~ 10 of the most common culprits ~
It seems to me that January is the hottest month in terms of jumping on the fitness and weight loss bandwagon. Everyone has made their resolutions and are going gang busters…that is for the first few weeks anyway! Have you already fizzled out? Discouraged at not seeing those immediate results you were after? Yeah, we are a full 3 weeks in and that drive might already be waning for a lot of folks and statistically speaking by February 1st, pretty much 80% of those New Year resolutions will have fallen by the wayside!
But before you just let that auto pay gym membership gnaw away on your credit card or that beautiful fridge full of veggies shrivel into unidentifiable sticks of whatever, lets examine some of the things we do to get in our own weight loss way.
1. Calories in – Calories out
This is way, way too basic! There are so many factors here that come into play. We have to determine just how those calories might be utilized once they enter our bodies and what food source those calories came from. Do these calories come from whole food or are they from a processed, chemical and sugar laden package; what is the macronutrient profile and what effect do those nutrients have on metabolic processes (more on that in section#2); what is the current metabolic state of your body; did you get enough sleep and recovery time the night prior; hormone fluctuation; inflammation; exercise habits – do you or don’t you, if you do what type and how long ago you did it and how hard did you push?
Your best bet here is to eat a variety of whole REAL foods and try to make those foods of the lower carb variety. Fresh veggies – who’s fiber content help to keep blood sugar from spiking and are loaded with those lovely little nutrients we need – are not a worry here. Feel free to eat all of those carbs you want! I’m talking those nasty little refined carbs. Yes, even fruit juice – the fructose in juice (or fruit, but here again that fiber comes into play) is only processed by the liver so it goes directly there, and if all your glucose stores are full it gets turned through the process of lipogenesis, into… drum roll… FAT! You should also include moderate proteins and lots of good HEALTHY fats (see topic#3).
What it comes down to is this : Not all calories are the same and we can compare this to walking miles and driving miles. We can total all the miles walked and all the miles driven as “miles traveled” – but obviously, they are no where near the same thing!
2. You are NOT counting your macros
Most likely if you are eating more that 150 grams of carbohydrate in a day, it is going to make you GAIN WEIGHT! Yes, of course, there are exceptions to this rule; such as those who run or cycle in endurance events or those who do it for the pure pleasure and/or obsession of it (not me!). Those folks will be burning through their carbs at a rapid rate. But…let’s be realistic and admit that this is not most of us nor is it truly healthy in the long run for those who do partake. It seems as though the word is getting out that fueling with highly refined carbs isn’t the way to go and many of our worlds top endurance athletes are now utilizing the body’s cleaner burning and preferred fuel, FAT for training and race day!
Keeping your average daily diet to 100-150 grams of carbohydrate will maintain your current body comp. Drop it down to between 50-100 carbs per day and you will enter into effortless fat loss. If you dip below 50 grams a day you will be taking a walk on the ketosis side! Keto can be hard (or not if you are metabolically flexible) but it is also a great tool to have in your back pocket. Intermittent fasting or full on fasting drops those carbs to an absolute zero and you become a body fat burning beast. These also are great tools to use if you are ready and metabolically flexible, otherwise it can be a miserable experience.
But again, which ever you choose to use 150, 100, 50 – the focus has to be on real food- veggies, fruit (preferably in season), nuts, seeds, meat- something that used to be alive, so it can give you life!
3. You are AFRAID of FAT or are eating the wrong kind
Well, we all grew up hearing how evil fat was. How it clogged our arteries and just like the demon it was portrayed as, went straight to our butts. That all came about in the 60’s, and still holds true in our heads to a lot of us, because it was so indoctrinated for the following 40 years. It seems logical that eating fat will make you fat or eating cholesterol will plug up your arteries with cholesterol. We need to let that old flawed science and manipulative marketing go the way of the DODO! Rather it is the pro-inflammatory effects of excess carbohydrate consumption and its resulting constant insulin production, oxidative damage caused by “franken” oil consumption (oils that need to be chemically created – corn, soy, canola, margarine) and chronically elevated stress hormones that are the culprits. These factors work in concert to set the stage for fat and cholesterol to turn troublesome in blood vessels. Remove those factors caused by high carb intake and the other stressors mentioned above and saturated fat is a totally efficient and clean burning source of energy for our bodies! Plus it satiates our appetite.
When carbohydrates are reduced, insulin and blood glucose begin to stabilize and this makes the necessary room in your diet for HEALTHY fats!
HEALTHY FATS: Monounsaturated and saturated fats: Such as Pastured butter (think Kerry Gold), ghee, cold pressed avocado and olive oils, coconut oil, macadamia nut, lard, tallow, duck fat, marrow, bacon grease from non-sugared and un-cured bacon.
UNHEALTHY FATS: Any thing that required chemicals or solvents to extract: (a.k.a. polyunsaturated fats) canola, soy, corn, vegetable, any “seed” or “kernel” oil, and any trans fats. ( high-oleic varieties are an improvement health wise, but are still kind of a “gray area”, so it may be best to avoid them, since healthier options are available.)
Because they are highly unstable, polyunsaturated fats literally go rancid immediately after extraction. You don’t know this by smell because of the chemicals that are added in the extraction process to mask the rancidity. Rancid fats are EXTREMELY unhealthy for your body and most definitely need to be removed from your diet! They are very easily oxidized and cause destruction on a cellular level by prompting systemic inflammation, immune system degradation, interrupt hormone signaling, cause damage to your organs and can cross the blood-brain barrier! They are pretty much in every processed or restaurant food. Think you are being healthy eating that salad? Check the label on your dressing – it probably has soy or sunflower seed oil in it. Pouring that rancid oil on that beautiful salad makes it not so healthy!
So the take away here is : Don’t be afraid of the HEALTHY fats especially in the context of a lower carbohydrate diet – 150 grams or less per day – this is what your body actually prefers to burn! And yes, be very afraid of those unhealthy ones and toss them out with the trash that they are.
4. You have created an unrealistic or unhealthy goal
Let’s face it, only a very few are super models or movie stars out there! We see those pictures on the magazine covers and bill boards or envy the chiseled and beyond beach ready bodies in the movies and wish that was our face on that bod, but alas, it is still right here and we have some work to do! Now, realistically we know that those models have all been airbrushed to perfection or have deprived themselves of water to get into photo ready form. The actors have meals designed and prepped, crazy workouts, in-home gyms and trainers, surgeries and camera angles all working for them. So, here in the real world, we have to set real and attainable goals and let ourselves get there in a gradual, healthy and not to mention much more permanent way. True health changes take time and they most defiantly are not linear!
Set and reach small goals – then set another! This seems to me the best way to roll! When you hit that obtainable benchmark, it is a confidence builder and urges you on toward your next small step!
Something else to consider in this topic is the number on the scale. What exactly does XXX.X lbs. tell you? Nothing really. Concentrate more on how you feel or how those pants are baggier on your hips and thighs! That is way more exciting than a number.
Instead of fixating on a scale number or on a photoshopped model, focus on what truly matters – how you FEEL and whether you are moving forward, closer to the life you want to live.
5. Your hormones are whacked
Hormones are pretty much in control of your weight loss. If they are messed up, then you are not going to see the results you desire! Hormones such as insulin, leptin, ghrelin and cortisol. All big players in how we burn and/or store fat, hunger and appetite. The big problem here is the more excess body fat we have, the more hormonal disruption we experience. It gives rise to too much or too little hormone signaling and cells become resistant to even normal signaling. In other words, your body is getting the signal that it is hungry, despite the fact that there are sufficient fat and glucose stores already in your body. So you are prompted by those hormones to eat more even though you may have just eaten not long ago. Does the term “hangry” mean anything to you? This is hormonal signaling pushing your buttons!
Getting your hormones back in alignment is definitely a process, but it is very doable and can happen pretty quickly once a few practices are put into play. – Eat only whole foods, nothing processed; remove those bad oils we talked about earlier and add in the healthy fats; remove breads and grains from your diet and fill that void with veggies slathered with a nice grass-fed butter; sleep longer and better; get outside in the sun; and do not do chronic cardio (see section #7). As excess body fat is lost, the body leans toward stabilizing and regulating hunger, fat storage, energy expenditure, and stress hormones more effectively. When it comes to hormones, improvements in one area lead to systemic improvements throughout.
6. You are not getting enough quality sleep and you are chronically stressed
This has everything to do with hormones as well, but it needs to be addressed with its own category to emphasize its importance. When the body is lacking in quality sleep or is chronically stressed, it causes hormonal signaling that increases appetite, blocks fat burning and increases fat storage. You will literally get fatter by being stressed out and not getting enough sleep!
As part of our healthy lifestyle goals we simply must remember to schedule in cleaning up our sleep habits and decompressing from our busy days! It is one of the biggest players in getting our hormones back in alignment so we can see more success in ridding our bodies of unwanted fat deposits.
Pencil in some self care time at the end of each day. A home made mask, a bath, some soft stretching or yoga, deep breathing or reading a book for 10-15 minutes all help to relax your mind and then hit the sack earlier in a cool dark room! Skip out on that latest Netflix addiction or that impulsive last scan of who is doing what on facebook for a week and see if your lack of nighttime blue-light improves upon your quality of sleep. Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time, work day or weekend and subjecting yourself to sun light, if possible, as soon as you wake to improve upon your circadian rhythm.
7. You are engaging in chronic cardio
“I want to lose weight, so I need to get to the gym and pound out the cardio!” is probably what scrolled through your head as that new year ball dropped. But… although moving more is most definitely one of the keys to a healthier you, it is a flawed idea to think that stacking up the miles in too stressful a manner on the body will get you anywhere but inflamed – FAST! Excessive cardio triggers all sorts of counterproductive effects on the body; it LOWERS its metabolic rate to preserve fat; hormonally it triggers ghrelin, which increases appetite, which in-turn makes us think our workout entitles us to a snack or a longer rest on the couch, as opposed to increased movement through out the day, not just the 45 min we slammed out on the treadmill or elliptical. You simply can not out-run a poor diet and out-will your hunger hormones! Instead, you have to AVOID this problem.
When it comes to long distance moving, such as walking, running, jogging or the like, it should be conducted at a rate that is under our own personal anaerobic threshold. That is how we are designed, evolutionarily or genetically speaking, to move; and to move this way, through out our day, WAY more than we are! To find your individual threshold, you use the equation of 180 beats per minute minus your age. Taking me for example at 41, that puts my personal maximum aerobic heart rate at 139 (180-41=139). So, what that means is I want to be moving around A LOT throughout my day within this heart rate range. If I were to spend too much time above this range, it would trigger those counterproductive effects on the body we discussed above.
Now this doesn’t mean that you never want to break that threshold, it just means that you do not want to sustain it for longer periods of time. Think HIIT (high-intensity interval training) weight training or sprinting – you most defiantly surpass that threshold, but you are not staying there for long. These techniques of training are key ingredients to meet your long term health goals, with great hormonal benefits as well, but again, only in moderation as to inhibit the overproduction of stress hormones. Moderate, meaning only weight training a few times per week and occasionally sprinting every 7 to 10 days when you feel completely recovered from the last time. You don’t want to be crushing it at the cross fit box every single day, your body will be in a constant state of inflammation causing that imbalance of hormones that needs to be avoided for fat loss!
8. Too much snacking
Hormones again!!! Or maybe that stress from section #6 is making you want to have a little nibble. It is hard to resist these urges, but snacking really won’t help. Fewer large meals is the way to go. Then you are utilizing another great tool, intermittent fasting (IF), to iron out those hormone fluctuations, namely insulin!
“Wait a minute, wait a minute… But I’ve been told all my life to eat smaller, more frequent meals and to snack!” Well…how great has that been working out for you? Precisely – it doesn’t! This all comes down to how insulin works. To keep it simple…when you eat, your body pumps out insulin to transport glucose to cells, glucose is toxic in the blood stream over 5 grams, so the body produces that insulin to remove it and put it somewhere, either into glucose stores in the muscles and liver, or if those stores are full (or think they are due to insulin resistance) into fat storage. The more you eat, the more insulin is produced. If you never give insulin production a break, you will never burn your own fat stores. You can not burn fat in the presence of insulin! Therefore, reducing insulin is the key to getting rid of fat.
“How do I do that?” you say. ” I get soooo HANGRY if I miss my snack!” As I said before, this is a hormonal symptom, namely hypoglycemia. This happens because you are living on the glucose/insulin roller coaster! To rid yourself of this problem, you must become less dependent on carbohydrates for fuel. By eliminating sugars and grains and reducing your carbs to the more body friendly 150-50 grams per day and begin balancing your hormones as stated above. Although it can be difficult to deny yourself those extra feedings at first, your body WILL reprogram itself and start burning those fat stores instead of throwing you to the “Hangry Wolf”!
9. Not practicing mindful eating
Absently tossing in a bite from your kid’s plate or eating in front of the TV, scrounging around in the pantry for a quick bite, eating in the car or while scrolling through our phones, we have all done it! When we are trying to change a habit though, we need to pay full attention to what we are doing and be present. Prepping our own meals is a great way to really appreciate and take the time to see the actual ingredients and know they are a healthy choice. Fully chewing and putting the fork down between bites is something that helps signal satiety and fully activate the enzymes required for proper digestion. It also gives you the time needed to have those great dinner time chats that help to connect and de-stress along side our families.
Again, real food is key! Toss those shakes, bars and quick fix meals. Take the time for yourself to see where your food is coming from and then prepare it knowing that you are changing yourself for the better, right down to the cellular level!
10. You are allowing others to sabotage you
Whether they mean to or not, there are most likely certain folks in your life who simply do not provide the support or understanding to the changes you are trying to implement. Office potlucks or donut box guilt that “someone made it” or “spent money on it”, that family member that “treats” you with food, that friend who can’t find it within themselves to effect change so they unwittingly drag you down the hole with them… to the Cheesecake Factory…the examples are endless. Our social bonds are what bind us together as humans. They have a huge effect on what we view as the “norm” and it can be very hard to go against the grain, even when we know it is what is best for us!
Here is where YOU really have to take the bull by the horns! Sometimes we just have to have that uncomfortable heart-to-heart. Actually putting things out on the table will leave no room for misunderstanding. You understand, love and support them exactly as they are, but they need to realize that you are trying to make some changes YOU believe will be best for you! Clearing the air will help take one of those stress layers away, gain the support you desire and maybe, just maybe, help improve the health of someone else right along side of you!
If one, any or all of these obstacles are something you are coming up against, just start small; begin with one category and slowly, step-by-step check them off your list. If it seems too daunting a task to go alone, enlist a spouse, friend or family member to get on-board or join a Facebook group to encourage you. Hire a health-coach or a personal trainer if you need more guidance and that additional professional push. You are worth the investment and your time. Remember, it truly isn’t just about the improvements to your waist line, but for the total, over-all wellbeing and health you will gain!