Several weeks ago I started working with Tina McInnes of Real Edge Fitness and subsequently wrote this blog post. Today , I am happy to share Tina’s recent blog post…answering a question that many women ask…..Why aren’t I losing weight?
You have been on a crusade for at least 3 weeks now to clean up your diet. You limit the amount of sugar and fat you consume, you’ve cut back on alcohol a bit and you’ve even been (semi) regular about hitting up the gym. So why aren’t the pounds coming off? If you are frustrated, here are a few things to consider.
First of all, it’s not your exceptionally slow metabolism. Sure, some people are fast gainers and slower to lose weight than others, but fundamentally if you are in a negative caloric balance (ie. you are burning more calories than you consume) you will lose weight, regardless of your basal metabolism or genetics. Similarly, if you are gaining weight, you are consuming more calories than your body needs and storing the rest as fat. Period. It’s really best to stop blaming external factors for your weight in order to be successful. So, the real question to focus on is not why your metabolism is so slow, it’s why you aren’t in a negative caloric balance despite your diet and exercise.
The truth lies somewhere in the details of what you are (or aren’t) doing. Let’s look at the most common ones I see:
- The extras. You sit down to well balanced meals of appropriate size/caloric content but it’s not what’s happening at meal time that’s setting you back. It’s the sum total of all the little things you put in your mouth outside of meal times: the mid-morning lattes, the cookies from your child’s unfinished lunchbox, the evening handful of nuts or crackers while watching TV, the glass(es) of wine with and after dinner. Unfortunately, these things add up quicker than you think. So while you discipline yourself enough to eat light healthy meals, you sabotage all this effort throughout the day with all the rest of what goes in. Cutting out these little extras can be the difference between coming in under your caloric target for the day and consistently going over it.
- Not understanding portion sizes. In order to know whether you are eating the right number of calories per meal, you need a firm grasp of what constitutes a serving size for everything you eat. The problem here isn’t only in overestimating a portion size and thus overeating, it’s also underestimating and leaving the table hungry and thus more likely to eat unhealthy snack foods later on in the day.
- Skipping meals. This is a huge one. I see it all the time. People assume that by skipping a meal entirely, they will undoubtedly get a jump start on weight loss. The most common victim is breakfast. The problem here is that your metabolism is going haywire with periods of fasting. You fall prey to hunger later on when healthy foods are unavailable and you end up consuming snack food instead of a meal or you wait until the next mealtime comes and you eat much more than you otherwise might have. Your metabolism and food cravings need to be controlled with evenly timed meals.
- Weekend holidays. You know this one: you possess a military level of adherence to your diet from Monday-Thursday only to use the weekend as a time to let loose a bit. Only “a bit” becomes “enough to undo everything you’ve done all week”. It’s the truth. It’s simply better to be 80% adherent all week than be 100% adherent on weekdays so you can eat and drink more on the weekends. Think of this the same way you would with the ‘extras’ in #1. You are simply just undoing all the week’s hard work in 2 days of extra eating and drinking.
- You’re not physically active enough. Although diet is 80% of weight loss, 20% counts for enough to matter too. You need to increase your caloric expenditure ie. burn MORE calories when you move. I’m not just talking about the 45- 60 minutes you spend at the gym. In fact, that is the least of what you should be worried about. Think about it: an average person will burn about 200-300 calories in any given workout at the gym or on a run. This amounts to the calories in a tall latte from Starbucks. Not much. Also consider this: if your body needs 1200 calories per day in energy from food, and you only burn 200 calories with the occasional workout, why does the body need all the extra calories? It’s a combination of resting metabolic rate and something called Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (or NEAT for short). Your resting metabolic rate is the energy your body needs to fuel all the functions of your cells and organs in a state of rest and it is a product of your genetics but also your body composition (muscles burn more energy at rest than fat). Meanwhile NEAT is the energy burned doing all the other movements of your day outside of what we consider exercise; things like walking up the stairs, bringing groceries in from the car. So, you might go to the gym, hit up Starbucks for a well deserved latte afterward and head to the office where you sit for the rest of the day. What does this amount to? You guessed it – nothing.
With these pitfalls in mind, you should consider the following strategies for effective weight loss:
- Start eating well-balanced, well-portioned meals at regular intervals throughout the day in order to curb cravings and regulate your metabolism.
- Eat the same way on the weekend as you do during the week by following a flexible eating plan. You should eat in a way that is sustainable. You should not feel so oppressed by your diet, or so hungry all the time that you need sweet release on the weekends. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
- Move more. Take the stairs instead of the elevator EVERY TIME. Get up from your desk and walk around for 5 minutes every hour. Get a standing desk (standing burns more calories than sitting and is better for your posture). Walk instead of drive whenever possible. We are heavier as a society in large measure due to the fact that we are so sedentary and have ways to accomplish almost everything we need to do from a seated position.
If there is a single take home message in this, it’s that every little bit counts. This applies to what goes in and what comes out. It’s the sum total of how you live most of the time, not the things you do periodically that matter. Your body is the product of the way you live day in and day out. Stop focusing your efforts in the wrong places and bust out of the non-productive cycle of attempted weight loss. Start to change your lifestyle and you will successfully change your body.
Keep it real.