It’s frustrating. You’ve refined your eating habits and you have begun walking every day. You have cut out some of the higher calorie foods that you used to eat regularly. You really need to lose about 20 pounds and as your health is at stake, you have every incentive in the world to succeed.
You drop a few pounds. And then no more. You’re stuck. It just won’t come off. All this work, time and effort and no results. It can be maddening and you begin to wonder if you should just return to your old habits; this clearly isn’t working anyway.
What’s really going wrong? And why? And let’s see what the great benefits are to living healthy even when the weight won’t go down.
From the diet point of view, the single biggest reason people don’t lose weight on their food plan is Portion Distortion–not fully understanding the size of what one portion of any single food is. Also, a good dietician or nutritionist will be able to see if your ratio of protein to carbs is appropriate for you, because everyone is a little different in that area. Even people that make the switch to eating healthfully have to realize that you can gain plenty of weight eating healthy food if eat too much. Yes, you can become overweight on a diet of brown rice, fish, fruits and vegetables if you eat enough. And yes, it may not be healthy, but you can lose weight while eating pizza and hamburgers.
From the exercise and activity side of the equation, the culprit is usually the intensity of the exercise routine. I have seen many, many people who tell me they are walking daily, but when I place them on a treadmill to see how the pace of their walking is, it becomes obvious that the walking they are doing isn’t intense enough to burn a reasonable amount of calories. Also, many people are extremely focused on the aerobic portion of their exercise program but all but ignore the muscle-building aspect and therefore never get their metabolic rate higher. Hence, they may be burning more calories while they are exercising, but they aren’t getting the constant and consistent higher rate of calorie usage when at rest.
Are you active other than exercising? Are you walking from place to place instead of using your car or a bus? Are you taking stairs instead of elevators? Do you have an opportunity to garden or play some leisurely sports? Can you park your car a little further from your destination than you might normally? All of this adds up over the course of a year and leads to many additional pounds lost in the long term.
Then there are the other issues of that contribute to weight loss (or lack thereof) aside from calories consumed and calories used. Are you sleeping well at night? If you aren’t getting enough sleep and quality sleep, it negatively affects your metabolism. Do you drink enough water each day? In addition to the other negative effects of dehydration, a slower metabolism is also a result. And finally, if you are stressed beyond normal limits, this will also cause your metabolism to lag.
There is one last thing to check out. Have a blood test to see how your thyroid function is doing. A slow thyroid (known as hypothyroid) will make weight loss a very frustrating experience. This is usually easily dealt with by an endocrinologist. Once thyroid function is brought to normal levels, you will probably see better results for all of your efforts. This situation is not very prevalent, but some type of thyroid issue does affect 12% of the population.
It is crucial to remember that every person’s body has its own personality. Some people will lose weight at a more rapid rate, others slower. It doesn’t make a difference as long as the trend is correct and the weight is coming off. It doesn’t matter if it takes three months or three years to get to your goal weight, as long as you are moving in the right direction.
What happens when you have done everything suggested and your weight still won’t go down? First of all, it is important to remember that everything you are doing will help you when you look at it from a health perspective. Even without weight loss, proper exercise and proper eating can help you prevent and control diabetes, help you with your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and your overall well-being. Exercise is the closest thing we have to the magic pill of health. Remember that lack of exercise and activity, regardless of your weight, is the number one risk factor for many illnesses. Eating well, especially including plenty of vegetables and fruits in your diet, can prevent heart disease and most cancers.
Too much emphasis has been placed on weight loss alone. And to this extent, people have done some very unhealthy things just to lose weight while sacrificing their health. They go on radical diets that reduce calories too much so they don’t get proper nutrition. They eliminate entire categories of food and don’t get adequate vitamins and minerals. They go on diets that cause loss of muscle and water more than fat weight. Some are left severely constipated and increase their risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis. Many can be protein deficient or vitamin deficient. Some develop eating disorders in order to lose weight. When we concentrate on our health, weight loss will follow. Keep the emphasis on healthy habits—eating properly with portion control and exercising, and everything else that is supposed to happen will follow.
Most importantly, we must become more accepting of who we are. Some of us just will not get down to an ideal weight. Even if we will, we need to feel good about who we are every step of the way. We don’t only become “good” once a specific number appeals on a scale. In Part II, we will discuss some concrete ideas of acceptance what we have and who we are.
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Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. certified personal trainer and a lifestyle fitness coach with over 17 years of professional experience. He is the co-director of the Jerusalem-based weight loss and stress reduction center Lose It! Visit Lose It!‘s website at www.loseit.co.il or contact Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org.