It’s almost the start of a new ear and another chance to achieve your goals of losing weight and improving your health. Will this be the year where you finally stick to the new regime you’ve set for longer than a few weeks?
Every year people have great intentions of finally getting to the gym, changing their diet and trimming their waistline only to have things fall off-track after a month or two. Why is it so difficult for us to stick to our new regime and new years resolutions?
We all start the year with a list of things to accomplish. To truly have these helpful tips have meaningful and lasting change you need to incorporate these strategies into your lifestyle. To execute a real “change” you need to develop new habits. Addressing the areas of your nutrition, exercise and lifestyle that are holding you back and replacing them with simple but effective new habits will set you up for success.
This coming year you have the chance to finally turn a corner and achieve your health and wellness goals!
What new habits will help you overcome your weight loss obstacles? Let’s take a closer look at my top-5 reasons of why you are not losing weight and how a few new habits can get you back on track.
1- YOUR BREAKFAST IS ALL WRONG
You’ve heard the saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, so it may be time to examine if your breakfast habits are a major roadblock in your quest to shed a few pounds. The typical North American breakfast is loaded with carbs: cereals, mueslis, bagels, toast, muffins, croissants, juices, etc. While a selection of these foods may be an acceptable choice for some, if you’re overweight, these foods leave you stuck in “carb-burning” mode, inhibiting your capacity to burn body fat.
Breakfast is important because your insulin levels, or blood sugar hormone levels, are naturally low in the morning after a good night sleep (and fast), setting up the perfect scenario for burning body fat. The more overweight, out of shape, or in poor health you are, the worse your insulin sensitivity, or capacity to cope with carbohydrates will be. Chronically elevated insulin levels directly block your body’s primary fat-burning enzyme, making it impossible to burn fat throughout the day.
NEW HABIT: Ditch the carb-heavy breakfast in favour of a high-protein, high-fat, lower carb meal. Great options include eggs, plain yogurt, or a protein shake (30g for women and 40g for men) with some healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, or eggs (particularly the yolk).
2- YOUR TRAINING LACKS INTENSITY
One of the most common scenarios I see in clinical practice when someone struggles to lose weight is adding more exercise to their routine. The runner adds more days running, the cyclist adds more time on the bike, or the gym-goer adds more training days. While this seems like a reasonable approach to burn more calories, it doesn’t usually work in achieving weight loss. In fact, for many people too much exercise volume leads to increased stress hormones, fatigue, cravings and poor sleep. The problem often isn’t the training volume, it’s the training intensity.
The solution is becoming more efficient with your exercise. The research is becoming very clear that increasing exercise intensity not only provides superior fat-burning potential compared to steady-state aerobic exercise, but also increases your EPOC (exercise post-oxygen consumption) or the calories you burn after training, your VO2max (reliable marker for aerobic fitness), and is tied with traditional cardio for improving your heart health.
NEW HABIT: Swap your steady-state cardio for high intensity interval training (HIIT). It may sound intimidating, but all it requires is a more intense effort for 30 seconds followed by 60 to 90 second rest. Studies show significant improvements in insulin and blood sugar levels after only 2 weeks. Aim for 4-7 sets, 2-3 days per week on a bike, treadmill, or running outside.
3- YOU DON’T GET ENOUGH SLEEP
The average person sleeps approximately 6.5 hours per night. Compared to our grandparents two generations ago, that is about 1.5 hours less sleep than they used to get on a nightly basis. Over the course of a year, that is 500 hours less of sleep and it has a significant impact on your waistline.
The research shows that if you sleep less than 7 hours per night, your satiety hormone, leptin, decreases and the opposite for your hunger hormone, ghrelin. If you sleep less than 6 hours, the impact is even more dramatic. Your lack of sleep leads to constant cravings throughout the day, typically dor simple sugars and processed carbs. This constant snacking increases blood sugars and insulin and leaves you stuck in the “building” rather than “burning” mode.
NEW HABIT: Go to bed an hour earlier, especially throughout the winter months (January to March). Your body needs more recovery and rejuvenation during the shorter, darker and colder days. This added sleep helps to curb carvings and keep you more sharp and focused throughout the day.
4- YOU SNACK TOO OFTEN DURING THE DAY
We’ve all read the articles and the studies; eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day to increase your metabolism and burn more body fat. While this is true to the research, sometimes what is found in the lab doesn’t transfer over to the real world. In the research studies, the participants consume exclusively high protein snacks throughout the day. Unfortunately, most people reach for granola bars, protein bars, fruit and processed snacks to achieve the same result, which are loaded with carbs and sugars. Hence, consuming high protein snacks doesn’t work.
In addition, constantly snacking doesn’t allow enough time for your insulin levels to return back to baseline in order to start burning more body fat for fuel. In clinical practice, I find people struggling to lose weight, or who have a lot of weight to lose, get much better results by limiting themselves to three square meals per day.
NEW HABIT: aim for three high protein, high fat and low carb meals throughout the day for 8 weeks to trigger fat-burning and trim your waistline. If you feel symptoms of irritability or cravings, do your best to “sit with it” and tough it out until your next meal. Herbal tea, water and even brushing your teeth are great tips to get you curve your cravings. As your body is better able to burn body fat for fuel, these hunger cravings will dramatically decrease.
5- YOU DON’T SQUAT ENOUGH!
There is virtually no other exercise like the squat – or its cousins the deadlift or Olympic lifts – that can trigger so many positive health and weight loss adaptations in the body. Your legs are the key to unlocking your weight loss potential but people tent to get hung up on a few common myths when it comes to weight lifting.
First is following a typical “bodybuilding” type routine with splits for different body parts. While this can be fantastic for fine-tuning esthetics, you miss on the most fundamentally important compound exercises like squats and deadlifts. The second common myth is a fear of getting “bulky” by doing these exercises. Adding more muscle helps to improve metabolism, fat-burning potential and reduces your risk of chronic diseases. The initial muscle gain, while for some might not be the ultimate goal, actually confirms you’re heading in the right direction, you just need to keep going to see accelerated fat loss.
While most people believe they need a “complex” plan to overcome obstacles, the opposite is usually true! Start with one habit; build it into your lifestyle, then move onto the next. There are constantly more than these five reasons people struggle to lose weight, but if you can incorporate these five new habits into your diet and exercise regime over the next 8 weeks, you will be well on your way to reaching your weight loss goals for the new year.
NEW HABIT: Be sure to include compound exercises for your legs in every session. Back squats, front squats, overhead squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups and their variations should all be a regular part of your routine. If you have injuries or are concerned about injuring yourself, start with body weight exercises. These exercises are fundamental movement patterns we should all practice.
YWCA Fitness on 25th is a coed facility providing a range of fitness experiences in a welcoming environment to achieve your individual health and fitness goals. Watch for the next YWCA wellness article on our website blog and social media channels.
by Nima Nazemi
Source: Marc Bubbs, 2017, canfitpro Magazine (January/February 2016), pg. 30 – 32.