Ok folks, here is forewarning: if you are faint of heart, I recommend you stop reading. I’m going to take on what could be construed as a harsh, insensitive tone for the remainder of today’s post.
Hey! You’re still here! Nice to see you stick around. Now for a bit of tough love…
Reasons why you struggle with weight loss (in no particular order of importance):
- You are always on some fad diet (paleo today, Atkins tomorrow, something else next week).
- You drink neon “detox” drinks believing that somehow that magical powder will allow you to bypass the mountain of science dictating that improving eating habits and increasing physical activity pave the way toward losing weight.
- You skip meals, especially breakfast.
- You purposely ignore hunger in an effort to lose fat.
- You drink artificially-sweetened beverages, fruit juice, sweet tea, lemonade, soda, and/or sugary coffee as your main beverages.
- You drink very little (if any) water.
- You may exercise, and maybe even regularly; but you dramatically overestimate the teensy caloric deficit you created.
- You may even eat healthy foods; but you are eating too much of them (i.e. “I had 2 cups of brown rice with my dinner!”).
- You are drinking a protein shake after your 15 minute walk because you feel like you are supposed to have a “recovery drink.”
- You are eating/drinking “fake” foods (i.e. fat-free cheese, 100 calorie Oreo packs, sugar-free candy, etc.).
- You are eating/drinking foods with way too many ingredients (read the ingredients on that “healthy” protein bar sometime…).
- You lack consistency with meal timing from day to day.
- You feel as though you have to “cheat” at some point during the week.
- You’re restricting foods or food groups for no other reason besides trying to lose weight.
- You’re juicing fruits and vegetables rather than eating them.
- You get super-motivated, buy a bunch of vegetables, exercise like crazy….but for 4 days. Then you quit and complain that you didn’t see any results.
- You pay more attention to calories, “macros,” or any other number on the nutrition label than on the actual quality of food you are consuming.
- You simply do not eat enough (or any) vegetables, fruit, or whole grains.
- To you, a “salad” has mayonnaise and noodles in it rather than leafy greens.
- To you, a “salad” has iceberg lettuce, a couple shards of carrot, and a pile of ranch dressing on it rather than dark leafy greens and other vegetables with a touch of good-quality-fat-containing dressing.
- You get your nutrition information from Dr. Oz, a book written by any MD who [has zero nutrition education] decided to get out of bed one day and deem pinto beans as “bad for you.”
- You’re avoiding bread and potatoes because “carbs are bad for me.”
- You sit all day or you exercise hard and then sit all day.
- You’re trying to educate yourself through lunchroom conversations and google searches involving people who are not nutrition experts, and you’re getting bogus information. It’s ok to seek assistance from a qualified professional. We can’t do everything by ourselves all the time.
Listen. You might say “what do you know about being fat?” Well, I’ll tell you that I wasn’t always very healthy. I was a sort of chubby kid growing up; and a chubby adolescent. I was straight up fat in college, and for a bit after college. I know what it is like to be scrutinized for my weight – try being a nutrition professional who is a little chunky…I really struggled for some credibility!
The point is, I started to apply all this junk I had learned in school and from research toward my lifestyle. Here’s a shocker: it works. The less complicated you make this [lifestyle switch], the better. It’s not necessarily as much about eating less (although in some ways it is!) as it is improving quality. Both quantity and quality are of equal importance here.
Weight loss 101 (again, in no particular order of importance):
- If your main beverage isn’t water, you’re wrong. Stop it with the juices or anything else sugary (including fake-sugar). Water, maybe some hot or cold tea, a small amount of black coffee is no big huge deal. Limit caffeine, avoid artificial sweetener, avoid added sugar, eat whole fruit rather than drinking juice.
- Take a look how you’re setting up your plate. ¼ of your plate should be of something protein-rich: lean meat, fish, nuts, eggs, seeds, beans, cottage cheese, hummus, cheese, peanut butter, peas, etc. ¼ of the plate should be a good-quality starch: whole starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, beans, peas) or 100% whole grain products. ½ of the plate should be full of a variety of non-starchy vegetables. Fruit can be included on the plate in a small amount or separate as part of a snack.
- Get up. Walk around the house more. Try not to be sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time, even if all you do is stand up for a bit. Ideally, you will benefit from performing strength exercise (lifting weights, doing push-ups, etc.) and cardiovascular exercise (biking, walking, etc.) most days of the week. Don’t overthink this either; just try to sit less than you move.
- Eat meals/snacks at consistent times from day to day. You don’t have to eat at literally the exact time every day; but try to be pretty close. Don’t go more than 3-4 hours without having something nutrient-rich to eat
- Meals should be balanced, and so should snacks. Have a protein-rich food with a good-quality carbohydrate food for a snack. A snack is just a teensy meal, really.
- There is no such thing as “cheating.” Often you will make a choice to indulge in something you love, and it might not be very healthy. This is real life. You are entitled to and allowed to indulge sometimes. The trick is that this should be a “treat.” If you are doing something often, it becomes “routine” rather than a “treat.” If you do indulge, limit the amount and the frequency. If you know you have triggers, try not to have that stuff around. In other words, if you can’t eat only 2 cookies, don’t open the cookies.
- Eat real foods. Look at ingredients before you even look at any number on the label. You should be able to recognize what’s in your food. The shorter the ingredients list, the better. Just because a food is “low in calories” does not mean it is good for you, and it does not mean it will help you lose weight. Count nutrients, not calories
- Don’t dope up on protein. With some exceptions, you do not need packaged protein shakes or bars to build muscle and lose weight. Protein is critical to good health, but if you’re including some with meals and snacks, you’re probably getting enough
- Stop obsessing. Listen to your body. Eat foods you like, and learn to like new foods. If you’ve been yo-yo dieting for a long time and/or if you’ve been on an erratic eating pattern for a long time, listening to your body takes time. Be patient, but be consistent while you’re being patient!
- Get advice from a qualified person, such as a registered dietitian nutritionist. I’ve spent the better part of my career mopping up the ridiculous amount of misinformation that’s thrown all over the place. Every. Single. Day. “But they say ______?” Well guess what? I’m the “they”! Lots of people seem to want to claim their expertise in the field of nutrition, yet few actually took the time to become legit, credentialed sources. Be selective where you get your advice. I wouldn’t take advice on how to care for my jewelry from my mechanic.
You can do it. Believe in yourself, get good advice, and be patient.