Get off the Dieting Cycle and Lose Weight for Good

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Are you a yo-yo dieter, stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of losing weight and gaining it back again?  If so, you aren’t alone. I’ve met many people who say they are experts at losing weight but they just can’t seem to keep it off. So I’m going to share my top tips for taking the weight off and keeping it off for good – the very same steps I shared with Fox 5 viewers this week. But first, let’s talk about dieting….

All diets have one thing in common – they help you cut calories so you lose weight. And when you lose weight you’ll lose both fat and muscle. However, when you go on a juice fast or low calorie diet that doesn’t contain enough protein (and most don’t), you will lose a considerable amount of muscle tissue. And that’s a huge problem because muscle burns more calories at rest than fat (just a few but it adds up over time) so when you lose muscle you’ll need fewer calories each day just to maintain your weight. Over time, repeated bouts of protein poor diets could decrease your calorie needs even further, making it increasingly difficult to keep the weight off without dieting. And therefore, if you want to go on a diet there are two things you need to do:

  • Feed the Muscle to Keep the Muscle. You’ll need even more protein when you cut your calories to help ensure you are preserving muscle while losing fat. A good rule of thumb, start by consuming at least 25 – 30 grams of protein per meal. At breakfast consider mixing a packet of protein powder in 6 oz. of milk or higher protein soy milk, eggs (2 large egg whites + 2 large eggs = about 28 grams of protein and just 200 calories), plain Greek yogurt + 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter or eat foods that aren’t traditionally associated with breakfast (last night’s leftovers). At lunch and dinner, you’ll need about the serving size of a female’s palm worth of chicken, turkey or fish or mix and match proteins by adding tofu, tempeh, beans, bean pastas, nuts and seeds.
  • Have an exit strategy – a plan for transitioning off your diet. Don’t stay on a very low calorie diet for an extended period of time. You will decrease your metabolism – the amount of calories you need each day. If you are cutting calories for more than just a few months, take a day or two each week and don’t drop your calories – eat what you need to if you wanted to maintain your weight (bump up your calorie intake).

Now let’s focus on fitness. There are two mistakes I see people making over and over – spending hours on cardio machines and sitting around the rest of the day. If you spend some quality time burning calories on the treadmill, bike or other cardio machine, its time to trade in some of your aerobic sessions for resistance training – lifting weights, power yoga, or anything that requires you to exercise a muscle or muscle group against external resistance. As we age we lose muscle. Losing muscle means your body will require fewer calories each day (again, this means you’ll need to eat less over time just to stay at the same body weight). Maintaining muscle will be easier to maintain your weight. If you already lift weights, change your routine to continue to make gains. Incorporate different exercises, lift until failure – until you can’t squeeze out any more reps (you do not necessarily have to use a heavy weight but instead can lift lighter weights using more reps till failure) or try doing compound sets – two or more exercises in a row targeting the same muscle group without rest.

Last but certainly not least, get moving and stay moving. Simply going to the gym isn’t enough to help you maintain your weight or counteract the health hazards of sitting most of the day. Sitting for long periods of time slows blood circulation, increases your risk of developing blood clots, leads to tight muscles and, sedentary behavior is tied to an increased risk of heart disease. So get moving and stay moving all day long. Ignore modern conveniences including escalators, elevators, the drive-through, pay at the gas pump and more. All of these rob you of the chance to move your body, burn calories and improve your health. If you need a little motivation, buy a fitness tracker. I prefer the ones that show you how many steps you’ve walked on the device versus those that require you to log on to your computer or smart phone just to see how active you are.

Getting a Better Body Image

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As a sports dietitian, the majority of my individual clients are male pro or college athletes – guys who have no major issues with their body image. However, among my female clients and women in general, I’ve noticed increased body bashing coinciding with a not so great body image. From comments on facebook about needing to start a cleanse or strict diet to not wearing clothes that show certain body parts, I am stunned at the number of women who don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. So, I turned to my fellow dietitians for words of wisdom to help women get a better body image. And, here’s the expert advice I received:

  • There is no such thing as a “perfect” body but, is your body good enough? Does it get you through your long days and tough workouts? Do your muscular thighs help you excel in sports and your strong shoulders help lift your small children into bed? Focus on what your body can do and does for you. (from Karin Kratina)
  • To compare is to despair. If fashion magazines or certain TV shows make you focus more intensely (in a negative way) about your body, it’s time to start reading something else or turning the channel.
  • Don’t allow negative comments about your body (from yourself or anyone else). When you catch yourself saying “I have big thighs” or “my cellulite”, stop and make a positive comment about your body. And, when you are around girl friends who make these comments, looking for a reaction from you or equal self loathing words, stop the chain by saying nothing and switching the topic.
  • Throw out the scale. You can measure your body changes by how your clothes fit. But, living your life by a number on the scale (or worse yet, comparing this # to other people’s weight) will intensify a negative perception of your body.
  • Be aware of the people around you. If you grew up with a mom who is a chronic dieter, resolve to break that chain. If you surround yourself with people obsessed with dieting, either ask that they don’t talk about this constantly when you are around or, find other people with more engaging topics of discussion.
  • Love it and flaunt it. There’s nothing more attractive than self confidence (well, and a beautiful smile). When you continuously work on 4 simple steps, your body image will improve over time.

 


The pictures are from Nike ads I just love! This clothing manufacturer not only produces awesome sports clothes but they encourage a better way to view your body. For more, click here.

And finally, if you are a parent reading this, please encourage a healthy body image in your child or teenager. After all, more than half of U.S. teens have had an eating disorder.