Have you been struggling to lose weight? Have you “plateaued” or do you find it impossible to lose any weight at all? There are many reasons why your “diet” isn’t working, and mainly it can be because you are dieting, restricting, and putting your body into starvation mode. These 6 tips will help get you rev your metabolism back into shape, and hopefully, put “dieting” into perspective.
- Skipping Meals? Do you wait as long as possible to eat? Skipping breakfast entirely? Starting the day with only a cup of water and some lemon, or do you just go old school and stick with a cup of Joe? Skipping meals can completely derail your weight loss efforts. The longer you wait to eat, the more you put your body into a starvation mode, and the only thing you are doing is slowing your metabolism down. Studies have also shown that skipping breakfast actually helps you to gain weight. Often this is because you tend to eat more and more later in the day and can really pack on the calories at night, when you probably should be eating the lightest. Start your day with a bang and try some steel cut oats, fruit, and perhaps one or two hard-boiled eggs. Your metabolism will thank you.
- Forget the Fiber? The trend lately is to “cut the carbs”, but are you cutting fiber as a result? People often see a short-term drop in weight by cutting down on carbohydrates, and this is very common when you eliminate an entire food group from your diet. However, in the long-term, this is not a good way to go, and can often create cravings that become hard to control, and lead to binging. In addition, fiber helps bulk your meal and slows digestion, as well as helps you lower your cholesterol and blood glucose. Do your body a favor and stick to whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat and corn. Shoot for 25g per day if a woman and 38g if you are a man.
- Not Enough Fat? Wait, did you hear that correctly? Yes. Yes you did. Eating too little fat, especially from omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish, chia and flax seeds, monounsaturated fats like olive oil, and beneficial saturated fats like coconut oil, can actually do your body harm as you are depriving yourself of the healthy benefits that these fats provide. Fat ingestion also leads to meal satiety, and will signal your body when you have had enough to eat. People who cut fat out of their diet can tend to overeat because they are missing the fat satiety meal-stopping signals your body needs to have to know it is full. It makes sense to limit saturated fats like fats from red meat, but take a lesson from the Mediterranean diet and keep the olive oil and avocado in moderation, and you may see a difference the next time you step on the scale.
- Skimping on Protein? It seems impossible in Western culture, one that glorifies meat consumption, that we could possibly be protein deficient. Most people aren’t, and in fact, most people eat far more protein than they should. But, on the other hand, you may believe that going vegan or vegetarian will make you skinny. This is not necessarily false as many vegan and vegetarian diets can be very healthy, but it can also be very hard to get the recommended amount of protein, or the proper combination of amino acids in a day on these diets. It is important to know that protein is the most satiating macronutrient we can consume. That means eating protein can keep us fuller for longer, and keep us from running to the fridge for a snack every hour or so. Stick to lean sources, or make sure, if you are going vegetarian, that you learn how to combine your proteins sources like beans and rice so that you are getting a complete protein source. A general rule of thumb when you are trying to estimate your protein requirement is to convert your body weight to kilograms by dividing your weight by 2.2, and multiplying by 0.8-1 g/kg depending on your activity level. It rounds out roughly to approximately 40-70 g/day for the average sized female. There are 7 grams of protein in one ounce of meat so you are looking at about 6-10 oz. per day. If you exercise a lot, lean toward a bit extra protein, but don’t overdo it. Too much protein can lead to its own host of problems and can overwork your kidneys.
- Stressed to the Max? When you are super stressed, you tend to tax your adrenal glands, the little nodules above your kidneys responsible for producing cortisol, a major fight-or-flight hormone produced by your sympathetic nervous system’s response to stress. A little of this hormone has been biologically and evolutionarily necessary. Imagine, when face-to-face with a hungry bear or tiger, that your body didn’t produce a response to get you the heck out of harm’s way? No one wants to be tiger food. But over time, thankfully, our encounters with wild animals are reduced to maybe an occasional coyote sighting. And yet, our bodies do not know the difference when we are stressed. When your body produces this response on a regular basis, the cortisol running through your system essentially shuts down your metabolism and keeps weight on. In order to return your over-stressed adrenals to a more manageable level, you need to learn to relax. Try meditation, go for a nice long relaxing walk, go to be earlier, talk it out with friends or a therapist, and learn to let go.
- Not Enough Calories? Everything you know about “dieting” may change with this little fact. Yes, continual starvation will eventually lead to weight loss, plus malnutrition, hair loss, the production of down-fine hair all over your body called lanugo, stunted growth, and a loss of menstruation. But before all of those fun things happen, your body will fight you tooth and nail to keep that from happening. Starvation dieting is the absolute worst thing you can do to your body. As soon as your body knows it is being starved, it will slow your metabolism down to a halt and make weight loss quite impossible, until, if starved enough, will start letting go of the weight. If you are doing this to yourself, you need know that this is a terrible and costly way to lose weight, and may actually take you longer. Give your body the calories it needs to function at its peak, not at its worst. A general rule of thumb, if trying to lose weight safely, is to eliminate 500 calories per day, or 3500 calories per week, in order to lose one pound per week. For most women, this means ingesting no less than 1200 kcal per day. Going below that can halt your metabolism and also put you at a risk for malnutrition.
It is important to remember to be kind to yourself. We all strive for our ideal selves, some more so than others. When it becomes an obsession, or we do things that are harmful to ourselves, that is the time to take a step back and ask yourself if losing ten pounds is worth putting your body and your health at risk. Treat yourself like a precious loved one, feed yourself the best food, listen to your body, and remember, no one is perfect.