I know I have been so good at sticking to my diet this time! I decided that I would really commit to an eating routine that would restrict my calorie intake, and I have stuck to it without fail for over a week now. I have even kept off the scale since I drive myself crazy getting on and off it three times a day. And now I find that at the end of the week, not only haven’t I lost any weight, I have actually gained! What’s happening?
Does any of this sound familiar? It is so defeating when you commit to yourself that you are going to take your eating and weight problems in hand and do something about it, only to find that things don’t go exactly as you planned. When we make changes in our eating routines, our bodies do react and sometimes not in the ways that we anticipated. So consider these questions and explanations.
1. What were you eating before? Foods move through your system at different speeds, so your diet does impact how long foods stay in your system. Foods that are low in fiber, such as processed foods, will stay in your system longer because there is less to push them through. Eating diet foods such as frozen diet entrees are generally fairly low fiber, so they take a long time to process. Also these foods tend to have reduced fat content, and fats are one of the things that “grease” the way for foods to slide through your intestinal tract. So if you are continuing to eat processed foods that also have reduced fat, you have the potential of foods sitting longer in your system, hence less weight loss while they are there. We tend to forget that our intestinal tracts can hold considerable weight in food, so you can actually gain as this matter is waiting to be eliminated.
2. Do you know what you are eating now? Reading labels is a habit I had to develop to know what I was putting into my body. Things that are processed may contain wheat, sugar, fat, salt and a whole slew of chemicals that may impede any progress that you might intend to make. Writing down what you are eating is a good habit so you are honest with yourself about what you are doing. We are so good at fooling ourselves into believing that we haven’t eaten anything, yet that little snack standing in front of the refrigerator conveniently slips our minds. Besides what you are eating, do you know how much you are eating in each serving? Learning how to portion food correctly is another habit that makes it easier in the future to maintain body weight because you will be eating less than you did previously.
3. What are you drinking? Are you drinking water? Drinking a considerable amount of water will help fill you up and help move food through you. I try to drink as close to 100 ounces of water a day when dieting because of these factors. If you are dehydrated or drinking fluids that your body is processing as food – such as milk – then you do not have that pushing power that water can provide.
4. Fiber? So you’ve heard that you should be eating more fiber and have switched from what you were eating before to fiber rich foods. That switch will cause more food to be in your body initially, hence the potential of temporary weight gain. Continuing to eat high fiber foods such as veggies, fruits and whole grains and legumes will gradually shift your body into regular elimination and your weight will reflect that change while it’s happening.
5. Are you under stress in your life? Perhaps you have heard some of the weight loss ads about the role of cortisol in preventing weight loss. While these commercials are trying to sell you a gimmicky product that actually revolves around you restricting your food intake and increasing your exercise levels, cortisol is a major factor in weight loss prevention. When you are operating under stress, your body goes into a fight or flight mode to varying degrees. The longer you are under stress, the more your body is going to reserve energy so that you can fight or flee when you need to. We still have these chemical processes going on even though we are not fleeing wild animals to survive, so we have to figure out ways to alleviate stress in our lives if we want to lose weight.
There are many options ranging from exercise – even gentle exercise can reduce stress – to massage, to therapy, to recreation and crafts. Choosing something that allows you to relax and let go on a regular basis can greatly impact your body’s inclination to store fat reserves. I had no ability to lose weight when I was in an exceedingly high stress job. It was physically difficult on my body and was causing increasing problems with weight, blood pressure, and other disease such as skin and intestinal distress. Starting a yoga class helped immeasurably because I had a release for the energy, I was physically active instead of in my head, and I gave my body some of the release it needed to let go and begin functioning normally. A little recreation and TLC can go a long way to helping with stress issues, and without adding this consideration to your overall health plan, you will have a difficult time helping your body to release and burn the energy reserves it has been storing.
6. How about exercise? I learned the hard way that diet without exercise usually isn’t enough, particularly when I am starting a reduced eating plan. Your body is used to holding onto weight, and exercise forces it to use energy, thus burning more calories. If I don’t exercise, my body wants to believe that I am starving to death and goes into a protective mode, storing every calorie it can, hence no weight loss. Taking a walk, or doing some moderate exercise that you like can help break through this stagnation.
7. Consider the long-term impact of the change. When you start a diet, you are generally thinking short-term about how much weight you can lose now and in the next couple of weeks. Long-term weight loss and maintenance depends on changes in habits and routines, and some of these habits involve teaching your body to respond differently to food, hydration, stress and exercise. So even if your weight fluctuates from day to day, good eating and exercise habits will help you stabilize over time causing long term change to your metabolism and thus your weight.
Unfortunately there is no magic around reaching our healthy weight. We tend to think in terms of denial – losing weight, giving up foods that we love, and no eating plan can sustain denial long term. Today I let myself eat anything I want and like; however, what I want and like has changed as my body has changed. I want high fiber and low fat foods because my body feels better when I eat them. My body craves protein more and I am now used to eating protein at every meal, even if I don't eat much else. I don’t eat sugar very often because it makes me feel sleepy and sluggish. And if I get carried away one day and eat everything that I tell myself I will never eat again, I have a habitual eating routine that I go back to the next day that will cause my weight to remain within a stable healthy range. All this is the result of long-term habitual change.
So don’t give up on yourself. Look for the reasons why you might be challenged and make some modifications. Get someone to help you – I never could have done it on my own, so having a buddy helped me be honest with myself and show up every day. And, look to the long-term rather than feeling denied, deprived and depraved today. Your health is the most important thing, and making changes to your eating and exercise habits are major keys to sustaining a long and healthy life.
If you want more information or would like some support, I would be delighted to help. I now have regular appointments with clients via phone and Skype, so don’t feel you have to live near me to benefit from my help. Initial consultations are always free, so don’t hesitate. Sometimes that first call is the helping hand that will help you move forward. You can do it; we can help.