- You aren’t eating enough: Yes, you read that correctly. Many people focus on being “good” early in the day when their motivation is high – eating a small breakfast (or skipping breakfast altogether) and an austere salad for lunch – and then “run out of steam” in the late afternoon and evening and end up in a cycle of craving, snacking and grazing. Sound familiar? More and more research supports the idea that adding more food (especially protein) to the beginning of your day will actually give you a better chance of losing weight because you will feel more satisfied in the evening. Start with a solid breakfast containing protein, fiber-rich carbohydrates, and some healthy fat. Ideally your breakfast will keep you feeling satisfied for at least three hours. When lunchtime rolls around, aim for that same “magic combination” of protein, fiber-rich carbs and healthy fat. Don’t forget to reach for a balanced snack containing at least two of those three elements mid-afternoon. These changes should allow you to feel more in control and make healthier choices at dinnertime and after.
- You and your diet just don’t get along: It’s so tempting to try that new diet that your sister/co-worker/spouse just easily dropped 15 pounds following. And it can be extremely frustrating when you don’t have the same results. The fact of the matter is that individual responses to different diet approaches vary dramatically. One person may lose 20lbs and keep it off for years following a low-carb diet while another may follow the same program to a T and ultimately gain weight instead of losing, only to later find that mindful eating is the key to their success. One major key to weight-loss is finding the approach (or approaches) that work for you. Feeling stuck? Try making a change! I like to run food “experiments” with my clients to help them find the foods and habits that are the best match for their unique bodies and lives. Change one thing for 2 weeks and notice how your hunger/fullness, energy levels, digestion and mood are affected. Then ask yourself: “Is this something that I could sustain over time?” “What could I tweak to make this habit work for me?”
- You’re focusing too much on the scale: although it may seem counterintuitive, aiming to improve your health instead of focusing on a number on the scale may be a more effective way to ultimately achieve a healthy weight and better health. Your weight can vary by up to 3-5lbs in a 24-48 hour period based on hormones, water retention, the amount of food/water you’ve consumed, bowel movements and the time of day. If you’re aiming for a reasonable 1-2lb weight loss per week, this natural variability on the scale could be enough to mask your progress and sap your motivation. And yes, it’s true that muscle weighs more than fat, so your body composition may be changing even though the scale hasn’t moved. Focusing exclusively on weight can cause you to give up on changes in your life that have positive immediate and long-term benefits. Try setting goals that are specific to making you feel happier and healthier — journaling can help you to measure progress over time. How do you feel this month compared to last month? What healthy changes have you been able to stick with?
- You’re eating the wrong foods: if you take a look in your shopping cart and see it packed full of processed foods, you may benefit from trying a label-free challenge. Most processed foods are packed with extra sugar, unhealthy fats, sodium, and a long list of “mystery ingredients”. It’s easy to fall prey to marketing claims shouting “low-fat”, “heart-healthy” or “whole-grain” and think that you are making healthy choices, only to end up with foods that are devoid of nutrients and leave you craving more. Shop the periphery of the grocery store to find the healthiest foods – those that don’t have a nutrition label. Aim to fill at least half of your shopping cart with these foods. For most of us, it’s not reasonable to completely avoid packaged foods, but when you do wander the inner aisles, look for things with few, simple ingredients (that you can pronounce!). Ask yourself: could I make this in my kitchen at home?
- It’s not about the food: Many people are surprised when I remind them just how important non-food lifestyle factors like sleep and stress are to the weight-loss equation. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, ghrelin (the hunger hormone) doesn’t turn off and leptin (the fullness/satiety hormone) doesn’t turn on. Without adequate rest, your best dieting efforts are sure to be frustrated because your body is literally telling you that you are hungry all the time. And although daily stressors are a fact of life for most of us, prolonged stress makes weight loss especially challenging. The stress hormone cortisol increases hunger levels and cravings, makes us store and hold onto stubborn belly fat, and interferes with our willpower to implement healthy lifestyle changes. Consider putting away your devices 1-2 hours before bed and reading, taking a bath, or listening to music instead. Pick one or two activities that help you to feel relaxed and grounded and carve out time for them in your daily and weekly schedule – this may be as simple as taking a few deep breaths before meals, heading to your favorite yoga class or taking your dog for a walk.
Need a little bit of extra support “de-bugging” your weight loss efforts? Get in touch, we’re happy to help! Contact our nutrition team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781.786.6079
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