So you’re looking to lose a few pounds and all of the sudden everybody you know has this “magical cleanse that will help you drop ten pounds in a week” suggestion that has you questioning your sanity. On top of all that in every magazine a new fad diet “just in time for swim season”, and the E network has “here’s how Kelly lost 20 pounds in a month” airing round the clock. This is how things went for me at least, and I’m pretty sure it did more harm than good, especially since multiple studies have proven how bad yo-yo dieting can be and the fact that the weight always comes back, sometimes even more than you lost!
So where to draw the line between helpful and harmful? Honestly, if it sounds crazy it probably is. I’ve lost 15 pounds since March this year by doing it the good old fashioned way and it’s stayed off! That last part there is key because when you choose a healthy lifestyle over a “diet” you are ensuring long lasting effects. For example: I used to freak out when I broke my diet for a chocolate and binge the whole remaining day, then I would take the next three days trying to get back on track. Now if I have a piece of cake, I consider it an indulgence and then go back to my healthy lifestyle. The result: the next day, I still weight the same (I used to constantly lose and gain the same 5 pounds every month, not anymore).
Though I look great now, I’m still aiming to lose those final ten pounds. Here’s what I’ve learned the hard way, hopefully it can help you too!
1. You Will Feel Hungry.
Unfortunately, while you yourself may be shrinking your appetite is growing. Unfair, I know! Due to a hormone called Leptin, which will tell your brain when fat supplies are dropping (fat to your body is just stored energy so this becomes a problem) you can actually end up eating more food than normal to feel full and satisfied. The more these levels drop the harder it is to restrain and can lead to weight loss disaster.
The Fix: Try to eat protein with every meal (a hard-boiled bread and ezekial bread for breakfast, spinach salad with chicken for lunch, salmon and brown rice for dinner) to trick your body into feeling full longer and eat as many water-based snacks as you’d like. They’ll take up a lot of space with little calories. Try broth based soups, vegetables, beans, fish, and most fruit.
2.Exercise alone will not cut it.
In order to lose weight you must cut back (in a healthy way) on some of the calories you would normally eat. Your body needs to burn 3,500 calories to burn one pound of fat so working out alone will not cut it! It has also been suggested that many of us who exercise without a conscious diet change will unknowingly compensate for the calories we burn by eating more (blame evolution). For example: yesterday I worked out for an hour at the gym at a moderate intensity (it was my day off so I burned 600 calories wohoo). I then went to Starbucks and Panera with a friend and got a plain Iced coffee and a half sized salad. What I wanted (a frap and a panini) would have set me back over 700 calories without even realizing it!
The fix: Always be conscious of your healthy lifestyle. Tell yourself what you plan to order before even entering the building. This helps you have restraint once you see all of those glorious colored signs with gooey cheese sandwiches and whipped drinks (they always show case the calorie bombs it seems?). It’s recommended to lose weight at least 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity cardio on most days and sticking to a healthy diet plan.
3.You may have to give up some foods completely.
Sad but true, self control is almost impossible when you give someone on a diet their favorite food and tell them they can have “just a taste”. More times than not I’ve told myself I’d have “just a bite or two” of bread while out and ended up eating three or four pieces easily. Thanks again to Leptin (see # 1) levels dropping, the hunger hormone Ghrelin levels will raise making you not only hungry but a monster seeking out high levels of fat and sugar. This can lead you to thinking you can eat a cookie and end up actually eating the bag of cookies.
The Fix: Studies have shown that having high levels of Ghrelin in you body and eating foods high in fat and sugar actually light up your rewards and pleasure areas of the brain the same drugs and sex do. This means cutting cold turkey is your best bet. It will be difficult but every day it will get easier.
4. Never give up.
So many times before I have gone a week or so with strong determination and impeccible restraint. Those feelings of pride quickly turn to shame and self doubt when you slip up and can make you think “well I might as well give up”. A little set back here or there shouldn’t stand in the way of your weight loss so long as after you eat cake for breakfast you go back to your salad for lunch. If you just get back on that horse, you’ll make it eventually!