The majority of my clients fall into the weight loss category. They often come to their first nutrition consultation frustrated and discouraged. They cannot seem to understand why they are unable to lose weight after spending hours each day at the gym. Indeed, it is not unusual for some clients to gain a few pounds after weeks of exercising regularly. This occurs for one of two reasons.
1) We negate workouts with bad food choices and unhealthy eating habits. This can occur consciously and subconsciously. Consciously, we reward ourselves with foods that do not have any nutritional value. They are convenience foods that are high in calories and laden with sugar. Some of the workout-negating foods I hear about most often are smoothies, energy bars, muffins, breakfast sandwiches, and flavored coffees. Many people rationalize that they deserve a treat for a sweat session at the gym. Unfortunately, using food as a reward for a cardio or Pilates class has not been known to tip the scales in anyone's favor.
Eating more than we expend also happens subconsciously. Many of us graze throughout the day, and we consume a lot more calories than our bodies need. Mindless eating can occur anywhere (car, home, work). Eating breakfast on the way to work usually results in an unhealthy mid-morning snack or lunch. When we are not fully aware of our meals and snacks our minds and bodies do not connect. Therefore, we forget that we have eaten and we think we are still hungry.
2) We go long periods of time without eating a healthy meal or snack. I have many clients tell me that they do not eat lunch. They leave work and go to the gym without any fuel in their bodies. Then, they exercise for an hour or more. Unfortunately, they are hindering their bodies from building muscle mass. Our bodies' break down existing muscle tissue and then use it for energy. This results in a slower metabolism, which does not result in weight loss.
If a client is on medication and weight gain is a side effect, then we come up with a plan that best suits their individual nutritional needs. In order to keep our metabolism revving, we need to be fueling our bodies with a healthy meal or snack every 3-4 hours. Anyone that exercises for more than 45 minutes should refuel and replenish with a healthy meal or snack within 30-40 minutes. A healthy meal and snack consists of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber and is low in fat and sugar. How much carbohydrate, protein, and fat should be included in a healthy meal and snack? That amount varies depending on an individual's sex, height, weight, body frame, and activity level; the type and amount of time exercising are factors as well.
Portion control is also essential for weight loss. Avoid eating out of a box, bag, and container. I explain to clients that by using smaller cups, bowls, and plates, they will see a significant decrease in the amount of calories they consume per day.
Enjoy healthy meals and snacks sitting at a table without distractions. Allow your mind and body to connect. Be aware of what and how much you are eating at any given time. This will increase your chances for achieving your weight loss goals.
Weight gain does not happen overnight, and neither does weight loss. Patience, discipline, and motivation are the keys moving in a positive direction to a healthier lifestyle.