Module 4 - Weight Loss Tips
To weigh or not to weigh - that is the question!
There are two main schools of thought about weighing yourself and they are:
Weigh yourself daily and
Weigh yourself less often say, weekly or monthly. What are the pros and cons?
Weigh Daily: Those in favour of this idea say that by jumping on the scales daily it is a reminder to you that you are on a lifetime journey and you need to be watchful of your food intake for the coming day. Studies in the USA have shown that the vast majority of people who weigh daily tended to lose weight and maintain the loss long term.
There are others who get frustrated at what they see on the scales because let’s face it not much happens on a daily basis. Also it is normal for all of us to experience daily fluctuations including 1 – 2 pound increases. For these people daily weighing is stressful, and could even encourage them to abandon the journey through depression.
Weigh Weekly or Monthly: Weight loss is for most of us a slow but sustained process, and hence weighing on a weekly or even monthly basis might make more sense. At the end of the day we are looking at the trend going down and daily fluctuations are meaningless.
Whichever system you opt for be consistent: Always weigh yourself at the same time of the day, with the same (or no clothes on) and after you’ve been to the loo.
Last but not least: maybe we should ignore the scales altogether and focus on our clothing. If we are trimming down it will get looser. Bear in mind it could get tighter in areas where you are working out eg arms.
7 Reasons why you may be carrying water weight
Time of the Month: This is an obvious one and most women will know it from experience. It’s normal to gain about three to five pounds during your period. Generally, it will go away a few days after your period starts. Period-related weight gain is caused by hormonal fluctuations. It may be the result of water retention, overeating, sugar cravings, and skipping workouts due to cramps.
If you are tracking your weight weekly it’s a good idea to skip your period week.
Dehydration: This is not obvious to many. But if you don’t drink enough water your body feels threatened and goes into starvation (survival) mode. When this happens the body will retain water as a defence mechanism. The solution is to drink plenty of water to lose water! Once the body sees enough water coming in it will release it’s water stores and hence you lose weight.
Carb Intake: The body stores carbs it is not burning as glycogen. This is an energy store. Each gram of stored glycogen comes with 3 grams of water attached.
Sodium Intake: Sodium binds with water and can cause water retention. So if you’ve had a salty takeaway or salty processed food this can cause water weight gain.
Excessive Exercise: This can cause a healing response. Intense workout stresses our body in a positive way. That stress and micro-tearing damage to the muscle fibres induces water retention in the body. Your body releases cortisol during exercise, which can impact your fluids and cause your body to retain water. Also when you exercise regularly, your body stores more glycogen to fuel that exercise.
Hormones: Hormonal birth control can cause water weight gain. If this is happening you should consult a medical practitioner and discuss alternative meds. Stress can cause elevated cortisol levels which can impact on water retention.
Food Intolerances/Allergens: Both of these can cause water retention. If the offending food is omitted from the diet the effect on weight loss can happen quickly.
Exercise: Regular exercise is great at combatting water retention. Not only do you lose fluid through sweating but it encourages more water consumption through thirst. It can also help to decrease puffiness around the ankles etc.
Hydrating Foods: It’s a good idea to ‘eat your water’ – see the slide in Module 6
Not all calories are born equal!
It’s important to draw a distinction between nutrient dense calories and empty calories. On your plan we recommend nutrient dense quality food 80% of the time. Scientists now believe that a gut microbiome which is out of kilter because of a history of eating too much processed food actually extracts or harvests more calories from a meal compared to the same meal fed to a healthy gut. This is a double whammy for an overweight person. This slide is an example of nutrient dense food vs empty calories.
Snacks and other tips
We all need to have a little snack to help us through the day. When you feel the need to snack try eating fibre which keeps you fuller for longer. Apples and pears are good sources of fibre.
Protein is another good option, a small piece of cheese for example or some smoked salmon or meat. Protein is great for satiating hunger. The other benefit is the fact that the body ‘burns’ 30% of the protein it is storing. So if you eat 100 cals of protein, the body will use up 30 cals processing it, and therefore your net uptake is only 70 cals.
Drink water this helps you to feel full. It’s also a good idea to have a glass of water before a main meal.
Weight set point theory
Our bodies are permanently seeking to rebalance themselves. It’s a process called ‘homeostasis’.
So when we get too hot, the body perspires to cool us down and when we get cold we shiver to warm the body up. The same applies to food so if our energy reserves are depleted we release the hunger hormone ghrelin encouraging us to eat. When we’ve had enough our body signals the brain via a hormone called leptin.
Studies show that weight loss/weight gain is not a symmetrical process. In other words the body finds it easier to ‘accept’ a higher weight than it does to ‘accept’ a lower weight. This could be part of our survival mechanism, because the primal drive of the body is to survive and it implements all sorts of strategies to make sure it happens.
The theory states that we all have a weight that our body is ‘comfortable’ with.
Now imagine that there is a big wooden stake driven into the ground. There is a big elastic band looped around the stake with the other end looped around your body. Imagine now what happens when you try to walk away from the stake – the elastic band drags you back. The stake in the ground is your weight set point. The body gets uncomfortable when you try to stray too far away so it tries to restore the former balance.
When we are young our weight set point is fixed at our ‘normal’ weight. But as time goes by maybe we eat more, or eat the wrong things, or we exercise less, or all three. In this instance the body is ‘seduced’ into allowing the weight set point to move upwards. This generally happens over an extended period and so the body slowly moves from it’s healthy weight position to an overweight position.
Now lets imagine this person goes on a low calorie starvation diet. After a while the body will burn extra fat and calories to stay alive but it also goes into a state of panic and alarm. The body realises that in order to survive something has to ‘give’.
So for example it slows down the metabolism so that the rate of fat burn is reduced. In women it stops monthly periods because they are not needed for survival. They are a waste of energy. In addition to burning fat reserves it starts to burn muscle. It releases more of the hunger hormone ghrelin because it is desperate to take on energy so it can survive.
In parallel with this the person can become stressed and anxious possibly accompanied by frequent headaches.
Eventually the dieter gives up because they cannot stand the hunger any more. Calorie intake goes back to what it was before and the body starts to regain it’s original set point.
Except it doesn’t!
The human body remembers that it has been put into a state of crisis. So instead of just putting the fat stores back that it lost it now adds a contingency just in case the starvation situation ever occurs again. This is why yo-yo ‘dieting’ frequently means the more ‘diets’ you go on the heavier you get!
The actual effect of the yo-yo diets has been to move the weight set point upwards.
In the same way that the weight set point has been encouraged to increase over time, it can also be encouraged to move the other way – so long as it is done gradually. By setting up a (relatively) small calorie deficit the body can be ‘seduced’ into allowing the set point to be lowered. Along with the calorie reduction it is also important to exercise and add in some strength training to help build muscle. This can be done through weights, resistance training (eg resistance bands) and activities like pilates.
According to weight set point theory the body can accept an initial weight drop of up to 10% body weight. That’s how far you can stretch the elastic band.
When this point is reached the weight loss is likely to ‘plateau’ while the body starts to accept the new weight set point before resuming the weight loss further until the healthy weight is achieved.
The problem with the weight loss plateau is that it can be tempting to think ‘it isn’t working’.
This in turn can lead to feelings of failure and in some cases people will abandon their weight loss journey altogether. This can lead to feelings of guilt as you succumb to your treats in abundance!
The reality is that the plateau is the time to ‘keep on keeping on’ until your weight loss journey restarts.