Updated: Feb 26
Let me start off by saying we are NOT doctors and weight loss is very unique to the individual. We always recommend consulting a doctor before adding any supplements to your regimen and potentially getting some blood work done to see if everything is in check. It’s always great to know your baseline! With that said, when we’re working with clients we do see some similarities regarding weight loss and have found when these things are put in place, the weight starts to shift in the right direction. Here’s what we’ve found.
The problem: You’re eating too much.
It’s really easy to over portion our food. Our eyes can sometimes be bigger than our stomachs, and we equate being uncomfortably full to being done eating. We may eat on the go or are distracted in front of the computer or tv so we’re not really paying attention to what’s going into our bodies. Furthermore, if we frequently go out to eat, restaurant portions are usually quite large.
The solution: It’s important to understand the portion sizes of various foods. We love Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate as a visual for what your plate should look like. It’s a great representation on how to portion out your different macronutrients. Hint: load up on the veggies of all different colors! Veggies are nutrient-dense but not calorie dense – meaning they are loaded with nutrients but are low in calories so you can eat a lot of them without adding a ton of calories to your meal. Here’s another great representation for portions from Precision Nutrition.
You always want to think about your fullness on a scale. 1 being you’re starving and may pass out, 10 being you may be sick if you eat another bite. Check out this fullness scale as a guide from UHS Berkley! You basically want to eat when you’re at a 3 or a 4, not starving because that may cause you to overeat or eat really fast. Then you want to stop when you’re at about a 6 or a 7. You feel satiated meaning you’re no longer hungry.
The problem: You’re not eating enough.
A lot of times we think we need to greatly reduce our caloric intake to lose weight. It is true that we need to burn calories and have a deficit in caloric intake to lose weight, but greatly reducing your caloric intake to a dangerous amount can be detrimental to your health short and long term. Your body needs calories to function and perform at its best at baseline, and if you’re not feeding it the necessary number of calories it needs in order to do that, your body will suffer. This is called your BMR – Basil Metabolic Rate and it makes up about 60-70% of the calories we use (“burn” or expend). This includes the energy your body uses to maintain the basic function of your living and breathing body. Such functions include your heart beating, cell production, breathing, maintaining your body temperature, circulation, and nutrient processing. So if you’re cutting calories below your BMR, this can be dangerous.
The solution: Figure out what your BMR is and calculate roughly how many calories you are eating. You can use a food tracker such as My Fitness Pal or My Plate. You can find your BMR here with a calculator or by using this formula:
· Men: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years)
· Women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years)
The National Institute of Health also has a great tool for getting a baseline of how many calories to eat when you’re trying to lose weight. Remember these are not 100% accurate but they’re a good ballpark number to strive for. Knowing these numbers can help you figure out if you’re eating enough calories to begin with and where they are coming from. Are they all from carbohydrates? Are you not eating enough protein? Etc. It is true that if we absorb more energy (calories) than we expend, we gain weight. And if we absorb less energy (calories) than we expend we lose weight. So the thought process of eating less will help us lose weight is understandable, but it can be a little more complicated. A lot of times we can overestimate how much we’re eating, thinking we’re eating enough when we’re really not. We can also think we’re not eating a lot, but in reality, we are still overconsuming. Tracking can help sort this out and get a more realistic idea of our portion sizes and hold us accountable. Try it for a week or so and see what happens!
Also choose foods that are less processed that you enjoy and will eat! Play around with your macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) and see what feels best for you.
The problem: You’re not sleeping enough.
It is recommended that adults get on average between 7-9 hours of sleep for optimal health. Are you getting that amount of sleep? Neither is more than a third of US adults according to the CDC. We’re sleep deprived, and it can wreak havoc on our health and may be why you’re not losing the weight you’re working so hard to achieve. In fact, new research suggests that those who don’t sleep well consume more calories throughout the day. They not only consume more calories, but they crave higher calorie foods more than those that sleep the recommended 7-9 hours. Think about it, the last time you didn’t get a good night’s sleep and you were tired during the day what did you do? Did you consume more caffeine and opt for feel-good foods like pizza or pasta? Did you skip your workout too because you were too tired? This all adds up.
Furthermore, the amount that we sleep has been linked to the body’s production of appetite-regulating hormones and lack of sleep is associated with higher levels of the hormone ghrelin which increases appetite. It’s also associated with lower levels of the hormone leptin which regulates your feeling of fullness. This can set you up for weight gain. Sleeping more can help bring these hormones to balance. More sleep will also give you more energy so you’re less likely to skip your workouts!
The solution: Okay obviously get more sleep – but this can be hard. First of all figure out why you’re not sleeping well. Are you going to bed too late/getting up too early? Do your animals keep you up at night? Are you a new parent and sleep deprived? Some things you can’t control (crying baby for example) and others you can such as what time you go to sleep. Focus on what you can control and go from there. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
· Give yourself a bedtime and wake time and keep it consistent
· If you’re a new parent trade sleep times so both of you can get some sleep
· Shut down electronics an hour before bed
· Don’t sleep with your pets (I know it’s hard they’re so snuggly!)
· Keep all light out of your room
· Sleep with a sound machine if you need white noise
Check out our blog on sleep hygiene for more ideas on how to get a great night's sleep!
The problem: You’re not moving enough
Your body was meant to move. Period. Unfortunately, with our sedentary lifestyle and 80% of the workforce having sedentary jobs, movement can be challenging. We’re not just talking about exercise; we’re also talking about movement throughout your day. We sleep, we wake up and sit at our desk all day, we sit and watch TV, we sit and eat, then we go to bed. It’s a lot of sitting! We need to move our bodies. Movement throughout the day, purposeful exercise on most days, and proper nutrition are all key components of weight loss and weight management. We need both. Lack of regular movement and exercise can put us at risk for a multitude of diseases, most of which can be prevented such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more. It also increases our mood, decreases feelings of anxiety and depression, and improves our musculoskeletal and bone health. What’s not to love? But why is it so challenging?
The solution: Let’s get moving! The American Heart Association recommends the following for exercise: 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise AND 2 days of strength training OR 75 minutes of vigorous exercise AND 2 days of strength training. According to the CDC, 1 of 2 people aren’t getting the recommended amount of exercise. This may seem like a lot but broken down it’s roughly 30 minutes a day. Take small baby steps to increase your movement throughout the day. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Park far away and walk or get off one T stop before your stop and walk
Take the stairs whenever possible
Get a friend to workout with you
Get a trainer (ahem we’re available!)
Have walking meetings or phone calls
Stand during meetings/phone calls
Schedule your workouts and block of your calendar
The problem: You’re stress levels are too high
Stress is a huge component of overall health and unfortunately, our stress levels are only increasing. There are many reasons why stress affects our ability to not only maintain our weight but also lose weight. One of them is cortisol, aka the stress hormone. Here’s what happens:
When we’re stressed our adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol and as a result of this glucose (our primary source of energy) is released into the bloodstream. This gives us energy to tackle the stressor – aka fight or flight. Regardless of the stressor our brain and body think a freight train is coming at us straight ahead. Once the threat has subsided, that high wears off and our blood sugar spike drops and cortisol kicks into high gear to replenish our energy supply quickly. This is when we start to crave foods that make us feel better – sugar and processed foods! Think about it, do you really want a salad when you’re stressed? We reach for sugary foods because it's quick energy that our body thinks it needs, but then the body ends up storing this excess sugar usually in our abdominal area. And the cycle continues which is what causes us to gain weight. High levels of cortisol also decrease metabolism making it even harder to lose weight.
Our reaction to stress can also cause us to gain weight such as emotional eating, skipping meals, eating out more (with bigger portions and more “feel good foods” such as pizza, pasta etc.), exercising less, and sleeping less. The list goes on and on. With these two combined, stress can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to weight management.
The solution: Stress is inevitable, but it’s how we deal with the stress that can make or break our weight management goals. Come up with healthier coping mechanisms to handle your stress so that when it occurs, you don’t reach for the bag of chips. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Make exercise a priority, it’s a fabulous stress reducer!
Practice mindful eating to get an understanding of when you’re actually hungry vs emotionally eating
Practice mindfulness techniques such as breathwork, Yoga or meditation to help combat your stress
Keep a journal about what’s stressing you out
Drink more water as sometimes we can mistake hunger for thirst
As a reminder weight loss is a unique journey and there is not a one size fits all solution. If you need help with your weight loss goals, ask us!! We’re happy to help!
author: Melissa Dupuis, MPH, CHES