If you are like most people, you have probably tried some sort of diet in an effort to lose weight and get in shape. More than likely it involved cutting calories, carbohydrates or fats, or you followed some type of fad eating plan that was popular at the time. Like most people, you probably lost weight, too. Here comes the real kicker: I’ll put money on the fact that you gained the weight back.
Why is it that after dieting people will often gain back the original weight loss, and usually some additional weight, as well? Usually it’s because the diet they chose to follow was too extreme and unrealistic. Maybe they chose to eliminate an entire macronutrient (read: carbs) or cut calories too much. Maybe the diet was just silly (read: Baby Food Diet, 5-Bite Diet). If you take extreme measures to lose weight and the weight comes off quickly, the majority of the weight that comes off is in the form of muscle. Rather than losing fat, you are losing muscle, which will DECREASE your metabolism. When you go back to your original eating habits, this lower metabolism will cause the weight gain. Whatever the case, if the nutrition plan is not something that can be maintained for the rest of your life, why start it now?
I do realize we live in an instant-gratification society. Have you ever experienced a day where your internet access is particularly slow? How about a slow drive-thru or a long line at the grocery checkout? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? We have become so accustomed to things happening quickly that we have lost our ability to slow down. I see this often when people are beginning a weight loss journey. Once the decision is made to get healthy, they expect weight to come off quickly. With shows such as The Biggest Loser on TV, we see contestants losing 5, 10 or even 15 pounds in one week and assume this is a reasonable loss. What we don’t see is the fact that the contestants are working out for hours and hours every day and their caloric intake is strictly monitored. These are not people who are working full-time jobs and taking care of families.
Since my past few articles have been about exercise, I felt like nutrition was an important topic to cover next. It is really impossible to outwork a poor diet, so make sure if you are serious about health and fitness you do not neglect your nutrition. Here are some easy to follow tips for getting started:
- Do NOT skip meals! When you skip meals, your body thinks it is starving. In starvation mode, your body will want to store as much fat as possible to create energy reserves. Muscle will be burned as fuel and more fat will be stored. This is a lose-lose situation!
- Plan your meals and snacks. Take a couple of hours each week to create a menu, shop and prep your foods. Wash and cut up veggies for snacks, pack small Ziploc bags with nuts and dried fruit for snacks, hard boil some eggs or whatever healthy options you like. If you do not have to think about what you are going to eat, you will be less inclined to splurge.
- Beware of hidden liquid calories. Indulging in the occasional Grande Latte in the mornings or glass of wine or beer in the evenings is fine. However, if you have a one-a-day latte habit, even non-fat, this is 200-250 extra calories a day! A 4-ounce glass of wine has about 100-125 calories. These will quickly add up to extra pounds on the scale.
- Stay hydrated! The process of burning calories requires an adequate supply of water in order to function efficiently; dehydration slows down the fat-burning process.
- Avoid fast food. I hope this is obvious to you. Fried fast food is just bad when you are trying to create a healthy nutrition plan. Again, the occasional indulgence in french fries won’t hurt you too much, but most fast food is empty calories, devoid of any nutritional value.
I hope this will get you started. Stay tuned for next week’s article where I will share some of my favorite healthy, muscle-building recipes. Eat well, everyone!