You cannot stand in line at the supermarket or flip through television channels without seeing people celebrated for their thin, attractive bodies. Some people have worked hard to maintain their physique, while others rely on Photoshop and other techniques to make them appear thinner.
Regardless, it puts a lot of pressure on people to lose weight. This can be seen in crazes over weight-loss fads, including workout plans, diets, and miracle supplements that are intended to help us lose weight quickly. There is such an obsession with looking great that there is a huge market for the weight loss industry and plenty of ways for companies to capitalize on the desires of others. In America alone, nearly $60 billion is spent on weight loss methods, including low-calorie foods, bariatric surgery, diet pills, health club memberships, and much more.
The downside of all this money spent is that it is not always effective. In fact, many people who lose weight fail to keep it off. Others try to lose weight and plateau, hitting a standstill before they come close to their weight loss goal. So when it seems like you have tried everything, what do you do?
The truth of the matter is that there are many reasons you may not be losing the weight that you want. Some have to do with your diet, while others have to do with the methods you are using to meet your weight loss goals. The good news is that by learning more about your body and the science behind how it works, you can both achieve and maintain your weight loss. When it comes to weight loss, there is no such thing as starting tomorrow. Start right now by reading through the pages of this article. By the end, you will have some insight into the reasons why you are having trouble losing weight.
Mistake #10: Your Training Regime is Predictable:
One common message for people trying to lose weight is that they should move around more. Even doing small things like walking around more at work, parking further away from the entrance of places of business, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator has been proven to help people increase the number of calories they are burning, thus causing weight loss. However, more recent studies show that there is a maximum point for calorie expenditure. This means that, at some point, even with intense exercise, your body stops burning calories. This means that you could be doing extra work for nothing.
According to the NYU Langone Medical Center Medical Weight Management Program director, Holly Lofton, it is quite common for people who pair extreme workouts with the same dietary habits to plateau with weight loss. It may work at first, especially for those who live a more sedentary lifestyle, but eventually, weight loss comes to a halt.
One thing that you can do to combat this problem is to switch up your workout routine. If you rely on biking or walking to lose weight, try swimming or yoga instead. You can also learn more about your body by finding out at what point you plateau. Each body reacts differently to exercise. For example, someone with a higher body fat percentage is more likely to burn more calories before plateauing than someone with a lower body fat percentage. Factors like muscle mass, genetic markers, metabolism, and hormone levels can also affect how many calories you can burn before reaching that plateau.
Mistake #09: Your Body Cannot Put More Calories Out without Storing Some
Even though evolution has changed the human body in many ways, many of our primitive instincts and patterns still exist. One of these primitive instincts is to survive by ensuring the body has enough calories to perform its regular functions. Associate Professor of Anthropology Herman Pontzer worked with his associates on a study that examined the way the body uses a system of checks and balances to ensure survival when it comes to burning calories.
The study examined people with sedentary lifestyles compared to hunter-gatherer populations in Tanzania. The conclusion was that even though the Tanzanian hunter-gatherers are incredibly active, with the men walking 10 miles per day and the women walking 6 miles, they do not expend more calories than a more sedentary person.
This phenomenon can be explained by dividing calories into two categories—resting calories and activity calories. The resting calories are those that the body stores to ensure that it is
functioning in the way it is supposed to. This is necessary to fight against inflammation, keep the immune system healthy, and ensure the body is receiving and responding to signals from the brain. These resting calories are necessary for health.
Outside of the resting calories are the activity calories, which are those that are freed up so they can be burned during physical activity. Once you run out of the activity calories, your body will burn rest calories—but only at a very slow rate. This is a primitive function that ensures health. After all, it does no good to lose weight if your immune system is not functioning properly and you get sick.
Mistake #08: You Are Stressed Out:
For a long time, the latest dieting trends were all you heard about for weight loss. Things like restricted-calorie eating, the cabbage soup diet, and other trends could produce results—but only to an extent. Plus, the statistics do not lie. The majority of people who can lose weight with a diet end up gaining that weight back (and often, more weight than they started with) within five years. This is proven by several studies, including one in 2002 that analyzed 231 million dieting Europeans—only 1% were able to attain permanent weight loss following their diet.
One of the reasons that dieting is next to impossible (and ineffective) is because of the stress it causes. Stress is the enemy of dieting for two reasons. First, it increases the body’s production of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is known for causing the body to store fat poorly, especially around the abdominal area.
Additionally, stress is more likely to cause binge eating. This can make you sit down and eat more calories than your body needs—and then store it, as a result. This is incredibly detrimental to weight loss efforts. In this case, it would seem that making lifestyle changes, rather than sticking to a diet, would be a better option for losing weight.
Mistake #07: Metabolic Suppression:
One of the most popular shows for weight loss miracles is “The Biggest Loser”—a competition in which the contestants’ goal is to lose weight. On average, the contestants lose 129 pounds each. Unfortunately, a study done six years later found that the participants had gained back an average of 70% of the weight they had lost. Additionally, they were burning fewer calories than the average person of their weight and size—about 500 calories less, to be exact.
This study mirrors similar studies that have examined the weight regulation in the mind. This is known as a set point. Basically, each person has a set point for their weight, which their body tries to maintain. When you drop below your body’s set point, the mind starts to fight back against dieting.
The brain fights back in a few ways. First, it reduces the number of calories burned during physical activity compared to the calories burned for the average person. This is known as metabolic suppression because the brain is suppressing how quickly the metabolism works. Second, it affects the way you eat. Not only does it produce hunger hormones to encourage you to eat more, but it also lights up the pleasure center in your brain, such that eating becomes more rewarding.
Mistake #06: You Are Depriving Yourself:
Studies done with rats show how food deprivation affects the mind. One study restricted the amount of food that rats were allowed to eat for five days and then gave them unlimited Oreos for two days. This was done for several weeks. Then, a stressor was introduced to the rats with a restricted diet and a control group. The study showed that the rats who were dieting ate twice as many Oreos following exposure to the stressor when compared with the control group. Then, it was noted that even when a single bite of Oreo was eaten, the rats would binge on regular food when it was available.
One of the reasons why diets do not work is because a diet encourages the deprivation mindset. When the body and mind are deprived, whether, through calorie restriction or drastic diet changes, it changes the way that neurotransmitters like dopamine work in the brain. It makes eating more pleasurable and causes you to seek out unhealthy foods, as a result, to experience this reward.
The same study has also shown that once the dieting period was over, binge eating was still a problem. This may explain why, following a successful diet, people are still likely to gain the weight back. Instead of depriving yourself, consider having a cheat meal. Do not make it a whole day where you binge eat, but know that it is okay to give in to your cravings on occasion.
Mistake #05: You Are Eating Too Much:
Often, people eat not because they are hungry, but because external cues are telling them that they need the food. The food marketing industry is partly to blame for this, particularly the problem of overeating. It is harder to resist something when you are getting a deal. For example, why get a half-size sub when you can get a full one for just a dollar or two more? When it is only a dollar to supersize a meal and get more food (and more calories), it just seems to make sense to get a larger amount of food. Food selling techniques have also become extreme—with companies even using sexuality to sell things like burgers.
Another problem is falling into negative habits with your food. Imagine that a couple of nights out of the week, you eat a snack and watch television right before bed. This is a poor choice simply because you are eating calories right before you go into a restful state for the night. However, if done regularly, you may find yourself craving snacks just because you are sitting down in front of the television. This leads to eating even when you are not hungry.
The key to overcoming this is learning to eat when you are actually hungry, rather than whenever the thought crosses your mind. Pay attention to physical body cues that indicate you are hungry, like a growling stomach or fatigue that indicates a need to refuel. Then, eat at a slow enough pace that you can register when you start to feel full—and stop eating.
Mistake #04: You Have Trouble Detecting Hunger/Fullness Cues:
Many people who have trouble overeating struggle with understanding their own bodies. They may have been used to eating whatever they want whenever they feel like it for so long that they cannot even tell when they are hungry or full. This is a problem because it often leads to eating more food than you need to consume. These extra calories translate to stored fat.
One of the best ways to learn to listen to your body is to start eating in an area that is free of distractions. If this does not work, there may be emotional reasons or an underlying problem that drives you to eat. Discovering this can help you find the root of your problematic relationship with food.
Another technique that you can use is putting smaller portions on your plate. Given that your desire to avoid waste sometimes overwhelms feelings of fullness, making you feel like you must clean your plate, it is better to eat smaller portions.
When you cannot detect the cues at all, the best answer may be eating on a set schedule. Eat a small snack two to three times per day, and eat a meal three times daily. Ideally, you should speak with a nutritionist about the ideal calorie range for someone of your weight who wants to lose weight. Then, fit your meals into this calorie range.
Mistake #03: You Aren’t Slowing Down to Eat:
Did you know that your body is satisfied with food long before your mind is? While eating nourishes your physical body, it has effects on the mind as well. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is trying to eat their food quickly. This is problematic because it takes time for the food to pass from mouth to stomach and even longer for the brain to register that the body is full.
To overcome this problem, you must start slowing down when you eat. Fully chew each bite, and take a few breaths before going for another one. Pay attention to how your stomach feels as you eat. Once you have fulfilled your needs, you will notice that you are not enjoying the food as much. You may also feel pressure in your stomach. If you overeat, it can cause discomfort, pain, or queasiness. Overeating can also affect your body later on, as it slows down to process your full stomach.
Ideally, by slowly and thoughtfully chewing each bite, you will learn to stop eating when you are full. Many people eat more than their bodies need, and this can make it nearly impossible to lose weight—even when making healthier food choices.
Mistake #02: Your Hunger Cues Are Being Confused with Something Else
Hunger cues are not the only thing that drives you to eat. There are several other triggers that people experience, which can be confused as a signal from the body that you are hungry. These include:
● Mind Hunger – If you develop excessive eating habits, like eating a certain amount of food simply because it is “time” to eat, it can cause you to think you are hungry when you are not.
● Teeth Hunger – Sometimes, the urge to have a cigarette or chew on something comes to you in times of frustration. You are not hungry, but you have an oral fixation that needs to be satisfied. Try chewing a piece of gum instead.
● Mouth Hunger – The smell or sight of food has the potential to make your mouth water and feel hungry, which can bring about cravings unrelated to hunger.
● Emotional Hunger – Food can be pleasurable and even comforting. This is what causes emotional eating in some cases, which is often a result of filling a void by using food or using it to push your feelings down.
● Fatigue – If you are overly tired, a lack of food may not be to blame. It can also result from not getting enough sleep or working too hard.
● Thirst – Being thirsty can cause you to feel hungry, often because of the sluggishness that results from dehydration. Try drinking a glass of water when you think you are hungry before you try eating.
Mistake #01: You Are Only Focusing on the Numbers:
Often, people who are trying to lose weight are aiming to see a certain number on the scale. The problem is that weight loss does not always result in lower numbers, especially for people who are building muscle tone through exercise during their efforts. This happens because muscle weighs more than fat, so gains in muscle can actually appear as if you are increasing in weight instead of losing it.
There are also other factors that affect weight loss. These include things like water weight, how quickly the foods you are eating are digested, and your bowel movements. If you want a more accurate measurement, consider using how you look and how clothes fit as indicators that you are moving in the right direction.
It is important to remember that weight loss is not so much about hitting a certain number as it is about becoming healthier and improving your fat-to-muscle ratio. Do not focus on the numbers—focus on the results.