- You’re eating too much. I know I know I’m stating the blindingly obvious right off the bat, but obvious for a reason. Occum’s razor states that when presented with multiple theories the simplest is the best and most likely. Your body requires food to operate. In order to function properly you need to eat. But, there is a limit as to how much food your body requires. Put simply; if you lead a sedentary lifestyle with the only activity being moving from your desk to the sofa your calorie requirements will be significantly less than someone who cycles to work and goes to the gym 3 times a week. If you are eating too much, you won’t lose weight. The National Health Service recommends daily calorie intake to be 2000 calories for women, and 2500 for men to maintain their weight.
TIP – Keep a food diary. There are numerous apps that help you do all this. Or you can go simple with good old-fashioned pen and paper. However you decide to track – make sure you are honest with it. Track everything. Even the biscuits you sneak during your break. It’s very easy to forget small treats. Write them down straight away and reflect on your food decisions at the end of each week.
- Not eating enough. This is where it starts to get a bit more complicated so stick with me. We’ve established we need food to live and that if we eat too much we’ll put on weight. But there’s a glitch in this matrix. More means more, but less doesn’t necessarily mean less. Sure having a calorie deficit might work in the short term, but eventually your body will start to react negatively to the strain you are putting it through. It will go into survival mode and start to shut down processes in order to stay alive. Imagine your phone shutting down apps that are running in the background to help save battery. Great for a phone. Terrible for a body that needs all it’s apps running to be productive. Not eating enough food will; slow down thyroid production, lower testosterone and leptin and energy levels, and decrease muscle mass.
TIP – Go online and check your estimated ideal body weight based on your gender and height. Multiply that number by 10-12 to work out how many calories you should be consuming on a daily basis. For example, I’m a 5 foot 7 male. My estimated ideal weight should be 121-153 pounds (based on BMI). I actually weight 157. Now I’m not going to get into the why BMI isn’t the best indicator for ideal weight today (if you’ve seen any of my fitness videos on Facebook you’ll see I’m far from overweight), but it works as an ok guideline. So, 157 multiplied by 12 equals 1884. Meaning I need to consume around 1884 calories to function efficiently. I eat up to 3200 calories a day total and my weight has stayed fairly consistent for the last 5 years. So my activity levels are consistently burning around 1400 calories a day. If I continue to exercise the same amount, but reduce my calories I will likely lose weight initially, then plateau as my body goes into starvation mode and my performance levels drop. If I was 180 pounds and needed to lose weight, and I know that my ideal is 150-160, I need to make sure that I’m consuming a net total of 1880 calories to lose weight and get down to my ideal.
Net calories needed (ideal weight X 10-12) = total calories consumed – calorie output through activity levels.
- Nobody likes being stressed. Unfortunately, it seems to be making a case for itself to join the big 2 of death and taxes as life’s certainties. And it’s not a friend to waistlines. According to Psychology Today; ‘The stress hormone, cortisol, is public enemy number one.’ Cortisol is a hormone in the body that helps control blood sugar levels and regulate metabolism. It’s released by the body in response to fear or stress by the adrenal glands. Elevated levels have numerous negative side-effects. One such side-effect being weight gain. Increased levels cause insulin levels in the body to rise and blood sugar levels drop, resulting in sugar cravings. This helps to explain why many people opt for junk food or alcohol to deal with stress. It’s not an issue of will power, it’s your body demanding sugar to compensate.
TIP – Manage and tackle stress early. This is not easy and unfortunately there it isn’t a case of ‘one size fits all’ type of deal. How a person deals with stress successfully will vary from person to person. The key point though is to find a healthy way. Personally, I find yoga to be a great help. It teaches relaxation and deep breathing to turn down the sympathetic nervous system. Meditation works on the same basis. Other ideas include; exercising regularly, spending time outdoors or in nature, acupuncture, eating superfoods, massage and using essential oils, sleep.
- Lack of exercise or low activity levels. Food plays a major part in how much we weigh- of course it does. But, we’ve also now established that exercise plays a significant role too. Losing weight through the kitchen alone can only get you so far. Installing an exercise plan into your lifestyle will not only help you lose weight, it will teach you that focusing on the scales isn’t the be all and end all. Size and body shape is a much better indicator as to whether, or not, you are fit and healthy. Increasing your daily activity levels, or implementing an effective exercise regime will help your body burn calories more efficiently. Meaning you can, actually learn to eat more.
TIP – Find an activity that you enjoy or join a club. You are much more likely to do said activity if you enjoy it. Failing that, hire a personal trainer – I know quite a few great ones…
- Counting calories. I know, I know I’ve put a major emphasis on calories in previous points. Calories are important. And counting calories is an important step into learning how to eat healthier. However, it can be misleading and send you down a frustrating path. Different foods have different nutritional values. Some foods are healthier than others. We all know this. We know it, but many of us ignore the finer points of it. Just because you are hitting your recommended calorie intake and exercising, that doesn’t mean you are automatically losing weight or getting in shape. A food diary consisting of 1500 calories of junk food is a bad food diary. A food diary of 2000 calories featuring generous portions of fruit and vegetables and freshly cooked meals is a good food diary. You need to be eating the right foods. I’m not going to get into listing all the foods you should and shouldn’t be eating. Partly because I believe in everything in moderation, but mainly because it’s a bloody long list!
TIP – If it’s naturally sourced, fresh, and with little to no additives and/or preservatives EAT IT.