Getting the body you want can be so hard sometimes. You are following your diet, you are going to the gym but your weight has plateaued and just won’t budge. Sometimes it is not as simple as the amount of calories in versus the amount out. Here are the top eight reasons you may not be shifting those extra pounds.
1. You’re portions are too big
We have lived in a world of super sizing for so long now that we are no longer able to tell what a real portion size would look like. And quite frankly many of us may need to retrain the stomach to eat less after eating bigger portions for so long. On your plate, vegetables should take up half the plate. Of the remaining half, two thirds should be a good quality carbohydrate and the other third should be a low fat protein. Another way of looking at protein and carbohydrate sizes is that the carbs, such as rice, should be the size of your fist and the protein, such as chicken breast, the palm of your hand. It may not seem like a lot at first if you are used to big portions but your body will get used to these amounts and you shouldn’t feel hungry.
2. Eating too fast
Wolfing down a meal before you rush out the door, while you are at your desk or in front of the TV is the norm these days and all part of modern life. However eating quickly can mean you eat a lot more than you actually need as you body doesn’t have time to tell your mind that it is full. It can also cause bloating as we tend to take in a lot of air when we gulp food. Eating slowly and mindfully means we get to fully appreciate the flavour of the food and it gives our stomach time to tell our head that we are full before we become over full. You should feel satiated after a meal not in pain!
3. You’re eating the wrong type of food
It is time to let go of calorie counting and concentrate on the quality of the food that you are eating. We all know about eating lots of fruit and vegetables, but what else should we be dining on? Simple carbohydrates and sugars offer the body very little in terms if nutrition. Instead concentrate on complex food that offers vitamins and minerals to help the body work effectively. Things like avocado, seeds and nuts are often seen as bad for your diet but they contain good fats that make you feel full for longer and they are also packed full of essential vitamins and minerals.
Lean protein is good for the repair and growth of muscles, tissues and organs and fish also provides essential fatty oils which keep joints supple, hair glossy and skin plumped up. And no food group should be forbidden so don’t forget a good quality carbohydrate. Brown rice contains fibre, vitamin B, iron and magnesium that are often missing from the more heavily refined white rice. Similarly breads filled with whole grains and seeds are going to provide the body with fibre, good oils and proteins that are missing in refined white bread.
The more refined a product is, the less nutrients and goodness it offers the body and the more hollow calories it has that will simply be transformed into excess weight.
4. Water Retention
Sometimes bloating can make your jeans extra tight and show as a couple of extra pounds on the scale. This can be as a result of diet or hormones and your monthly cycle but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it. Too much salt in your diet or believe it or not, not drinking enough water can force the body to hold onto it. Increasing the amount of water you are drinking can help the body flush out the extra fluid. Taking a natural diuretic such as green tea or cranberry juice can also help. Other things that can relieve water retention include reducing the amount of salt in your diet, light exercise to get your body moving and a higher protein diet.
Stress not only affects your wellbeing but can also be a cause of excess weight or the reason your body won’t lose weight. When you are stressed, you body increases its production of a hormone called cortisol, which signals to your body to hang on to weight and deposit more fat in your abdomen. “Cortisol drives your appetite, especially for things that are sweet, fatty and comforting,” says Shawn M. Talbott, Ph.D., associate clinical professor of nutrition at the University of Utah and author of The Cortisol Connection. With belly fat associated with bowel cancer, heart disease and diabetes, it is definitely time to chill out.
6. Not doing enough exercise or the wrong type
Some people believe that to lose weight you either diet or exercise but in truth you need to do both. Exercising at least three times a week for 20 minutes is a minimum of what you should do, combined with diet, to lose weight. If you are already doing exercise there may be a problem with the way that you are doing it. If you are not sweating and short of breath while doing aerobic, fat burning exercise, you may need to raise the intensity of your workout. Interval training, where you work hard for a minute and then more gently for the next minute, for a total of 20 minutes, is a great way to really rev up the metabolism.
Many women also avoid doing weight training for fear they will end up with body builder arms and legs if they do. But it is, in fact, very hard for a woman to get heavily muscled limbs unless they are doing excessive weight training. The old adage that muscle burns more calories is true so if you want to lose more weight, even when you are sitting at your desk or in front of the TV, try and incorporate weight sessions into your training routine three times a week. If you are really worried about bulky muscles, take up pilates or yoga that uses the body’s own weight as a resistance for muscles to build muscle strength.
7. Not getting enough sleep
Not getting enough sleep can affect the amount of food we eat and how much fat the body stores. A study by the Mailman School of Public Health and the Obesity Research Center at Columbia has found that sleeping fewer than five hours per night or more than eight hours per night was associated with higher concentrations of abdominal fat and increased body mass index. This occurs as cortisol production, the hormones that control your eating habits and metabolism, is disrupted. So there has never been a better reason to regularly get a good night’s sleep!
8. Your calorie content is too low or you skip meals
Your body is a fairly tricky beast and so skipping meals or eating too few calories can actually make the body store fat instead of shedding it. In times when we were hunter gatherers, if the body was getting less food, it would make sure it stored as much of the energy from food that it could as it feared that there may be a famine coming up. In our Western world today there are no famines to store for but the body still stores just in case. The best thing to do is to eat three good meals a day and two snacks – something nutritious like nuts or yoghurt – and that way the body will know hat there is always food coming and use it for energy instead of storing it.
[picture credits: Bill Branson, National Cancer Institute; Koen Cobbaert; BrittneyBush; Alvimann]