Every month the lords of weight loss announce yet another “miracle” formula or system that will FINALLY be the answer to all our waistline woes.
They promise cheap and easy results with minimal effort, and as a result, we reach into our pockets again and again to the tune of billions of dollars each year.
Whatever product you might be using to help get you back into your skinny jeans, there are a few lifestyle mistakes that will absolutely make weight loss impossible.
If you can correct these few common stumbling blocks, you’ll go further on your weight loss journey than any pill, shake, or challenge will ever take you.
1. Being a Refined Carb Junky
If there’s one lifestyle mistake that absolutely makes weight loss impossible; this is it. Refined carbs like those found in bread, cereal, and pasta wreak havoc on insulin levels and cause the body to store fat.
To avoid weight gain, it’s supremely important to keep insulin levels low. When insulin is present in the bloodstream, you’re storing fat. When it’s absent, you’re burning fat. So avoiding foods that cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin is not only essential for weight control, but it also has many other scientifically supported health benefits.
In general, limiting carb intake to 100 grams per day or fewer results in a pound (or so) of weight loss per week. Of course, a dietitian or other trusted health professional can tailor your nutrition needs to your specific objectives.
If a strict low-carb diet isn’t for you, substitute refined carbs with carbs that haven’t been processed – like fruit, starchy vegetables, sweet potatoes, and yams.
2. The Wrong Types of Exercise
While any kind of physical activity can be helpful for optimal function and overall wellness, the wrong types of exercise can make losing weight virtually impossible. A leisurely stroll around the neighborhood or walking on the treadmill during your favorite 30-minute sitcom isn’t going to cut it here.
In short, intensity is the key. The whole point of working out is to force the body to adapt and improve, so challenge yourself with exercises like sprints, plyometrics, bodyweight calisthenics, HIIT, and weight training.
Not only does a hard workout burn fat, but it also helps keep insulin under control. Numerous scientific studies show that physical training is vital for preventing diabetes and insulin resistance and can even make those with metabolic disorders more insulin sensitive (this is a good thing).
3. Not Getting Enough Rest
You’ve probably heard about a hormone called cortisol in weight loss commercials that causes the body to store belly fat. Indeed it does, but you might not be aware that sleepless nights increase the amount of cortisol in the bloodstream.
Anything that stresses the body enough (whether physical, emotional, or chemical) to trigger the fight-or-flight response will cause cortisol to be released. That’s because cortisol is necessary for the breakdown of energy stores during times of increased physical demand.
In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, dieters who got a full night’s sleep lost 55% more body fat than those who were sleep-deprived. Two hours less sleep made subjects hungrier and produced higher levels of ghrelin – a hormone that signals that you’re hungry (1).
Conclusion: Lack of sleep triggers the stress response (fight-or-flight), causing cortisol to be released into the bloodstream and ultimately increasing fat storage over time. Therefore, getting a good night’s sleep is essential for losing weight.
4. Not Enough Real Food
The biggest influence on weight loss is our hormones, and the biggest influence on our hormones is food (followed by exercise and sleep).
Processed food – food that did not come from nature or that has been changed from how nature made it – (basically anything from a wrapper, bag, or box) can interfere with healthy hormone levels and disrupt metabolism, fat storage, digestion, and health in general.
Foods like fruits and vegetables, which grow from trees and plants and are perfect for the human body in terms of composition and nutrient ratios, help keep hormone levels in balance. They also provide the necessary components for the body to repair, grow, heal, and thrive.
5. Eating Too Often
Stored body fat is really just stored energy. When the body has more energy substrate than it needs, the excess is stored as fat for future use. When a person is eating 4-6 times per day or is constantly snacking, the body won’t need to access fat stores unless physical activity (like exercise or manual labor) causes a demand for it.
Intermittent fasting has recently become a very popular method for weight loss and is also very effective. The most common IF technique is keeping all food intake for the day within a 6 to 8-hour period. This forces the body into a fasting state for the majority of the day, during which fat stores must be utilized for energy.