Getting your body into a shape you feel comfortable and happy with can be a complicated and frustrating process. While you watch what you eat like crazy, and do all the right things, when you get on the scale, sometimes that number just won’t go down. It can leave you feeling despondent and miserable.
How is it when you are doing everything you can - choosing healthy snacks, cutting out sugar, and watching your calories - you cannot get to the place where you want to be? This can lead to you feeling like you should abandon your plans to get a better body and head for the nearest fast-food drive-thru.
Here are my top five which have the potential to see those pounds staying firmly on when you are trying your very best to battle your way to a better body.
Don’t Eat Too Much Fruit
Yes, fruit is good for you. And it’s also the healthiest form of ‘sweet.’ But if you eat too much of it, it can negate your best efforts as badly as a bar of chocolate. Fruit contains great amounts of fiber, vitamins, and fluid for your diet. But it also has a lot of sugar in the form of fructose. And if your body consumes more sugar than it uses for energy, or what you can store in your muscles, that sugar goes to your fat cells for storage.
You can combat this by having a little fruit every day. Try and limit it to one or two servings. Think about making your serving size the same as a tennis ball. Prepackaged fruit is often double this. This is a loose recommendation and you need to keep in mind how much physical activity you are doing, as well as your age, and lifestyle.
Go for fruits with a low glycemic index (GI) – this is the relative ranking of carbohydrates in foods, to how they affect your blood glucose levels. Fruits with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested. This means they are absorbed and metabolized with a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and usually, insulin levels.
Examples of fruits with a low GI are pears, apples, raspberries, strawberries, and grapefruit. You don’t get a blood sugar spike. And you will feel fuller for longer.
Watch Your Artificial Sweeteners
When something says ‘zero-calorie’ you automatically think it’s the answer to your weight loss prayers. Not so! Sweeteners may actually have the opposite effect. In a study carried out on mice, which were given saccharin, sucralose, or aspartame, they all developed glucose intolerance. This is a metabolic condition associated with obesity and type-2 diabetes. When researchers did this on human volunteers, four out of the seven got glucose intolerant after using saccharin for one week. As I would say if I saw a mouse scuttling across the floor, “eek!”
Another study carried out by the Canadian Medical Association Journal analyzed the habits of nearly 406,000 people. It revealed that non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, and stevioside aren't effective for weight loss. The opposite may be true. So, if you want to steer clear, ditch all sweetened beverages.
So, are natural sugars the answer? Yes and no. Agave nectar or honey may offer better quality than artificial sweeteners and processed sugars. But they can still add a significant amount of sugar to your diet. As a guide, try and limit added sugars of all kinds to less than 24 grams a day for women (6 teaspoons), and 36 grams for men (nine teaspoons).
If you cut ALL your daily sweet treats out, that denial is going to leave you craving more. Keep moderation in mind and make healthy sweet choices.
If you are feeling confused when you are looking at all those ingredients in the store, there are at least 61 different names for sugar. Here are just a few:
Check for them listed on food labels. This can help you with accidental overconsumption. And also look out for the sneaky 0g of sugar which then has a hidden added sugar. Yes, they all mean the same thing!
Be Careful with Refined Carbs
Many eating plans tell you carbs are going to steer you off course if you want to reach your weight goal. Paleo, and Keto to name a few.
But it’s really all about WHAT carbs you eat rather than how much. Refined carbs, like pasta and white bread, will cause you to have a surge of blood sugar, and this makes your pancreas produce insulin. Your body then gets kicked into digesting and absorbing food more rapidly. Then you end up with an energy crash which can cause damage to your metabolism in the long run.
Meanwhile, complex carbs, think whole grains, vegetables, and quinoa, contain more fiber. This slows your digestion down and will keep your metabolism running smoothly without spiking. When looking for carbohydrates, check for grains with fiber and bypass anything that says ‘enriched’ on the packet.
Speaking of fiber, you should be looking to get at least 25 grams per day from a variety of sources, including, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. This helps you have great gut health and keeps you regular.
You can also get fiber from the following vegetables:
When you read ‘low fat’ it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming it will help weight loss. Yes, in theory, fat, gram for gram has twice as many calories as proteins and carbs. However, products with low-fat claims are usually not significantly lower in calories than their full-fat equivalents. They can also have higher levels of sugar to compensate.
A study investigating the effects of different fats on satiety discovered those who ate regular muffins were less hungry two hours later than the people who ate fat-free muffins.
So, let’s kill the myth that all fats are bad for you. Yes, trans fats can do some major damage to your health and body, but you can't cut out all fats. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. In fact, fat is satiating and satisfying. You have to eat less of it to feel full, even though it’s higher calories.
When following an eating plan, embrace energy-rich, healthy fats. The ones to look for are monounsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. These can be found in oily fish, like salmon, tuna and mackerel, nuts, avocados, and oils.
Watch Your Protein Intake
Protein helps build lean, calorie-burning muscles. It’s possibly one of the most powerful tools there is when it comes to weight loss. Protein keeps you fuller for longer, helps you fight cravings, and reduces the urge to overeat or snack between meals. In fact, a high-protein diet can reduce your food intake by as much as 20 percent. Digesting protein requires much more energy than fat or carbohydrates, this can assist with boosting your metabolism. And the more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories needed to perform basic functions) is, so you can burn more calories.
But as with everything, you can eat too much of it. If you overdo your protein intake, you can end up storing those excess calories as fat.
Studies have shown people on a high-protein diet have a 90 percent greater risk of gaining more than 10 percent of their body weight when eating a higher amount.
For an athlete to gain muscle and lose weight the Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics recommends consuming 1.2 – 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight. This equates to a 150-pound person needing about 81-115 grams while someone who's 180 pounds needs 97-138 grams. If you're less active or not looking to build lean muscle, your numbers could actually be less, coming in at around 50 grams a day.
Proteins that can assist with weight loss include salmon, shrimp, lean chicken, and fish, as well as nut butters. But stick to two tablespoons. Eggs, low-fat yogurt (check the sugar and sweeteners) and unsweetened coconut yogurt are other alternatives. And if you are vegetarian or vegan, you can go to black beans, quinoa, tempeh, and tofu.
You CAN reach your body goals, just watch out for those sneaky ‘health foods’ which can trip you up! And if you do eat something you shouldn’t, don’t beat yourself up. Getting to the best place you want for your mental and physical is a process, keeping moving forward and making those simple shifts.