5 Ways To Avoid Weight Loss Ruts

The fitness and nutrition industry continues to get more sophisticated. Ideas about exercise and diet continue to evolve and make us more and more confused. 

I remember when the dairy and meat products once formed the base of the food pyramid, followed by fruits and vegetables and grain products. In 1977, the "Dietary Goals for the United States," was created, suggesting that Americans reduce their fat, saturated fat and cholesterol intake, and increase their carbohydrate consumption to 55 percent to 60 percent of daily calories. The United States Department of Agriculture formed an advisory committee in 1989, based on research appearing in "The Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health" and the National Research Council's "Diet and Health" report. These studies provided further evidence of the importance of fruit, vegetable and carbohydrate consumption, and about the relationship between high cholesterol foods and cancer and heart disease. As of 2011, whole grains form the base of the pyramid, followed by fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy products and fat and oils.

Now we have more questions than answers.

What are we supposed to do?

We hear so many contradictory messages about the most effective path to weight loss that it is easy to feel confused. One day we think we are supposed to eat protein, the next day we think we should avoid it. Fads will come and go. But there is some concrete science to guide our weight loss efforts. and one of the most important guidelines is to avoid the most common pitfalls.

There are some common ruts people I coach run into. I’ve compiled a list to keep you from ever running into the weight loss booby traps.

Do Not Skip Sleep.

Getting fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night causes a significant decrease in the hormone leptin. And low levels of leptin can leave you feeling not only tired the next day, but also extra hungry. Over time, not getting enough sleep leads to an increased risk of obesity. The effects are actually measurable after just one night of sleep shortage. In order for you to continue to see your weight loss efforts flourish try getting to bed at a decent time instead of watching one more show on Netflix.

Failing To Plan

Remember that time you promised to take your kids somewhere so they could have fun. Or what about the time you told your parents that you would spend the day at their house. One of the biggest snags you run into when being away from home without a plan is forgetting to plan because it’s probably not going to end well. You don't have to rearrange your life around having absolutely perfect meals, but a little effort to set yourself up for success can make your life much easier. Before going to a party you should have a plan. Ask yourself questions like:

"Will I eat before the party?" 
"Should I get a to go plate when the meal arrives to avoid overeating?"
"How will I limit myself  to 1 to 2 drinks?" 

There is no completely right or wrong strategy. The key is knowing ahead of time what you want to do. Planning can help keep you from panicking or worse yet, feeling powerless and giving up.

Avoiding Fats.

Consuming a low-fat diet shortchanges yourself on some important satiety pathways. Although you may initially feel full after eating a big salad with fat-free dressing, only a couple of hours may pass before your stomach is growling again. Dietary fats spur the production of signaling molecules which results in hunger not returning for several hours. If you want to stay away from the office vending machine try to get 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories from fat. Things like coconut oil, mixed nuts, and avocados should be in our meal plans more often. 

Swearing Off Sugar.

Swearing off some of your favorite foods has the unfortunate effect of making them more desirable. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as ironic processing. The more we try not to think about something, the more we tend to think about it. Then when we eat a forbidden item, we don't savor it or we quickly and secretly consume it. And that does no favors for our stomachs or self-image. Instead of living in extremes you should plan on including some of your favorite treats in your diet, but in a guilt-free manner. You might surprise yourself and find that a modest portion is far more satisfying when you actually let yourself enjoy it. You will also avoid the 'forget it' syndrome and not feel compelled to eat a whole box.

Changing Too Much Too Fast.

 "Starting Monday I’m cutting out all sugar, going to the gym at 5am, and going to bed at 8pm every day.”

We want weight loss plans to be hard and dramatic, to feel as though they need a Herculean effort on a daily basis. But the research is pretty clear: Simple and gradual change is far more sustainable. Herculean efforts never last long. When I coach clients and give them step 1 I understand it may be less exciting advice to make one small change at a time. But when you have a rough day, a heavy work week, or a couple of sick kids at home, you'll be more likely to stay in the game if what you're working on is small, incremental change. Staying in that mindset, day after day, is what makes you a warrior.