I see a lot of new clients who have come to me after trying a lot of different diets. Maybe a fast, cleanse, a special diet restricting certain foods, or just a really low calorie diet. They might have had great results at first but then trouble keeping the weight off or avoiding the inevitable binge and rebound weight gain that occurs. Or if they haven’t regained weight they can weight plateau and after a while just can’t shift any more weight even though they’re following the same eating patterns. Or clients might be working out really hard trying to lose weight alongside a restricted ‘diet’, and have zero energy to even contemplate going for a walk or run. Or they’re training really hard and actually putting on weight.
Does this sound familiar? Either way they’ve decided to break the cycle and see an expert, which is the first step in the right direction when you’re serious about your health.
I’ve stopped losing weight after a great start on a fast or low carb diet
You might have experienced a big weight loss when you first started out on a low carb, heavy workout type program or a massive calorie restriction. Unfortunately each of your carb stores (glycogen) are attached to water molecules. So when you lose weight through low carb intake, and your carb stores are quickly depleted, but so are your water stores. A large part of your ‘successful’ weight loss after a fasting program is dehydration, which is quickly added back when you start eating carbs again. See the problem?
The other reason can be a slowed metabolism. Your body is adjusting to what is essentially a severe calorie restriction and thinks that it’s being starved . It’s going to start reducing your metabolism which is out of your control, and conserve it’s energy stores in case you don’t start eating again. You don’t have control over this. The idea is to SLIGHTLY reduce your calories and still eat plenty of food, just healthier choices, if you want to lose weight. If you try doing a drastic calorie restriction, fast, or cleanse your metabolism will just drop regardless of how much exercise you are doing.
Also once you start losing weight your body starts adjusting it’s metabolism and energy outputs, trying to reach a balance. It doesn’t like being in energy deficit. So if you’re eating a small energy deficit on most days to lose weight, you will need to eat a little more on some days to keep your body and metabolism humming along. Staying on a strict diet 7 days a week diet is neither fun nor effective for losing weight. Emphasis on the ‘not fun’ bit. Just as we shouldn’t do the same exercise every day of the week, we need to mix up our diet also. Eat plenty of the right healthy foods, and remember that cheating is absolutely OK, but like everything it’s the 80/20 rule and picking half sensible treats like a slice of cake, not the whole cake. If you deny yourself the slice, guess what your body is going to trick you into eating eventually? It’s a matter of figuring out how to slip treats into your healthy eating plan and way of life, so that you can achieve the right balance. This is where the experts come in, they’ll teach you good habits for life.
What diet gets me the perfect body.
There are so many things wrong with this statement. Firstly lets move away from ‘diets’ and into general healthy eating for the long term. Trust me, eat healthy for your health and the perfect weight FOR YOU will follow. And no, we’re not all meant to be the same shape. It’s about health, not the perfect body. We all have different shapes and builds. We’re meant to be strong not skinny. Some people are naturally skinny it’s not their fault. Not all skinny people are healthy. Not all overweight people are healthy. You can be overweight but malnourished.
A healthy approach to eating is about giving your body the nutrients it needs to be healthy from the inside out, and settle at the right weight that’s meant for you. I eat healthy primarily to look after my health, my energy levels, my happiness and my future, hopefully without disease. I don’t eat healthy to be a certain body type. Why be miserable striving for the perfect so called body type which is actually unhealthy because you’re following a ‘diet’ that is so restrictive it’s soul destroying? Eat the occasional treat, be aware of your food choices, try and give your body the goodness it needs to support you on the long haul. Forget the crazy diets and get back to basic nutrition common sense and it will all work out.
Bottom line, love your body and love your food – see food as your friend that can do so much good for you if you let it, not the enemy.
Why do I binge eat?
Your body has a sneaky way of tricking you into eating more food when it thinks it’s being starved. It’s far more clever than you think and no, you can’t control it at all times. Remember from above, you can still be malnourished but overweight. The body tricks you into reversing malnourishment or it’s concerns about being starved via cravings and hormones, and hence rebound weight gain is very common. The body will literally generate cravings and appetite to promote consumption of food to avoid starvation again. It’s a vicious cycle which is all too common with special diets, fasts, cleanses etc. If you’re sticking to protein shakes or diet shakes this can be very common. Liquid meals have radically reduced calories which are harder to sustain, these can increase binging. When you binge on a reduced metabolism you’re going to regain that weight very quickly.
A balanced diet has less chance of binging and rebound weight, this includes some treats as part of a healthy balance, just not too often. Some treats reduce the likelihood of falling off the wagon – so allow yourself the occasional cheats, but just try and choose something that won’t tip you overboard and start off a weekend long binge. Working with a nutritionist you can determine what your energy needs are ,the weight management plan that is going to work best for you, which treats are the most tempting, which can satisfy your sweet or savoury tooth, and how can we work some into your diet?
Why am I not losing weight if I’m training more?
When you start working out or ramping up your training for the first time, you’re likely going to feel REALLY hungry. You’re metabolism has ramped up which is great. You’re could also be craving carbs because your body is like a machine and it needs fuel to work harder. The other mistake that I see is where clients are increasing their food intake well over and above their increased exercise needs, or reaching for the wrong type of extra food.
It’s so much about balance. It comes down to energy in and energy out at the end of the day. Another common mistake is loading up on simple carbs to fuel your exercise and these taking the place of more healthy complex carbs such as wholegrains, vegetables and fruit containing energy, nutrients and fibre. Fibre is key here to keep you feeling full, slow your blood sugar levels and keep things moving .. along.
Can you outrun a bad diet?
Sometimes after a big workout you can also think it’s a pass to eat more sugary foods, special treats or junk, because you’ve just burned a heap of energy. Treats are ok, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a vicious cycle when you start eating a lot more of the wrong foods than you normally would just because you’re exercising more. After a workout you’re probably feeling really tired and dehydrated and your body is in need of proper nutrition and hydration, not a quick sugar hit. Reaching for a bag of lollies or a can of coke after a big run is NOT the same as eating a big bowl of oats or a veggie chicken stir fry. Coke and lollies don’t have protein and healthy nutrients to repair your body, fuel your hormones or fight damage and disease in your insides. All of these are so important when you exercise (or when you don’t exercise to be honest).
There are so many healthy foods that you can eat after exercise to prevent those afternoon cravings after a morning workout. They include a bit of protein and some healthy carbs, and rehydration with good old fashioned water. At the end of the day it’s about eating more of the right foods day in and out, learning about healthy carbs vs occasional carbs, what treats are ok, and what nutrients your body really needs to help it performing better with your new exercise routine.
You can exercise all you want, but you need to look after your body with the right nutrition to make it healthy, not just fit, from the inside out. This will supply your body with the energy it needs for your extra exercise, it will help you recover, it will help your immune system with the stress of extra workouts, and it will help your mood, sleep and hormones. All of these are essential for good health. So no, you can’t outrun a bad diet, and why would you want to? Why not reap extra rewards of a great exercise routine AND a nice healthy balanced approach to food (note the absence of the word ‘diet’).
Are you drinking too many calories in your new fitness regime?
Unless you are a serious endurance athlete or you’ve taken part in a whole day or carnival of team sports, don’t reach for a sports drink. They are laden with sugar and completely unnecessary for most people after sport unless you’re exercising for over a few hours. Instead drink some water and eat some salty nuts to replace your sweat.
I also see a lot of clients reaching for protein shakes thinking they have the protein needs of a professional weight lifter after just a few sessions at the gym. These can also be full of added sugars and calories and are often completely unnecessary. They often have so much protein added in, more than you can absorb, and you’re just investing in really expensive wee. There are so many healthy whole and real foods containing good amounts of real protein, which are more than sufficient for a protein top up after a workout. Check out the protein articles on this website for more tips on this topic.
Research has shown that ultimately solid food calories are more satiating than liquid calories, so switching to food will help you feel more full. This is due to time in the mouth (longer for solid food) and increased hormones linking to satiety. Liquid shake diets tend to last for a 3 month weight loss period and then binging and rebounding often occurs. They are promoted medically for pre lap band surgery to shift some quick weight, before moving onto a regular healthy eating plan, but were never intended for long term weight management.
Remember, radically reduced calorie diets over a longer period can result in the body adapting its own metabolism (self-preservation as it believes it’s going into starvation mode). Again, due to the rebound effect of these liquid diets and high incidence of binging, there is a very high incidence of regaining weight when people return to normal food diets.
Also come on … eating solid food is more enjoyable which will help with not just mood but also satisfaction and as above, less likelihood to resort to binging and weight rebounding.
Lastly these liquid shakes often provide solube fibre in the form of inulin and FOS (Fructo-oligosaccharides) this is how manufacturers attempt to address satiety, and their inclusion is often used to market the product as ‘healthy’. Since Inulin/FOS is indigestible by our bodies, it gets transported to the large intestine where it feeds microbes and promotes fermentation. Inulin/FOS has been dubbed a “prebiotic”, essentially serving as fuel for the good bacteria in your colon/gut. Inulin/FOS may indeed promote the growth of lactobacillus bacteria (good bacteria which prefer to eat it), but they are also feeding other potentially harmful bacteria as well. Studies have shown that Inulin/FOS encourages the growth of Klebsiella, a linked to increased intestinal permeability.
Why do I run out of energy?
Quite simply, if you’re exercising a lot and on a special ‘diet’, you’re probably not eating the right foods to fuel your exercise routine. Either you’re trying to eat a really low carb diet, which is hard for anyone let alone someone undertaking exercise every day or training for a sports event; you’re not eating enough protein to help your body and your hormones rebuild after exercise, or you’re you’re not eating enough nutrient rich food and your immune system is under a lot of stress from all your training, or you’re relying on liquid meals and shakes that don’t satisfy your satiety at all and leave you craving proper food by mid afternoon. There are certain macronutrients which we all need, especially athletes or those stepping up their exercise and training, and these involve carbs, protein and healthy fats in the right amounts and in the right timing before, during and after sport.
Someone training for long periods over one hour has larger carb needs then someone doing a quick 30 minute cardio or cross training workout. Likewise protein is important for recovery, but in different amounts depending on what training you are doing. It’s not one size fits all. Are you eating enough carbs to fuel your exercise, are you eating enough for breakfast, for your post workout meal? The night before? Do you know how to properly carb load – maybe you’re not eating enough carbs in the 24 hours after a big workout. Maybe you’re not eating enough carbs DURING your workout if it goes for more than 90 minutes.
You need to get a personalised nutrition plan which takes into account your goals, your training load, the amounts of food you need, and the gaps in your current diet. This is where a nutritionist comes in, because we’re trained to figure it all out for you and letting you get back to what you what you love. SPORT.
So what to do?
Ultimately, there are a lot of things to consider when you start off on a weight loss and/or fitness journey. Firstly, you need to ditch the diets. Healthy eating is a way of life, it’s not a 6 week challenge and it’s not supposed to make you feel miserable. It should be for the long term. It’s also not just about weight loss, it’s about improved health. You can eat more BUT eat better, and find that it’s actually easier to maintain the ideal weight for your health and energy levels. By learning about basic nutrition and reaching for healthier options you will see a huge difference in your health, mood, energy and probably your weight, IF this is one of your goals (please don’t assume it should be).
My next tip would be to follow the advice of the experts who rely on evidence based nutrition strategies, not fads or severe calorie restrictions or special diets. Quitting major food groups should only be done due to a food intolerance, sensitivity, or ethical/ religious belief, not just to lose weight.
Remember – be kind to your body and look after it for health and long term wellbeing first and foremost, body type is second in line unless you have a medical condition that needs urgent attention (read health and wellbeing as #1 in this instance too).
Next – healthy eating needs to be a change for life alongside being more active, getting enough rest, ensuring you have enough down/quiet time, looking at your social life, family time and happiness, and make sure that the all encompassing approach you are taking is for the long haul. Try making one change a week to one of the above and see how it all falls into place.
Lastly – go read through the free content and articles here on Nourishe and hopefully you can gain some basic nutrition tips to get you started. Or a 1:1 consolation will do wonders for you to get a nutrition program personalised just for you, because we’re all different, and nutritionists are here to give you both nutrition advice and motivation. Sometimes we all just need a little helping hand!
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