There are some warning signs that your diet plan may not be working. Find out what these red flags look like so you can make an informed decision about whether or not to start a new (or keep following your current) diet plan.
Red Flags In Dieting
If you're looking online, scrolling social media, or browsing diet books in the store, make sure that you always look for these red flags.
Is it Restricting?
The key to permanent weight loss is a sustainable and long-term style of eating. If a diet removes your favorite foods, it will be challenging to keep up the behaviors. Remember, weight management and keeping the weight off is more important than losing it. Whatever you do to lose fat, needs to be something you can stick to going forward. So make sure that diet that you're considering allows you to eat foods that you love. If it's doesn't, you will not be able to be consistent with it. This means that even if you do lose the weight, you will not be able to keep it off because once you start adding back in the good stuff, the weight will pile right back on.
So if the diet you're considering removes everything that you ever loved in life, that's red flag #1. Right off the bat you know that that is not going to be a sustainable weight loss plan for you. Weight loss is not the issue. Weight management is. Keeping the weight off is the goal.
If it's not something that you can stick with long-term, keep looking.
Is it Flexible?
Does it allow you to be flexible? So maybe even if it does cut back on certain things or it's reducing things that perhaps you do genuinely want to reduce, or help you to eat less of certain things. Is there a flexibility aspect to it?
If you go off track, is it over?
It should not be all or nothing. If it does not allow you to be flexible (read: it doesn't let you eat cake at your son's birthday or have that glass of wine when you're out with your husband or eat something for a special occasion) – that is a huge red flag. If you go “off plan” and experience feelings such as, “Oh well, I blew my diet!,” that is Diet Mentality and whatever you're doing is probably not sustainable.
Along those same lines, if you have to have cheat days or days where you're allowed to go off the rails, then you may need to rethink it. If Monday through Friday your diet is “perfect,” but on Saturday and Sunday, you're binging enough that it ultimately outweighs what you did Monday through Friday, then it was pointless.
We're often dieting, and we don't realize that that's what's creating the binges. You end up in this nasty restriction cycle because you feel so bad that you binged that you start your diet Monday again, and you're super strict again, and you can only hold out for so long, which goes right back to number one – if you're not eating the foods you love, then it's not sustainable. If it's not flexible, then it's not sustainable.
Is it Realistic?
If it promises a certain amount of weight loss, like “10 pounds in 10 days” or “lose 30 pounds in X amount of time” to anyone who does the diet – those are not individual results. This means that it probably not realistic for you. When you fall into the trap of assuming you can get these types of results, you'll end up discouraged or trying to force something that may be unnatural to occur within a certain amount of time.
No one can guarantee you any amount of weight loss in a certain amount of time. Your dieting results will always need to have some individualism. If you're a new dieter, you may lose all the weight quickly, but if you're someone who has dieted over and over, then you likely have a much slower metabolism – which means it may take you a long time before you reach your goal.
You need to know that the diet that allows you to be consistent is always the diet that wins, period. The perfect diet that can't stick to is never going to outweigh the imperfect diet that you can adhere to consistently. So you want to find something that you can do consistently, even if it just means that you're just taking baby steps and saying, “Okay, I'm going to add in a few more servings of vegetables until it is a habit.” Once you have it, then you add on the next thing. Find some way to make it more flexible, including the things you love, and ensure that you're not on-again or off-again.
Whatever it is, make sure that the lifestyle that you're choosing when you're flipping through the books, when you're looking through the internet, when somebody's telling you to try the newest thing. Bring up those three red flags.
The whole point is don't focus so much on weight loss. Focus on maintaining the weight loss because there are 105 things you can do to get the weight off. You can chop off a limb and lose weight, but that does not mean that it is healthy for you. Losing weight is not the issue. The point is that you need to be able to keep it off. So, you have to find something that you can do consistently. It has to be flexible. It has to include the foods that you love.
Maybe you're thinking; “that's too easy” or “that will take too long!” We believe we need to punish ourselves for losing fat. You don't have to give up the foods you love; stay flexible and don't fall for anything telling you that you're going to lose a set amount of weight at a set amount of time. The time will pass anyway, so why not use it to take steps toward permanent (rather than fleeting) results. Just take baby steps, build those habits and watch your body slowly transform in a way that lasts.
Learn how stress affects your metabolism and why it can cause weight gain. Plus some tips on how to manage it.
How Stress Affects Your Metabolism
Stress is an inevitable part of life. It can be caused by both good and bad events, and it can affect our emotions, thoughts, and physical health. When you're feeling stressed out, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol. This hormone can lead to weight gain, especially around your midsection. So if you're trying to lose weight, it's important to learn how to manage it. Take some time each day to relax, and you'll see a big difference in your weight loss progress!
Practical ways to relieve stress in your life are:
Go for a walk
Drink plenty of water
Do something creative
Get plenty of sleep
Have some “you” time
Learn to say no
Hang out with friends
Hang out with your pet
Laugh and smile more
Limit caffeine and alcohol
Clean your house
Be sure to watch our video above for a more in-depth look into this issue and learn how to deal with the extra pounds caused by stress. Have you tried any of the techniques mentioned in the video? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments below.
When it comes to all of the reasons why your weight rises in any given circumstance, the one reason women overlook the most is Stress. I know we have all muttered it before, “Yeah, I know I'm stressed out, but I'll just keep doing what I am doing” or “I know I'm stressed, but I'm not that stressed”
If you are under Stress, the scale will not co-operate
We have talked before about how the scale is not a good indicator of success in your journey, but when you add stress in the mix, it can be downright cruel. When the body is under stress a number of things begin to happen. First, cortisol levels shoot up. When this shoots up, water retention levels also shoot up, causing the scale to say things we don't want to hear. If your cortisol levels stay high for prolonged periods of time, the gain on the scale becomes a permanent one.
Stress weight is the hardest weight to lose. A cycle takes place when we are under stress and most women don't realize that the very things we are doing to lessen stress, is what is actually causing more stress. We become stressed at home – then we decide to hit the gym and kill it – then we decide to tighten up on our diet, or pick at what needs to change in our diet – then we stop sleeping well – and so on..
Each of these things are a stress to the body. Even though we think of “going to the gym” as a de-stressor, it is still adding stress to your body overall. Stress in women tends to show up in the belly area, thus the “Stress Belly.” So when we see that our belly area is growing, it is a good sign that we need to look at the stressors in our life and find a way to relax and slow down again.
In times where we cannot control personal stresses, like a job, move, or divorce or something, we need to be able to stop other stresses from piling on.
Things to consider to reduce stress
Eat at TDEE and take a maintenance break
Reducing your time on the steady state cardio machines
Staying away from HIIT workouts
Participate in a pilates or yoga class
Rest week from the weights
Being aware of how stress affects our body and knowing how to deal with it properly will certainly set you up for future success. Sometimes we cannot control stress, but when we can, we need to limit our exposure to it and be prepared to scale back on other things until the stress period has passed.
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“Remove this.” “Add that.” “Do only this.” “Never do that.”
In our constant pursuit of the perfect body, misplaced focus has become the name of the game. The fitness
industry (that I both love and loathe) is infamous for placing more emphasis than needed on the things that matter the least, and not enough on those that matter most (more on this in my next post: Understanding Best Practices). One area that stands out lately — when talking with trainers and clients — is brushing off the stress factor, and not truly realizing how big of a deal it is.
(This broadcast goes into more detail on this)
The cost of ignoring the stress factor.
We often hear (and say!) phrases like “I know that I've been a little stressed lately…but I should still be seeing some results…”
While nutrition and exercise both play a huge part in fat loss, we tend to overlook stress. The reality check is this: when it comes down to dealing with excess stress, you can’t out-eat or out-exercise it. And those who attempt to, discover a rude awakening. What begins as a small issue can quickly lead to a downward spiral. Seemingly insignificant stress can lead to water retention. Concern over the temporary water retention (“weight gain”) often causes a panic of more restrictive dieting/intense exercise. Worry + diet + exercise = stress overkill. This increase in stress leads to even greater sodium retention/cortisol release (more weight gain) – insert slippery slope here. It's very easy to look up from what could have been a weekend relaxation-fix (temporary) and find yourself facing an additional 6-12 months on your fat loss journey (true fat gain).
Do we even recognize stress anymore?
As we age — and have more on our plate; kids, aging parents, and work — we don’t realize how much stress has piled up. As women, especially, we tend to feel like we can handle everything that’s thrown at us. We even take a certain level of pride in it, bragging (aka complaining with no intention of changing/getting help) about how much we have to do every chance we get. One of the sneakiest things about stress is that while we can typically recognize the big stressful events (death, sickness, work projects), there are some stress factors in our life that we don’t even recognize or categorize as such. For example, working out creates stress on the body. While it may feel therapeutic, exercise can actually exacerbate stress levels.
Not being able to recognize stress in it's various forms often leads to fighting fire with fire, and introduces a host of other issues.
Address the root, not the fruit.
Stress is a master of disguise, and the enemy of the modern woman's health. We first give it all the room it needs to work (take root) by disregarding it's presence. Once in, it can do all the damage it needs, by keeping us busy attacking “symptoms” (the fruit it bears).
Stress-related symptoms can translate to thyroid issues, weight gain, and overall fatigue. Additionally, your digestive system can react as well (think IBS, food allergies, etc.). Instead of directly addressing the stressors in life, people often try to eliminate foods to try to resolve digestive issues. Same goes with exercise. Intense, or long duration exercise puts the body under stress. This is the reason why we will typically lose weight/fat under proper circumstances (the body's first, natural reaction to stress in a healthy body). However, when panicked about weight loss (read: stressing over how long its taking), we tend to turn the very modes of exercise that causes the most stress. If you’re exercising intensely on top of living a stressful life, your body is likely to go into shut-down mode (read: fat gain/retention).
If you’re experiencing any of the following, you may be exhibiting this severe-stress response:
Blood Sugar Swings
Weight Gain (especially prominent in the belly)
How to eat/exercise/supplement/live when over-stressed
During very stressful times, sometimes the best thing to do is to change up the type of exercises you’re doing or to do your normal routine at a lesser frequency. There are types of exercise that will heal you/help you maintain, and those that will cause harm. Stress-friendly exercises include walks (not a power walk, run or jog), gentle yoga (not power yoga) or a leisure bike ride (key word: leisure). Endurance-style weight training and circuit training are not the types of weight lifting you should partake in while stressed. Instead, incorporate heavier-style lifting, which requires longer periods of rest in between (think 5/6-10 reps).
Even simple, everyday things that we don’t think twice about increase our stress levels. For example, if you watch an action-packed movie and are already stressed, your stress levels will actually increase! In place of an action movie, watch something more light-hearted, such as a comedy, or take a bubble bath. Additionally, make sure to supplement with omegas, magnesium, Vitamin A & D and probiotics. Make an effort to sleep more (training less if that’s what it takes to find that extra hour!) to best respond to stress.
As mentioned above, intense exercise/dieting during stressful times will actually lead to increased stress, which leads to more weight gain. Don't compound the problem. If you’re experiencing weight gain, don’t try to diet. Cut back on steady state cardio, and do more leisure/slower-paced types of cardio (walking, yoga). An occasional HIIT session or two can sub for your cardio until you are in a less stressful state. (One exception to this is if you are facing extreme adrenal fatigue symptoms, in this case, even HIIT may be too much in the early healing stage).
Try to simply savor the moment from time to time. Don't wait for the weekend. Have a midday ritual: sneak a nap. Or…take a tea, coffee (or breathing!) break – no screens allowed!
Now keep in mind, not exercising at all isn’t what we’re recommending here. The point is to train yourself throughout the day to have downtime (nap, walk, daydream, meditate, no-screen-time, etc.) so that your workouts are helping you rather than hurting you. Regular exercise has been proven to help with stress management. In a healthy body, exercise is intended to be “good stressor.” The key is understanding what helps and what harms in an overly-stressed, or metabolically damaged scenario.
Weight fluctuations during stressful times are bound to happen, but the key is not letting these fluctuations create more stress. If you’re someone who likes to weigh, you can continue to do so, but take the number on the scale with a grain of salt. The key to mastering life, and fitness, is balance. If you can find a way to manage stress levels, and balance your responsibilities with staying active, you’ll have a much better chance of keeping your weight under control and your happiness high.
On that note, I need to take a break from this screen, and go spend some quiet time with my foam roller.
Have a great week, Fam!
PS. Got questions? I’m on Periscope M-F, to answer your FAQs. So make sure you’re following @EM2WL to get notifications the second I start the next broadcast!
It seems like each year moves quicker than the last. There is never enough time to get all the things done on our task list. Each day runs into the next, and if we aren't careful, our nutrition takes a back seat to convenience. That's where healthy convenience foods come in handy.
I experienced this firsthand over the past year when work stress was at an all-time high. I was mostly concerned with just getting enough sleep. My nutrition stayed intact by focusing on eating foods that didn't require much time, effort or thought, but were still nutritionally balanced.
When you think of convenience food you may conjure up images of Hungry Man or fast food restaurants like McDonald's. Thankfully, there are way better options available if you keep a go to list and put in just a smidgen of effort.
My definition of a healthy yet still convenient meal is one that requires minimal effort to prepare, can be assembled in 15 minutes or less and is nutritionally dense and balanced. Although it may require a little bit of energy to assemble, it won't require any special cooking skills or even a measuring cup! If I can't spare 15 minutes out of my day then I have to rethink what I'm doing.
All convenience foods aren't created equal and some things to be on the lookout for are foods that are high in sodium, sugar, fat or all three! Many frozen foods that are fully prepared like Hungry Man or foods cooked in a sauce are often offenders. Assembling your own food will help you avoid the high sodium-sugar-fat trap.
A great place to start is with your protein. I like to think of protein as the super star of the meal and work everything else around it. Nowadays, there are so many pre-cooked protein options that you can really set up a great rotation. Rotisserie chicken , grilled chicken (refrigerated or frozen) or fish (fresh or canned i.e. tuna, sardines, wild salmon) are just a few options.
Likewise, there are many pre-cooked carb options available – frozen, refrigerated or canned. A few to consider are quinoa, rice varieties including brown, white, jasmine and more, lentils, canned beans. With these options it's just a matter of heat and serve.
When it comes to veggies, the options are seemingly endless. You can buy them fresh, frozen or canned. For even more convenience, buy them pre-washed, pre-sliced or pre-chopped. You can find them stand alone or as part of a medley. You can even find them in microwavable bags where you only need pop them directly in the microwave for 5-10 mins and then plate them. The point is, when it comes to veggies, skipping out on them for the sake of convenience is hogwash. Keeping dishes flavorful, however, is key, so consider picking up seasons such as garlic salt, lemon pepper or Cajun to keep your taste buds happy.
Of all the convenience foods, fats are the most readily available. Adding a tablespoon or two of your favorite oil to your foods or sauteing veggies in a pat of butter is a no-brainer. Same thing for avocado, just cut and scoop! Eating a fatty fish rich in Omega-3 like salmon will serve double duty, providing both protein and fat for your meal.
To keep things less stressful, be sure to keep some of these foods on hand to make answering the question of “What's for dinner?” a breeze.
Putting it altogether
Now that you have a few ideas of some convenient staples, here are a few ideas on how to put together a meal.
There are so many options that you can create with a few staple ingredients. Just mix things up or change out the seasonings. With all of the options available to you, it's possible to have a new meal every day for a month if you wanted to.
You don't have to sacrifice your nutrition for convenience and you don't need to be a star cook. With slightly more effort than it takes to warm up a hungry man, you can have a meal that takes less time and is more nutritious! Many meals will make 2-4 servings, so you'll only need to re-heat them the next day. One less meal to worry about!
Just recently I happily said good bye to a year of chronic work-related stress. It was likely the longest period of stress that I'd ever experienced, and it showed in how I ate, how I slept, how I looked and I'm sure my family would say my mood. During times of chronic stress (whether real or perceived), stress hormones like cortisol stay elevated. This can lead to a decreased metabolic rate, sleep disruption, a drop in serotonin (aka happy hormone), and turn our appetite toward fat, sugary foods and other carbs. Eating is a part of life, but when our hormones are out of whack sometimes we can go overboard and emotional eating comes in to play.
Emotional eating may reflect on the scale but it begins in the mind. Stress wreaks havoc in many areas of our lives and our nutrition is just one. When your defenses are compromised your health takes a hit and so do your emotions.
Everyone has days that seem like they couldn't get any better and days that we wish never were. How we deal with the challenging ones has a direct impact on our ability to combat emotional eating. We seek comfort when we are hurt and turn to food as a coping mechanism. Foods don't judge us, hurt us or tell us “no.” Additionally, eating foods that bring us pleasure can stimulate the release of endorphins similar to exercise. So, after you eat, you feel better although it may be short-lived.
Emotional eaters use food as a stress relief mechanism. When we are unable to find a solution to our problems or somehow alleviate our stress, we turn to food. This is especially common when the stressor is something horrible such as physical abuse or a death.
Are you an emotional eater?
Determining whether you might be using food as a crutch requires a closer examination of what's going on in your life. A key indicator would be unexpected weight gain. Obviously if you are following a reset or bulking program this might not be a sign you can rely on. However, if you are experiencing weight gain, take a closer look at these areas which are common sources of stress:
Has your work or home life been more stressful than normal?
Have you, a family member or friend experienced any recent trauma?
Is there a problem that you have been wrestling with but haven’t found a solution for?
If you responded “yes” to any of these questions and are experiencing unexpected weight gain, emotional eating might be the culprit. Not only might you be eating when you are not necessarily hungry, but the foods you are eating might be “comfort foods”. Characteristics of comfort foods include:
High fat foods like fried foods such as French fries
High carb foods like macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes
Sugary foods like ice cream, donuts, cookies, cake
Coping with day-to-day stress
So, you might be wondering what you can do about emotional eating once you have determined that you have a problem. Emotional eaters often experience feelings of helplessness followed by guilt. The guilt is triggered by the indulgence and its potential effect on your health while the helplessness lies in not seeing a way out of the situation.
In this scenario a nutrition coach or nutritionist might not be what you need as emotional eating has nothing to do with dieting or changing your eating habits. Rather seek a counselor that will help you deal with the emotions you are experiencing and gain control over them. Some activities a counselor might suggest include
visualization, helping you to reframe your problems and see them in a realistic way rather than blowing them out of proportion.
learning new problem solving skills
mind-body programs such as meditation or deep breathing
exercise can serve as a distraction from the stressor as well as alleviate frustration
Also consider setting up a support system of friends and family who can help you be aware of the foods you are eating, assist you in making healthy food choices and exercise along with you. Taking control of emotional eating starts first with dealing with the stress. Finding new ways to solve our problems will push emotional eating out of the equation.
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