You started the year with all the best intentions that by spring, you wouldn’t need to panic about getting in shape for that summer bikini, but things haven’t gone so well. Perhaps you’re having trouble sticking to your diet, or maybe it’s been harder to stick to that new exercise routine than you thought.
One thing you do know for sure, the weight loss plan you embarked on so ambitiously in January hasn’t had the effects you were hoping for – at least not yet.
So what can you do now to get the look you want by summer? Do a spring-cleaning of your fitness plans.
Look to your diet
Are you eating the right foods or, more importantly, not eating the wrong ones? You should be doing what you can to avoid starchy carbs. These are found in things like potatoes, fried foods, processed foods, and white bread. Replace these foods with fruits and vegetables. Replace those diet drinks with a simple glass of water or squeeze a bit of fresh lemon into it for a burst of good-for-you flavor.
Also keep in mind that to lose a pound, you need to reduce or burn 3,500 calories. You can do this through exercise, which we’ll discuss in a moment, but it’s much easier to get rid of if you never took in the calories. Regardless of the weight loss plan you choose, this simple fact will always be true.
Change things up
You know you’re supposed to be getting your heart rate up for 30-40 minutes at least three or four days each week – and maybe you’ve even been doing that for the past two months, but you’re still not seeing the kind of results you want. The reason could be due to the body’s amazing natural ability to adapt. When you do the same thing day after day, whether it’s jogging or weight training, your body begins to get used to the activity and it no longer uses the same energy to complete the tasks required of it.
Overcome your body’s attempts at efficiency by changing up your routine and its intensity every once in a while. If you haven’t been active for a while, try engaging in different activities, appropriate for your health, every other workout – this way your body doesn’t know what to expect. This might be walking one day and moderate weight training another. Weight training is particularly helpful in that it both shapes your muscles and burns calories. Your larger muscles will burn more calories – making you a more efficient calorie burner, 24/7.
If you’ve already been pretty active, but you results have been tapering off, try high intensity interval training (HIIT). This method of exercise changes activities and gets your heart rate going in short bursts at a time. This has proven to be more effective at burning off the extra calories.
Mind the S’s
Something most people don’t think of in terms of weight loss and dieting is the effects of sleep and stress on overall welfare. Feeling extreme levels of stress causes the body to produce more of a hormone called cortisol, which increases the body’s tendency to store fat. Stress also makes it more likely that you’ll break your diet with snack foods or other unhealthy eating habits.
Instead of allowing stress to cause your weight to skyrocket, start practicing healthier habits, such as taking a walk, meditating, or do something fun.
Getting enough sleep can also have positive effects on your weight loss goals. Missed sleep causes ghrelin levels to rise, which stimulates your appetite. As leptin levels go down, your body’s natural means of suppressing your appetite is reduced. At the same time, your body is feeling more stressed (remember that cortisol) and you are awake longer for more frequent raids of the kitchen.
Taking a combined approach of watching your diet, engaging in varied exercise activities, and taking care of the basics, like lowering stress and getting enough sleep, will soon have you over that plateau and on the road again toward achieving the look you desire.