In theory, weight loss sounds so simple: you burn more calories than you eat. But anyone who has been through the struggle knows it is WAY more complicated than that. Some weeks you’ve done everything right, but you don’t lose a pound. Other weeks you work out like crazy only to find you GAINED two pounds. It is tough to stay motivated and it’s tough to live your life feeling deprived of the things you love. It’s a complete roller coaster that often leaves you stumped. Here are three pieces of advice to get you moving in the right direction and to find some clarity in the fog.
- Counting calories is useless.
I say that because it’s one of the most inaccurate ways to monitor your food intake. Numbers on food labels may seem scientific, but they are just approximations and often times foods are not directly measured in a lab. Even if you did know exactly how many calories are going into your body, it’s almost impossible to know exactly how many calories you absorb and use because everyone’s body is so different.
In addition, not all calories are created equal. You could eat 1,500 calories one day and feel completely satisfied, then you could eat 1,500 calories another day and feel starving. That’s because some foods fill you up with fiber, protein and other nutrients which make your body feel full, while other foods offer virtually no nutrients leaving you starving an hour after you eat. Think of this way: a bag of Doritos has 140 calories in it – so does a big bowl filled with grapes. Will one of those make you feel more full than the other?
So instead of spending time obsessing over the exact number of calories in your meal, try to focus on WHAT you are eating. Are you choosing foods that are rich in nutrients? Are you eating nutrients that fill you up like fiber, healthy fats and protein? If you can make the simple adjustment of eating less processed foods and more whole foods, that in itself will make the world of difference for your health and your weight.
- Practice stress-reducing techniques and get enough sleep.
I can’t tell you how many times this has proven to be the missing puzzle piece when a client cannot make progress. Research has shown again and again that high stress and sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain (and bring your weight loss efforts to a screeching halt.) Both stress and sleep affect various hormone levels in your body, including hormones that regulate your appetite. Yep – if you consistently get less than 7 hours of sleep, your brain tells you to eat more. There’s also a correlation between stress and belly fat. If you’re under high stress for long periods of time, your body will preferentially store more fat in your stomach rather than storing in other areas of your body. I know reading this doesn’t help with reducing stress, but before you give up and decide there’s no hope for you, try a few stress reducing techniques like meditation, deep breathing or exercise.
- Lose the scale.
I’m serious – just let it go. The number on the scale does not tell the entire story. All it does is bring in unnecessary negative emotions – and who needs more of that? Your body can change shape, size and composition without affecting the number on the scale. Your weight is even affected by simple things like how much water you drank this morning. Don’t risk wanting to give up because you’re unhappy with the number on the scale. Instead, take measurements, listen to how your body feels, watch how your body performs and observe how your clothes fit. THAT is how you can measure success.