There are times on your weight loss journey when progress can come to a halt. Days or weeks can go by without you seeing movement on the scale, and it can get downright frustrating. After working with thousands of clients, I’ve noticed certain patterns that can cause this weight loss stoppage. Here are 3 of those patterns.
1) Eating more than you think you are.
Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Zone Delivery Service, and other diet systems have one undeniable benefit to them – they define for the average person how large an actual “serving” is. Most of us underestimate the volume of food we eat (and consequently, underestimate the number of calories we consume in a day).
By fixing in your head what a serving size or “portion” of food looks like, we can better estimate (and consequently, evaluate and calibrate) the amount of food we eat at each meal. Keep in mind, when it comes to weight loss, you need to take in less calories than you burn each day.
Two good rules of thumb:
A portion of meat (3 oz.) is the size of a deck of cards.
A portion of carbohydrates (1 cup) is the size of a tennis ball.
Please remember to fill up on non-starchy vegetables – they are full of nutrients, have very little impact on blood sugar, and contain little in the way of calories.
2) Not eating frequently enough.
It is a social custom to eat “three square meals” a day. While this may do for social purposes, for weight loss, you will want to aim for more frequent feedings. It is recommended that you consume a minimum of 5-6 small meals each day. By doing so, your body gets the signal that food is abundant, and there is no need to conserve energy.
Additionally, frequent feedings maximize your metabolism, as your body is constantly busy, burning calories by digesting your meals. By not letting too much time pass between meals, you stabilize blood sugar levels since they never really get the chance to drop. By keeping your blood sugar stable, your hunger levels are minimized, decreasing the chances that you will be tempted to overeat at your next meal.
3) Choosing to drink your calories instead of eating them.
This is a very common problem among those attempting weight loss, due to the abundance of “healthy” diet smoothies, protein concoctions, and weight loss shakes. There are 2 factors to keep in mind when relying on these liquid meal replacements.
First, many of the liquid diet shakes on the market and all fruit smoothies have an abundance of sugar in them. This causes an immediate surge in energy followed by a huge crash due to the release of insulin to control the blood sugar rise. This dramatic shift in blood hormone levels (particularly insulin levels) is something you want to avoid, both for health reasons and for weight loss.
Secondly, most weight loss shakes are devoid of fiber. Fiber is one of your most precious allies when you are dieting. It helps you feel full and blunts the rise in insulin levels when all that sugar hits your bloodstream. While fruit smoothies do contain some of the fiber from the pulp of the fruit, a better strategy would be to eat the actual fruits contained in the smoothie.
Lastly, the amount of calories that can be concentrated into a shake or smoothie is far greater than the equivalent volume of actual food. A 16 oz fruit smoothie may contain as many as 600 calories, and will not fill you up all that much! On the other hand, eating 600 calories of fruit will prove to be much more than the typical person can manage in a single sitting (at least, I personally don’t know anyone that can eat more than 2 pounds of bananas at a single sitting!).
Think about it- when making major dietary changes, you want to get the most out of your calories. Wouldn’t you rather fill up, rather than drink something and be hungry again soon after?
#1 Don’t Skip Breakfast
The morning meal jump starts your metabolism and helps to prevent bingeing later in the day. A cup of coffee does not count – the caffeine and added sugar may give you a bit of energy and suppress your appetite for a little while it is sure to back fire into severe hunger and you will be more likely to overeat later. Breakfast should include complex carbohydrates like whole grain (granola or oatmeal), along with some protein and fat (low-fat yogurt or milk), will keep your energy levels even and hunger in check.
#2 Eat more often
Get into the habit of eating every three to four hours or at least four times a day. Eating frequently stabilizes blood sugar, when blood sugar drops too low you want to eat…a lot. By keeping your blood sugar stable you can control your appetite and keep you metabolic rate high. When you go many hours without eating your body will compensate by slowing down to conserve energy…this effect hurts your weight loss efforts.
#3 Eat protein at every meal
Protein will help to reduce your appetite, it takes more energy and time to digest, in effect you feel full longer than eating carbohydrates alone. Research shows that eating more protein can help you lose weight without cutting calories. Try these protein possibilities: turkey on whole wheat; hummus and pita; vegetarian chili; fruit and nuts; or protein snack bars that contain 12 or more grams of protein.
#4 Hold off on snacking
Many of us grab a snack for quick energy when we are feeling tired. But do not confuse true hunger with fatigue. If you are feeling tired go for a 15-20 minute brisk walk. This will raise your heart rate and give you a boost of energy. Follow it up with a large glass of cool water. If you are truly hungry have a protein and complex carbohydrate rich snack like; whole wheat crackers and peanut butter or cheese.
#5 Consume enough for your body’s needs
Eating too little slows your body’s metabolism the same way eating to infrequently does. If you want to lose weight, do not slash your calories too drastically. Instead, cut out some of the extras in your diet – things like soda, juice, packaged goods or candy. Processed foods tend to be high in fat and calories and low in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
What is DOMS and what causes it?
Whether you work out regularly or have simply over exerted yourself occasionally, it is almost certain that you have at some point experienced delayed onset of muscle soreness
, or DOMS
DOMS is the feeling of muscle soreness, stiffness, loss of strength and sometimes swelling that occurs in the period following exercise, normally twenty four to seventy two hours later, though it may occur a little sooner. It is a normal response to unaccustomed activity and most commonly occurs when you are not used to exercising, or are beginning a new workout routine and may occur after each work out until your muscles become used to the work that you are asking them to do.
The mechanism that causes DOMS has been theorized but remains unproven; however it is known to occur more frequently in exercises that involve eccentric muscular action. That is, movement in which the muscle fibres are being made to lengthen at the same time as they contract, an example of which would be running downhill or the downwards movement in a squat.
Our top tips for avoiding DOMS:
- Warm up - at least 3 minutes of aerobic activity before beginning any new exercise regime
- Don't overdo it - if you are new to exercise start slowly and increase weight/duration gradually
- Cool down - be sure to cool down with some light aerobic activity and then stretch each body part that you have used
The best situation where DOMS
is concerned is to avoid it, or reduce the chances of it happening to a minimum. A good warm up before you begin more intensive training is important, as is a good cool down and stretching routine after your training is complete. Massage following your work out has also shown benefit, with up to a thirty percent reduction in swelling and soreness.
It's not advisable to dive straight into an intense workout routine. Instead building up slowly but surely allows your body to get used to and adapt to the increase in what you are asking of it. An increase in activity of around ten percent each week is advisable.
There are times when you are unable to avoid DOMS, for instance when the increased activity was not intentional but the result of other requirements in your life. Yet regardless of whether DOMS are as the result of intentional activity or not, you will still want to find some relief from it.
For some people, increasing blood flow to the area can help. This can be achieved by gentle aerobic exercise that doesn't require the muscles to bear weight. For other people alternating warmth and cold can help, either in the form of baths or cold and heat packs.
None steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (paracetamol) are somewhat controversial as their benefit in preventing or treating DOMS is unproven, and because the medications themselves have side affects that are undesirable.
Lastly it is important to consider the fact that if your muscles are sore then they need to rest. Repeating the activity that caused the pain initially may cause it to continue for a longer period of time, so waiting until pain has subsided is preferred. Some athletes swear by working through the pain but not only is this unpleasant, but with the loss of strength that occurs your performance will not be at its best. Instead gentle, non-weight bearing aerobics may alleviate stiffness and keep you from being sedentary.