Those of you who read my first post, know that I have been working hard. The problem is that I don’t feel as though I have lost the amount weight that I thought I would have after nearly a year of working out. Today is day 267 out of 329. 33 more days and I will have worked out 300 out of 365 days, but I am still hovering around only 30 pounds lost. The question is why can’t I lose any more weight?
I attended a class last week at my local Lifetime Fitness, and it was talking about this precise issue. Who would have guessed that losing weight is more than just calories in, and calories out. Little did I know I was about to learn the many reasons why I haven’t lost more than 30 pounds. Some of the things I heard that night, were eye-opening and I wanted to share them with anyone I could.
So what else could there be to losing weight other than exercising more and eating less? A lot!! The following factors affect weight management: energy intake and level of activity; macronutrient balance (carbs, fat and protein); nutrient deficiencies; stress and sleep; digestive health; inflammation; insulin resistance; detoxification; and hormonal balance.
I seriously felt like a lab rat as I sat there listening to this information. It was as if they were discussing MY LIFE. Minute by minute I slowly started realizing why I was losing weight so slowly. Before I get to the reasons, let me give you a little background. I have always loved sweets, particularly candy. I am also a binge eater. Not in the sense of binge and purge, but when I have a bag of candy or box of fruit snacks I will eat until they are gone. Lucky for me I don’t feel all that guilty afterwards!! This is life, and we are meant to enjoy it, right? I drink a moderate amount of pop, but always diet and caffeine free. I love all the fancy drinks at Caribou, Starbucks, Dunn Brothers, and Borders. I usually will have at least one of these fancy and expensive drinks a day, but always skim and decaf. Lastly, I have struggled with sleep for the last ten years of my life. Yes, you heard it right, ten years. I don’t even remember what it feels like to sleep through the night…if I am lucky this might happen five times a year. One might think this is due to too much caffeine, but since I don’t have caffeine that is probably not the answer. Most likely it is due to stress. First was law school, trying to find a job, having enough money to pay the bills, and now trying to get my own law practice started. Now that you have the background, let’s get started.
The first and most obvious thing people think about when wanting to lose weight is exercise more and eat less. Those are good ideas, because calories do count. However, the problem lies in the fact that most people underestimate how much they eat, and overestimate their activity. Moderate exercise 3-5 days a week is still considered a sedentary lifestyle. I try to keep track of what I eat everyday and how many calories I consume. This can definitely be eye-opening. I challenge you to keep track for a day or a week, you will be amazed. You absolutely do not realize how many calories are in the foods that you are eating.
As I am sure you have discovered from my background, I eat a lot of sugar. My body craves sugar from the moment I get up until I go to bed. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that at least half my daily calories are from something sweet. I always thought that as long as I was staying within my daily calories, it didn’t matter what I ate. WRONG! Part of the reason I am always craving sweets is because they are all fat and carbs. Our bodies digest fat the fastest, followed by carbs, while protein can take 4-5 times as long for our body to digest. So because all I am ever eating is sweets, my body is digesting them very quickly and I am hungry again! It is a very vicious cycle, the more sugar you eat, the more your body craves it. At this point, I really wanted to know how much sugar could I have in a day and it would be considered healthy/normal. WARNING: I was sick to my stomach when I got the answer (because I love sweets so much). Any ideas? The answer is 32-40 grams a day. This equals roughly 8-10 teaspoons. Now I would say this is of added sugar. Milk has natural sugar (lactose) and fruit also has natural sugar (fructose). Now I am sure some of you are thinking, “Wow, that is a lot”. Believe me when I tell you, these are the same people who have no idea how many calories they are consuming in a day. So just to put this number in perspective I looked at a few things I had in the house. 1) Frosted Mini Wheats: Yes, I said frosted, but they are mini wheats, they should be good for you. A bowl, 24 mini wheats, has 12 grams of sugar and that doesn’t include the milk. Now milk has natural sugar (lactose) so I wouldn’t necessarily count that in my 32-40 grams. 2) Peppermint ice cream: 1/2 cup had roughly 16 grams of sugar. This is half of your daily allowance of sugar!! And how many of us would really have only 1/2 a cup? Probably closer to a cup, and there goes your entire daily allowance of sugar. 3) Large iced dark chocolate mocha: Last I heard dark chocolate was supposed to be good for you, but this drink has 57 grams of sugar. I really can’t even imagine how many grams of sugar I have been eating everyday with all of the candy and junk that I eat. No doubt probably between 150-300 grams. No wonder why America is obese. I have been keeping track this last week of my sugar intake (I have not had any candy, sweets, or sugar except my coffee) and I have had between 60-100 grams.
Now to the exercise part. I am working hard. I burn approximately 10 calories per minute. So daily I am burning between 500-800 calories during my workouts. So why I am not losing more weight? The first thing your body burns is sugar!! Once your body burns the available sugar it then starts to burn fat. Anyone see where I am going with this? Because I eat so much sugar that is all my body is ever burning. Then I go home after working out and eat more sugar. Another vicious cycle, my body never has a chance to burn fat with all the sugar I eat.
Next is digestive health. I have had stomach issues for as long as I can remember. I was tested for celiac disease and it was negative, but that does not mean that I don’t have some level of gluten intolerance. In fact, most Americans have a gluten intolerance whether they know it or not. Part of the reason we have digestion problems is that we don’t have the proper balance of bacteria. We have too much “bad bacteria” and not enough “good bacteria”. Processed foods and sugar feed the “bad bacteria” while antibiotics and chemicals in food kill the “good bacteria”. One of the best things you can do is to have a daily probiotic such as yogurt. If you are not a fan of yogurt, they do have it in a pill form at GNC. Pop drinkers prepare yourselves. In the first ten years that Coke was on the market, there was a 300% increase in colon cancer. This is because our bodies do not know how to digest carbonation. So instead it just bounces around in our system, and creates little holes in our intestines. This goes for any carbonated beverage, not just pop. One of the cheapest and best ways to cleanse your body and get rid of the toxins is the steam room, 10-15 minutes a day. If you have one of these at your gym, check it out. The steam room at Lifetime Fitness is amazing. I swear it feels like it has healing powers.
The last thing that really hit home for me was stress and sleep. Our bodies require 8-10 hours of sleep a night. I am lucky if I get four. When we are tired, we have little energy and our body starts to crave fat and carbs…SWEETS! The less sleep you get, the more you want to eat. Another vicious cycle that feeds into the others. No matter how hard you try, you can not recover lost hours of sleep. Now add stress to the mix, and it is a recipe for disaster. The following are a few effects of stress: increased adrenaline (your body is tired but your mind can’t shut down); increased utilization of sugar for energy which can increase cravings for high-carb foods; increased insulin resistance which prevents body from using carbs effectively; and decreased thyroid hormone conversion which can lower metabolic rate.
So after I learned all of this I decided to quit eating all the sweets and pop. I started last Thursday. Not drinking pop hasn’t been that difficult since I am drinking around 3 liters of water a day, and I do still have my fancy expresso drink. The sweets are another story. They are everywhere especially because Halloween is coming up. But I have resisted!! Saturday night was the most difficult because I was bored. I tend to eat when I am bored and I want something easy that makes me feel good…CANDY. Everyday is getting a little easier. My plan is to stick with until Christmas, because I am having Christmas cookies…that is if any of my wonderful aunts decide to make some!