Are you carrying around extra weight right now that won’t budge no matter what you do? Whether this season of life – hello, quarantine – is having a negative impact on your weight, or maybe your weight loss journey has hit a plateau. Either way, we are here to support you in your journey to better health. Because it’s not just about the pounds.
Feeling weighed down and stuck is not a feeling you carry when you are functioning at your best. Your body does not lie, so it’s time to get real and stop fooling yourself.
Here are some things to consider:
- Check your activity level
I had a client who always reported to be “very active,” and “always moving.” Until one day, I challenged her to wear a step tracker and find out the truth. Well, the truth was shocking! She was only getting 1,000-1,400 steps daily. This was an eye opener for her. Even though you may feel busy all day, it is very possible that your body is not moving all that much. And our bodies are meant to move! So, check in with your stats. How many steps are you getting? How many movement breaks are you taking? We suggest taking a small break every 90-120 minutes to not only treat your body best, but also your mind. (Side note: for the best accuracy, use a step or fitness tracker vs. a device like your phone.)
- Document your daily food intake
When was the last time you tracked your food intake? While we do not want you tracking and analyzing every bite that goes into your body every day, spot checking is very useful. I can’t tell you how many clients feel they are doing a great job with fiber and vegetables only to find they are truly deficient in both. It’s not your fault – this is human nature. We over-report our activity and under-report our nutrition. You not only get a chance to look at (and admit) the foods you are putting into your body (or not), but many food tracking apps also allow you to look at your macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein and fat) intake, among other stats, like fiber and sugar. Try doing this for 3-5 days to get a good look at the reality of your nutrition. We need to stop the mindset of ‘what we don’t see doesn’t count.’ If you aren’t seeing change in the right direction, there are reasons for this. It’s time to get real.
By looking at these things, you can get a good idea as to what needs adjusting. We are able to see where you need to reduce as well as where you have opportunities to improve.
- Look deeper at your sugar intake
While looking at your food intake, check to see how much of it is coming from sugar. Most tracking apps will not separate added sugar from naturally occurring sugar, so that part is up to you. Just as a reminder, added sugar includes things like cane sugar, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, corn syrup, coconut sugar, and so many more. Natural sugars are the sugars found in carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables and grains. Even so, if you see your sugar grams looking on the high side, there are a couple things to check in with:
- I generally recommend less than 30 grams of daily sugar, period (both added sugars and natural sugars). If you are getting more than this, it is best to identify the sources and decide which ones you will omit or limit. The more sugar you have in your diet, the more insulin is produced, which means more fat is stored and therefore more weight is gained.
- How much fruit are you eating? We recommend getting 3:1 ratio of vegetables to fruit each day. Therefore, if you have 2, half-cup servings of fruit daily, you should be eating at least 6 servings of non-starchy vegetables. In fact, this is what we recommend for everyone—strive for 7-9 servings of colorful vegetables and fruits daily.
- Increase fiber
Instead of taking all things out, consider looking at things you can add IN to benefit your body and weight loss goals. Fiber is one very important factor in a healthy diet. Everyone should be getting 30-35 grams daily. If you’re falling short, consider the following foods that provide great sources of fiber:
- Chia seeds
- Ground flaxseeds
- Hemp hearts
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Fruit and whole grains (just keep these lower due to their higher sugar content)
- Mix it up
How long have you been doing the same health routine? I.e. eating the same foods and meals, doing the same workouts, eating the same number of calories? Your body is a well-oiled machine, and after so long of doing the same thing, it becomes easy and automatic. And just like when you are doing some of your everyday activities – such as driving to work or brushing your teeth – it becomes something you do without being actively engaged; it hardly takes any effort or energy. And when your body doesn’t need to put in much effort to digest the same lunch or perform the same exercises, you are not challenging it. More challenges require adaptability. And adaptability requires energy (calories).
Additionally, I want you to think about your diet in terms of quantity as well. Restricting your carbohydrates every day or eating the exact same decreased number of calories every day (but not too low!) usually allows for fat loss; however, when you lose fat, your body catches on. It begins to think you need to conserve energy (and not lose any more fat). So, one way to combat this – eat a meal higher in carbohydrates. Or eat extra calories one day. Enter cheat meals or the 80/20 rule – comply 80% of the time and flex the other 20%. Having these periodic moments to remind your body that you are not in a time of starvation can be key to stimulating further weight loss.
Some other tactics that help mix things up and allow your body to burn fat include the following:
- Try changing WHEN you eat. Eating and drinking within an 8-10-hour feeding window (for example, 8am-6pm or 10am-6pm) could be exactly the change that your body needs.
- Vary your exercise! Different movements, different intensity, different duration. Remember, adaptability requires energy.
- Assess your sleep
This is the one I most often hear clients dread. And I get it; you’re comfortable with your sleeping habits. You’ve had the same routine for years. But what if it isn’t working for you? If you are one of those people who swears by the fact that you “don’t need a lot of sleep,” I challenge that thought. Your body could be used to it; yet, that doesn’t mean it is good for you. In fact, it could be the very thing from helping you make further progress in your health and weight goals. I have a client with diabetes who monitors her blood sugar multiple times a day. Following her personalized nutrition and lifestyle plan, her blood sugars (and weight) were dropping nicely. Then life happened and she was getting less than 7 hours of sleep and her blood sugar started to rise again.
As adults, we need on average 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, between the hours of 9pm and 8am. This is the amount of time that is necessary for our brain and bodies to regenerate and repair. And without that time, your hormones are thrown off, you are hungrier, and your body is put into a state of stress without you even knowing it. In fact, just one night of not enough or poor sleep affects our hormones, increasing our fat storage and carbohydrate cravings.
One more sleep-related tip: if you find yourself waking up multiple times per night, take into consideration what and when you are eating before bed. In this case, I recommend finishing eating three hours prior to going to sleep, and it should be a balanced meal containing fiber, protein and fat. If you’re doing this and still find yourself waking up, there are other reasons and we are happy to help you uncover them.
- What are you drinking?
No, really, what are you drinking? Water, alcohol, flavored beverages, soda? How much?
You’ve heard this before and it’s important to state again: you are made up of mostly water. Therefore, your body absolutely NEEDS water to function at its best. It needs water to support energy production, regular bowel movements and to flush out toxins through urine and stool. And therefore, plays a critical role in detox and weight loss. We recommend drinking roughly half of your body weight in ounces daily.
Furthermore, it is important to consider where your water is coming from. Drinking contaminated tap water can only contribute to your body’s toxin load. Consider finding some level of filtration to lessen the harmful contaminants. (Side note: our favorite is reverse osmosis)
What about flavored beverages or sodas? It is common knowledge by now that soda is not good for you. But what about other sugar-laden beverages? Even the zero-calorie flavored beverages could be demolishing your weight loss efforts. The reason is because they often contain artificial sweeteners that can still raise your blood sugar, which only causes you to crave more sugar in the long run, plus raises your insulin, the fat-storing hormone.
And lastly, what about alcohol? Of course, alcohol isn’t recommended on a weight loss journey, and oftentimes you will see this recommendation based on the theory of added calories. I certainly agree with this, and it is also important to understand that drinking alcohol also plays a big role in blocking liver detoxification. So not only are you adding unnecessary calories (not to mention the additional calories that often follow the alcohol in the form of junk food) but you are also limiting your body’s ability to detoxify, which can absolutely halt weight loss.
- Test, Don’t Guess
And if you truly believe that you are doing all of these things and still cannot get your weight to budge, then it is time to do some testing. While you could continue to trial and error some things, why waste more time? We are only guessing without testing. As always, if you are interested in doing some testing (most can be done right in the comfort of your own home!) simply contact Cindi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In summary, there are many reasons for weight gain and/or the struggle to lose weight. I encourage you to first take a reality check on your lifestyle habits like nutrition, exercise, water, and sleep. Utilize resources and devices to help you get a more accurate gauge as to what you are actually doing (or not doing). Then make changes.
If this doesn’t get you the results you are looking for, engage in lab testing to get to the deeper roots of why your body won’t let go of the pounds.