As I flipped my calendar to May, whether or not I could believe that we’re already through 4 months of 2013, I’m reminded that it’s almost time for summer! I love this time of year. But it also means that it’s time to expose our bodies–that have been in hibernation now for months. Are you ready for shorts and swimsuits?
You may have already been thinking about getting in shape for summer and hopefully have already gotten a good start. (Remember it’s not realistic to think you’ll drop 20 pounds in one month). Whether or not your goal is to lose a few pounds by pool season or you’re on track for a long-term weight loss goal, there are five common reasons that people get stalled on their weight loss journey.
Most people (even sometimes food experts) underestimate how many calories they consume. This can be related to eating more often, eating larger portion sizes or not knowing how a food is prepared. Recording everything you eat–on paper or in an electronic food journal–can help you be more aware of how much you are actually taking in. And every calorie counts! So don’t forget about “bites” and “tastes” or “just that one little piece.” Pay attention to portion sizes and use measuring tools (measuring cups or a scale) when you can to double-check yourself. Read food labels or do some research (yes, the Internet is handy) to find out what a reasonable portion size is as well as its nutrition facts. Keep in mind that foods eaten outside of the home tend to come in large portion sizes and often contain more fats, sugars and calories than we may be aware of. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been fooled! You have to check out the facts–the nutrition facts, that is. Look up information before you go, check an app or the restaurant’s website and pick a healthy option before you go.
It’s also easy to overestimate how many calories you burn in exercise. Yes, it may be hard work to jog a mile, but that really only burns 100 calories. Typically a person needs to burn 500 calories daily in order to lose 1 pound per week. This entails a consistent exercise routine, consisting of at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise 5 days per week. If this is a lofty goal for you, it’s okay to start with something that is smaller and more attainable. Start walking a few days per week or buy a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps per day. Just be honest about how many calories are actually being burned and don’t allow yourself to eat extra just because you exercised!
3. Poor timing of meals
Food is energy, so that means a person needs to eat consistently throughout the day to maintain energy levels (and a stable blood sugar). Start with a balanced breakfast within an hour of waking up, then eat a healthy snack or meal every 3 to 5 hours. It’s best to stop eating an hour or two before bed. Just make sure that all meals and snacks fit within your daily calorie and carbohdyrate goals.
4. Poor food choices
Eating frequently throughout the day can help you stay energized, but only if you’re making wise selections. It’s not a free pass to stop by the vending machine for a candy bar or chips! Meals and snacks should be a combination of healthy carbs (whole grains, fruits and vegetables) and lean protein or healthy fat. Try an apple with peanut butter, for instance.
5. Inadequate or poor sleep
Studies show that people who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night (or have poor sleep) have higher levels of ghrelin–a hormone that stimulates appetite, particularly for high-carbohydrate, high-calorie foods. Less sleep also raises the level of cortisol, a stress hormone that can promote weight gain. In addition, recent research also shows that poor sleep is linked to increased insulin resistance, inefficient use of our own natural insulin, which can lead to elevated blood glucose levels in those with diabetes, high triglycerides and weight gain.
So if you’re on the road to weight loss but have found yourself stalled, give yourself a five point check-up! If you need more help, it’s never a bad idea to check in with your dietitian or diabetes educator too.