We are a society so heavily focused on body weight and image. It never ceases to amaze me how many athletes will go to extreme and often unsafe measures to obtain a certain weight or body fat percentage. While I wish this wasn’t so, it is, in fact, the truth and it may be a very long time, if ever, before this changes. Have you ever sprinted into your doctor, dietitian, or strength coach’s office and demanded a meal plan for weight loss? Did you feel like the only way to achieve the body of your dreams was to count, portion and measure food each day? Yet, when you attempted a strict meal plan, you found it to be stressful and unrealistic. Even worse, you may have felt starved, only to find yourself wanting to scrap the plan a few days or weeks into the program. That’s ok. We as humans were not meant to measure every little bite of food each day. Our physiology is so intricate and intelligently designed that we often experience weight loss much more efficiently when we change our day to day eating habits vs. portioning and measuring our food at each meal. After all, measuring every morsel is not a realistic or healthy long-term approach for most of us. If we choose to change our habits instead, these habits eventually become second nature. In this article, I will share my best lifestyle changes for weight loss that focus more on improving your current patterns and habits versus measuring every little speck of food on your plate.
Hydration is absolutely essential to your success when it comes to weight loss and maintaining high energy levels throughout the day. Drinking fluids mean so much more than simply replacing sweat loss! Proper hydration encourages your body to filter toxins, a key step in the process of fat loss. Proper hydration promotes a healthy metabolism, smooth bowel movements (pun intended), better brain function and blood sugar control. Also, let it be known that your body’s cue for thirst is easy to mistake for hunger. If your hydration is not up to par, you may feel a constant need to eat. A great goal: Try to drink half your body weight in ounces of fluid each day.
When I coach individuals one on one for weight loss, I often hear “ But I just crave sugar all the time!!” While there can be many reasons for this, not having a consistent meal or snack routine is usually the #1 culprit across the board. Try to eat every 3-4 hours while you are awake. This helps to prevent a dramatic drop in blood sugar. When blood sugar drops, our body says “ Hey! This could be a dangerous situation here so let’s get some sugar back into the system to bring your levels up to normal! Not to mention eating regularly throughout the day is also one of the biggest tricks to prevent overeating at the next meal. Your body is never playing “catch up” because it is constantly getting what it needs. If your schedule is crazy or you are in your car all day, choose 5 non-perishable, protein-rich snacks to have on hand at all times. Throw them into your glove, compartment, book bag, man purse etc. whatever it takes! Great examples include nuts or trail mix, canned chicken or tuna, and Rx or Epic Bars.
You may have already read my previous article 7 Stress and Starvation Free Tips for Weight Loss, the first point in that article discussed the importance of leaving a gap between your last bite of food and bed. Well, let’s take that whole digest then rest thing one step further. Your body needs ideally 10-12 hours a day without food. Why? Eating and digesting food is an incredible amount of work for the human body. It causes a lot of wear and tear on our mitochondria (the powerhouse of each of our cells). If our cells do not have ample time to rest, our body and metabolism cannot function to it’s fullest capacity. You need sleep and so do your cells. Even the greatest quality food such as fresh fruit and dark leafy greens cause our body to work hard upon digestion. So what can you do? Ideally, you want to leave a 10-12 hour gap between your last bite of food at night and then breakfast the next morning. Here is a great example: You finish eating at 7:30 pm, you don’t head to bed until 9:30 or 10 pm, and then you do not eat breakfast again until 7:30 am the next morning, thus leaving a 12-hour gap. Any time frame will work just stay consistent! Do you notice that you feel better with a 14-16 hr fast? That’s great! Studies show this can be extremely effective, especially if it works with your schedule. If there is only one take away that you pull from this article, it would be that allowing your body to rest from digestion for at least 10-12 hours is arguably the best lifestyle change for weight loss
Contrary to popular belief, most adults need some form of basic vitamin routine! What, why is this?! I bet you thought you could get whatever you needed from food alone? In a dream situation, this is certainly possible and food should always be the first line of defense. HOWEVER, it is 2018 and we Americans work more hours than ever before, we are pressed for time like never before, and our food industry has never been so contaminated and processed. Not to mention, genetics play a huge role in nutrient metabolism and so does our environment. Long story short, there is way too much that we cannot control in this life and this taking something as basic as a balanced multi-vitamin/mineral with Vit D built in and a little Omega 3 Fish oil on the side can take us a very long way when it comes to optimal health and rapid weight loss. Looking for a little guidance? Consult with Kylene for suggestions regarding your vitamin routine!
Removing an entire macronutrient group long-term (i.e. protein, carbohydrates or fat) is never, ever a smart idea. But, that does not mean that modifications cannot be made and timing cannot be perfect. Instead of removing carbohydrates in order to lose weight, be smart with your timing. Enjoy your more carbohydrate-rich snacks immediately before a workout and immediately after. That way, you do not have to feel deprived and your body can actually use those nutrients to fuel the workout and repair your muscles afterward. Try to eat carbohydrates (fruit/starchy veggies/grains/legumes) earlier in the day for a similar reason. We want your body to burn through these guys during the day when you are out and moving about, talking, working etc. When your body has burned through the majority of its carbohydrate storage, it will then move onto burning body fat. By tapering your carbohydrates as the day progresses, this allows your body to burn a greater percentage of fat as you sleep.
Whether you are the Mother of all Vegans or the Father of all Filets, consuming the right amount of protein for your body is essential to your success. Your health goals and weight loss journey will be an uphill battle if you are not consuming a palm full of protein at each meal. It does not matter whether it is animal protein or plant protein that you choose, just make it happen. Additionally, you will want to make sure that you are spacing out you protein appropriately throughout the day. For example, if your dietitian helped you to calculate 90g of protein for yourself, it is not in your best interest to ingest 10g at breakfast and 80g at 5:00 pm and beyond. Our bodies can only digest approximately 25-30g protein at one time, every 3-4 hours throughout the day. Therefore, it would be better to consume 30g protein at breakfast, lunch, then dinner if your goal is 90g.
Always hungry? One of the biggest pitfalls to weight loss is forgetting to include fat at each meal! Not lard or ice cream. Instead, include a high quality, plant-based fat such as fresh nuts and seeds or cold pressed oils to each meal. Aim for at least 1 TBSP of quality fat at each meal. Try adding a TBSP of ground flaxseed to your smoothie, cold pressed olive oil to your salad or a scoop or two of guacamole to your omelet!
STOP counting every little calorie! Do not worry about the grams of sugar or protein in your snack. At least not until you read the ingredient list! Who cares if your food is full of protein and low sugar when the item consists entirely of chemicals and words you do not recognize or can’t pronounce? Diet food or “Frankenfood” as we lovingly call it in my world, is food made of chemicals, not real food. These strange ingredients can be extremely inflammatory and make it hard to improve health, energy, and weight.
Over the years, I have had a number of athletes come to my office and say “Well, so and so gave me this meal plan and told me I have to eat every bite, no matter what, or else I won’t achieve my goals.” While I understand what their coach was trying to achieve, it’s my job to look at the big picture. A plan mapped out to a tee may work for a short period of time but what are we teaching that athlete long term? Eat it all no matter what, even if you are full!! This prevents the athlete from listening to their body. Unfortunately, many that started their career this way end up coming to me many years down the road, unable to control weight and blood sugar because they have no gage as to what they should be eating and when. Even worse? They often don’t know how or when to stop eating. They have a huge pile of food sitting in front of them but it has been so deeply ingrained over the years that they must be a part of the clean plate club or else they are a failure. That is an incredibly hard habit to break. So what’s an athlete to do? Use intuitive and mindful eating!! If you are hungry, choose whole foods, but eat! Your body is trying to tell you something and there is usually a good reason for the hunger. If you are full, but half your plate of food is still staring at you, set your fork down and breathe. It can wait! Wrap it up, set it in the fridge and come back to it a few hours later. Try to stop eating when your “tank” is 2/3 of the way full. It is more advantageous for health and weight control to stop when full the eat again in 2-3 hrs vs. force yourself to choke down more than you can handle. This only leads you to feel overstuffed and borderline ill for the rest of the day. In summary, my hope is that you can see there are other ways to achieve desired weight loss besides eating exact portions at exact times of the day. It doesn’t to be a stressful experience and if you’re having a difficult time, check out our post on stress and starvation free tips for weight loss. If you are able to make lifestyle changes for weight loss, you may discover a path with little resistance. If these tips feel overwhelming to you, try to implement 1-2 strategies every few weeks. Once those strategies become second nature, incorporate the next two until you have plowed through the entire list. You may be incredibly surprised at what you can accomplish! Have you struggled with your weight loss journey? What lifestyle changes for weight loss worked for you? What didn’t? Do you have any easy weight loss strategies that you can add to our list? Please share below!