Solving the Weight Loss Mystery - Why Are You NOT Losing Weight?
Why do so many people find that they are not losing weight?
I hear the complaints almost daily. In my 14+ years as a nutrition counselor and 4+ years consulting weight loss clients the story is the same. People are frustrated with their inability to effectively manage their weight. Weight loss is no longer easy like it may have been when we were younger. But why is it now so complex? This HUB addresses this issue by looking at a basic diet strategy and the reasons why this strategy may not work for some people who are not able to lose weight. It also outlines a way to address some of these reasons so your body can begin to respond to simple weight loss efforts and you can be successful in losing weight for the long term.
Many of the short term weight strategies that promise quick results sound great at the time. They may help you to lose weight quickly but the weight loss is usually not permanent. You may not know it at the time but they usually come with negative long term health risks. Low/no fat, low/no carb, artificial diet foods, metabolism boosters and fat burners are some examples of diet fads. Marketers know that we want a quick fix and they are ready to give it to us. They are simply giving us what we want - what is hot - what will sell. They are not always the best way to lose weight if you are looking for permanent results.
Regardless of what we want, short term weight loss strategies ultimately come with long term health risks. There is, however, one plan that works every time. That is to follow a plan to lose weight the healthy way. There are no short cuts. What I outline here is a plan to correct the damage and go back to a plain and simple long term philosophy - you do right by your body and your body will do right by you.
Weight Loss Poll
What weight loss plan have you used in the past that you think caused your body the most harm in the long term?
It is NOT as Simple a Following Calorie Restricted Diets
Much of the weight loss advice available today claims that weight loss is a simple process of following calorie restricted diets. They teach us to eat less and consume fewer calories so that we lose weight. As a weight loss counselor for over four years I have heard many baffling stories. Recently a woman shared with me her weight loss dilemma: She exercises 5 times a week and decreased her calorie consumption to 1200 calories a day at the advice of her Dietitian and had not lost ONE POUND in 3 months. She also reported no change in her body as her clothes still fit the same. What this says is - she lost no fat and gained no muscle! HUH?? How can that possibly be? Why is that diet not working?
Another story is of a man who has struggled with weight loss for years and at the advice of his doctor was down to a 1000 - 1200 calorie a day diet. Months later he was fatter than ever and was not losing any weight. We put him on a 2000 calorie diet of healthy foods and he started to lose weight. He never ate so much in his life but finally was having success with losing weight! Maybe it is not as simple as starving yourself with over-exercise?
If weight loss is really as simple as restricting calories than why are so many people not losing weight? Could it be more complex for some people? My belief is that over the years, medications, stress level, the overuse of calorie restrictive diets and eating processed food have gotten the body out of balance. The imbalances are in the chemical and hormonal makeup of the body. Chemical and hormonal changes affect our bodies natural ability to regulate weight and respond to simple weight loss methods. This is why many of us struggle to lose weight. Our struggle keeps the weight loss industry exploding as people search for the solution that will finally lead them to their dream body
How a Body Gets Out of Balance
If you are one of those people who have tried everything to lose weight but with no success you can relate to this article and may need to work to get your body back in balance. You probably have done it all - exercised like a fanatic and cut your calories, tried all of the diet pills and stopped eating fat or carbs. All I can say is PLEASE STOP abusing your poor body!! You need to alter your short term focus and work toward a strategy of losing weight for the long term. Hopefully this article will change the way you view your body and how you go about trying to get it to change...
Consider the following factors to see how you may have stressed your body over the years. It will help you to understand why your body no longer responds to simple weight loss methods and why your body's natural ability to keep you thin may be compromised.
Have you or are you taking a lot of MEDICATION? Medication is great and, many times, saves lives and allows people to live longer. The problem is medication also has its drawbacks. Medications take over bodily functions and can cause chemical imbalances. These imbalance affect your hormones and your body's natural ability to keep itself thin. Medication is also a pollutant that your body has to work to remove. This daily toxic overload further interferes with the body's ability to function and regulate body weight. This isn't saying that everyone should go off of their medication. Just understand that medications are one of the reasons why weight loss may have gotten more difficult.
What is your Diet History Like? What have you done in the past to lose weight? Did you starve yourself in your teens or in your twenties so that you could fit into your prom gown or bathing suit? It may have worked well then but doesn't any longer. If you abuse the starvation method it stops working. Your body stops trusting you to supply it with essential food, nutrients and energy it needs for survival. It then takes matters into its own hands. I call it "Survival Mode". Your body stores food for later use in case you decide to starve it again. Every morsel of food is being taken in and stored.
I use this story to get my point across: Imagine a person who works for a living but doesn't always get paid. Some weeks there is a paycheck and some weeks there isn't. They have no idea when or if they will get paid again. So - what does this person do to survive? They store and save money so that they know they will be able to pay their bills. They are afraid to spend because they may be left with no money.
Now relate that story to your body which is also afraid. It is afraid to burn food for fuel because it doesn't know when it will be fed again or is fearful that it may need more energy (food) than you are supplying to keep you going each day. It begins to store the food you eat for energy or fuel that you may need later. This means your body stops burning calories efficiently on purpose because it wants to survive. Could your body be in survival mode and no longer burning fat because it no longer trusts you for food or energy on a regular basis?
What is your diet like? Do you eat a lot of fake diet foods or junk foods? Does your diet consist of a lot of artificial sweeteners like Nutra-Sweet or aspartame, Splenda or sucralose, or acusulfame potassium? Fake or man made foods are foreign to the body. They are toxins that need to be eliminated and are not fuel. The body stores these chemical toxins in the fat cells. Whenever you burn fat these chemical toxins are released into the body and cause damage to your thyroid, hormones and metabolism. If you have a poor diet history or love using artificial sweeteners you may have messed with your body's natural ability to keep you thin.
Have you used any diet or fat burning supplements? Years ago it was the metabolism boosting supplements and today many people are using fat burning supplements. All of these mess with your body and ultimately cause imbalances which lead to weight gain or other health complications.
Okay, so you did all of this to mess up your body and now the fat loss equation no longer works. So what do we do? Throw in the towel? No! If you are up for it - now is the time to be nice to your body and build a nice nurturing relationship to get the trust back that was lost. Following the simple Laws of Nature works. There are no short cuts. You can correct all of the damage you have done to our cells over time. Eat well. Exercise in moderation and stay away from all of the diet fads, drugs and fake foods that make you think you can have your cake and eat it too. I realize that this may not seem like an easy route to take but the benefits are huge. You will feel great, regain your health, possibly get off some of your medications, look vibrant and get your body weight back in balance. This is where support or a coach may come in handy to keep you on task and motivated. I have outlined some suggestions below on how to start the cleanup process.
How Do I Get My Body Back in Balance?
Before you come to the conclusion that no diet works for me. There is action you can take to help your body be more receptive to basic dieting methods - yes, even calorie restrictive diets. It involves getting your body back in balance. Below is an outline of the steps to take to correct the imbalances in your body so you can start to lose weight.
Cleanse your Body - Years of eating processed and fried foods, taking over-the-counter or prescription drugs, over-eating foods with hydrogenated oils, white sugar and white flour and consuming alcoholic beverages and drinks with artificial sweeteners - have taken a stressful toll on your liver, colon, kidneys and gall bladder - the primary organs responsible for digestion and detoxification. When the organs designed to take on major protective roles in the body are over-worked trying to rid your blood of consumed toxins they can no longer do their job well.
The kidneys work to filter toxins from the body. When it becomes stressed from an overload of toxins and insufficient water intake it puts more of a load on the liver. The liver plays a major role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins - the nutrients that supply the body with energy. If the liver is over-loaded it can not do its job properly and it puts a strain on other organs like the gall bladder and colon. The colon can hold as much as five feet of bile. The debris becomes compacted over the years and the toxic matter eventually begins to leach into the bloodstream. The body is now loaded with more toxins and is unable to do its job of breaking down food and supplying the cells with nutrients that help to feed your hormones and metabolism.
It is no wonder hormones become out of balance and the metabolism slows down to a complete standstill over the years. Could this be a contributing factor as to why you may not be losing weight so easily? Cleansing is a necessary start to any successful weight loss plan.
De-Stress the Body- Regardless of your diet, if you are constantly under stress or producing stress hormones (Type A personalities) you are doing harm to your body. When you are under stress your body produces cortisol. Cortisol production is designed to save you from dangerous situations by giving you a reserve of energy to flea or fight to save your life. Unfortunately our lifestyles are such that we are constantly under stress and producing cortisol all day long. The cortisol designed to save us is now shutting down our digestive system, stealing our nutrient reserves and sending alert signals to start storing fat! No wonder stress is attributable to 90% of disease. The body essentially shuts down so you can deal with the stressful situation at hand. If this is on a daily basis then you now have an issue where you are no longer producing enzymes, you are not breaking down foods properly and your body is no longer getting the nutrients that it needs. The real kicker is your body has gotten the signal to store fat in case food becomes scarce due to the stressful situation.
Looking at the stress in your life and how it has affected your body is so important to having success with any weight loss program. Your body simply will not respond to calorie cutting at a time when it is already under a stress alert. Image what a stressed-out body is thinking when you cut its food supply: "Red alert! Lack of food! Keep storing fat!" It is no wonder not an ounce of fat is burned...
Get Moderate Exercise- The main message here is that exercise is great but be kind and do not exercise to the point of bodily abuse. If you have not been on a regular exercise routine and suddenly decide it is time to lose weight and start burning calories - you may be tempted to exercise like a maniac. Understand that exercise is also a stress on your body. Exercise puts a demand on nutrient reserves to burn calories and heal and repair muscle tissue. If all of a sudden you put this demand on your body and at the same time start cutting calories (nutrients) - imagine what your poor body is going through! Start slow with exercise and find a routine you can stick with for a lifetime. Small periods of over-exercising will do nothing for your long term weight management goals. An active lifestyle that includes various forms of exercise (a mix of weights and aerobic) 3 to 4 times a week - 30 minutes a day is enough to keep you fit and trim.
The key message here is that it is better to exercise 2 times a week for 30 minutes all of your life than 1 month a year everyday for 2 hours.
Put your Cravings to Rest (carbs/salt/sugar) - When the body becomes imbalanced from a poor diet and a toxic digestive system problems start to develop in the colon that can actually contribute to your cravings. You may have heard of healthy bacteria or healthy flora. This good bacteria is needed in the colon to rid your body of parasites and bad bacteria. Stress, white sugar, white flour, caffeine, alcohol, medication (including Birth Control) and antibiotics (including hydro-cortisone creams) all work to deplete your supply of this healthy flora. Without the good guys, bacteria is allowed to grow rampant. The bacteria and parasites now compete for nutrients - weakening your natural defenses. They also feed on white sugar and white flour to grow and cultivate - causing you to actually CRAVE these foods!! The harmful bacteria (also called yeast) continues to grow and multiply in the body causing all kinds of health symptoms from sinus problems and skin disorders to chronic fatigue.
A body in balance does NOT crave! Tackling the yeast problem (harmful bacteria) and discontinuing the overuse of sugar and salt will work to stop your cravings. Lemon water (full lemon is a glass of water) is a good trick to quickly balance the body when you feel a craving for salt or sugar. Believe it or not - if you stop eating the sugary or salty snacks, over time, you will not only stop craving them but find them to be much less enjoyable.
If you do not tackle your cravings you will be faced with the temptation on a daily basis and will have to rely on will power to keep you from indulging. Will power is great but not a great long term strategy because eventually your will power will weaken. Things happen in your life that have you lose focus. You get depressed or just stressed out and cave in... What then? I guess you just gain all of your weight back. I have seen it over and over = (
Eat only Natural Foods- Since the body does not function properly when exposed to chemicals and strange man-made foods it only makes sense to feed it with natural foods. This means no more artificial sweeteners, including Splenda (sucralose), Nutrasweet (aspartame) and another hidden one - acusulfame potassium. Artificial sweeteners are everywhere - especially in "diet" foods, protein powders and beverages. You will have to read labels and be cautious of foods that have 0 or 1g of sugar on the nutrition label but taste sweet. Unless it has Stevia (plant sweetener) - there is no way to sweeten naturally with adding sugar grams. There are natural sweeteners that are healthy in moderation - raw sugar (better than table sugar), molasses, honey and agave nectar to name a few.
Natural means from nature - or as close to nature as possible. Try to stay away from boxed, canned or prepared foods. Learn to read the nutrition and ingredients labels. Look for the least amount of ingredients as possible in your foods. Go for fresh or frozen fruits or vegetables. Stay away from fried foods or foods with hydrogenated oils in them. Use natural oils like olive oil or coconut oil (to cook). Eat whole grains and foods without a lot of added sugar and salt. Eat a balanced diet of complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetable and be sure your diet consists of adequate protein throughout the day.
Drink Mostly Water or Unsweetened Beverages- Your liquid intake should be mostly water. Be sure to drink water as soon as you wake up in the morning, after meals and exercise. It is easiest to drink room temperature water and guzzle it down. Drink other beverages in moderation. Stay away from sugary drinks (only adds to your sugar addiction and adds quick energy (calories) that store as fat if not burned off). Naturally sweeten your herbal teas with agave nectar or honey. Use drink flavor packets that use Stevia and not Splenda. This means no Crystal Lite, no diet sodas or teas or diet drinks in general! Once you start drinking water you will find that the other sweet drinks you used to enjoy don't taste that great anymore. If you clean your body out of the sugar and salt - you will no longer crave them! Remember the lemon water trick I mentioned earlier.
Eat Small Meals throughout the Day (natural metabolism booster) - No metabolism booster pill or increase metabolism diet is as effective as eating spurts of high quality food throughout the day. This means no huge meals and no skipping meals. You want to eat small quantities of food regularly so your body constantly has energy to burn. That is how to eat to lose weight.
Imagine your goal is to keep a fire going in your home. Would you not put any wood in the fireplace all day until dinner - then load it with a ton of firewood?... NO! Would you put a ton of firewood in the morning and then nothing again until nighttime? No! The best way to keep the fire going is to give it a continuous small amount of quality slow-burning firewood throughout the day.
Equate this scenario with eating. To keep your metabolism furnace at full throttle (or to awaken it) you must feed it small meals throughout the day. The meals should all consist of some sort or protein like eggs, natural protein powder, natural protein bars, natural peanut butter or almond butter, almonds, cottage cheese, yogurt, meats, poultry, seafood or fish. Add other foods like fruit, vegetables and whole grains to make your diet complete.
You should NEVER feel hungry when you are trying to lose weight. This may get confusing because some people mistake appetite or thirst for hunger. Generally you should not experience stomach pangs. If you are truly hungry you are not eating enough and need to add more quality foods in small amounts throughout the day. If you eat regularly during the day you will NOT feel hungry late at night because your body will be full. If you are consistent, eventually your body will get the message that the supply of food is constant and it move out of the survival mode and begin to burn fat. It now "trusts" you to feed it with the necessary nutrients and no longer has to store energy because it knows that the supply is now endless.
Correct your Negative Mental Thought Patterns - This is probably the most complex because most people are not aware or in tuned with their self talk or their thinking. You can not successfully accomplish your goals if you have a continuous flow of negative feelings surrounding them. If your goal is to lose weight and fit into your old clothes - you can't continue to look in the mirror each morning and say to yourself how fat you are and how ugly you look in your clothes, moan to your friends that you can't lose weight no matter what you do, look at the foods you can no longer eat and feel deprived or refuse to treat yourself with dignity and respect until you lose weight.
You have to work on your attitude and stop the self-defeat - self-sabotage or you will find it extremely difficult to achieve your goals. You have to make yourself have a positive attitude about what you are trying to accomplish regardless of the past or regardless of what you believe is true for you. You have to work to consciously turn around the negative statements and negative self talk. If you can master a positive attitude you may find that the goals you never thought you could accomplish are now within your reach.
Choose to Lose Weight the Healthy Way
The path to balancing your body is not a simple one. If you decide to take this route you may need some additional support to effectively address your issues. I've included some helpful resources and information at the bottom of this page to help you get started.
Whatever you decide to do I hope you view weight loss a little differently now and make the decision to lose weight the healthy way. There isn't always a quick fix. Many of the quick fixes are short term and cause long term weight gain as well as other health issues. Don't continue on the path of abusing your body and wondering why it will no longer cooperate. Think of your body as a small child that you are trying to get to behave. The best way is to get your body back in balance by loving, nurturing, repairing the damage from the past, feeding it well, and getting moderate exercise on a regular basis and you'll start burning that dreaded fat and fit into that old pair of jeans - finally!