Saturday, May 19, 2012

How to break through a weight loss plateau

Weight loss plateaus.  We've pretty much all experienced them and they can be extremely frustrating!  You can be losing weight at a steady pace, and then all of a sudden it will stop for no apparent reason.  Luckily, there are some changes you can make that will make a big difference!  These are just things that have worked for me and my team mates.  I do not claim to be a nutritionist and of course one size does not fit all!  But hopefully these will help move you in the right direction.  Here are my top 3:

1.  Avoid processed foods

By "eating clean", you are taking control!  You will consume far less fat, sugar, and salt (and chemicals!) by making things from scratch.  You generally want to avoid box mixes, canned items (except veggies and some soups), most chips and crackers, cakes and cookies, and frozen dinners.  Reshape your thinking about food and keep it simple!  It's easy to create meals from scratch that contain loads of fresh ingredients. is a fantastic source of healthy recipes, and the site is broken down into categories so you can search for recipes that fit your needs (gluten free, vegan, etc.).  If you choose to buy canned items, check for those that have ingredients listed that you can understand - the fewer the better!  Canned and frozen veggies (without sauce) are great to keep  on hand when you don't have fresh.  Focus your shopping on the outer perimeter of the store, and venture inside for a few select items such as canned veggies and beans.

2. Control the carbs

As we know, not all carbs are created equal.  One way to ramp up your progress is to focus on non-processed sources.  Some examples of these healthy carbs would be corn, beans, oats/oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and breads and crackers that are primarily whole grain.  Crackers like Wasa, Triscuit, and Wheat Thins are good choices.  For bread, Ezekiel is about as close as you can get to a "clean" bread, as most store bought breads contain a lot of artificial ingredients and high fructose corn syrup.  As a general rule, you want to look for a bread that has whole grain or whole wheat listed as the first ingredient, and has a high fiber content with a low sugar content.  This also applies to cereal.  Grains like farina (Cream of Wheat, Coco Wheats) and oatmeal are excellent choices, and cereals such as Special K, Fiber One, Kashi Go Lean, shredded wheat, and All Bran are lower in sugar and contain healthy complex carbs.  Just remember to stay within the suggested serving, usually one cup.

No-carb dinners

Eliminating carbs after a certain time of day can be very beneficial if you are trying to lose weight.  Some people choose to eliminate them after lunch, some after 3pm, and some stick to no-carb dinners only.  The reasoning behind this is that your body is continuing to burn calories even while you sleep, and it will use all of your carbohydrate sources first.  By eliminating carbs in the afternoon or evening, you are making your body consume fat instead.  On a related note, alcohol should be eliminated or avoided most of the time as well, as it is a simple carb. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard educated doctor currently working at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, the acetate from alcohol metabolism is the first fuel to burn for energy. During this time, the body will burn very little of any other form of energy such as the fatty acids stored up in adipose tissue, postponing the act of weight loss. A study published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that the metabolism of alcohol decreased whole body lipid oxidation by 73 percent. Read more:

3.  Limit certain dairy products

Milk and cheese should be used sparingly, as they are generally higher fat foods.  Skim milk, although fat free, contains approximately 15g of sugar per cup.  A better choice would be almond milk (a favorite in my Shakeology!), as long as it is unsweetened.  Cottage cheese is also a good choice, as it is low in fat and contains a specific type of protein that has been shown to increase muscle mass more than other sources.  Greek yogurt is fantastic, and packed with protein and very little sugar, as long as you buy the plain variety.  It can be sweetened with Stevia or fresh fruit, or even sugar free preserves.  Milk products do contain calcium and vitamin D, both of which as essential parts of our diets, but both can be consumed through other foods and/or vitamin supplements.  More info about calcium and vitamin D can be found here.

Please note...

I know that these strategies are not for everyone.  If you're not ready to take the plunge, you can try taking baby steps.  Some ideas:  
  • replace your milk with almond milk
  • try to eat no-carb with all after dinner snacks
  • limit alcohol to once a week, 
  • replace white rice with brown rice, or white potatoes with sweet potatoes
  • try 1 or 2 meals per week with no carbs
  • replace your regular snack crackers with those listed above
  • limit your carb intake to one serving per meal (usually one cup)
Any step toward clean eating is a good one!  Remember...

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