If you are trying to eat healthier for weight loss and the numbers on the scale are not moving down, you're not alone. Like most things in life, there are many factors that add up to successful weight loss. Fortunately, the majority of these factors are within our control, but a few are not.
At Moreland OB-GYN, we focus on building strong relationships with our patients. If you’re struggling to lose weight or keep it off despite eating a healthy diet, here are some things to consider and address to help you meet your goals.
You May Have A Distorted Idea Of What A Healthy Diet Is
There are countless misconceptions when it comes to defining a healthy diet. Many people think their favorite restaurants or fast food chains have great healthy options. But when foods are loaded with dressings and sauces, sodium and sugar, are they really healthy?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), at least half of your average meal plate should be made up of vegetables and fruit. The other half should be split evenly between 100-percent whole grains and lean meats or other types of protein such as nuts, beans, or tofu.
You Might Be Eating Too Much
Even though you’re reaching for healthy foods to achieve your target weight, or you’re ordering salads and grilled selections when dining out, overeating healthy foods can actually sabotage your efforts. Why? Because portion sizes have become dramatically inflated since the 1970s, making it difficult to identify just how much food adds up to a healthy portion.
If you’re struggling with portion distortion, take time to carefully measure the foods you make before adding them to your plate or use a portion or divided plate when cooking and eating at home. When dining out, choose meals that are comprised mainly of fruits and vegetables and lean, grilled meats, and eat approximately half of the portions served to you.
You Might Be Eating Too Little
You may think that eating less than recommended portions can help accelerate your weight loss, but doing this actually causes your body to conserve energy by reducing the number of calories you burn. This phenomenon is called “starvation mode,” and while your body isn’t actually starving, it will naturally hold onto whatever calories it receives in an effort to help you maintain your energy balance.
Eating too little can also cause you to get so hungry that you stray from your planned, healthy meals and snacks, or eat foods that aren’t ideal for weight loss. So, what can you do?
First, make sure that you’re fueling your body by eating healthy, balanced meals. Next, manage hunger and minimize the urge to binge between meals by eating natural or nutrient-rich snacks that not only give you energy but feed your body.
You May Be Retaining Water
Since the human body is mostly comprised of water, it’s only logical that our bodies will hold on to excess amounts of water from time to time. While consuming too much salt or certain types of processed foods is the most common culprit of water retention, standing or sitting for too long, hormonal changes that occur around your menstrual cycle, and even certain types of medication can cause increased water retention.
Cut Down On Sodium Intake
The most obvious way to minimize excess water weight is to cut down on your sodium intake. We suggest not only limiting the amount of salt you add to your food at the table but check labels when shopping for foods and avoid those that are high in sodium. Cold cuts, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, canned soups and salted nuts are the most common high-sodium foods.
Eat Foods Rich In Magnesium
In addition to reducing high-sodium foods, increase your intake of foods that are rich in magnesium, vitamin B6 and potassium, as these vitamins and minerals assist various bodily functions and have been proven to help reduce fluid retention. So reach for leafy greens, whole grains, avocados, tomatoes, bananas and other foods that are packed with these essential nutrients.
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Drink Plenty of Water
Yes, that’s correct! If you’re retaining water, it might be a sign that you need to drink more water! When your body is low on fluids, the brain triggers the body’s thirst mechanism, which many people actually mistake for hunger. If your water intake is not equal to your output, you can become dehydrated, which can trigger your body to hold onto excess fluids.
Luckily, many of our healthy foods are comprised of water and even other drinks such as coffee and tea can contribute to the hydration intake your body needs. Make sure you pay attention to the color of your urine. The color should be only slightly yellow; if your pee is dark orange or deep yellow, you are dehydrated. A conservative amount that we recommend is eight 8-oz. glasses of water per day.
You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body tends to gravitate toward junk foods rather than the healthy meals and snacks you have planned. In fact, research shows that getting less than five hours of sleep each night increases the likelihood of weight gain. So, make sure you’re getting approximately 7-9 hours of sleep each night for optimal health, wellness, and to boost your weight loss efforts.
You’re Under Stress
Who isn’t, right? Unfortunately, chronic stress is linked as a contributor to hindering weight loss. Why? For starters, the “comfort foods” that people often turn to when they are feeling stressed are typically unhealthy. In addition, cortisol, the hormone that your body releases when you’re under stress can cause your body to hang onto fat, especially the fat around the midsection that people are typically trying to reduce.
Get your stress level under control by exercising, doing yoga, reading or participating in activities that help to relax and enrich you, rather than reaching for sweets, chips or other high-carbohydrate, high-fat foods.
You’re Over 40
If you’re over the age of 40, there are a multitude of factors that make it harder to lose weight, including:
- Hormones - One of the main culprits for the inability to lose weight, or experiencing weight gain, is, of course, our hormones. For women, the body’s production of less estrogen begins around the mid- 30s and causes the fat in our bodies to shift to the middle of the body.
- Lower Metabolism - After the age of 40, the body’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) decreases, along with the total energy you exert during exercise. According to some experts, metabolism can decrease by approximately 5-percent each decade after 40, which means you need approximately 60-100 fewer daily calories every 10 years. If you have a more sedentary lifestyle, take in more calories than you burn, and you regularly feel stressed, you’ll probably need even fewer calories. So, keep this in mind.
- Genetics - Studies have identified the specific genes that determine both the number of fat cells we have, as well as where they are stored. While this isn’t something we can’t exactly change, looking at your parents and family members will help you identify where your family tends to store excess fat.
- Muscle Loss - In addition to our metabolisms slowing down, our bodies also begin to lose muscle when we hit our 40s, and we experience a steady decline with each decade we age. While some scientists believe that the motor units that make up our muscles decline as we age, the biggest factor in losing muscle is the lack of physical activity, making exercise an essential daily component to preventing muscle loss.
We understand how frustrating it can be for anyone who is eating right and exercising regularly to not see their hard work translating to weight loss, which is why we take the time to carefully evaluate your wellness goals and make sure that you’re on the right track.
We’re happy to answer any questions that you have surrounding weight loss, and any area related to women’s health, and deliver a personalized care plan tailored specifically to your needs.
At Moreland OB-GYN, we specialize in women’s health care and prioritizing the needs of our patients at all ages and stages of life. We hope you’ll connect with us to answer your questions and we hope you’ll turn to our experts as a trusted source for information.