I can imagine how terribly discouraging it is when you are working your ass off – eating healthy, keeping a track of the food you eat, exercising daily and tracking the calories that you have burned but still, you are not able to get the results that you expect.
In my years of working with several different nutrition clients and observing their behaviors and goals closely, I have discovered that almost there is always one not so obvious reason behind all the apparently stubborn upland. It
In my years of working with nutrition clients and taking a closer look at their behaviors and goals, I’ve found that there is almost always at least one not-so-evident reason behind the seemingly stubborn plateau. It can, however, take a bit of sleuthing to figure out what it is.
The answer which I came across mostly is the daily routine of such individuals. It’s basically the small things that we are doing or actually are not doing through the day that may seem not related to our weight gain but can actually be one of the reasons for it – we are not seeing the results that we should.
Here are the eight most common barriers that are coming in between of your becoming lean and fit again.
You Are Not Getting Enough Sleep
To begin with, skimping on your sleep means you will want to eat more. And it’s not only the late-night snacking. Sleep depriving your body means that it causes a series of hormonal reactions that make us really hungry and carve for more carbs and never feeling fully satisfied after eating.
And even when you make it a strong point in your mind not to eat more and gain extra calories, being sleep deprived still makes it quite difficult for you to shed the extra pounds – even when we successfully reduce the intake of the calories.
Solution: Try your best to get enough sleep – most sleep experts say that majority of us need at least seven to eight hours sleep every night. They say one should make this a priority.
For some, even setting an alarm to remind ourselves to wind down the evening and get ready for bed can be beneficial. Unplug and minimize screen time before bedtime. And, keep alcohol in check because it can interfere with quality of sleep.
When we feel stressed, our bodies release hormones that increase appetite and make it easier for our bodies to store fat, particularly abdominal fat.
The term “stress eating” is incredibly vague, but when we look at the reasons most people “stress eat,” there are similarities:
We tend to crave carb-rich foods when we’re stressed. And carbs – particularly when combined with salt and fat (think pizza, chips, chocolate, or cookie dough) – activate certain areas of the brain that provide a temporary relief of negative emotions like anxiety or sadness.
And when we give into these cravings, “stress eating” also serves as a distraction from whatever negative thought or emotion is swirling within us.
We can’t eliminate stress from our lives, but we can control our reactions to stress. What are the behaviors we know to enhance our physical well-being? Eating frequently through the day, limiting sugars and white carbs, exercising regularly and getting adequate sleep. These can work wonders to buffer our stress-response to trying situations.
You’re Prescribed Certain Medicine
Certain medications can cause weight gain, or at least make it more difficult to lose extra pounds. Some of the most commonly prescribed medications that can cause weight issues include blood pressure medications, steroids, antidepressants (particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs including Celexa, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft), anti-seizure medications and mood stabilizers like Tegretol, Neurontin, Depakote, Lyrica and Lithium, birth control pills and menopausal hormone replacement medications, and diabetes medications, including insulin and some oral diabetes drugs.
If you suspect that any of these medications are contributing to weight concerns, it is essential that you talk with your physician before making any changes. Most of these medications are not “optional” – your physical and mental health may depend on them. The potential for weight gain, however, should be considered as well, so that factors like diet and exercise can be modified accordingly.
You Underestimate Weekend Splurges
You may think you’re just “taking weekends off,” but those occasional weekend splurges aren’t so “occasional” when they’re happening Friday (or Thursday evening) through Sunday. A single meal can easily have a day’s worth of calories – and a full “cheat day” can cram in the calorie equivalent of three-plus days.
To keep weekends in check, consider stepping on the scale every Friday (or Thursday, if your weekends start early) and Monday morning. Notice weight gain or loss. If you know you are going to overeat on the weekend or for some special occasion, make sure you rein things in as much as possible during the week, making the trade-off for the extra “worth-it” indulgences – like bread, cocktails or dessert.
You Overestimate Calories Burned Through Exercise
The readouts on online calculators and the digital displays on exercise equipment at the gym are just an approximation of the calories burned during workouts. Some devices are more accurate than others.
Programs and gadgets that allow you to enter your age, height, weight, gender, and percent body fat, and then calculate calories burned based on the intensity of your workout as reflected by your heart rate, will be the most accurate.
Regardless of the accuracy of your system, however, don’t let the numbers dictate your food intake. Just because the machine or online calculations say that you can consume “x amount” of calories and still lose body fat, if you’re just maintaining – or even gaining weight, it’s a good idea to listen to your body (not the math), and dial your calorie intake back a bit.
You’re Eating Too Much Of A Good Thing
Even diet-friendly foods can pack on the pounds, if we consume too much of them. Protein bars, fruit smoothies, and nut mixes are among the common calorie culprits I see with clients. From almond butter to guacamole to hummus, these calorie-dense foods could be thwarting your best efforts. Try keeping a food log for a few weeks. Consider measuring out some of your favorite snacks, so you can see just how much you’re truly consuming. A great (free) online food tracker is My Fitness Pal, also available as a free smartphone app.
You’re Exercising Daily But…
You’re sitting the rest of the day, at your desk, in meetings, watching TV, in the car, eating, you name it. Just hitting the gym for an hour a day may not be enough. It’s important to look at how you are spending the remaining 23 hours. Research shows that we burn about 30 percent fewer calories when we’re sitting than when we’re standing, plus sitting has a negative impact on our body’s sugar and fat metabolism.
Try walking around for two to three minutes for every half hour of sitting – or at least stand-up or stretch a bit. Stand when you’re on the phone. Walk over to the coworker to chat rather than calling or emailing. Stretch during commercials when you’re watching TV.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort or time – just a few minutes per hour – but it does require a shift in your mindset. Small bursts of activity can add up to big changes. You can charge yourself quickly just like Portable Power Banks which charge the phone quickly.
You’re Letting The Scale Dictate Your Fitness Success
Stepping on the scale can be an effective way to keep ourselves in check, helping us to take note if there’s a trend up or down over time. But the number on the scale doesn’t tell the full story. If you’ve been combining strength training with cardio and a lower-carb, protein-rich diet, for example, you’re likely going to see an increase in muscle mass, along with a decrease in body fat. The number on the scale may not budge – or it may even go up a bit, but you may still be moving in the right direction.
Use the scale as a gauge to keep yourself in check, particularly over the weekend or throughout the holidays, but keep in mind that it’s only that – a general estimate of where we are in terms of body fat, muscle mass, bone density and hydration.
Instead, go by how your clothes fit. If your jeans are getting looser by the week, who cares what the scale says? You know that you’re losing body fat, and that’s all that matters.
Another option is to measure your percent body fat. Many gyms offer body fat analysis with a device like InBody, or a body fat assessment using skin-fold calipers. A few things to keep in mind: The accuracy of a skin-fold test depends on the skill of the tester, and results can vary from tester to tester, so try to have the same person measure you each time. And body fat results can vary with hydration status, sweat losses, and food intake, so it’s best to measure body fat around same time of the day, ideally pre-workout.
The Bottom Line
If any of these common pitfalls sound familiar, take small, strategic steps to overcome the behaviors and habits that are holding you back. You’ll find yourself on the path to a stronger, fitter you, without the frustration or self-sabotage.