only keep things interesting, but keep you full and provide you with all the vital nutrients your body needs to be healthy. Some examples of non-starchy vegetables you can literally eat unlimited amounts of each day:
Beans (green, Italian, yellow or wax)
Greens (beet greens, collard greens, dandelion, kale, mustard, turnip)
Hearts of palm
Herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil, rosemary, thyme, etc.)
Lettuce (endive, escarole, romaine or iceberg)
Peppers (green, red, yellow, orange, jalapeno)
Snow peas or pea pods
Eating Too Many Starchy and Carbohydrate Rich Foods
Our body's convert carbohydrates into sugar very quickly in our blood stream, which spikes insulin levels and can lead to cravings for more carbs all throughout the day, making it virtually impossible to resist that box of donuts at the office. Set yourself up for success and avoid all processed carbs (anything that comes out of a box, muffins, bagels, cereals and breads). This doesn't mean avoid carbs alltogether, but simply make sure the sources you are getting them from are high quality and are digested slowly in your blood stream. Avoid "whole-grain" breads, crackers and cereals, which are huge marketing ploys and are still overly processed and often contain high amounts of sugar. Instead, reach for sources such as:
sprouted grains (buckwheat, spelt, kamut and amaranth)
steel cut oats
Some people are simply more sensitive to carbs than others. Some people can eat a small serving of steel cut oatmeal and feel full and satisfied for hours to come, whereas in others it can set off and disrupt insulin and other hormone levels which lead to cravings and an insatiable hunger for more. If you fall into the second category, then following a low-carb, high protein/fat meal plan will be your best bet to losing those last unwanted pounds and keeping them off. Carbohydrates have an extremely addicting effect in the brain, so although at first trying to cut these out of the diet may seem impossible due to withdrawal-like symptoms and cravings, over time these will disappear and you'll feel and look better than you could have imagined!
Believing you can Out-Exercise a Bad Diet
Exercise and an active lifestyle are key players in weight loss, however many people mistakenly think that running on the treadmill for 30 minutes will magically erase the binge from the night before. Unfortunately, this is not the case. When you eat too many processed carbs and sugars, insulin (the fat-storing hormone) levels rise, and the cycle of storing those excess sugars into body fat begins. Instead of using exercise as a defence mechanism against bad eating, include it in your everyday routine in combination with a healthy, balanced diet. Not only will this allow you to achieve weight loss and lean muscle mass, but fueling your body with the proper nutrition will give you better energy and strength for a much better workout!