WHY YOU'RE NOT LOSING WEIGHT
Calories in, calorie out. The science of weight loss is fairly simple and as much as we try to outwit it by binging when no-one is looking, your body knows exactly what’s going on.
I was stuck in the negative cycle of dieting back when I was in my first two years of university. I was never particularly large but I was pretty unfit, and as soon as I started to hate the abundance of photo my friends would tag me in on Facebook after nights out, I wanted to do something about it.
So every other week I’d make promises in my head:
“Right it’s Monday, I’m going to eat so well this week and go to the gym every single day!”
Here’s what I’d plan to do that week:
- A big healthy food shop from the local Asda down the road
- Go to the gym every day for an hour each time
- Eat three meals a day with limited carbs
- Avoid snacking and use ‘Now Slim Hunger Strips’ when I have the urge
And here’s what I’d actually do that week:
- I would do my big food shop from Asda, buying ingredients so I could have avocado and eggs for breakfast, salad for lunch and soup for dinner. Not forgetting to grab some ‘Now Slim Hunger Strips’ on the way to the till, of course. Well done Lucy.
- I’d eat my avocado and eggs, leafy salads and cartons of soup on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. And absolutely zero snacking. On Thursday I would be far too busy to prepare my food so would grab something whilst out and about. By Friday I feel like I deserve a treat for being so good earlier this week so have a Chinese with my friends followed by some drinks. On Saturday I’m feeling very hungover and guilty about my Chinese so try to eat as little as possible. Then go out for drinks again, come home and demolish a medium Texas BBQ Dominoes pizza. But that’s fine because I hadn't eaten much that day. Right?
- I would hit the gym for 60 minutes on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. In those sessions I’d spend 30 minutes on the cross trainer and 30 minutes up-hill walking on the treadmill.
- By Friday I would be far too tired to exercise and by Saturday and Sunday, I was far too hungover from the nights previous to even think about the gym. But that’s okay because I went 4 out of 7 days of the week. Right?
- By Sunday, I’d ask myself where I was going wrong. I had tried really hard; I had completed my food shop and I’d been to the gym for the majority of days in that week. Why wasn’t I making any progress?
Sound familiar at all? Don’t worry I have been in that negative cycle of dieting and worked my way out of it! So to show you where I was going wrong, here’s my example week of calorie consumption in graph form:
As you can see, Monday to Wednesday my consumption is particularly low. Thursday is where I started to feel the negative impact of my over-restriction, with a surge on Friday due to a takeaway and a few drinks (yes - alcohol has calories and lots of them). Although I restricted my eating on Saturday, my Dominoes pizza and night out took my calories for the day to 3,000 kcals. Reflecting back on my week on Sunday, I feel like I have spent a large amount of it hungry, restricted and exhausted - however I have actually unknowingly OVER-eaten by a couple of days worth of food.
So how did you break the cycle?
You must gain a better understanding of calories, macronutrients, effective exercise and moderation. Four very unsexy words and concepts but all very important to achieve sustainable weight loss - if that’s what you’re after, of course.
When trying to lose weight, your body doesn’t take into account the length of time you’ve felt hungry or the amount of effort you may feel like you’ve put in. Your body only knows the calories your putting into it and the ones you’re expending. This is why we must be efficient and achieve BALANCE. The kind of balance where you don’t feel restricted, you still enjoy the foods you love, you still enjoy nights out with your friends and are STILL on the road to weight loss.
The kind of balance that may look like the graph below:
So here’s three ways I broke the cycle. And so can you:
1. Learn about food.
Now firstly, I would not recommend calorie counting to everyone. Casual food-logging via My Fitness Pal most days is a method which works for me - but this is ME. I work in the fitness industry, have used this method for years and am very comfortable with my dietary habits. I’m very aware that this method can bring out obsessive behaviours in some people, especially when wanting to give 110% into their new healthier lifestyle. I would, however, recommend doing it for 1-2 weeks just to give you a basic understanding of what you’re eating and what’s in it. (There is no quick fix guys, as much as the marketing on ‘Hunger Strip’ may claim…)
It’s important to not over restrict yourself. If you’re a chocolate lover like me, have a bit every day - just don’t opt for 500g of it and make sure the remainder of your food for that day is nutritionally balanced.
And don’t forget to take into account your social life. In my option, the moment your diet dictates your social life, you’re doing it wrong. It’s all about being clever with it and allowing yourself extra leeway for your plans. Personally, I account for a little extra calorie consumption on a Saturday night because I’m usually out of dinner and or a night out, reigning it back in again on Sunday. Again, no drastic calorie cuts or surges like the first graph, just small tweaks to fit social plans as show in the second.
2. Train efficiently.
In the grand scheme of things, burning a couple of hundred calories in the gym is a drop in the ocean compared to the ways you could consume that in 3 minutes. A couple of bananas, a bread roll with some butter, a Galaxy chocolate bar… calories are much easier to eat than than they are to burn.
You can’t out-train a bad diet so as important as it is to stay active and fit, make sure you’re not using it as an excuse to over indulge. The most effective way to maintain a training program or schedule is to do something you actually enjoy and be realistic. You don’t need to go to the gym every single day, let alone have time to do so. Pick a type of exercise you enjoy, aim to do it 3 times a week and see how you get on.
For me, I love weight training so hit the gym 3-4 times a week. However exercise doesn’t just begin and end in the gym - a good workout can come in all different kinds of forms such as wall climbing, a dance class or even doing your commute to work by foot. If you don’t know what you enjoy yet, spend a few weeks trying out different things. There will be something you love.
3. Drink smart.
Let’s be real here, you’re young and beautiful. Your fitness goal shouldn't be a reason for passing up on a night out with the girls. Yes, alcohol is calorific and isn’t recommended for weight loss as much as face planting a tub of Ben and Jerries ice cream isn’t BUT we must stay realistic.
If you’re going out for a few drinks and don’t want to ruin all of your hard work you put earlier in the week, its simply a method of damage limitation. Stick to white spirits such a vodka and gin - better yet, opt of a slimline gin and tonic to save on the calories. Try not to go overboard and avoid sugary alcopops where possible (I know it’s not 2010 anymore but WKD are still in business so someone must be drinking them…)
Will the odd night of madness where you drink anything and everything in sight be the end of the world? No of course not, it may delay your progress by a couple of days but we all need to let lose sometimes. If the journey to your goal is making you unhappy then you need to revaluate what you’re actually doing it all for.
Break the negative cycle of dieting by remembering you are making a POSITIVE change to your body and lifestyle - and should therefore feel that way inside. Don’t compare yourself to others and focus on yourself, from your diet to your training, do what works for you. Your health and fitness goal should never take priority over personal happiness so seek to always find that balance between.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to drop me a line on Instagram - @thefashionfitnessfoodie