By Rachel Fiske
There is a lot of bad advice out there when it comes to weight loss. And the consequences of that are endless confusion about the “right” way to embark on a weight loss plan, and a lot of people feeling discouraged and upset when little to no results are seen, despite weeks or months of hard work.
Naturally, if you are devoting time, energy and money to eating well and exercising, but are either not losing weight or possibly even gaining weight, this is a recipe for failure. The good news, if you are putting in real effort to lose weight and see no progress over time, this is probably a sign from your body that something isn’t right, and changes are in order.
So, which is the right approach? Should you opt for the common low-fat diet approach, or go in the opposite direction of the low-carb model? Maybe give Paleo a try? What about calorie counting? The truth is, there is no exact approach that will work perfectly for everybody, as each individual is biochemically diverse and has slightly different nutritional needs. However, there are some very common reasons as to why you might be hitting a road block in your weight loss plan.
4 common and detrimental weight loss mistakes
While studies are slowly but surely debunking the previously thought benefits of the low-fat/no-fat diet model in terms of both weight loss and cardiovascular benefits, this is still the number one mistake made by those wanting to lose weight. Contrary to popular belief, not incorporating enough good fats in the diet will often lead to more body fat. Also keep in mind that the human brain consists of 70% fat, and we absolutely need high quality dietary fat for optimal brain function, hormone balance and weight loss.
One main reason for this phenomenon is that, without good fats in the diet, we experience more cravings and hunger, and less appetite control. Many processed foods claim to be “fat free” or “low fat,” but what they don’t include on the packaging is that these naturally occurring fats have usually been replaced with added sugars and chemicals, and these are the real culprits in weight gain.
Omit processed and packaged foods and replace them with high quality fats such as avocado, flax, olive and coconut oils, grass fed butter, ghee, raw nuts and seeds, and naturally occurring fats from wild caught fish and grass fed meats. Avoid rancid oils such as soy, corn and canola oils.
Believing that all calories are created equal
The commonly held belief of “calories in, calories out,” is not as simple as we would like to think. The human body is an incredibly complex biochemical web of processes that are effected and controlled by hormones, and this is where the very real differences in calories come into play. The type of calories we eat has a major impact on the processes that control appetite food cravings, and weight loss.
Every food has a thermic effect, which means that certain foods affect the body’s energy expenditure more than others, depending on the energy needed to metabolize it. This study explains that the thermic effect of fat is 2-3%, carbohydrates come in at 6-8%, and protein at a whopping 25-35%. This means that protein requires more energy (calories) to metabolize than carbs or fat, so it majorly boosts our metabolism and, therefore, our weight loss.
Calorie counting should be just one tool of many to develop a nutrient dense diet that promotes general health, disease prevention and weight loss. The beauty is that if you are eating satiating foods (ones that keep you feeling full, like good fats) and foods with a high thermic effect (protein), you will naturally consume less calories. In fact, multiple studies have shown that eating a lower carb and higher protein diet will result in weight loss.
Doing a cleanse or detox
While safe and proper detoxing methods have a time and a place, the vast majority are unhealthy and will lead to weight gain in the long run. If given the right nutrients from whole foods and through the elimination of processed and packaged foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, your body is designed to effectively detoxify itself via the liver and kidneys.
Undergoing a gentle food based cleanse that includes healthy protein, fat and plenty of fruits and vegetables is certainly safe and effective, but embarking on a juice fast or any other type of highly restricted eating plan can actually damage your metabolism and almost always leads to rebound weight gain.
Regular exercise offers a huge range of benefits, from cardiovascular health to injury prevention to weight loss. However, exercising too much and not allowing your body the rest and recovery time it needs will often lead to weight gain or weight loss resistance (not being able to lose weight despite your best efforts).
The primary reason that overexercising can lead to weight gain comes down to our primary stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is also a fat storage hormone that is released in moments of acute stress, and allows us to react accordingly (consider the classic running-from-the-tiger example). However, chronic stress places an unnatural hormonal burden on the body, causing us to over-produce cortisol and other stress hormones. Chronic stress can include mental/emotional types of stress (such as a death in the family, birth of a child, or dysfunctional relationship), but it can also be physical in nature, such a car accident, foods laden with pesticides, lack of sleep or overexercise.
Be sure to take cues from your body and not overdo it when you’re feeling fatigued. You should feel energized instead of exhausted after a workout, and should always switch up intense strength and cardio days with more restorative types of activities such as yin or restorative yoga, walking and meditation.
There is a lot more to consider with weight loss than most people think. While for some it might be simple, for many it is important and necessary to consider factors such as these. Along with the points discussed here, also remember that sleep, toxicity, getting plenty of fresh vegetables and checking your gut for potential parasites can also help fast forward your weight loss efforts.
Carb Manager is the easiest and most powerful way to count carbs and live the low carb life. In this blog, we've invited experts on LCHF to contribute their views on everything low carb.