I have a love-hate relationship with that word. In the context of nutrition, for instance, "We should all eat a healthy diet," I love it. In the context of perpetuating body image concerns and feelings of self-loathing, for instance, "Wow! She's soooooo tiny. I wish I looked like her. I'm going on a diet," I hate it. I want to clarify this because I always want to be known as that girl that helped me eat healthier, workout hard, feel great and lose a few pounds, too, not as that girl that got me to lose all sorts of weight last year, but I gained it all back and now feel like crap! Assuming that most of you are in the category of the former and working on ways to eat healthy to be of an optimal weight, I thought I'd throw together a list of reasons why a diet might now work!
1) You're Constantly Hungry
If you feel like you're hungry enough to eat cardboard two hours or less after a meal - something is wrong. Chances are you're eating a very low fat diet. A very low fat diet, especially if you buy a lot of commercial food, is almost always always always refined. It's void of nutrition - despite the fact that most food packages claim that they're "fortified" with vitamins and minerals. Eating very low fat (e.g. fat free cereal + fat free milk, or fat free yogurt + fat free toast for breakfast) will almost always send your body on a blood glucose crazy train. It's extremely hard to get off because you're always hungry and probably craving sugary foods. You eat more sugary foods, find yourself hungry again, then eat sugary foods again. In the short term, you'll probably feel bloated, thirsty and, well...frustrated that you're not eating right. In the long term, you'll probably end up with higher triglycerides (not good) and some blood glucose problems (pre-diabetes/diabetes). I say 'probably' because it IS that probable.
What to do? Ease off the refined carbs and eat a little more protein and a little bit of healthy fat with every meal. Some people need more, and some people need less, but we all should have at least a little bit of protein and fat with our meals.
2) The Scale Hasn't Budged in a Month
I usually give people about a month to see some weight loss. This is almost always longer than what they want, but your body is going through a whole lotta changes when you try to clean up your diet. It takes time for toxins to get out - which allow for fat to vanish. You might also gain some muscle mass which could offset the loss you'd like to see on the scale. After a month, however, if you're not seeing any real progress, you're doing something wrong. Please see point #1. This is probably the biggest culprit, right next to not eating at all. People still equate dietary fat with body fat and avoid it like to plague. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Another possibility is that you're not working out right. If you're doing all "slow and steady" work, you could be training your body to maintain fat. Shake it up with some interval training. I've written extensively on this. Just look for one of my No Excuses Workousts on my blog, buy my super cheap ebook full of interval workouts, subscribe to my 40 Day Shape Up and you will see results.
3) You're Gaining Weight
It's never a good sign when your weight goes up while you're dieting. My best advice - get out of your head. A lot of people I've worked with fixate on what they can't eat after they start eating clean. They find ways to compensate by eating huge quantities of what is good for them. I'm all about healthy food, but you can eat too much of it. For instance, almonds, walnuts and nut butters are great for you. But if you're polishing of a big bag of nuts, or a jar of nut butter in a few days - you're overdoing it. There is such thing as eating too much fruit, too! Fruit, while chock full of awesome nutrients, is still sugary. When I hear people say, "eat all the fruits and vegetables you want," I kind of wince. It should be "eat all the non-starchy vegetables you want, and have some fruit, too." (Some being the optimum word.) It's also possible that you're cheating. We all have cheat snacks, meals or even days, but if you're really trying to keep your diet clean and healthy, allowing yourself to eat garbage every now and then "because you never have it," could really backfire.
Try to set some loose boundaries with your diet. If you're going to have a little bit of chocolate each and every day, make it a square or two of dark chocolate - not the entire bar. If you're going to allow yourself to have a frou-frou coffee drink loaded with junk, keep it to no more than once a week. If you're going to allow yourself to have pizza once a week, aim for a thin crust slice or two, not an entire deep dish pie.
4) You Fee Like Sh%t
You're dragging, getting sick and are generally unwell. You might be losing weight, but are you eating healthy? There is a big difference between thin and healthy! If you're eating a lot of commercially-marketed diet foods, rather than whole, unrefined foods, you're probably lacking in nutrients that would otherwise keep you healthy. Our body can't absorb vitamins and nutrients that have been added back into foods in the same way we can if you ate them unprocessed. If you're just starting a clean diet, your body could be detoxing from all the ick that you've filled it with. If this is the case, your body is likely just trying to rid itself chemicals and toxins from your liver, fat cells and just about every other part of your body. It's very normal to feel a little off in the first couple weeks.
5) You're Weaker Than You Were Before
If you have no stamina or even feel or look flabbier than you were before you started eating healthier, you could very well be losing muscle. As important as it is to be of an optimal weight, it's equally important to eat regularly throughout the day. Balance your diet with plenty of unrefined carbs (preferably veggies), lean protein and healthy fat. If you try to cut out one macronutrient (carbs, for instance), you will probably lack the energy your body needs to perform day-to-day tasks. A lot of people who jump on the low-carb wagon to lose weight don't realize that eating too few carbohydrates (usually less than 80 grams a day) can put our body into what's called ketosis. Our body breaks down and 'eats' these ketones much in the same way they do carbs. This can actually cause a blood sugar reaction and force your body to store fat! Eat reasonably and don't go to extremes.
Wait, don’t leave yet! If you’re not joining me on Facebook yet, now’s a great time. There’s a lot more information on nutrition, diet and exercise. I love talking with my fans and enjoy putting together fitness plans and body-specific meal plans…just for them! If you have any questions or comments, just let me know.