Wanna know my top weight loss tips?
Before we get into what you’re really here for, I feel it’s important to understand how weight gain happens in the first place. Gaining weight perpetuates a vicious metabolic cycle that causes the body to keep storing more fat. Although there is more research to be done and the full understanding of weight distribution isn’t completely identified yet, I’m going to share what has been discovered and what we can do about it.
There are several factors that regulate your weight: age, gender, diet, habits, sleep, stress, race, culture, muscle mass, medications, chronic health conditions, physical activity level, and so on. Some of these factors we can change, but many we cannot. Therefore, we must focus on ones that we can influence to lose weight, like diet, activity, sleep, and stress.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about carbs. Although they do play a major role in your metabolism, carbs are our main source of energy. It’s the type of carbs that make a difference. When you eat refined carbs like cake and cookies your blood sugar spikes because there is no fiber to slow down the rate of absorption. Blood sugar spikes high causing the pancreas to release insulin, which signals the liver to store more fat. Considering, that if you just changed your carbs to complex sources like whole grains, the fiber content will slow absorption, reduce blood sugar spikes, provide sustained energy, and store less fat. #goals!
It’s not about cutting carbs out, it’s about eating the right type of carbohydrates. See your brain loves sugar and it will continue craving it, leading to more consumption and frequent sugar crashes. This is where the cycle begins. Sugar addiction starts as a kid, but we must break it as an adult. Limit candy, cookies, pastries, pies, and ice cream. You can still enjoy these sweet snacks, but in moderation or the cycle of weight gain continues. As a child, you need healthy carbohydrates to grow taller and you can eat a lot without gaining weight, but the same isn’t true as an adult, as the body is fully grown. Therefore eating excess calories, especially refined carbs, will cause us to grow wider, not taller.
Over time this cycle repeats itself daily and your cells start to resist insulin’s signal, causing what’s known as insulin resistance. This eventually leads to pre-diabetes and then Type 2 diabetes unless lifestyle changes are made.
The type of food you eat influences where your fat is stored. If you eat a poor diet high in refined sugars and saturated fats, like most processed foods, you’re likely to store more fat in your midsection. Fat around abdominal organs is known as visceral fat and is associated with more chronic metabolic diseases like diabetes, fatty liver disease, and heart disease. As opposed to eating a healthier diet with whole foods, lean protein, and unsaturated fats, you’re less likely to store fat, but if you eat more calories than needed, they will be distributed into muscles and subcutaneous areas like the hips, breasts, and buttocks. However, fat distribution is largely individualized as we all carry fat differently, but diet and lifestyle have a big influence on this. Consequently, we can’t target specific areas of fat to lose.
Often with dieting, the problem is that you’re not eating enough of the good stuff to help your body heal. Yet, the first thing we do when trying to lose weight is to cut out our sweets & treats. This is great, but I would recommend starting with adding in more healthy options first.
Focus your diet on getting in more whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats. Fuel up on fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, probiotics, and protein to help build muscle, repair gut lining for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, fight cancer and chronic disease, improve cardiovascular strength and increase metabolic function.
Cardio is great, especially for heart health! However, unless you’re a marathon runner, strictly cardio isn’t best for fat loss. Building muscle leads to a faster metabolic rate, as it takes more energy to maintain a muscular body than it does one with less muscle. Adding weight training to your exercise plan will lead to faster fat loss.
This is when “bulking” comes up because often women don’t lift weights for fear they will bulk. Let me just say, it’s not easy to gain muscle. You have to be consistent, lift heavier weight, and eat a lot to gain weight for bulk. Trust me, if building muscle were that easy there wouldn’t be bodybuilding competitions.
So you want to “tone, but not bulk”. Toning muscles means building them with weights and eating protein. Choose a weight that’s comfortable and challenging, but not compromising form. Over time, as you get stronger, ideally you will increase the weight to continue making progress or stick with the same weight to maintain your build. It’s not so much about the heaviness of the weight, you can still get a great workout and activate muscles with lighter weight, just be sure to focus on burning that specific muscle and maintain proper form.
Muscles only grow when they need to. So if you’re not using them, they won’t build.
Sleep, Stress, and the Rest
Diet and exercise are the main focus of a standard weight loss plan, but you’re missing a lot of other contributing factors. Sleep and stress are major players in your weight regulation due to excess cortisol. The hormone cortisol is released when we need focus and attention, like in a fight or flight response. This can be from an actual or perceived threat, constant worry, high stress, or lack of sleep. Cortisol releases stored glucose into the blood for an energy source to supply the brain and muscles with fuel if needed. Insulin causes more weight gain. So even in the absence of food, your blood sugar can still stimulate insulin and fat storage. Plus your liver can make its own glucose supply so we can’t just ignore our stress and poor sleeping habits and expect to reach our wellness goals.
While you sleep your body is repairing itself so it’s crucial to your health, and weight, to get quality sleep for more than a couple of hours. Getting into full REM sleep will drastically help your weight loss goals.
For the rest, like our genetics and race, there’s not much we can do about it, yet they still influence our fat distribution. This is why we may resemble a parent’s body type as this is where genetics determines the location of where you distribute new fat cells. We can’t change genetics, at least not yet, so embrace your traits!
Now that you understand some of the major influences of weight gain, let’s take a look at what happens when you lose weight.
Lose Weight SLOWLY!
Losing weight too quickly causes your hunger hormones to go crazy. Some diets give quick results, but all of a sudden you’re incredibly hungry and nothing seems to satisfy it. These hormones are relentless when it comes to increasing hunger. This is because they have a goal to fill up fat cells. Leptin is a hormone that comes from the fat cells to signal the brain to stop eating when storage is full. Once fat cells are full again leptin levels will stabilize. This hormone is meant to actually protect us from gaining weight, but when we eat too much all the time we become resistant to leptin.
PROBLEM: Losing weight too fast is associated with very LOW LEPTIN levels meaning you won’t get the signal to stop eating. Metabolism slows down all internal processes to conserve energy and store more fat. Now you’re burning fewer calories, have more fatigue, and are still hungry. Plateau phase and then the weight starts coming back. None of this is your fault, it’s just the way the body works. It’s science, not you’re lack of effort.
Once the towel is thrown in and you resume your old dieting ways weight comes back fast. The yo-yo effect of up and down dieting. Dieting will actually ruin your normal metabolism. See with each diet you try, metabolism runs slower and slower. It doesn’t just speed up again once you have stopped dieting. It’s running slower for months after you have quit the keto fad. Also, with each drastic change in weight, you become more resistant to leptin. Your cells don’t recognize the satiation signals like you used to, so we overeat, consuming more calories than the body has no use for so it stores more as fat. The more fat you have, the more hormones are produced by fat cells that contribute to increased inflammation and oxidative stress…and the cycle continues.
My Top Weight Loss Tips
Let’s get to the good part, shall we? Losing weight will require another blog because it’s pretty complex, but I’ll give you some of my best highlights here.
- Set realistic goals- Set yourself up for success. Losing weight gradually, about 1-2 lbs a week, is a better goal. Losing weight slower is better for sustainable weight loss. But, unless you have a heart condition, you shouldn’t be weighing yourself every day. Personally, I only weigh myself about once a week, not daily because your weight will fluctuate. I also use a scale that measures more than just the pounds. The FitTrack Pro breaks down your body mass into fat, bone, muscle, hydration, and more!
- You may not be eating enough- The body needs to digest food for energy. If it’s not getting enough of the right foods, metabolism will slow and metabolic functions will start to malfunction resulting in disease. Often, we cut calories to lose weight, but this may not be the problem. Instead of focusing on the number of calories, focus on the type of calories. Are they coming from nutritious foods or junk? Because 200 calories of cake are not the same as 200 calories of kale. This is where macros come in and if you’re not sure what macros are check out What Are Macros and How do You Count Them?
- Not eating enough healthy food- Cutting bad food out is great, but if you’re not replacing those calories with healthy options, you’re not going to get the results you want. If you’re having a hard time getting in all the fruits and veggies try supplementing with fiber, probiotics, and super greens. Focus on ADDING more water, fiber, healthy fats, protein, and complex carbs.
- Incorporate weight training- Building muscle will ultimately speed up your resting metabolic rate, or BMR. This is the machine that uses your calories as energy to control temperature regulation, digestion, brain speed, and more. This is separate from the calories that you burn in a workout. If you have more muscle, you will increase how many calories you burn each day.
- Stay hydrated- Sometimes when you feel hungry, you’re actually just thirsty. Staying well hydrated can boost metabolism and help suppress the appetite. In general, you should consume 1/2 of your body weight in ounces of water. So if you’re 150lbs, you should have a goal of around 75 ounces of water, this is the minimum recommended amount. Sometimes it can be hard to drink that much water, but just do your best!
- Manage sleep & stress- Focus on getting quality sleep even if it means going to bed a little earlier. Practice stress management techniques to reduce cortisol levels. If you need some tips for a better night’s sleep check out Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
- Learn what to limit- Limit foods that are processed, meaning prepacked or fast food. Limit sweets & treats like saturated fats and refined carbs. Soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, and premade coffee usually have a lot of sugar or sugar substitutes, which can still contribute to weight gain regardless if they are zero calories or zero sugar. To learn more about this read, Is Diet Soda Healthy?
Shedding some pounds is a great goal, but it’s better to focus on overall health and wellness, not just the numbers on the scale. Check-in with how your mental health, sleep, stress, energy levels, chronic pain, and digestive health are improving. Remember you’re changing your lifestyle so be patient with yourself and resist feelings of guilt or punishment if you have a cookie or 3. It took years to establish your current eating and activity levels, so changing them will take time. It’s not a race, it’s a marathon.
If you found this helpful, check out Avoid These 5 Mistakes in Your Weight Loss Plan.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health conditions without consulting your healthcare provider. Information used is based on experience and opinion, not 100% evidence. Always consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website. Some links in this article may contain affiliate links.