With summer right around the corner, everyone is trying to clean up their diet and get ready for bathing suit season. I think it is fair to assume that most of us at some point have tried some sort of “diet” in the past whether it is a juice cleanse, low carb diet, south beach, or whole 30. Am I right?
Despite the increasing number of “diets” trending, Americans are gaining weight. The average weight of males has increased from 181 lbs to 196 lbs and the average weight of females has increased from 152 to 169 from 1988-1994 and 2011-2014 (despite the average height remaining the same).
Have you tried everything you know to lose weight and the scale has barely moved? How frustrating!
Well here are 7 reasons you may not be losing weight
1: Our portions are too big (including healthy food)
Although this image is obviously not of healthy foods, our portions are significantly larger than they were in the 1950s. This is making it incredibly difficult to distinguish a portion from a serving. A portion of food is what you are served. For example, most people will eat the full burger below as a portion however it is at least 2-3 servings.
And to make it even more confusing, our packaged food is often misleading. For example, I may go grab a kombucha and see that it only contains 6 grams of sugar. However, if I don’t look closely I may not notice it is 6 grams of sugar per serving and the individual bottle is 2 servings. So if I were to drink the full bottle of kombucha, I would be consuming 12 grams of sugar instead of 6 grams.
Also our dinner plates have significantly grown over the past few decades. In the 1960s, dinner plates were around 8.5 inches and now most of them are over 12 inches. So if we put an actual “serving” of food on our plate it looks pretty bare.
So what can we do about this? Here are 3 quick tips.
- At home, eat off your salad plate instead of a dinner plate. Once you finish dinner, drink a full glass of water and wait 20 minutes. If you are still hungry then eat seconds.
- When eating out, ask for a to-go box as soon as you get your food and pack up half of your dinner for later.
- Read food labels thoroughly and be aware of how much you are eating. Avoid eating directly out of containers; before you know it you will have consumed 2-3 servings (nuts always get me!!). Try these portion control glass containers to help with serving sizes. Great for lunch and snacks on the go!
2: Sugar is hidden in everything
We are in a sugar epidemic!! When I convinced my husband to do Whole 30, he could not believe how many “healthy” things had sugar in them. He called me from the grocery store and asked what in the world am I supposed to eat? My response was shop the perimeter of the store and you will find tons of things to eat. He couldn’t believe even the organic section of the grocery store was filled with cane sugar. Our food industry is hijacking our minds. It is tricking us to want sweeter and sweeter food.
Tips to help combat this sugar epidemic:
- As previously stated, shop the perimeter of grocery stores. Buy plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, eggs, and healthy fats like avocado and raw or sprouted nuts and seeds. If you think you are addicted to sugar, you may need a reset. Try Whole 30 or Dr. Hyman’s Eat Fat, Get Thin.
- Read all food labels. Keep total sugar intake under 30-40 grams per day. This can be incredibly challenging, especially if you are shopping up and down the isles.
- If you are craving something sweet, try first drinking a full glass of lemon water. If your sugar cravings do not go away, have a rice cake with almond butter and cinnamon on top. Yum! Cinnamon is great at reducing your sugar cravings and helping to stabilize your blood sugar.
3: Diet extremes. Trying to lose weight, just to lose it.
I am pretty sure at some point, we have all tried an extreme diet to lose weight quickly; whether it is a juice cleanse, HCG diet, or significantly restricting your total caloric intake just to drop weight.
These restrictive diets often lead to binge eating and more weight gain in the long run. In order to lose weight (and to keep it off), we need to avoid extremes. We need to work on small and attainable lifestyle changes. It is also important to figure out WHY you want to lose weight. What is your motivator? Is it just to look good in a bathing suit? Chances are you will not keep it off.
While feeling confident in your own skin is important, maintaining a healthy weight is essential for our overall health and wellbeing. Being overweight or obese, increases an individual’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and hormonal imbalances.
I have found that once the motivation has shifted from an external driver to an internal driver, success is more likely achieved. For example, if you want to lose weight to have more energy and longevity you are doing it for YOU and your long-term health. This will lead to lasting change and RESULTS!
Tips to avoiding the extremes:
- Identify why you want to lose weight in the long run (not just for the beach trip); is it for more energy, to live longer, to prevent chronic diseases?
- Do not restrict yourself too much. If you are craving something, try to find the healthiest form or alternative to satisfy your craving. For example, when I want something sweet and the rice cake with almond butter and cinnamon doesn’t fix it; I have a piece of dark chocolate or I make banana ice cream. It is delicious, nutritional, and it satisfies my sweet tooth.
4: Sedentary lifestyles
Most of us sit too darn much. Studies have found that just getting a standing desk can increase energy expenditure by 7.5 calories per hour. Imagine if you were to stand for work and add more activity throughout the day. Have you heard of the NEAT factor? This stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis which is basically how many calories you are burning during activities of daily living (not including purposeful exercise). If we move more and sit less throughout the day, we will ALL burn more calories.
Tips to prevent a sedentary lifestyle:
- Invest in a pedometer and track your steps. Work up to 8,000-10,000 steps per day. I love FitBit because they have an excellent app to track your progress.
- Set an alarm on your computer or phone to remind you to stand every hour. Walk to the bathroom, fill up your water bottle, stretch. You will think clearer and be more productive if you get up and move every hour.
- Choose to park further away and always take the stairs! No more circling around the parking lot trying to find a closer spot. Park far away on purpose and get those extra steps.
5: High Stress
I feel like this comes up in almost everyone of my blogs, but its so important. Stress increases cortisol (our stress hormone) which increases blood sugar leading to insulin resistance and weight gain (especially around your middle). We need to break this cycle! Restrictive dieting can increase cortisol and prevent you from achieving the results you are striving for.
Tips to reduce stress
- Set aside 5-15 minutes every day for quiet time. Whether you use this time to journal, pray, or meditate, it is important to disconnect from technology and focus on your breath. Simply deep breathing has been shown to lower cortisol levels.
- Get enough sleep. Aim for at least 7.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. This will help your body manage stress more effectively throughout the day.
- Don’t over book yourself; it is okay to say no. This is something my husband has to continuously remind me of. It is okay to have a slow morning, it is okay to relax, it is okay to not be doing something… phew who knew relaxing could be so hard!
6: Not enough strength training
I still hear some of my clients say they are afraid to do too much strength training because they are going to “bulk up”. However, strength training is essential for shifting our resting metabolism. If you want to rev up your metabolism, you need to add lean muscle. While sources vary greatly on the amount of calories 1 lb of muscle burns per day, it is well established that lean muscle mass burns more calories per day than fat tissue.
If you need help with a strength training regimen, try STAT Wellness’ 4 week total body workout. There are separate workouts for both men and women and fitness level. Beginner workouts are 3 days per week, intermediate workouts are 4 days per week, and advanced workouts are 5 days per week.
Check it out for yourself!
Still not seeing results? Lets work together!
Kristin Oja, DNP, FNP-C, PT-C