Nothing taps your panic button quite like gaining weight, especially when you’re on a weight loss program. Unfortunately, it’s an inevitable fact of life. Luckily, you’ve got me here to tell you that, as long as you’re following a solid program, results will come. It’s a physiological certainty (unless you have an underlying issue, like hypothyroidism).
I realize this might take further convincing, considering our instant-gratification society. I’ve seen and heard many weight-loss issues, most of which were solved by patience. That said, there are some strategies you can use to ensure you’re getting the most out of both your diet and exercise program. Let’s tackle five of the most common weight loss mysteries.
1. I’m following a diet and exercise program perfectly. Why isn’t it working?!
Cortisol is a word you should become familiar with, as it’s a key factor here. You’ve probably heard that it makes you fat, but you have no idea why “they” say that. What is cortisol? It’s actually a performance-enhancing stress hormone that serves an important function in survival situations. Unfortunately, when we force too much daily stress on our bodies, we shift into a state of chronic cortisol release. This can cause us to store excess fat as a survival instinct. While it sounds pretty dire, it’s generally only a serious problem in those with poor lifestyle habits.
The beginning of a diet and/or exercise program, however, is a survival situation. In a very simplistic sense, your body releases cortisol, which, in turn, causes excess water retention to help you rebuild broken down muscle tissue. While this is cortisol functioning properly, it does lead to a period of water weight gain as you adjust to a new program. It’s nothing to worry about. By following a solid plan, your body will adapt by repairing this muscle tissue. This results in an increase in your metabolism and leads to weight loss if that’s your goal.
2. I’m barely eating.
This is a tough situation because our natural reaction to weight gain is to eat less. When you’re exercising, it’s important to keep your eye on workout performance, as opposed to how much weight you’re losing. You should be eating enough so that your daily workouts improve over time. As long as that’s happening, your body is adapting, your metabolism is increasing, and you will lose weight provided you also don’t overeat.
3. I’ve been doing hard workouts for weeks.
If you’re doing the same workouts at the same intensity constantly, you are not forcing adaptations that lead to changes in your metabolism. This is called a plateau.
A plateau, technically, isn’t gaining weight—it’s remaining the same—but a proper diet and exercise program should continually force improvements (in the form of adaptations). Otherwise, your metabolism won’t continue to increase, which is the goal of most weight loss programs.
4. I lost weight for a while but now it’s stopped.
You eat less to lose weight. Things are going great, but suddenly you plateau—or start gaining. Odds are, your metabolism has slowed down in order to deal with the decreased calories. You’re starving your now fit body, so it’s doing what it needs to do to survive. The answer to this problem is pretty simple: eat more. But not just anything–choose healthy foods that are going to fuel your body.
5. I heard I should stop snacking.
Better advise would be to choose snacks that offer a balance of protein, fiber, and healthy fats—like apples with peanut butter, or carrots with hummus. “A healthy snack can help maintain steady blood sugar levels, which keeps your appetite in check and your energy stable,” Rania Batayneh (nutritionist) says. Skipping a snack can cause your blood sugar to dip, leaving you moody and famished—and more likely to overeat at mealtime.
Some healthy snack choices:Nuts: ”They’re great snack items because they’re so filling,” says Katherine Tallmadge, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Walnuts are desirable because they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids that protect against heart disease. Limit yourself to 1 ounce — about 160 calories. Fresh Fruits: All fruits nutritional, filling, and low in fat. Take a medium-size pear or apple: Each has only 60 calories. A cup of strawberries contains about 50 calories, and the same amount of blueberries has 40 calories. After you’ve rinsed berries, place them in small containers for snacking. Peanut Butter: Spread a little on crackers, or make a banana sandwich. Split one small banana — 100 calories — lengthwise. Spread no more than a tablespoon of peanut butter — 90 calories — over one half of the banana and top it with the other half. Hard-boiled eggs: Make a half-dozen at the beginning of each week for a fast and convenient snack in your fridge! Greek yogurt: Rich in protein, this snack is both delicious and satisfying. For the least amount of sugar, go plain! If you need a bit of sweetness, you can add your own blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries.
And one of the biggest weight-loss obstacles? Skipping breakfast! Think of your body as an efficient running machine. You need to fuel your body in order for it to perform, either in your daily activities or during your workout. Try these delicious breakfasts:
5 Super-Quick Breakfasts:
Berry Healthy Cereal
3/4 cup high-protein, whole-grain cereal (such as Kashi® Go Lean) topped with 1 cup nonfat milk and 1/2 cup berries
Nutritional Information (per serving): Calories: 266, Protein: 13 g, Fat: 3 g, Carbs: 50 g
Cottage Cheese On-the-Go
1 cup 1% cottage cheese served with 1 medium apple, or 1 medium pear, or 1 cup cubed melon, or 1 cup berries
Nutritional Information (per serving): Calories: 257, Protein: 28 g, Fat: 3 g, Carbs: 31 g
Crunchy Greek Yogurt
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt with 3/4 cup high-protein, whole-grain cereal (such as Kashi® Go Lean) mixed in
Nutritional Information (per serving): Calories: 285, Protein: 23 g, Fat: 3 g, Carbs: 45 g
The Best Smoothie
In a blender mix 1 cup kale, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1 banana, 1-inch piece of ginger root, 2 tablespoons flax seed, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter. Blend.
1 scoop (or 1 packet) Greenberry Shakeology blended with 1 cup strawberry halves, 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt, 1 Tbsp. raw honey, 1 cup nonfat milk, and 1/2 cup ice (optional)
Nutritional Information (per serving): Calories: 401, Protein: 32 g, Fat: 1 g, Carbs: 69 g
The fact is, it really is not a mystery at all. Weight-loss is the result of burning more calories than you take in. So keep up all the good work in the gym, keep your metabolism burning with a healthy diet, and watch your body transform!