Healthy weight loss isn’t only due to the simplistic calories in, calories out paradigm. Nor is it solely reliant on diet and exercise. It’s everything – it’s all the various signals our body receives from the environment that affect how our genes express themselves and thrive. It’s setting good habits and expunging bad ones.
1. You think you’re eating healthy, but aren’t.
Does your diet consist of a massive amount of “products”? Low-carb or not, you want to eat real food. Diet soda, plates of pure fiber in the shape of noodles, and loaves of 1g net carb “bread” do not form the ingredients of a healthy diet. You’re just feeding an addiction and consuming empty calories – sound familiar? Disregard the labels and look inside for what you know to be true.
2. You’re under too much stress.
The stress response system is subconscious; it responds to stimuli and nothing else. Stress causes the body to produce cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone that catabolizes muscle, worsens insulin resistance, and promotes the storage of fat.
For 200,000 years, stress meant a life or death situation. It was intense and infrequent, and the cortisol release was arresting and extreme enough to improve the chances of survival. Take a step back from your life and take stock of your stress levels – they may be holding you back.
3. You’re adding muscle.
If you’re feeling good but failing to see any improvements register on the scale’s measurements, it’s likely extra muscle and stronger bone from resistance training. You wouldn’t know that just from the bathroom scale. If you absolutely need objective records of your progress, get a body fat percentage test (although these might not even tell the whole story) or try measuring your waist.
4. You’re not active enough.
Are you moving frequently but at a slow pace for three to five hours every week? Remember: the near-daily low-level (between 55-75% max heart rate) movement should be the bedrock of your fitness regimen. It’s easy to do (because every bit of movement counts) and it doesn’t dip into your glycogen reserves (making it a pure fat burner, not a sugar burner). If you’re on the low end of the spectrum, crank it up toward five weekly hours and beyond.
5. You’re lapsing into Chronic Cardio.
Of course, you can go too far with the low-level movement – you can begin to lapse into Chronic Cardio. When you stay above 75% of your maximum heart rate for extended periods of time, you’re burning glycogen. Your body in turn craves even more sugar to replenish the lost stores, so you polish off a heap of carbs, preferably simple and fast-acting. You can continue down this route but you’ll gain weight, lose muscle, release more cortisol, and compromise any progress you might have made.
6. You still haven’t tried IF.
Results vary, but if you’ve seemingly tried everything else, intermittent fasting can be a great tool to break through a weight loss plateau. Skip breakfast and eat a late lunch. If that feels okay, skip breakfast and lunch the next time. Just take it slow and pay attention to your hunger. Eventually, try exercising in a fasted state to maximize the metabolic advantage. If all goes well, your hunger won’t necessarily disappear, but it’ll change. A successful IF tames hunger, makes it less insistent and demanding.
7. You’re eating too much.
Low-carb isn’t magic. It reins in wild hunger and tames insulin, but calories do still matter – especially once you approach your ideal weight. In fact, those last few pounds often don’t respond to the same stuff that worked so well to get you to this point. But if the weight isn’t coming off, something’s up – and calories may need to come down.
8. You haven’t cleaned your pantry.
Out of sight, out of mind; out of reach, out of mouth. Keep the crappy junk food out of your pantry, if not out of your house altogether. Go down the list and toss the stuff that doesn’t apply.
9. You’ve reached a healthy homeostasis.
It may be that your body has reached its “ideal” weight – its effective, genetic set point. Reaching this level is generally painless and effortless, but it won’t necessarily correspond to your desired level of leanness.
Women, especially, tend to achieve healthy homeostasis at higher body fat levels. Breaking through plateaus can be hard enough, but plateaus ordained by the body itself can be nearly impossible. It’s probably going to take some serious tinkering with carbs, calories, activity levels, sleep, and stress. If everything else is on point and accounted for, you may be looking at healthy homeostasis.
10. You’re low on willpower.
Willpower is like a muscle. It must be used or it will atrophy. You’ve also got to provide fuel for your will – little victories to start out. Go for a walk if you can’t muster the will for the gym. Take note that willpower, or lack thereof, might actually be an indicator of your body’s needs. If you truly can’t muster up the will for the gym, it may be that your body needs to recover. When that’s the case, overtraining is a bigger danger than lack of will.
11. You’re not getting enough sleep.
Chronic levels of sleep deprivation cause the release of cortisol, our old fat-storing friend. The biggest spike in (fat-burning, anabolic) growth hormone plasma levels occurs in deep sleep. And a recent sleep study showed that truncated sleep patterns are linked to weight gain. Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.