From The Straits Times    |

Reasons can’t lose weight diet exercise weight loss DECOR

If you regularly consume “healthy” convenience foods like breakfast cereal, low-fat yogurt, protein bars, ready-made soups and bottled juices, you could be downing more sugar than is good for you. It’s no secret that too much sugar in the diet can contribute to weight gain. While you may not be eating foods that have obviously high amounts of sugar in them, you should be watchful of hidden sugars. Always check the label for clues: Ingredients like corn syrup, maltose, fructose, evaporated cane juice, molasses, and sucrose are just some types of sugar you should avoid. Choose foods that contain no sugar or that do not list sugar as a main ingredient. You can also tell that a food is low-sugar if it contains 5g of total sugars or less per 100g.     

We all grew up with the idea that fat is bad for us, but this “rule” is not completely true. Certain fats, like the saturated fat found in margarine, certain cuts of meat and many processed foods, have of course been shown to contribute to obesity. But polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are good for you and should form part of a healthy, balanced diet. These good fats can help you lose weight because they satisfy your hunger and keep you full for longer, plus they enhance your body’s ability to burn fat (your body also needs fat to process vitamins A, D, E and K). So don’t be afraid of high-fat foods like avocados, nuts and seeds, olive and coconut oils, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna. Enjoyed in moderation, they will help keep you trim.  

Don’t be fooled into believing that fad diets are good for you. Not only are they difficult to follow for more than a few days or weeks (think low-carb diets and juice cleanses); they are also nutritionally poor. Diets that restrict important nutrients or even entire food groups mean that you miss out on the protein, fat, vitamins and minerals your body needs to use energy efficiently. Even if you do lose weight following these diets, research has shown that you’re likely to put it all back on once you resume normal eating. The best eating plan is one that does not exclude any of the major food groups and encourages moderation when it comes to portion size.  

Eating to lose weight does not mean skimping on calories. When your body senses that it’s being deprived of food, it starts to hold on to whatever energy sources it has, in anticipation of a famine. Your metabolism becomes sluggish and it becomes harder to burn calories. Worse, you may feel dizzy and lethargic, and experience headaches throughout the day. If you get to the point where you can’t control your hunger anymore, you may even be tempted to binge on high-calorie foods that have no nutritional value. Binge eating is dangerous because it can set you up for unhealthy eating patterns and cause your weight to fluctuate.

The next time you sit down to a meal, pay attention to what you eat and keep an eye on your portion sizes. So often, we find ourselves on our phones or talking to others at the table instead of focusing on what – and how much – we are putting into our mouths. If you’re also someone who scoffs your food down because you’re always in a hurry, stop. Ideally, you should give yourself about 20 minutes to finish a meal. This is how long it takes for your stomach to signal to your brain that it is full. If you eat too fast, this cue could come too late to stop you from overeating.

Dehydration can easily sabotage your weight-loss efforts. Sometimes we think we’re hungry when we’re actually thirsty. So instead of drinking water we eat, and this makes us put on weight. The next time you feel peckish, sip on a glass of water instead. If your hunger pangs don’t return after about 20 minutes, it probably means that you were just thirsty. Another reason why staying adequately hydrated is so important: it boosts your metabolism, helping your body use energy more efficiently. There is no rule as to how much water you should drink a day, but obviously you should consume more if you’re physically active or constantly on the go. And while you pay more attention to your water intake, be sure to reduce your consumption of dehydrating beverages, like alcohol and caffeinated drinks.

Regular physical activity is crucial to achieving your goal weight and maintaining it. But it’s not just about how much you do; what you do is equally important. Fitness experts recommend varying your exercise routine every now and then. If you do the same workout every single day, your body gets used to those moves and your muscles stop being challenged; the exercise becomes easier and you end up burning fewer calories. So, mix it up and have fun with all the different activities out there – alternate those cardio workouts with strength training exercises or something low-impact, and don’t forget to give your body a break every few days to prevent injury.      

Your inability to shed pounds could be due to an imbalance of the thyroid hormone, insulin, or oestrogen. These hormones are all connected to your weight, so when their levels become out of whack in your body, you may notice it on the weighing scale. It’s best to consult your doctor if you think you have a hormonal imbalance.

When your body is under great stress, it produces a hormone called cortisol. Chronically high levels of this hormone encourage your body to hoard abdominal fat. This is a natural reaction, something that we inherited from our ancestors. Back in their day, having extra stored fat was a good thing as it protected them in times of famine. But, unlike our ancestors, we don’t have to worry about going without food for long periods so the extra fat is pointless. The best way to get your cortisol levels under control is simply to manage your stress better and get enough rest.

Chronic sleep deprivation not only increases levels of the stress hormone, cortisol in the body, it also boosts the production of ghrelin, the hormone that causes you to crave fatty and sweet foods. At the same time, it also decreases levels of the hormone leptin, which is responsible for telling your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. As busy as you are, you should always make a good night’s sleep a priority. Try getting at least six solid hours, up to nine if you can afford the time.

Do you want some more tips on how to lose weight? Read out stories This exercise is the easiest way to lose weight!; Tips on how to stay motivated when you are exercising and How you can pig out and still lose weight

Image copyright: ryanking999 / 123RF Stock Photo