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You have pretty good eating habits, you skip dessert most of the time, you go to the gym at least three or four times per week- but your weight and measurements are not changing. Why not?
Reason #1: Your head is not in the game.
One of the most important factors in body transformation success is your attitude and commitment. Weight loss can be challenging. Sticking to an eating plan even when those around you are not or resisting the urge to see what's in the fridge after dinner when you're bored takes discipline. Workouts that give you the serious results are uncomfortable.
Being 100% committed to your goals and having that 'do whatever it takes' attitude guarantees your success. If something doesn't work, you will try something else. You will push for the last few reps of push-ups; you will have a plan when going out for dinner. And you will certainly keep reading this article to make sure you're not making any mistakes!
Reason #2: You’re not keeping a food journal.
Before I argue the case for food journaling, it's important to mention that knowing what to eat is an important first step. Journaling about your double double and donut for breakfast won't get you anywhere. I'm going to save the specifics of what to eat for maximum results in my next article.
In my experience, there is a huge difference between a self-reported overview of the week’s food intake, and reading a detailed food journal. The self-report sounds something like this: “My diet was pretty good. I went out for lunch once by I had a salad. Friday wasn’t so good- I didn’t get the chance to eat all day.” If someone’s diet is ‘good’, why isn’t the weight coming off?
We are really good at justifying poor eating, or not taking into account the entire story. Poor self-reporting is not intentional; we simply are not aware of everything that we eat.
A detailed food journal (when the food was eaten, how much and specifically what type of food) tells the whole story and takes into account every morsel of food that was eaten. It accounts for the handful of pistachios that were eaten while making dinner, the portion of steak for dinner, and the cream in the coffee. When you scribble everything you nibble, the calorie count can quickly add up.
The most informative food journals will include nutrition information as well, such as calories, grams of fat, protein, carbohydrates, sugar, and fibre and milligrams of sodium. You can learn things you may have never known- such as switching to ‘light’ peanut butter only cuts 10 calories per serving. Who knew!
Food journaling works. People who commit to accurately tracking their food lose weight. Yet so many people have come up with reasons why they cannot keep one (see reason #1). Food journals do take time; they force you to measure out your food and to become aware of everything that you eat. As a result, most people start planning their meals, and start eating a little less. It’s much easier and more comfortable to be blissfully unaware of the calorie count of a restaurant meal, how much sugar is in a fruity drink or to eat snacks from a shared bowl without ever really knowing how much you had. But, at the end of the day, isn’t fitting into a pair of skinny jeans and having infinite energy worth it?
Reason #3: You’re not working hard enough.
Sure, you can lose weight by dieting alone, but you’ll be losing both lean muscle and body fat. The result is the number on the scale going down, but your body composition, or percent body fat, staying the same.
Any exercise is a step in the right direction, but if you are serious about changing the way you look, you had better get comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s time to get serious about your workouts.
Getting serious starts by having a plan for your workouts, and hitting the gym with purpose. If you ‘wing it’ you may never get the workout your body deserves. If you do the same thing each time, you will plateau; you will also get extremely bored.
At the gym, focus on your workout while you’re working out. If you are thinking about what to have for dinner while doing push-ups, I guarantee that your workout will suffer. Instead, focus on what you are doing, the muscles that are working, and give yourself plenty of positive self-talk to push yourself that extra bit.
Reason #4: A hypothetical tiger is chasing you all day long.
The human body is built to handle stress, such as when a saber-tooth tiger decides he wants to have you for dinner, but only for short periods of time
When the body is under stress, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, the body's control center in the brain, sends signals to release the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol causes the heart to beat faster and blood sugar to spike, which is very advantageous if you are running away from a tiger.
Extended periods of stress such as feeling overwhelmed at work, not getting enough sleep, and family problems, however, have negative effects on the body. Cortisol interacts with insulin in the body, causing a long-term increase in blood sugar levels, which can lead to weight gain. Cortisol also signals the body to store fat, specifically in the abdominal region.
There are several ways to reduce stress. Getting regular exercise and regulating blood sugar levels through diet will help. Set time aside to relax or meditate to help keep stress levels in check. Adequate sleep is also important. You can also talk to your health care provider about supplements to help manage stress.
When it comes to fat loss, it is important to consider all the components required for success- sound nutrition, effective exercise and stress management. In my next article, I will explore what you should be writing in your food journal.
Tanja Shaw is a Kinesiologist and Fitness Coach, specializing in weight loss, group fitness, pre and postnatal fitness, and health and wellness programs. She owns Ascend Fitness Coaching, home to Ascend Fitness Boot Camp, Stroller Boot Camp, and personal training programs. For more fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.