Tag: weight loss

Intermittent Fasting – 101 The Secret to Weight Loss?

Answer me this: How many diet trends have you lived through? Can you even count them?

I remember years ago when I first heard of the Atkins diet. Now, I thought it was new at the time, as did most people, but come to find out it actually started back in the 60s.

Cut to the 90s and there it was again and everybody was following it. What I remember most about that is that my friend was following it and we would have deep conversations about things like – Could she chew sugar-free gum or was that cheating? And what would the couch cushions taste like? Because she was that hungry.

I was like, ‘girrrrl…you’re probably like 25 years old. Let’s put a pin in that.’

If only we knew how skinny we were at 25, right?

Now fast-forward to, well, now, and there’s another trend out there called:

Intermittent Fasting

Ever heard of it?

Like every diet ever invented, this is not really a new thing. In fact, the idea of fasting goes way, way back and it’s something researchers have studied for a long time.

There have been a number of studies suggesting that eating less or doing some type of fasting may help you live longer.

As my husband said, “Why would I want to live longer if I’m starving all the time? I’m gonna take a hard pass on that one.”

So you may wonder, why is this a thing? Why would I want to starve myself even more just to lose weight? Well, it isn’t really about starving yourself. In fact, it’s not like traditional diets at all, diets that have you cutting out whole food groups and rearranging your meals so that you lose weight.

Intermittent fasting isn’t about what you eat (although that’s important…) it’s about when you eat, making it an interesting prospect for those of us who want to lose weight and are sick of diets that don’t work.

What IS Intermittent Fasting?

At it’s most basic, IF is a pattern of eating in which you cycle between fasting and eating. Pretty obvious, but how you do it changes from person to person. And what makes IF popular is that you don’t have to count calories or keep a food diary or weigh anything. You just have to pick a type of IF, choose your eating window and voila! You’re doing it.

Of course, it’s not quite that easy – It’s easy to choose an IF method, but following it is always the challenging part.

So, why IF? Well, there are a number of benefits, many of which are the same benefits as any diet that helps you lose weight, but there are some standouts when it comes to IF that may make it more appealing than other diets.

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Just some of the benefits of IF include:

  • Fat loss – Like any diet that cuts calories, you lose fat when you follow IF because, duh, you’re cutting calories. However, what makes IF different is that, in some studies, researchers found that this method of eating actually preserves muscle mass more than other diets (in most diets you lose fat AND muscle – not something you want). Some studies also show that you may burn more fat during a 24-hour period than with other diets. It’s like free fat loss! Except, well nothing’s really free, right?
  • Improved brain functioning – With IF, researchers have found that you think more clearly and you are better able to tolerate stress. Not only that, your memory may improve and it’s easier to retain information.
  • Increased human growth hormones – Some people have actually called HGH the real fountain of youth because, as we get older, HGH declines and that contributes to things like muscle loss and weight gain. With IF, there’s an increase in HGH which means more fat loss, increase in lean muscle tissue, improved skin, increased bone density and more.
  • Improves your insulin levels – Insulin controls blood sugar so when it’s released, your body stores that energy as fat. Since insulin produces fat, the more you have floating around in the body, the more fat you store. With IF, that fasting period allows your body time to stabilize insulin levels, reversing the process of storing fat.
  • Reduces inflammation – Inflammation is your body’s natural response to harm, but chronic inflammation can contribute to a variety of conditions like diabetes, IBS, arthritis, heart disease and, of course, weight gain.
  • Reduced appetite – Some studies show that following intermittent fasting can actually suppress your appetite, so you’re less hungry and, hopefully, eat less.

Sounds good right? So, what’s the catch? Well, there’s that whole ‘fasting’ part but there are a variety of ways to fast, some extreme and others much easier to follow. Let’s get to it.

Types of Intermittent Fasting

The 5:2 Diet

Day 1Day 2 Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6 Day 7
Regular Meals500-800 Calories Regular Meals Regular Meals500-800 CaloriesRegular MealsRegular Meals

The 5:2 diet refers to the days in the week – there are 7, just a reminder. What this ratio means is that you eat regularly for 5 days and then drastically cut your calories, eating about 25% of what you normally eat, for the other 2 days.

Obviously, this isn’t true fasting because you’re eating something during the ‘fasting’ days. But to put it in perspective, say you’re eating 2,000 calories a day. On the 2 fasting days, you would eat about 500 calories. The general recommendation is about 500-600 calories for women and 600-800 calories for men but, either way, you’re cutting calories and that’s the whole point.

Following this diet generally means you pick non-consecutive days where you cut your calories – 2 days in a row of this would not only suck, but isn’t good for your body. However, on those days you still get to eat healthy foods to keep your body going.

Why it works: By focusing on only 2 days of calorie-restriction, you put yourself in a position to lose weight and, because you get to eat something on those 2 days, you’ll feel more satisfied.

The catch: Well, you ARE cutting your calories a lot which will take some preparation and some deep breaths the first time you try it – changing our eating patterns isn’t easy, right? And, you still have to eat healthy on the other 5 days, y’all. Like, you can’t just have pizza and burgers for 5 days and then have lettuce and lemon wedges the other 2 days.

Sorry.

What to eat on fasting days: Because you want to function well and your body needs fuel, experts suggest eating 3 small meals or maybe 2 slightly bigger meals.

What you really want to focus on during the fast days are these:

  • Lean protein – chicken, fish, pork tenderloin–you know the drill
  • Lots of veggies – they’re low calorie but fill you up – think a small salad or even some zucchini or squash zoodles
  • Berries – Blackberries, blueberries, cherries – this can satisfy your cravings for sugar and you get those wonderful antioxidants
  • Soup – It’s been proven that eating (healthy) soup fills you up and helps you eat less

Breakfast Ideas:

Banana + ricotta cheese
Hardboiled egg + whole-grain toast
Yogurt with a handful of berries

Lunch Ideas:

Salad with light dressing and about 3 oz. of chicken, tofu or fish
Turkey lettuce wrap with veggies and hummus
3 oz. of grilled chicken with steamed broccoli

Dinner Ideas:

Vegetable soup
Stir-fried veggies with chicken or shrimp
Omelet with mushrooms and spinach

The 16/8 Method

Day 1 Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5 Day 6Day 6
12 am-12 pmFASTFASTFASTFASTFASTFASTFAST
 12 pm FIRST MEAL FIRST MEAL FIRST MEAL FIRST MEAL FIRST MEAL FIRST MEAL FIRST MEAL
 8 pm LAST MEALLAST MEALLAST MEALLAST MEALLAST MEALLAST MEALLAST MEAL
 8 pm-12 am FASTFASTFASTFASTFASTFASTFAST

 

This is a popular option for IF because it’s simple to understand – You fast for 16 hours a day and eat all your calories in an 8-hour window. And? You can choose the 8-hour window that fits with your life and schedule.

Why it works: Like other IF methods, you eat fewer calories because you’re not eating all the time like we normally do. Plus that 16 hour fast includes the hours you’re sleeping, so it’s not like you’re awake for 16 hours and hungry. No, that doesn’t mean you should increase your sleep to 16 hours…good try though.

The catch: Obviously there’s the fasting part and totally changing your eating patterns – again, not always easy. Plus, this method of IF is kind of inflexible. If you have a party one night or you want to go out to dinner, that might not fall in your window of eating, which can make it confusing sometimes. Or maybe your friends want to go to lunch and you’re like – Ummm, I can’t eat until like 1? And they’re like – {side-eye}.

How it works: For the 16/8 method, you can choose any window of time you like. Some examples might be eating between:

  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Like any other diet, you want to eat healthy stuff, even within that 8-hour window.

Sample 16/8 9 to 5 Meal Plan:

9 a.m. – Egg and veggie scramble
11 a.m. – Yogurt and fruit
1 p.m. – Chicken and veggie stirfry
5 p.m. – Baked salmon with veggies

The key during the fasting times is to drink a lot of water or tea – pretty much any drink that has no calories. This helps you feel full and keeps you hydrated.

Eat Stop Eat Method

Day 1Day 2 Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6 Day 7
Regular Meals24-Hour Fast Regular Meals Regular Meals24-Hour FastRegular MealsRegular Meals

This method, created by Brad Pilon (he has a book, too – Eat Stop Eat) during his graduate studies. He suggests that 24-hour fasting once or twice a week is one of the best ways to lose weight.

Why it works: As with the other methods, you’re definitely eating fewer calories which means losing weight.

How it works: You eat normally during 5 days of the week, but during the 1 or 2 days you fast, you can only drink stuff that has zero calories. Doing this, you build a calorie-deficit that helps you lose weight over time.

The catch: You’re fasting, y’all. ‘Nuff said.

Some people think this method, is more versatile, allowing you to, say, go out to dinner without having to skip a meal or go to a party without being the party pooper.

Still, a lot of people would have a problem fasting for 24 hours with nothing but lemon water and tea, so there’s that.

Alternate Day Intermittent Fasting

Day 1Day 2 Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6 Day 7
Regular Meals24-Hour Fast

OR

500-800 Calories

Regular Meals24-Hour Fast

OR

500-800 Calories

Regular Meals24-Hour Fast

OR

500-800 Calories

Regular Meals

 

With this method, you fast every other day and on non-fasting days, you eat whatever you want. And you can decide if you want to completely fast every other day or if you want to modify on your fasting days and eat a low-calorie diet – like 500-800 calories, much like the 5:2 method.

Why it works: Like the other methods, you’re reducing your calories (even more than the 5:2 method), but you’re still getting enough food on the ‘fasting’ days to feel like you’re somewhat satisfied.

The catch: You have 3 days where you eating much less, or nothing at all, which can be challenging to follow.

If you decide on this method and you want to eat on the fasting days, you can follow the general ideas from the 5:2 method above as to what to eat and how much.

The Warrior Diet

Day 1 Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5 Day 6Day 7
8 pm-WakeupFASTFASTFASTFASTFASTFASTFAST
 Wakeup-4 pmSmall amounts of fruits and veggies Small amounts of fruits and veggies Small amounts of fruits and veggies Small amounts of fruits and veggiesSmall amounts of fruits and veggies Small amounts of fruits and veggies Small amounts of fruits and veggies
 4 pm – 8 pm LARGE MEALLARGE MEALLARGE MEALLARGE MEALLARGE MEALLARGE MEALLARGE MEAL

The Warrior Diet was popularized by Ori Hofmekler who wrote the book, The Warrior Diet: Switch on Your Biological Powerhouse For High Energy, Explosive Strength, and a Leaner, Harder Body.

His approach is to go back to our primal habits and is based on ‘survival science.’ I’m not really familiar with that, but the general idea is this: He used studies and historical data and learned that hunter-gatherers would usually eat sparingly during the day and then chow down at night.

How it works: You pretty much just each fruit and veggies all day and then eat a large meal in a 4 hour period, like between 4 and 8 pm.

Why it works: You’re cutting calories, of course

The catch: This is a tough one for many people because you’re kind of grazing on veggies all day and then, whammo, you’re putting a big meal in there that takes time to digest. This one would definitely be a challenge to follow.

Skipped Meals

Day 1Day 2 Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6 Day 7
BreakfastSkip Meal Breakfast BreakfastBreakfastBreakfastBreakfast
LunchLunchLunchSkip MealLunchLunchLunch
DinnerDinnerDinnerDinnerDinnerSkip MealDinner

Finally, we have skipping meals, which is a spontaneous way to do IF, but it may feel a little more natural. The idea is that, when you’re not hungry or you’re too busy to eat, you skip those meals (1 to 3), thus reducing calories and helping you lose weight.

Why it works: This might feel more natural to people than something more regimented like the methods listed above. The weight loss might be slower in this case, but because you’re choosing which meals you want to skip, you’re in control.

The catch: This really requires you to be more intuitive about your eating and making a conscious decision to skip a meal. That can be hard for many of us because most of us eat automatically at certain times of the day.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a way to lose weight without counting calories or following complicated meal plans, intermittent fasting might be for. There are enough options that most people could probably find a comfortable version of IF, whether you want something more extreme (24-hour fasting) or something more flexible (say just skipping meals when you feel like it).

The key here is to, first, choose the method(s) that fit with your lifestyle and, second, feel free to change up your methods as needed to match what’s going on in our life.

Intermittent Fasting: Small Meal Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner!

Are you into intermittent fasting? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

 

 

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Why is My Metabolism Slow?

Metabolism is a word that comes up a lot when it comes to weight loss, and it’s obvious why – Your metabolism is the engine that drives your body. If it’s a little slow, you may feel tired, sluggish and, of course, feel like you’re gaining weight.

If your metabolism is fast then you’re not reading this because you’re probably out eating an entire pizza and not giving a s**t.

The thing is that our metabolisms can naturally drop about 5% for every decade after 40. So, if your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is 1400 at 40, over the course of the next 10 years, often less because the metabolism slows faster as we age (I know – not fair), that means you may need up to or more than 150 calories less to maintain your weight.

And most of us are not correcting for those unneeded calories, right?

The Basics of Your Metabolism

Your metabolism describes pretty much everything that happens in your body – Everything your body needs to do to stay alive. So, when we talk about increasing our metabolisms, we’re basically saying we want our bodies to burn more calories each day, which will leads to weight loss, right?

Well, it’s obviously not that simple because there are a variety of reasons your metabolism may slow down other than getting older. Let’s delve in, shall we?

What can slow my metabolism?

You already know that your metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy. And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

That’s why the whole calories in/calories out adage is pretty much crap when it comes to weight loss. Your metabolism is much more complicated than that, but there are some common reasons for a metabolic slow-down.

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

 Low thyroid hormones

Thyroid hormones directly regulate your metabolic rate and your body weight. It’s pretty much the master controller of your metabolism. When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down. The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active.

Ideally, it should work to keep your metabolism just right. But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course. Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.

Symptoms of an Underactive Thyroid

  • Fatigue
  • Unable to sleep
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Depression and/or irritability
  • Feeling cold
  • Constipation
  • Brain fog

There are more and, obviously, these symptoms can crossover into other issues, so they don’t necessarily mean a thyroid problem. The only way to know that is to get to your doctor and get your thyroid tested.

What causes Underactive Thyroid

  • Family history
  • Autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • Medications such as steroids or lithium
  • Swelling of the thyroid

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested.

More: Is Your Thyroid the Reason Why You Can’t Lose Weight?

 Your history of dieting

Most of us have spent a large part of our lives dieting. A diet basically comes down to cutting calories enough that you lose weight. The trouble is, diets don’t work for the long term.

When you cut your calories too low, your metabolism actually slows down. On top of that, just losing weight at all causes your metabolic rate to slow down. This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to keep all your life functions going, but doing it all with less food.

So, here’s the deal:

  • Dieting without exercise can reduce fat, but it can also reduce the amount of muscle you have. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so when you lose it, your metabolism slows down.
  • When you diet and then go off the diet (as we do), your new metabolic rate is based on the new body mass – especially the amount of muscle you have.
  • According to one study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, when dieters got to their goal weight, their metabolic rate was severely depressed. They experienced immediate weight gain once they went back to their regular diets.

The bottom line is to avoid cutting your calories so low that your metabolism thinks there’s no food available and shuts down.

More: Calories: How to Know if You Go Too Low

 Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates. This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one. No that doesn’t mean you should gain weight to increase your metabolism. Obviously, if that worked we would all be sitting around in our bathing suits basking in the glow of life.

You can’t always change your body type or your frame size, but one that you can change is your body composition. This is key to increasing your metabolism and losing fat. In fact, it’s much more important than a number on the scale.

So, how do you change your body composition? Besides your diet (adding more protein helps) and cardio exercise, there’s something else that really helps:

Strength Training

When you lift weights, you can increase your metabolism by more than 50 calories a day, which helps close the gap between how much you’re eating and how much you’re burning.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy. Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat. This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

If you’re new to strength training, start with a Basic Total Body Workout about 2-3 days a week. Even using light weights can help you build lean muscle tissue and change your metabolism.

More – Body Fat Percentage Calculator

Which leads us to…

Your activity level

Now, while strength training and lean muscle tissue give you a long-term metabolic boost, cardio exercise actually temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also sweating, your heart rate is up and you feel like you’re exercising.

Try to get in regular cardio exercise every day like:

And don’t forget even little things can add up. Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

That’s all part of the other equation for your metabolism – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT. NEAT comprises the energy expenditure of all daily activities that aren’t planned exercise – Sitting, standing, fidgeting, basically any movement you do.

Get More NEAT

  • Walk more – at lunch, after dinner, to the store, around the block, etc.
  • Play with your dog
  • Wash your car by hand
  • Park further away when you’re shopping
  • Lap the park when you’re watching your kid’s game
  • Work in the yard or do more chores around the house
  • Use the bathroom on a different floor

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate. In fact, in one study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, researchers had healthy participants sleep for 4 hours a night for 6 nights, followed by 12 hours of sleep for 7 nights.

The findings? Even just a week of sleep deprivation resulted in significant drops in metabolism. Lack of sleep also changes your ‘hunger’ hormones, making your hungrier than you normally would be.

That could lead to overeating without you even realizing it. The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Go to sleep at the same time if you can and get up at the same time. Practice as much as you can and, if you can’t get it all in, try power naps.

More: How to Get More Deep Sleep

Recipe: Boost Your Metabolism

The following recipe contains selenium, a supplement that can help your thyroid stay healthy and keep your metabolism going.

Recipe (Selenium-rich): Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 4

½ cup Brazil nuts
2 cups water
several layers of cheesecloth (optional)
½ cup chia seeds
¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk. If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth.

Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined. Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip: Make a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries.

References:

Connolly J, Romano T, Patruno M. Effects of dieting and exercise on resting metabolic rate and implications for weight management. Fam Pract. 1999;16(2):196-201. doi:10.1093/fampra/16.2.196

Kinucan, P. Kravitz, L. Controversies in Metabolism. IDEAfit.com

Mullur R, Liu Y-Y, Brent GA. Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism. Physiol Rev. 2014;94(2):355-382. doi:10.1152/physrev.00030.2013

Sharma, S. Kavuru, M. Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview. . 2010; 2010: 270832. Published online 2010 Aug 2. doi:  10.1155/2010/270832

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/metabolic-damage
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/thyroid-and-testing
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance
https://authoritynutrition.com/6-mistakes-that-slow-metabolism/
https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/
http://summertomato.com/non-exercise-activity-thermogenesis-neat

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Intermittent Fasting – Does it Work?

There are all kinds of diet trends out there – Low carb, the Keto diet, the Mediterranean diet – but the latest trend?

Intermittent Fasting

Now, this has been around for awhile, but like everything, it’s experienced a resurgence and there are some studies showing that it can actually help you lose weight.

I want to talk about a study that was published in the Journal of Nutrition and Healthy Aging. In this study, they had 23 obese women change their diets so that they were only eating between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

In that time, they could eat anything they wanted – although they could only drink water or calorie-free drinks.

After 12 weeks, the group had lost about 3 percent body fat and were eating about 350 fewer calories, which is surprising. They weren’t restricting anything, yet because they didn’t eat after 6 p.m., they naturally ate less.

Keep in mind, this is a tiny study, but interesting. And it kind of leads into another tidbit I found related to restricting your eating to certain hours.

Stress

They found that the time of day had a big impact on hunger levels and that we have a stronger perceived appetite at night. They found that stress can increase hunger hormones in the evening, which is one reason some of us end up bingeing at night.

The takeaway here is this: Creating a window of time for when you eat may help you naturally reduce the calories you eat. So, perhaps cutting off your eating at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. would be one way to test this theory out.

One more thing – If you’re interested in intermittent fasting, there a number of ways to do this. You can fast on alternate days, fast for certain hours, skip meals…it gets confusing. But this article, Intermittent Fasting: A Primer offers some great information about the different ways this can work.

So, what do you think? Have you tried it? Would you try it? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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Why It’s Not Your Fault You’re Not Losing Weight

Okay, maybe it is a little bit your fault, but there are forces working against you that you may not even be aware of.

I’m assuming that you’re trying to lose weight and, I know what they say about assuming making an ass out of you and me, but I think I only know two, maybe three adults who aren’t actively trying to lose weight.

That leaves the rest of us.

I know the frustration of exercising and eating endless salads (dressing on the side!), only to find that the scale hasn’t moved one bit.

Why? There are a lot of reasons, some we can control and some we can’t. The one thing I want you to understand is this: It’s not entirely your fault you’re struggling and there’s something you can do about it.

Why is Weight Loss So Hard?

There are two overarching reasons it’s hard to lose weight and I’m going to break them down for you.

Your Environment Doesn’t Want You to Lose Weight

The first problem is the universe.  Specifically, planet earth where we have so many things that create inactivity

  • Our jobs – If you have a job, what is it?  Are you sitting at a computer right now like I am?  The American Heart Association says that sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950.  That is just crazy!  And, it’s making us fat.
  • Streaming Video (e.g., Netflix) – I love Netflix. I love binge-watching.  When I am binge-watching, here’s what I’m not doing:  Moving around.  Back in 2009, The Neilsen Company figured out we were watching about 153 hours of TV a month.  I would imagine it’s even higher now.
  • iStuff – iPads, iPhones, tablets and video games are fun. And we usually sit while using them.  One study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology studied survey data and found that Americans spent about 54.9% of their time doing sedentary things.  That comes out to almost 8 hours a day.  Yes, that just made me stand up and walk around my house.
  • Cars – Collectively, we all wasted about 6.9 billion hours sitting in traffic in 2014.  And just think about the good old days – Yes, I’m going to say it.  In my day, I used to ride my bike and walk everywhere.  Now, I drive one mile to see my doctor when I could totally walk.  Suburban sprawl and busy schedules make it harder to find the time to walk.
  • Cats – There is actual study showing that cat owners are messy and lazy.  I wouldn’t say I’m completely messy or lazy (I have two cats) but, when I got a dog a couple of years ago, I walked a lot more.  Dogs require walking if you want to keep your furniture/shoes/socks/walls/baseboards/clothes, etc. in tact.  Cats?  Require 23 hours of sleep.

The bottom line is, in this world we actually have to invent reasons to move around.  And your environment isn’t the only thing working against you…your body is too.

Your Body Doesn’t Want You to Lose Weight

Aside from the world we live in, we have another problem – The human body.  The human body is designed to store…no, a better word is hoard, fat.  That’s because, back in the day, food was scarce and we needed to be able to live off our own body fat should famine occur.

It’s survival of the fittest at its best…only we don’t really need that anymore.  Now, we actively try to eat less and our bodies simply don’t know the difference between going on a diet or full on starvation.  As soon as you restrict your calories, your body goes into survival mode and holds on to that fat with both hands.

Basically, your body is working double time to keep the weight on.

The Dieting Backlash

And here’s another fact we’re only just starting to understand:  If you go on a diet or weight loss program, your metabolism actually slows down.  When you go off that diet (which you probably will because diets don’t work) and start eating more, those extra calories are stored as fat.

One study by Columbia University found that this backlash starts to happen at around 8 weeks of dieting and, here’s the worst part:  To maintain a steady weight, dieters had to eat 400 fewer calories a day after dieting than before dieting.  Their metabolisms actually reset to a lower number, something they probably didn’t know until they gained the weight back, and more.

That just crazy talk.

Your Mind Doesn’t Want You To Lose Weight

Yes, I know.  You think you want to lose weight but, if you really did, you would be doing all the the things you need to do to lose weight.  That is:

  1. Getting enough sleep
  2. Managing your stress in a healthy way (I know, drinking wine and eating Doritoes is so much more fun than meditating, isn’t it?)
  3. Exercising – Not just taking a walk now and then
  4. Eating healthy foods – when you’re actually hungry and only until you’re full (I know, that’s hard)
  5. Moving around instead of sitting for 8 hours a day.

If you don’t do these things, you don’t lose weight.  You might even gain weight and here’s why:

  • Stress – Dr. Len Kravitz wrote about this in The Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight.  He says when we get stressed out, our bodies release cortisol – the so-called stress hormone.  And, as Kravitz suggests, that stress hormone directly effects fat storage when you’re stressed.
  • Lack of Sleep –  Sleep is another thing that affects our weight.  One study published in The Journal of Sleep studied short sleepers (5-6 hours), average sleepers (7-8 hours) and long sleepers (9-10 hours) and found that short and long sleepers were 35% more likely to experience a weight gain over 6 years.  And here’s something interesting – the long sleepers were also more likely to gain weight, while average sleepers didn’t.   The problem?  Researchers cite a ‘“24-hour-a-day” turbulent lifestyle” that changes  our hormonal profiles and screws up our energy balance.
  • Lack of Exercise and Shifty Numbers – And not just not working out, but not working hard enough, at least during some workouts.  And, here’s the rub:  If you do exercise (yay you!) you may think – Darn it, I’m burning some serious calories!  The truth is, exercise isn’t all that great at weight loss.  Why?  Because we don’t burn as many calories exercising as we think we do.  If that treadmill says you burned 500 calories after a 30 minute run, you can bet that number is off by up 15%, maybe more.  If you’re counting calories, that can really mess up your totals.
  • Sitting on Our Collective Butts – And then there’s that general lack of movement.  What you may not realize is that Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenisis (or NEAT) is part of the overall calories you burn each day.  How many calories do you think you burn when you sit as opposed to standing or moving around?  Yeah.

What’s the Answer?

Now, I don’t mean to stress you out even more with all these numbers and stuff.  What I’m trying to do is, first, educate you about all the all the things that contribute to your weight and your health.  It’s not just because you suck, so you can stop kicking yourself and feeling guilty for failing.

It’s easy to fail in the environment we live in.  And, failing is always a part of success…you know that, right?

So, let’s get to the good stuff, the most important thing I want you to remember:  You can do something about this and it doesn’t have to be hard.

Forget About Will Power or Self-Control

If you’re not losing weight, you probably think it’s because you just don’t have enough willpower or self-control.  You think – “I was all prepared to order that salad but, when I got there, I was suddenly eating a cheeseburger.”  Then you feel guilty and like a loser.  But, wait.  That isn’t really the case.

The truth is willpower is a bunch of crap.  Yes, willpower can help you in certain moments, but willpower doesn’t have enough stamina to last through all the decisions and choices you have to make each day.  And those choices are what determine weight loss.

Decisions, Decisions

Here’s something interesting about the human brain

Losing weight is all about one decision at a time.  The decision to drink water instead of Coke.  The decision to go for a walk instead of sit.  The decision to get your dressing on the side.

Yes, that’s simplistic, but it really is all about the choices you make every day and we have to make a lot of them.  What does that have to do with anything?  First,  Do you know what happens each time you face a choice and have to make a decision?  Your brain gets tired.  Every single decision drains your brain of energy, thus making each subsequent decision harder and harder.

Here’s what David Rock, who wrote Your Brain at Work (an excellent book) has to say:

“Conscious mental activities chew up metabolic resources, the fuel in your blood, significantly faster than automatic brain functions…Your best quality thinking lasts for a limited time.”

And here’s my absolute favorite part of his reasoning:

“The answer is not always just to ‘try harder.'”

Just think about it.  You wake up in the morning and have a healthy breakfast.  But, by the time you hit lunchtime, you’ve probably made thousands of other decisions and now?  You’re hungry.  So you’re brain is tired and needs fuel and so does your body.

If someone is standing in front of you with an apple or a donut, what are the chances you’ll choose the apple?  In that kind of shape?  Probably not great.

Making it Easy to Make Better Choices

The real secret to exercising and losing weight lie in a few key behaviors and tricks.

  • Make exercise a habit – This is probably the single most important thing that will help you when your willpower is on the fritz.  I’ll cover this in depth later but, for right now, here are some quick tips for this:
    • Do something every day – It doesn’t really matter what you do, so much as just showing up every day for some kind of exercise.  It could be walking every day or you could set up a more complex program.
    • Do it at the same time every day if you can – Doing this starts to teach your brain that this is your exercise time.  Do it long enough and you’ll automatically be programmed for exercise.
  • Make it easy to be healthy – In order to make good decisions, you need to eliminate the things that make them hard.  For example, it’s easy to choose an apple when that’s all you have available.  But if you know there’s a box of cookies in the cabinet…well, you get the picture.
    • Clean out your pantry – If I have Doritoes in the house, I will eat them.  The entire bag.  I’ve made it a rule to NOT have them in my house.  If I really want them, I can go out and get them but I’m lazy, so I know I probably won’t do that.  Set rules for what you allow in the house.  You don’t forbid yourself to eat it – We all need treats now and then – But if it’s not there, you won’t eat it.  And if you really want it, you can always go get it. Sometimes just knowing that is enough.
    • Make it easier to exercise – The hardest part of any workout is just starting, but there are tricks exercisers use to make it easier.
      • Habit – I mentioned this before.  If you’re used to doing it, it’s less of a hassle to get yourself going.
      • Be prepared – Yes, Boy Scouts (aren’t the Girl Scouts supposed to be prepared too?), that means get everything you need before your workout.  If I can’t find my shoe or my water bottle or whatever, that’s just one more reason to say ‘screw it.’  Get every single thing you need – Clothes, water, food, watch, etc. the night before.  Put it next to your bed or somewhere close.
      • Put on your workout clothes right away – As soon as you get up, if you’re a morning exerciser, or when you get home from work.  Waiting will only give you more space between your intension to workout and all the excuses you can come up with in the meantime.
      • Know what you’re doing – Have a plan.  If you need help with that, hire a trainer,  go check out some of my programs at Verywell.com or consider working with me.  I’m good at that kind of thing.

Okay, so, you’ve got a broad outline of behaviors, but where do you actually start?  I’ll tell you:

Pick One Thing

Today, pick one thing you need to work on.  It can be anything – Maybe you need to work on exercising more or maybe you snack too much after dinner.  Whatever it is, it bugs you and every day, you promise you’ll do better and you don’t.

Pick that thing and look at it.  Really, look at it.  Get some paper and write about it, if you can.  Ask questions:

  • Why do you keep skipping your workouts?  Is it because you hate them?  Or you don’t know what you’re doing?  Or you don’t have the right shoes?
  • Why do you snack at night?  Is it because you’re bored or is it just a bad habit?

Once you’ve picked that thing, figure out some solutions.  What could you do to fix it?  If you hate your workouts, what’s an activity you don’t hate?  If you can’t figure out what to do, who could you ask?

Think of it like this:  If a friend were to come to you and lay out the problem you’re wrestling with, what would you tell them to do?

Tell yourself that.

Now, you have something to work on.  And that one thing is all you have to work on.  I’m giving you permission to forget about all the other stuff you’re doing wrong because, remember what I said above?  Your brain doesn’t like multitasking or making tons and tons of decisions.

Right now, just use your energy on that one thing.  Every day, that’s your focus – That One Thing.

When you’re done with that one thing, when you feel that you’ve mastered that, pick the Next Thing.

Slow and Steady

I know.  This approach isn’t very sexy, is it?  There’s no instant gratification.  No quick weight loss.  No amazing results!  Just you and your one thing.  But when you change that One Thing?  That’s a change that will last.  That’s a change that will go so deep, you won’t even remember when you were doing (or not doing) that One Thing.

Just One Thing.

Sources:

Rock, David. Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. Harper Collins E-. Print.

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