There is a ton of evidence to show that dieting doesn’t actually work long-term when it comes to losing weight.
In fact, constantly depriving yourself on your diet can lead to more weight gain and an unhealthy relationship with food and your body.
Let’s go through 7 reasons why you’re not losing weight on your diet…
If you have been cutting calories for a long time, your body can go into a panic, as it sees this as starvation. It kicks into survival mode by slowing down your metabolism (the rate at which you burn and digest food). It also hangs onto any excess calories and stores them as fat in preparation for this famine you have put it in.
This means when you stop dieting, or ‘fall of the wagon’ which happens to most dieters, and return to normal eating, you’ll pack on the extra pounds because your metabolism has slowed, thanks to dieting in the first place.
Constant low levels of stress can keep your body in fight or flight mode and increase the levels of stress hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline, circulating in your body. Depriving your body of calories (aka dieting) also raises these stress hormone levels.
Having elevated stress hormone levels can increase your hunger and often cravings for sugary or processed food.
Getting a handle on your eating, by rebuilding a healthy relationship with food with intuitive eating, will help to calm your mind and stress levels. Plus, managing your life stressors such as work, and family obligations is a key factor to reducing your stress hormone levels and cravings.
Tip: Try daily meditation or gentle exercise, deep breathing, or even journaling to manage stress and your eating.
Many dieters will restrict entire food groups such as carbs or fats. Unfortunately, we often underestimate how smart our bodies are. We are fully capable of eating a variety of foods, and maintaining a healthy weight when we learn to trust our bodies again (like we did as toddlers).
When we start to cut out foods, we throw our bodies into turmoil, often resulting in a lack of enough nutrients, such as fiber, or essential vitamins and minerals. This can cause lackluster skin and hair, low energy, cravings, and a slower metabolism.
By allowing yourself to eat a little bit of everything (yes even chocolate!), you’re making sure you are getting a variety of nutrients. And believe it or not, when we let go of all the dieting food drama, our body can happily self-regulate and will WANT to eat more nutritious foods most of the time.
Tip: Aim to eat a variety of fresh whole foods most of the time, and really focus on your eating experience during mealtimes.
The power of sleep cannot be underestimated when it comes to your health and weight loss. Not getting enough sleep can make you hungrier for junk food, and less motivated to exercise, leading to weight gain and moodiness.
Tip: If you’re not getting enough good quality sleep, aim to avoid caffeine after 3pm, watch your alcohol intake, sleep in complete darkness and limit your screen time before bed. If you’re still struggling to sleep, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider to discuss a treatment plan.
Everyone understands the benefits of exercising, it’s being consistent that’s the challenge.
The key to exercising regularly, which is where you’re going to benefit the most in terms of managing your weight, is to keep it fun and exciting,
Mix up your exercise from cardio to strength training and throw in some flexibility exercises like yoga or Pilates. Decide what your exercise personality is, i.e.: do you like to exercise in a team sport such as a dance class or soccer team, or do you prefer solo workouts such as running or kayaking.
Perhaps an exercise buddy or personal trainer can help to keep you motivated. Building exercise into your day, even if it’s just 30 minutes or 10-minute intervals of walking, three times per day can help it become an automatic habit that fits easily into your life and that you look forward to.
Food labels are a minefield. There are so many food products on the shelves claiming healthy benefits, for our hearts, our digestive system. There’s no fat, low calorie, and diet foods in abundance…and they’re not cheap! So which claims are right and which ones are less ‘healthy’?
The reality is that any food that is commercially manufactured is likely to have higher levels of fat or salt or sugar. That’s what makes them tasty and you coming back for more. It’s business after all. Be wary of any health claims on food labels. You can check the ingredients list on the back, the ingredients are listed by weight, i.e.: the first three ingredients are the most used in the product, so if salt or sugar appear first, you know what you’re dealing with.
My advice is to limit any ‘health’ snack bars, diet food, or ‘healthy’ sugars (agave nectar, I’m looking at you!). That’s not to say you can never have these foods, but you’re better off making them yourself, where you can control what goes into them.
Tip: Need a sweet pick-me-up snack? Instead of a pre-made energy bar, why not make your own energy balls from 5 ingredients which takes less than 10 minutes to make. You control the amount of sugar, salt, and fat that goes into it. Need some more recipe inspiration, look here.
If you’re frustrated that you’re not losing weight fast enough, it’s time for a reality check. The billion-dollar diet industry makes a killing off us by using false claims of FAST weight loss. Invariably what you’re losing initially is water, which you’ll just put back on. That’s why diet shakes, pills or extreme weight loss plans don’t work long-term – they’re unrealistic.
Sustainable weight loss is around 1-2 pounds per week. Keep on eating a variety of nutritious foods most of the time, exercise regularly, and look after your stress and sleep, and you will lose weight to achieve a healthy body weight for you.
Tip: Don’t get hung up on the number on the scale. This can be demoralizing and play havoc with your body image and confidence. Rather check your weight loss success with how much fitter you are now that you’re exercising regularly, how much energy you have now, or how your clothes are becoming looser.
Healthy weight is not a quick fix, it’s a life-long lifestyle, and everyone’s journey is unique to your needs, your life, and your body.
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