Staring At The Scales In Disbelief?
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.
Are You Kidding Me?
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.
5. You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
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.
- Stick to the good old 8x8 rule: Drink an 8oz glass of water, 8 times a day. If you find plain water a bit boring, try adding a spritz of orange juice, some muddled raspberries and mint leaves to excite your tastebuds.
- Don’t drink your calories: Switch out sugary sodas and coffees (without sacrificing your 3pm caffeine hit!) for refreshing herbal teas with a slice of lemon.
4. You’re Skimping On Precious Beauty Sleep
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.
- Kill the lights 1 hour before bedtime to help your brain adjust into sleep-mode, for an easy drift into blissful and restorative REM sleep.
- Limit screen time in the evenings and try reading a book by candlelight.
- Make sure you’re using enough energy during the day so you’re actually tired at bedtime- hello gym!
3. You’re Not Getting Enough Protein
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.
- Bored of bland health food snacks? Nuts can be jazzed up in so many ways you may not have considered. Grab a protein boost with a handful of spicy roasted almonds, or some apple slices dipped in almond butter when your stomach starts growling at 3pm.
- Hummus packs a protein punch as it’s packed full of nutty, delicious chickpeas. Try it with carrot sticks, celery and a couple of wholewheat pita chips.
- Make sure your main meals always feature protein as the star of the show. If you’re totally burned out from eating the same lean meat and veggies on a rotation for dinner every night, shake up your protein choices by cooking up some beans and legumes instead. Supercharge your favorite chili recipe with black beans, red kidney beans and cannellini beans for a hearty meal on those cooler spring nights when you need a comfort food fix.
2. You Need More Wholefoods (Not the Store… Actual Whole. Foods.)
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.
- When you just can’t stop thinking about a warm bowl of carbs, reach for some quinoa. This superfood packs a whopping 4.4g of protein per 100g to help you feel full, and is loaded with essential nutrients. It’s one of the most complete foods you can eat, and is super versatile. Use in your favorite recipes instead of rice, or add to a warm salad with roasted veggies and toasted pumpkin seeds.
- Add some excitement to your standard rotation of veggies by grilling them as the weather warms up. A light spritz of olive oil spray, a sprinkle of garlic and some chargrilling can turn a pile of boring peppers and zucchinis into tastebud heaven.
- Keep an eye on your sugar intake with the fruits you choose. Grapes, mangoes, bananas, watermelon and pears have a high sugar content, and are pretty much nature’s candy. Satisfy your sweet tooth by grabbing a handful of low-sugar fruits like strawberries, peaches, blackberries and oranges instead.
1. You Need To Supercharge Your Workout
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.
- Vigorous exercises such as high intensity interval training (HIIT) could be the answer. HIIT has you blasting through your workout in short bursts of 100% effort, broken up with rest breaks in-between. This zooms in on burning through fat stores, and even keeps working for 24 hours after you’ve stopped by supercharging your metabolism.
- Higher intensity workouts require less time, so you’ll be home from the gym in no time and ready to get on with the relaxation part of your evening.
- Shorter, more intense workouts will divert blood away from your stomach, sending it to your muscles where you need it most. The follow-on effect of this is a suppressed appetite, which will make it so much easier to get through the inevitable trip to the grocery store on your way home for a healthy dinner.
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!