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February 23, 2020
The holiday parties really did a number on our waistlines. But as we do every year, we finished our last delicious bites of mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole and pecan pie for 2019, and wistfully bid farewell to our indulgent ways. We joined the masses flocking to the gym with fresh New Year’s resolutions motivating us. What could be a better driving force than fitting back into those bangin’ jeans- the ones that make us pause to admire the view whenever we pass a reflective surface.
We’ve been nibbling non-stop on salads (hold the dressing, ugh.) And if we have to look at one more grilled chicken breast with steamed broccoli, we’re gonna scream. We’ve counted our calories with almost religious devotion, packed work lunches that still leave our stomachs growling, and resisted that bearclaw that calls our name every morning at the coffee shop.
We fought the traffic and the urge to go home to collapse into a bowl of pasta after work, and made it just in time for the 5.30 gym class most days. We jostled for the bike right at the back where the peppy young spin class teacher (who never breaks a sweat) can’t call us out in front of everyone for lagging on the hill climbs.
With a couple of months of extreme discipline under our belts, we were certainly expecting those belts of ours to be inching down a notch (or three!)
But when we jump on the scales in the locker room, it’s the exact same number as last week. And the week before. Sometimes it even sneaks up a pound.
We’re working our butts off over here! What gives? We all know the basics: Calories in vs. calories out. Eat less and exercise more. So if it’s been a few months of doing what you thought was everything right, and you’re still not getting the results, you might have hit a plateau.
But before you throw in the (sweaty) towel and drown your sorrows in a large pepperoni pizza... don’t give up just yet! Don’t be discouraged. You’re doing great, making awesome lifestyle changes for your health and your beautiful self-image. So if you’re confused why the scales aren’t reflecting all the hard work you’re doing, there might be something mysterious causing it. Let’s see if you’ve been snagged by one of these unexpected speed bumps that are hindering your weight loss success.
This one is a given, and we already know it’s important to drink water. But there’s a science behind this simple trick especially when it comes to weight loss. Your body needs water to break down its stores of fat. Because this biological fat-burning process isn’t a vital one to our survival, such as our heart pumping blood, our lungs supplying oxygen to our organs and our digestive system processing nutrients… The breaking down of fat stores is one of the last functions our bodies puts energy toward. If you’re not sufficiently hydrated, our body diverts the water to our vital functions to keep us alive, and hits the pause button on our fat burning capabilities. Beyond that, drinking lots of water flushes toxins out of our blood and organs, suppresses our appetite and prevents fluid retention, puffiness and bloating.
Catching those zzz’s is everything! Beyond the obvious benefits of feeling more energized and avoiding those telltale bags under our eyes, getting enough sleep is crucial for our body’s weight loss process too.
When your body is sleep-deprived, it triggers production of the stress hormone Cortisol. Believe it or not, Cortisol is the same hormone released when your fight-or-flight response is triggered. When this alarm is pulled in your adrenal glands, your body goes into full-on survival mode, sending energy to functions in your body you would use to outrun a sabre-toothed tiger that was chasing you, for example. It puts all your non-vital functions (such as fat burning) on hold and redirects energy to survival mechanisms, such as heightened reflexes for running, quick thinking and tissue repair. It signals our metabolism to slow down and shift to fat-storing mode.
It also increases our appetite. Comfort eating much? That’s enough out of you, Ben & Jerry…
But our bodies haven’t still haven’t gotten the memo that we don’t live in caveman times anymore, so we still have to deal with excessive Cortisol production as a result of not getting enough sleep and daily stressors in our lives.
Are you always STARVING?! Yep, we know the feeling. You’re trying to cut carbs, but it’s so hard to give up those delicious wheaty vices like pasta and bread that make us feel full and satisfied. But you know what else does too? Protein!
Amping up your protein intake will help curb those carb cravings, as it switches off the hunger hormone Ghrelin. This hormone is released primarily in the stomach and sends a message to your brain that you’re hungry, increasing your appetite.
To make sure you’re not constantly ravenous and tempted to munch on calorie-heavy snacks, make sure you’re getting plenty of protein in your diet. Not only does protein help you to feel fuller for longer, it also builds muscle. If you’re working out a bunch, you want to make sure you’re actually losing fat, and not muscle mass.
Those “healthy” ready-to-eat foods you’ve been eating might have been tricking you this whole time. Even when marketed as healthy options, foods that come ready-prepared or packaged are often masquerading behind a deceptive image. Many of the foods we consider low-calorie like jarred pasta sauces, frozen meals, deli meats and health cookies can be loaded with sugar, flavor enhancers and ingredients to alter their taste and shelf life. Newsflash: Those granola bars you’ve been snacking on with carefree abandon might be just as wicked as eating that delicious chocolate chip muffin.
To avoid any confusion and unnecessary calories, take the guesswork out by reaching for foods that are whole, or as close to their natural state as Mother Nature intended them. Steer clear of processed and packaged foods for maximum peace of mind. While not all whole foods are going to be absolutely innocent and low fat, like full-fat dairy for example, generally many of the foods considered “whole” are naturally lower in unhealthy fats and calories.
Every little bit of movement counts. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking the dog around your neighborhood in the evenings, and popping on your running shoes to walk to the store instead of driving all adds up. Keep the aerobic exercise going… but consider that if it’s all you’re doing, you might not actually be getting into the fat-burning zone. Even though you’re burning calories and raising your heart rate, you might need to try some higher intensity workouts to boost your metabolism and fat burning ability. Think of it this way- if you’re able to gossip with your girlfriend and not get out of breath while you’re out getting your workout on, you’re probably not grinding hard enough to drop those last stubborn pounds.
Above all else, be patient. Your body is an incredible machine that has hundreds of incredible functions working every second to keep us alive and moving. You’re making a great long-term investment by prioritizing your health, so keep up the awesome work! We hope that with these 5 weight-loss mysteries officially debunked, you’ll hit your goal (and we’ll see you out in those bangin’ jeans...!) in no time!
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