Contributor: Luke Corey, BA(H), BScAHN, Registered Dietitian
“I’ve tried everything and just can’t shed the weight!”
“I’m eating less and haven’t lost a pound!”
“It’s too hard to lose weight!”
These are just some of the typical responses heard from people who have tried and failed in their pursuit to lose weight. They put their bodies and minds through the rigors and end up with nothing to show for it. Or, they succeed in losing weight, only to have it all come back once they stop following the guidelines set out by the weight loss program.
Does weight loss really have to be this difficult? The simple answer is: No!
We have developed an unhealthy obsession with weight loss, and are driven to lose weight as quickly as possible. This often reckless approach will always end in failure. It’s the proverbial train running out of control on the tracks. It’s going to crash at some point!
Real, effective and sustainable weight loss is possible, and much easier than you probably imagined. Our series titled Healthy Weight. Healthy You. will set you up for success and guide you towards a healthier weight. And, best of all, you’ll be able to keep it off!
The first and most important step to a healthier weight is all about identifying the barriers preventing you from achieving your goal. You need to know what you are dealing with first before you can start to make real changes.
The 5 real barriers to achieving a healthy weight are:
Let’s take a closer look at how each one of these elements may be preventing you from the weight loss you are looking for.
Of course, the foods we put into our body have a huge influence on both our health and our weight. The catch is, however, everyone responds differently to different foods (all calories are not the same!). Some people can eat whatever they want and still never gain a pound, while others can have a slice of bread and put on weight. The key, therefore, is to find the right foods for you. Unfortunately, due to the variability and preferences of each reader, this article will not be able to pinpoint exactly what you need (you will want to see a Dietitian for that).
However, there are two elements of choice that have an impact on almost everyone: fruit and vegetable consumption & protein intake.
Studies show that the majority of Canadians do not consume the recommended number of fruit & vegetable servings (normally between 8 and 10 servings per day). In fact, almost 40% of Canadians do not even get half of the daily recommendation1. As you probably know, fruits and vegetables are nutrient-rich, low-calorie foods that are essential for good health and achieving a healthy weight. If you do not get enough, the chances are you are consuming more foods that are higher in calories and not as nutrient-dense.
The balance of protein in the diet actually increases for weight loss. You need to be consuming more protein (from healthy sources), and less of everything else (except fruits & vegetables, of course). Protein requirements vary from person-to-person, but it is generally good practice to include at least one lean serving of protein, such as chicken, with every meal.
One of our greatest nemeses and barriers to achieving a healthy weight is portion control. We are eating too much food; and, often, too much in one sitting. Portions continue to get bigger and bigger, and our overall daily calorie intake is on the rise. Plain and simple, we need to cut back on the portions. This even applies to healthier foods, such as whole grains, dairy products, and some meat and their alternatives. It is true, you can have too much of a good thing, and more is not always better.
That is, except, for fruits and vegetables. If you were to take a look at your next meal (let’s say, dinner), how much of the plate is covered by a fruit or vegetable? A quarter? Half? None? There is a correlation between the amount of fruit and vegetables on a plate and the overall calorie content of the meal. The more fruits and vegetables on your plate, the lower the calorie content. The fewer fruits and vegetables, the higher the calorie count. Essentially, you can curb issues with portion control by covering at least half your plate with a healthy fruit or vegetable choice
Food is what nourishes us and gives us energy. But, the frequency with which we eat this food directly influences our metabolism, and, thus, our weight. There are two elements of timing that impacts our weight: eating breakfast and snacking. Many people do not eat breakfast every morning. In fact, one-third of Canadians don’t2. There is a serious problem with skipping breakfast, however. This unhealthy practice slows down our metabolism, especially as you get older, making it difficult to lose weight. When you wake up, your body is craving nourishment (like a fire craves fuel), and neglecting to feed it causes it to conserve energy stores by slowing down its metabolism. This is further perpetuated by going long periods without eating. Waiting for more than 3 or 4 hours (or more) to eat is just too long. Therefore, snacking is an essential practice for good health and weight loss (making sure to snack on healthy options, of course). Getting into a good habit of eating breakfast, followed by light snacks between your meals, will boost metabolism, and adding a serving of lean protein (20–30 grams) with each meal will help you lose weight.
Not only is water the essence of life, it is also essential for both a healthy body and weight loss. The trouble is, many people do not drink enough water, and/or they consume fluid from poor sources, such as juice, pop, energy drinks, or other higher-calorie options. While the recommended intake varies from person to person, if you tend to be below 1.5 litres (or 6 cups) a day, you will likely have trouble losing weight. Water is the perfect medium for our metabolism to do its work. Without proper hydration, however, our system begins to shut down (just like a car without any oil). Therefore, drinking enough water to stay fully hydrated is essential for weight loss and good health.
Getting your diet under control can be a long and arduous process. Hence, why the majority of people neglect the other major component of weight loss: exercise! Eating well and exercising may be tough practices to implement into your routine at the same time, but once you do so, it is fairly easy to maintain. Exercising is essential for good health and weight loss. You need some exercise on a daily basis, but, often, people have trouble finding the time or motivation to do any. Eating healthy but not moving will not generate the results you are looking for. You must do both!
The amazing thing about these five barriers is that they are all connected. When you change one, you will directly influence the other four areas. For example, trying to consume the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables will help with portion control and timing, which helps boost metabolism, but only if you are drinking enough water. Your metabolism will benefit from an extra boost if you can get active and exercise.
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Overcoming the barriers identified above will make it much easier to lose weight. Therefore, you must take a good look at your current routine and habits before you can make a change. That will be the subject of the next article in this series: Assessing your situation!
Note: If you need a helping hand, consult with a Dietitian