Calories in and calories out! We’ve been told that all we need to do in order to reach our weight loss goals is to create a calorie deficit. That sounds so simple, but obviously there is more to it or most of us would already have permanently achieved our weight loss goals. With more than two thirds of the United States Population overweight, and a large percentage obese, clearly there is more to the story!
How many of you have lost weight only to gain it back? How many of you seem to start a diet every Monday only to have fallen off or become frustrated before the end of the first week? How many of you seem to find it impossible to lose weight?
I know because I have had all of those experiences! I felt as though every time I tried to “cut a calorie” here my body seemed to find it somewhere else. In fact, over time I continued to GAIN weight instead of losing weight, even through I was making pretty healthy food choices and exercising. What the heck? Since my education was in Exercise Physiology, I was really beating myself up because I believed I was supposed to have the answers and be healthy and fit. What I needed to know I had not been taught in college – even at the Masters level. Ironically, when I finally DID learn how to fuel my body correctly I recalled that one of the basic principles I’d learned in 7th Grade. I’ll tell you what that was later. For now, I’m going to help you understand WHY many of the diets you may have tried have not worked.
Here is the biggest Weight Loss Myth: A Calorie is Just a Calorie
We have heard for years that a calorie is just a calorie; that all calories are created equally and that if you want to lose weight all you need to do is just burn more calories than you take in. Anyone who has struggled with their weight for very long will certainly agree that they have discovered that it is just not that simple. If it were, we would not have the obesity problem that we have today. Our hormones have a LOT to do with how we metabolize our food! What else matters? When we eat, how much we eat at a time, how long we go between eating, and the type and quality of the calories we are consuming all make a difference in how our bodies respond to the calories we consume. Often people trying to lose weight inadvertently keep their bodies in “fat storage mode” by going too long between meals, then eating too many calories at once, and of then the wrong kind of calories. This ultimately prevents weight loss success and slows metabolism.
Here are a few common dieting mistakes:
- Not eating breakfast. Yes, your mother was right – you need to start your day with breakfast. You should eat within an hour upon waking up. When you haven’t eaten all night your blood sugar will be on the low side. Eating a balanced breakfast will give your body the fuel it needs and jump start your metabolism for the day.
- Popular Low Carb Diets. Diets that put your body into ketosis by avoiding carbohydrates give you quick results in the beginning, but are not a long-term solution to losing body fat. The quick results in the beginning come, in part, from losing water weight. This method of losing weight also causes your body to work harder to make fuel and you will begin to break down lean body mass as well as losing fat. Your goal is to lose fat, not lean body (or muscle) mass. In addition, you can not eat this way permanently and when you resume eating carbohydrates most people gain the weight back.
- Going too long between meals. When you wait too long between meals you will become over hungry. Starving all day sets you up to over eat, or eat the wrong things when you do finally eat. When you eat this way it messes up your metabolism and large meals eaten infrequently encourage fat storage. Eating small frequent meals during the day will help sustain your energy level, improve metabolism, and encourage fat burning.
- Not drinking enough water. It is not uncommon to mistake thirst for hunger. When you don’t drink enough water your body actually starts holding onto water. Seems like the opposite should be true but it is not. You should drink a MINIMUM of 64 ounces of water per day or half your body weight in ounces. For example a 150 pound person should drink at least 75 ounces of water per day.
- Not having a plan. We don’t plan to fail we fail to plan. When you are trying to reach a new weight or level of fitness you need a plan to follow. It takes some advance preparation to make certain you stay on the plan. Carry food with you and have a backup plan for emergencies.
- Binging after you have eaten off your plan. Don’t wait until tomorrow to get back on track. We all fall off of our plan from time to time. What matters most is how fast you get back on track. Make it your goal to lengthen the amount of time between the times you fall track and shorten the time you jump back on after you have fallen off.
- Believing you are genetically destined to be overweight. Some of us are more predisposed to gain weight, but the major factor in whether you are carrying around excess weight is how you you’re your life. Your lifestyle choices have more to do with how much you weigh than your genetic make up.
- Eating processed or substitute foods. Real food is always better than fake food. Eating foods as close to the way they were grown as possible is the best way to support optimal health. Processed foods often contain ingredients that you don’t need or are unhealthy for your body. Often “substitute” foods contain unhealthy chemicals and toxins your body would be healthier without. As for those diet sodas … even artificial sweeteners can cause an insulin reaction in your body and they contain a lot of unhealthy chemicals. Eat local and fresh fruits and vegetables in season whenever possible.
- Being too attached to your scales. I’ve said it a million times, “The scales are not your friend!” Weigh at the same time of day with the same amount of clothing. The scales aren’t always the most accurate measure of whether you are consistently losing fat. Some experts recommend weighting only once a week. I like to weigh daily, first thing in the morning when I’m working toward a new goal. Your scales are not the only measurement of results. One month, when I began resistance training, I lost an entire size in my jeans without losing a pound on the scales. What did that mean? I lost body fat and gained lean body mass (muscle)! If I had gone entirely by the scale I’d have felt frustrated, while in reality my body changed in a very positive way that month.
- Not eating enough food. Eating a lot less or going on a crash diet will not achieve the results you want. This strategy results in lowering metabolism and losing both muscle and fat. Total calories are important, but so are the amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats in the diet, and the frequency of your meals.
Never go on any diet that is not a manner of eating that you can adhere to for the rest of your life. In addition to losing excess body fat you want to develop healthy habits that will promote your optimal weight and health for the rest of your life! Don’t think that going on a temporary “diet” will give you lasting weight loss results. If you want to change you life your will need to change some habits so you can sustain your results long term! Trust the process. Once you begin to eat in a more healthful way you will not only see but feel the results, and you will likely choose to continue more healthy lifestyle habits! It won’t be a matter of forcing yourself into what you “should” be doing—you will genuinely want and enjoy your new choices!
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