“But SURPRISE! It also has tons of saucy calories and is probably doing more harm than good.”
Are you doing everything right? Have you made tons of lifestyle changes and you still aren’t losing weight?? It’s one of the most frustrating feelings; especially if you feel you’re doing all you can to lose weight. (Note: if you haven’t mastered the basics yet, take a look at my post on How to Lose Weight.) The truth is there are lots of reasons why you may not be losing weight. Society has become a proficient calorie-sneaking machine, so you may not even be aware of the reasons behind your weight gain/maintenance.
Having counseled people on weight loss and seen first-hand their barriers, I’m here to help you identify and decrease the effect of these calorie culprits. I’ve made a list of likely obstacles that have hindered you and included ways to hurdle them in the future. Let’s get started!
One of the likely culprits behind not losing weight is eating foods that seem healthy, but in reality are calorie-laden. Now some foods, such as nuts, nut butters, avocados, dates, etc., are high calorie but very nutrient-dense. With them all you need is to limit your portions. Other foods you may have to take out completely and replace: prepackaged vegetables with rich sauces, creamy salad dressings, breaded foods, huge hamburger buns, giant wheat wraps, thick-crust veggie pizza, and flavored oatmeal.
With some of these things, you may think “But I’m eating vegetables!” And yes, that frozen prepackaged cheesy broccoli side does have vegetables in it. But SURPRISE! It also has tons of saucy calories and is probably doing more harm than good.
I’m absolutely not telling you to stop eating vegetables. But the way to be healthy and lose weight is through eating WHOLE, NATURAL FOODS. Buy some broccoli at the store, toss it around in a sauté pan with a tiny bit of olive oil, and add some lemon juice, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, or whatever it is you like. It may take a little time to reset your palate, but after a while these natural foods will start to sound good – and will not have the hidden calories that prevent weight loss.
Speaking of hidden calories, drinks are one of the main reasons people don’t lose weight. Think about your average day:
- Do you drink coffee or tea? Do you put anything in it? Are you a fan of the Starbucks caramel macchiato? A grande is 250 calories. There’s one of your snacks for the day. Do you opt instead for the mocha Frappuccino? A grande is 410 calories. That’s a whole meal.
- Do you drink soda? How many cans? One 12 oz can of Coca-Cola is 140 calories. Not to mention 39 grams of sugar, almost 2x the amount we should have in a day. Needless to say, a medium Coca-Cola when you’re out to eat has so much more.
- Do you drink alcohol? How many drinks? One 12 oz bottle of Yuengling is 140 calories.
Be careful of smoothie and juice chains as well, as they often put sugary juices in their products. Why? So it tastes better and you keep buying it. You’re best off making smoothies at home with no added sugar.
All of these can easily prevent you from losing weight, despite other lifestyle changes you may have made. Your best bet is water, with the addition of coffee and teas that have very little sugar added.
Eating out is quite a tremendous culprit. Often even the “healthy” foods you get eating out are cram-packed with calories so they taste better and you continue buying them. For example, once a salad has nuts, croutons, cheese, bacon, and heaps of ranch dressing on it, it’s not a healthy or low-calorie option. If possible, try your best to keep eating out to a minimum of 2x per week.
Honestly, meal prepping is such a helpful way to go. If you don’t have a solid block of time to meal prep, preparing large quantities of your Monday healthy dinner can provide you with several more meals that week. Get fresh fruits and veggies to snack on between meals and make pre-portioned bags of nuts/trail mix. Simple things you can throw together on a lazy weeknight make a world of difference for losing weight.
And speaking of pre-portioning, portion control is often the main barrier to losing weight. When it comes to meals, put a set amount on your plate at the beginning, and put the leftovers away so you don’t go back for seconds. Often it takes 20-30 minutes until your stomach tells your brain that you’re full from a meal.
When you go out to a restaurant, select a set amount to eat and stop when starting to get full! Bring the rest home to eat another time. Restaurant portion sizes are huge nowadays, enough for even 2-3 people. You’re body doesn’t need it all. If you go out to eat, such as at Chipotle or Sweetgreen, ask for your food to-go; that way when you’re full, your food is already in a convenient travel container.
For more on portion sizes, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s page “Portion Distortion”. They have so much helpful information and a quiz you can take to determine if you’ve been using correct portion sizes.
When trying to lose weight, staying consistent can be one of the biggest challenges. Especially if you’re not seeing results yet or if you lost and gained weight back. If you are following the tips here and in my other post How to Lose Weight, the weight loss will come! You just have to hold yourself accountable and acknowledge if you truly have made changes.
My main piece of advice here: don’t try to change too much at once. Let’s say you woke up one day and decided to swap your:
- Frozen Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich for yogurt and fruit
- Grande Starbucks vanilla latte for black coffee
- Lunch salad dressing for a squeeze of lemon
- Lunch cookie for an apple
- Lunch Dr. Pepper for water
- Afternoon candy bar from the communal office bowl for almonds
- After work glass of wine for tea
- Dinner pasta for chicken breast, brown rice, and broccoli
- After dinner wine and ice cream for water and a bowl of fruit
You’re going to feel VERY DEPRIVED!!
This is SO MUCH change. Granted, if you can do it and hold to it – good for you! But you’re one of the VERY FEW who can make changes like this and stick to it for more than a couple days.
Think about your main sources of calories/sugar/fat. Pick 2 things to change and start there. Have oatmeal with fruit and nuts for breakfast and swap your wine for tea. Once you’ve done that successfully, keep looking for things to swap, trying to opt for nutritious foods rather than calorie-laden ones.
Notice- I haven’t told you to give things up. I’ve told you to swap for foods/drinks that will benefit you and keep you full. That’s the key.
Now, let’s say your diet is on point. You’re eating pristine! Every dietitian would use you as their model client. Are you exercising? You are?? Good for you! So why the crap are you not losing weight?!
If you do the same exercises over and over again, your body will get used to it. Our bodies’ are smart. They adapt. When I was studying to become a certified personal trainer, the “overload principle” was a key message. It basically says that to create any change to your body, you have to overload your body with more work than it’s used to performing.
While this makes sense for weight training – lift something heavier than you’re used to in order to gain more muscle, the same is true for cardio. If you always go on a 30 minute walk at the same pace and on the same route, your body won’t feel challenged anymore. Throw in some jogging. Find a hilly route and tackle it. Get on your bike and ramp up the resistance. Exercise plateaus are a very real thing. Keep pushing your body with different activities and it will change!
Finally, relax and trust the process. I know, it’s easier said than done. But dstress can actually be a reason people are not losing weight! When we’re stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. Excess cortisol leads to weight gain. Not to mention stress can raise blood pressure which can damage the lining of arteries, making it more likely plaque will accumulate there and lead to a heart attack. It’s a lifelong process – trying to find ways to relax during the daily stressors. But it’s a goal worth continuing to strive for. After all, who wants to walk around stressed all the time anyway?
So, although it’s difficult, try to relax, trust the process, and be proud of what you’re doing for yourself (and maybe even doing for others). Keep going! And don’t give up! Because refusing to give up is the best action we can take.