If losing weight were easy, Americans wouldn't be spending $40 billion a year in search of solutions. With all the diet fads and weight loss pills out there, it's not surprising that the majority of takers eventually gain back all their weight if not more. Most of these products are not approved for safety by the FDA, and there is no proof of effectiveness; yet dieters are still willing to try anything at all costs. That would probably explain why the diet industry is in better economic shape than the rest of the world.
There is no big mystery behind the secret to weight loss, though there is discipline required, as well as common sense. You know you need to lose weight and you know what you have to do, but what you should do, and what you actually do, are two different things. If you take the time to evaluate your patterns of behavior, you'll find you don't have to look too far to see how you're sabotaging your slim-down efforts.
- Inadequate or inconsistent exercise: Most people getting into a fitness routine for the first time are not aware that the type of exercise they do is vital in dropping pounds, as is the consistency in which they do it. If you want to change your body composition, you need to work out hard and on a regular basis. Skipping too many workouts will defeat the purpose, and provide you little to no results. Low intensity exercise does nothing to build or support muscle mass, which is critical to an effective fat loss strategy; however, high intensity exercise continues to boost your metabolism long after you're done. In order to achieve any real weight loss, you must combine medium to high intensity cardio with strength training. What this means is, 5-6 cardio workouts each week, for at least 30 minutes, and strength training (weight lifting) for a minimum of 2x a week. If you are just beginning, then ease into it slowly and work your way up. If you are moderately active or in good shape, then try challenging yourself with "interval training."
Interval training involves alternating low intensity and high intensity sets of exercise, with very short recovery periods. It has been proven to be the best method for burning fat because you continue burning well after the exercise. It's no wonder that this type of training is used by professional athletes and long distance runners.
- Not getting enough sleep: Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation can affect your metabolism and contribute to weight gain. When you lose sleep, your body secretes cortisol, a hormone that regulates appetite, and you feel hungry even if you may not be. In your efforts to reach and maintain a healthy weight loss and lifestyle, make sleep a priority and aim for 8 hours a night, if you can. Try getting to bed the same time every night, and if need be, try some bedtime rituals which can help get you into sleep mode.
- Too stressed out: Being under constant stress, can increase production of cortisol, a hormone that can increase appetite, as well as fat storage around your abdominal area. Rather than reaching for comfort food, which is generally high in fat, think of an activity that gives you pleasure and one that is good for you; meditation, massage, biking or exercise. Self-indulgence, if it's healthy, will genuinely make you feel better when you're feeling down, stressed or depressed.
- Not exercising portion control: Portion control can make or break your weight loss efforts. If you are not reading labels and measuring portions, then you are probably eating a lot more than you think. Decrease your portion sizes by using smaller plates and bowls and keep a journal to record everything you eat, as it's vital in understanding how quickly calories can add up when you're not keeping track.
- Bingeing on the weekends: An occasional indulgence is fine, but if you are disciplined all week, only to binge it away on the weekends, then you are hurting your weight loss efforts. Rather than gorging yourself on the weekends, try rewarding yourself with just a couple of small treats, but continue being disciplined.
- Mindless eating: We've all been guilty of eating from a bag or box in front of the TV, barely cognizant of the fact that we are doing so. Or, over a drink with a friend, you go through 3 bowls of tortilla chips in a sitting, before you've even ordered your meal. How many times have you picked at your child's fries or finished his cheeseburger? (Okay, guilty as charged!) Think of your weight loss goals, or that sexy body you are striving for, and resist the urge to clean your plate or your child's. Familiarize yourself with the calorie content of some of your favorite foods to pick on, and consider how a few bites of this and a bunch of that, can surprisingly add up to several meals worth of calories!
- Eating too fast: How you eat is just as critical as what you eat in keeping the extra weight off. People who race through their meals, inhaling their food, will always consume more calories than those who eat at a relaxed pace, chewing food thoroughly, and putting their fork down in between bites. When you eat too fast, you consume more calories than you need, before the hormones that control appetite, have time to kick in and signal the brain that you are full. Likewise, eating until you're completely stuffed, verses eating until you are 80% full, will also result in extra calories and weight gain. If you eat slowly, savoring every bite, you'll almost always consume less.