Does this sound familiar? You diet, you exercise, but the weight doesn't come off. Well, instead of wallowing on the couch with a gallon of ice cream and a ton of self-pity, find out what you might be doing wrong. Below, fitness guru Ben Greenfield shares some insights from his new book, Get-Fit Guy's Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body.
1. Stuck in a rut.
There is a principle called SAID, which stands for specific adaptations to imposed demands. Our bodies eventually adapt to the demands we place upon them. If you're doing the same routine week after week or month after month, your body has become very efficient at that routine and is no longer burning many calories or getting a fitness response. I personally change up my routine every week and recommend you introduce new exercises and workouts at least once a month.
2. Too many calories.
You don't need to frequently snack or consistently fuel your body in order to keep your metabolism elevated. So while it is true that long-term significant calorie deprivation will cause health problems, this shouldn't be used as an excuse to stuff your face and elevate your blood-sugar levels every two hours just to boost your metabolism. This strategy usually causes more weight gain and excessive calorie consumption as compared to eating several square meals a day, plus a pre- or post-workout snack.
3. Not enough calories.
The body needs a specific number of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in order to sustain metabolism, produce hormones, maintain the immune system, and permit you to have productive workouts. If you're engaging in severe calorie restriction, you are not only sending your body a message to shut down, you're also limiting your ability to productively exercise and potentially damaging your health.
4. Not lifting weights.
While it may seem counterintuitive, lifting weights actually helps you lose weight. Not only is strength training the best way to replace fat with lean muscle and boost your metabolism, but it also results in a hormonal release that enhances fat loss. Plus, it increases your ability to eat fewer calories without doing damage, since your body can use protein stored in muscle rather than in other vital organs.
5. Avoiding HIIT.
High intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves intense bouts of cardiovascular exercise followed by easy rest periods. Compared to long, slow cardio sessions, HIIT burns far more calories and significantly elevates fat burning. However, the initial discomfort from breathing hard and feeling a full-body burn can be daunting. But think about it this way: HIIT allows you to hop on a treadmill and be done in 15 to 20 minutes. To get the same results with less-intense training can require you to slave away on that treadmill for an hour or more!
6. Low-fat diet.
In the quest to lose fat, it seems logical that you should eat less fat. But if you eat the right kinds of fat, particularly from healthy sources such as avocados, olives, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut milk, coconut oil, cold-water fish, seeds, nuts, and yogurt, your body can very efficiently use that fat as a fuel. Consume these types of fats instead of sweets, starches, and vegetable oils, which cause high blood sugar and weight gain. A recent study from Johns Hopkins University suggests that a low-carb, high-fat diet may be best for healthy weight loss. Just make sure those fats don't come from junk food.
7. Pill popping.
Often, when weight loss gets tough, it's tempting it's tempting to turn to one of the many pills, capsules, or powders that promise to reduce appetite cravings or increase fat or carbohydrate burning. Unfortunately, these pills give you only a small increase in fat burning (see the article "Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?"). Also, people who rely on pills for weight loss are far less likely to engage in exercise and healthy eating, which get more significant results.
In Point 2, I emphasized that a high caloric intake, with the goal of sustaining the metabolism, often results in overeating. The same can be said for snacking. Flaxseed crackers, raw almonds, morning muesli, raw fruit, and cheese sticks often add up to an extra several hundred calories each day. Remember, covert calories add up quickly.
9. Hormonal imbalances.
In the QuickandDirtyTips.com article "What Causes Cellulite?" we learned that hormonal imbalances can be a prime cause of cellulite formation, particularly in women who are estrogen-dominant. If you've tried everything to lose weight but have never had the levels of your estrogen, testosterone, or thyroid hormones tested, a hormonal imbalance may be the cause of your inability to lose weight. Just be sure to get your blood tested by a doctor before adding supplements and medications to address a suspected issue.
10. Food intolerances or allergies.
Bloating, weight gain, chronic fatigue, nutrient depletion, and an inability to exercise can all be related to eating foods your body is allergic to or simply doesn't have the enzymes to digest. Common triggers are wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, and fructose. A gluten-free diet may be one good place to start, but you should also consider getting tested for food allergies, using an elimination diet, introducing digestive enzymes, and keeping a food log. Always consult your doctor prior to drastically changing your diet or if you suspect an allergy.