Sunday, March 7, 2010

10 small changes to make when you're not seeing weight loss

Are you eating the right foods and exercising regularly but just not seeing any weight-loss reflected on the scale or in your measurements? Something needs tweaking.

Over the years on this nutrition programme, I've had several stints at losing weight and it hasn't all been plain sailing. There were times when I should have been seeing fat loss but it just wasn't happening. Thankfully, I had my nutritionist to guide me through. Now I can pass on what I have learned.

Here are 10 small changes that can make a big difference:

1. Drink plenty of water - you're not drinking enough water if you're not peeing clear. The kidneys require extra help from the liver when you are not consuming enough water, and it is the liver that burns fat as fuel. So, while the liver is assisting the kidneys, it is not burning fat. Also, if the body has identified a shortage of water, it will retain as much as it can and store it between cells. This shows up as weight retention or even weight gain on the scale.

2. Check your food for any hidden fats - salad dressing has caught me out with this one in the past. I changed to a new brand of 'lite' dressing, but it was not light in fat! I was pouring it over my salad every day at lunch time without realising I was adding about 10 grams of fat to my meal. Checking in with my nutritionist and seeing my fat loss had stalled, she was soon able to pin-point the culprit by observing my food diary. If you're consuming any processed foods as part of your programme, be sure to read the labels and check for fat content.

3. Up your exercise - this point is a reality check (and I have to say I am guilty of this!). Are you really excercising enough? You need to be exercising 4-5 times per week for at least 40-60 minutes. You don't have to run or even power-walk. If 10 is your maximum effort, then you should be exercising at about a 7. This is fat burning mode.

4. Don't overdo the exercise (or get your nutrition checked) - this is an interesting one ... are you actually excercising too much or too intensely? This is what brought me to the nutritionist in the first place. I was following a triathlon training programme which entailed vigorous and extended periods of exercising. But I was not losing an ounce. My nutrition was not supporting this effort. If you are training for an an event or you just like hard, intense exercise it may be wise to visit a dietician or nutritionist to ensure you are feeding your body correctly.

5. Are you having too many calories - it seems obvious, but perhaps your food programme contains too much energy. My nutritionist has me on approximately 1300 calories per day (not including my free meal day of which there are no calorie restrictions). There are guidelines on the internet as to how many calories are required according to your weight, height, age, and sex. I used this one and it said I needed 1430 calories per day to lose 1 pound per week without exercise. This is probably fairly accurate, although I prefer my nutritionist's recommendation of fewer calories per day and then a free meal to keep the metabolism burning fat rather than plateauing.

6. Are you having too few calories - maybe you think you'll lose weight faster if you really cut back those calories. It doesn't work. If you don't get enough calories or energy for your body to maintain all of its functions, it will simply see the lack as a threat and go into storage mode. I have never intentionally done this - I like eating too much! However, when I was training for triathlons, my nutrition was not supporting all the activity, and I wasn't lose weight.

7. Ensure your food is balanced - eating balanced meals and snacks is essential to a nutrition programme that is going to support fat loss. A balanced meal in my terminology is always having protein with carbohydrate. My non-science, simplistic understanding of the importance of this is that if you eat carbohydrates on their own, the body sends out a surge of insulin to move the carb glucose from the blood into the muscles and fat cells for storage. Protein slows down the release of insulin, thus reducing/negating the carb glucose being stored as fat. And in super-simplistic terms - eating protein with carbs will keep you satisfied for three-plus hours whereas carbs on their own will have you craving for food in a short period of time.

8. Eat within 2 hours of rising in the morning - your body has been burning fat while you sleep and will continue to do so in the morning. However, if you wait too long to eat breakfast, your body sees this as a threat, stops burning fat and goes into storage mode. Never skip breakfast.

9. Eating often enough - you need to be eating every three to three-and-a-half hours for your body to maintain its fat-burning mode. If you skip a meal, forget to eat or wait too long for your next meal or snack your body goes into storage mode and the fat-burning stops.

10. Are you adding in small treats - I put on weight doing this. It is amazing what you can convince yourself as being 'ok' when you want treat food! Every few days I was having a 'healthy' biscuit - all organic and wheat free - after lunch. Well, I did that for a few weeks, and I put on a kilogram of fat. My nutritionist told me that if you are adding in small treats of extra calories your body doesn't burn the calories off, they are simply stored.

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