If you are like an estimated 45 million other Americans, you are trying to lose weight. When done correctly, making a lifestyle change can reward you with less visits to the doctor, increased mobility and agility, bolstered self- confidence and an overall improvement in quality of life.
But it’s a process that can be difficult and frustrating and unfortunately, many people do not make it for the long haul and do not succeed.
If you’ve been dieting and can’t seem to the lose the weight you want, let me offer some suggestions that when implemented, may be the key to your success.
First, it’s important that you erase the “diet” mentality. Losing weight is about a lifestyle change.
The only way you will ever see permanent and lasting results is to live your life differently every day. A diet is a short-term fix that may lend itself to results, but you will ultimately gain that weight back when you return to your normal eating habits.
Because you are going to be making a lifestyle change rather than going on a diet, it’s important that choose a program to follow that is reasonable and lends itself to day-to-day eating whereby you don’t feel deprived. We all want a quick fix and instant results. And while eating a no carbohydrate diet or restricting your calories to an extreme will give you fast results, it’s not easily maintained and in my experience, you will find yourself falling off the wagon more than staying on it.
A balanced nutritional plan should include the following:
- Plenty of water– Water is to your body the way that oil is to your car. You absolutely need it in order to run efficiently. Water keeps toxins flushing throughout your system and helps maintain normal bowel function. Your kidneys need the assistance of water to cleanse your body of toxins and your gastrointestinal tract needs water to prevent constipation. Water also energizes your muscles. You will experience noticeable muscle fatigue in the absence of enough water. I used to deplete my system of water before fitness competitions and could never figure out why my muscles were so exhausted when I tried to perform. It wasn’t until I started training for triathlons that I learned about the detriment of dehydration to my body. Additionally, water does help you feel fuller longer. And nobody likes being hungry!
- Mini meals throughout the day– The best way to supercharge your metabolism is to eat small mini meals throughout the day, rather than one large breakfast or one large dinner. It’s much easier for your body process a 300-calorie meal at once than it is for it to process a 1000-calorie meal. By eating mini-meals, you give your body the fuel it needs while not overburdening it with tons of extra calories it has to work to burn through. Many people feel that as long as they are eating within their calorie limits in a 24-hour period, then it doesn’t matter. But the fact is that your body doesn’t run like that. When the clock strikes midnight, your body doesn’t instantly start doing calculations and conclude that you have burned more than you took in, so it shall start shedding fat. Your body is a machine that is constantly running and needs to be fueled throughout the day. Also, eating when your blood sugar is low (because you haven’t eaten all day) causes a bigger release of insulin, which causes more storage of fat.
- Whole and unprocessed foods– Eliminating all foods from your life that aren’t naturally grown from the earth is a key ingredient to successful weight loss. Processed foods have chemicals and additives that your body has no use for and has to work much harder to digest. Whole foods are packed with vitamins and nutrients, while processed foods have empty calories that serve no purpose to your body.
- A balance of fruits, vegetables, proteins and starches– Different food sources serve various purposes for you body. You cannot get all the nutrients and energy you need by solely eating oatmeal or only eating chicken. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are all macronutrients necessary to fuel a peak body. Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel and are easily used by the body for energy. They are important for intestinal health and waste elimination. Protein is essential for growth, muscle repair, preserving lean muscle mass and contains essential hormones. And fats help your body to absorb certain nutrients, provide energy, make hormones and protect your organs.
- A general idea of the calories you’re consuming– While counting calories non-stop is tedious, time consuming and probably unnecessary, it is important to know that you aren’t over eating in day. I’ve talked to many very overweight people who claim to eat only healthy foods. Foods like fish and brown rice, while healthy, are not “free” foods. They cannot be eaten any quantities you like. At the end of the day, regardless of your food choices, you must still be expending more energy than you’re taking in.
Once you’ve settled on a specific program or are following the guidelines I’ve set above, the most important strategy you can begin to implement is consistency.
If I had to name the number one reason for failure to lose weight, it would be the lack of adhering to the program for a considerable amount of time. INCONSISTENCY
What is a considerable amount of time? I can’t say what it is for you, as everyone is different. For me, it takes about two weeks to see results. I find that most people, who say that they have tried everything and nothing works, are inaccurate in their conclusion that the plan didn’t work. That person didn’t succeed at following through with the plan. She did it for a few days and then ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and had popcorn at the movies. While treats are wonderful and are to be enjoyed from time to time, real progress cannot be made while taking nibbles of this and that everyday or gorging until your hearts content every four days. You must remain consistent day in and day out. Progress takes time and it will happen. Be patient.
Another reason you may be waning in your weight loss is not being aware of what you’re actually consuming. I suggest keeping a food journal at least for a period of time, to rule this out. Often times we genuinely don’t realize the extra items we’ve eaten throughout the day. A food journal will allow you to review the week and make sure that you are following your program the way it is intended to be followed.
Are you sure the foods you are eating are actually healthy? If you’re struggling with your weight loss, review the foods you eat and ensure that they are actually healthy.
Some of the big mistakes I see people make when trying to eat better are eating restaurant salads, smoothies or crackers.
Restaurant salads not only usually have an enormous amount of calories because of the items in it, but also because of the portion size. Just because it’s a salad, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. A typical cobb salad for example would have more calories than a bun less burger with a side salad. And any type of creamy salad dressing will have a meal’s worth of calories in one serving! Similarly, smoothies that you don’t make yourself can be made with sherbet, ice cream, yogurt and subsequently tons of additional sugar and calories. Just because something has fruit in it, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. And crackers, while great in moderation, can really add up calorically.
Calorie restriction, believe it or not, is another contributor to stalled weight loss.
This can be confusing, as creating a calorie deficit in your body is how you lose weight. But when you restrict calories too much, your body goes into starvation mode and will actually hold onto your fat stores. Your inadvertently sending the message to your body that it’s not going to get any more food, so it holds onto what it has. Try using this calculator to make sure your caloric intake is on par with your body’s needs.
And lastly, you may have simply hit a plateau, which is an easy fix. We are creatures of habit and tend to eat the same foods and do the same set of exercises or the same cardio everyday. Mixing up your program will keep your body guessing and can be the key to your success. Instead of running the same five miles everyday, try walking at in incline or jogging on the stairs. Download some programs from your favorite fitness pros and try implementing new exercises into your lifting program. And mix up your food sources so that you aren’t eating only chicken three times a day. A small change can be exactly what your body needed.
Don’t allow some small set backs to deter you from a larger goal. Making a lifestyle change can be a long and arduous process but the rewards will well be worth it!