Why am I dieting but not losing weight?!
We have all been there- determined to lose those pounds we drastically cut our food portions down, often increasing our physical activity at the same time. From experience, this goes one of two ways:
· You give up a few weeks down the line
· You lose weight , but this eventually plateaus and it starts to creep up again, and THEN you give up, a few months down the line.
I constantly hear the phrase ‘diets don’t work’ – actually they do, however our bodies don’t like to work with them! No one can say that low carb and calories diets don’t make you lose weight- basic science tells us they do. However if you are too drastic it is not long before you mind gives up, or, if you manage to push through this, your body has enough too.
The human body is clever, and its main priority is to survive- when it is hungry your metabolism will drop in order to maintain the reserves it has (which explains the decrease in weight loss after a few weeks) and all food will seem extremely attractive to you- its your body trying to make you eat! (1)
The bottom line is that you cant fight biology- your body CANNOT sustain a 600-1000 calorie Herbalife/slimfast etc etc diet and soon enough your body will make the necessary adjustments to prevent you from starving yourself- these include mood swings, fatigue and decreases in metabolic rate- once these diets have got the better of you, the harsh truth is that many will end up heavier than when they started (2).
You have decided to make a change, which is incredible, and the first step to self improvement, so below are a 10 tips for the next steps forward in your journey to success:
1. If you find that you are overeating in the evenings, make sure you are consuming pre planned snacks between meals - preferably protein based to keep your blood sugar steady and your hunger at bay ( feel free to email me using my contact form and I can give you a couple of suggestions)- this will prevent you from coming home exhausted and hungry and eating the contents of the fridge.
2. Preparation-you need to ensure your meals for the week ahead are sorted, this will stop you from picking up something unhealthy when you are stuck- this is particularly important when you are tired e.g. after work as your willpower and ability to make appropriate decisions declines with fatigue (3)
3. In relation to this, it is important to keep your energy levels up. When you find yourself craving carbs mid-afternoon (massive warning sign that you’re tired) , have a break if possible, or consider grabbing something with caffeine in it.
4. Find the appropriate calorie deficit for YOU and your goals- if you go from eating 3000 calories, to following the bog-standard 1200 calorie meal plan, I can guarantee you will not last long on it!
5. Decrease carbs but don’t cut them out- focus them around the pre and post workout window – they are very easy to over consume, however they are hugely important for fuelling workouts, and do assist to some degree in muscle building and recovery (4)
6. Fruit and vegetables- the high fibre content fills you up, meaning you eat less. Additionally, I cannot reiterate enough that the minerals and vitamins these provide go a long way into making you a healthy and energetic person; as said above, when you feel good and have tons of energy, making good decisions around your food intake is a lot easier.
7. Make variations of your foods without the carbs, and using these fruit and vegetables- On a lower carb day, I will do a chilli or a burger but without the respective rice or bun, and load up on vegetables to keep me full- so broccoli rice and lettuce wraps are great examples here
8. Cheat meals- BUT THIS REALLY DEPENDS ON THE PERSON – personally, this is a huge one for me and keeps me on track. If I see something I like , in my mind I will tell myself I can have it for my cheat meal that week- this stops me from buying it at the time, as well as keeping me from feeling deprived. Often by the time cheat day rolls around I don’t want it anyway (junk food is often incredibly impulsive) but I know I have the option if I want to. For some though, it can make them fall off the wagon completely, or throw someone into a binge-purge cycle.
9. Liquid calories- remember these all count!
a. 1)Coffees- take Café Nero for example- a regular semi skimmed mocha is 305 calories, whilst a Starbucks tall vanilla latte is 200 calories-
b. 2)Alcohol- be very wary. I am not saying stop completely but be aware that alcohol massively impacts your will power, hunger signals and increases your desire for high fat and high carb foods. Opt for lower calorie options (blog on this will be up shortly) and stick to 1-2 drinks
10. Ladies- only eat two thirds of what your boyfriend does- they need about 500 more calories a day than you do.
As a final point , it is important to reiterate the role of patience and time in fat loss- it takes an average of 66 days to change a habit into an automatic behaviour ( 5); the first few weeks and months ARE going to be hard work, as unless someone is dangerously overweight, we need to make this adjustment as realistic and simple as possible. In order to keep yourself motivated, you should also set long and short term goals- for example , a stone in 4 months, and short term ones 5lbs in one month etc- this will also be essential in boosting your confidence and self-esteem, particularly if you have struggled on diets in the past , as this may be particularly low (6)- so it is VITAL to prove to yourself that you CAN do this!
1. MacLean et al (2011) Biology’s response to dieting: the impetus for weight regain, American Journal of Physiology, 301 (3): R581-R600; Doi: 10.1152/ajprequ.00755.2010
2. Dulloo et al (2015) How dieting makes the lean fatter: from a perspective of body composition autoregulation through adipostats and proteinstats awaiting discovery, Obesity Reviews, Doi: 10.1111/obr.12253
3. Kwan et al (2016) Does “Decision Fatigue” impact manuscript acceptance? An analysis of editorial decisions by the American Journal of Gastroenterology, The American Journal of Gastroenterology, doi:10.1038/ajg.2016.452
4. Figueiredo VC, Cameron-Smith D (2013) Is carbohydrate needed to further stimulate muscle protein synthesis/hypertrophy following resistance exercise? J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 10:42, Doi 10.1186/15502783-10-42
5. Gardner et al (2012) Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice, Br J Gen Pract, 62 (605): 664-666, Doi 10.3399/bjgp12X659466
6. Bak- Sosnowska et al (2013) Do psychological factors help to reduce body mass in obesity or is it vice versa? Selected psychological aspects and effectiveness of the weight-loss program in the obese patients, Health Psychology Research, 1 (1): e10, doi10.4081/hpr.2013e10