Saturday, August 27, 2016

Weight Loss Plateaus #1

The dreaded weight loss plateau - it's something most dieters encounter around the six-month mark. You continue working out and eating right, yet you don't see any progress. What is going on?

After you lose weight, your body operates more efficiently and needs less energy to do everything, including your workouts, which means you burn fewer calories. At the time, your system is biologically programmed to get you back to your former, heavier weight - a survival mechanism to help prevent starvation. The phenomenon, called adaptive thermogenesis, puts the brakes on your metabolism. A 10% drop in your body weight will slow your metabolism as much as 25%. And the more you lose, the greater the effect. 

Your hormones also make you hungrier than ever. If you shed 10 - 15% of your body weight, your level of leptin - a hormone critical for making you feel full - plummets by 50%, convincing your brain that you've lost half you body fat. At the same time, your level of the "hunger hormone" ghrelin also spikes disproportionately after weight loss. 

It takes a tremendous amount of physical and emotional effort to overcome all the biological and environmental challenges to weight loss. Initially, you can stick with it because you see the results and you get a lot of positive reinforcement. But after a few months, you become tired and discouraged by all the work required. 

But don't give up! A few smart tweaks to your diet will get results and help renew your commitment.

Get Back to Basics 
If you used to track your food and exercise, it's time to restart that routine. Logging meals and workouts can help you see where you need to step up your efforts. Be careful about portion control. Analyze the weeks that you were particularly successful, figure out what you were doing differently and go back to it. 

Find Your Happy Weight
Often people pick their goal weight arbitrarily, which can set them up for failure. If you’ve hit your plateau and are within 5 or 10 pounds of your target, consider whether the weight you’re at now might be right for you. You’ve already improved your health enormously by reducing your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Don’t be obsessed with reaching a certain number on the scale. Think about what makes you feel good. That’s your happy weight.

Next week, I will share three more strategies
for pushing past a weight loss plateau.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy  Food

Friday, August 19, 2016

Diversify Your Workout

We know workout variety is good, but some of us love our everyday boot camp. How much variety do you really need to see results?

When you're trying to jump-start a workout routine, choose a couple of go-to workouts for cardio and strength and then up the variables.

For six weeks, play with upping the ante on things like the amount of weight you're lifting OR the number of sets or reps you're doing OR decrease the rest time between each exercise or interval. That helps you create a benchmark by which you can judge your progress and it also helps you master skills. Then pick one goal - lose weight, get stronger, build up your endurance - and spend six weeks gearing your workouts to that. It's important to choose ONE goal so that you can focus your work and see progress.

For the next phase, throw your body a curve-ball by taking two weeks or so off from your regular routine and doing just Pilates or yoga to work smaller muscles and try different types of movement patterns.

Workout variety allows you to take advantage of an unusual class, try a sport you used to do in high school or meet a new group of people. Diversifying your exercise also helps prevent injury caused by repetitive motion. Planning your workouts intentionally will allow you to see results that an auto-pilot workout might not deliver. Keep your body guessing, explore new movement and work to create muscle balance.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, August 12, 2016

Second Breakfast is a Good Thing!

If you are familiar with the books or movies based on The Lord of The Rings, you know that Hobbits not only have one breakfast but also Second Breakfast (and Elevenses and Lunch and...). It turns out that Second Breakfast is a great way to help maintain or lose weight. 

A recent study found that those who ate two breakfasts (one at home and one later in the morning) didn't gain more weight that those who ate just one. And the participants were less likely to be overweight than those who skipped the meal entirely.

Most adults don't need two full breakfasts (unlike Hobbits) but if you exercise in the morning or eat late lunches, a hearty mid-morning snack with produce and protein is a good idea. What does that look like? Your breakfast could be a slice of whole wheat toast, eggs scrambled with spinach, sliced tomatoes on the side. Then mid-morning you could have a banana and handful of walnuts.

More mid-morning snack ideas:
  • clementines and a latte
  • smoked salmon on cucumbers
  • plain Greek yogurt and blueberries
  • whole wheat English muffin and peanut butter
  • apple slices and cheddar cheese
  • lowfat cottage cheese on whole wheat crackers topped with salsa
  • pear slices sprinkled with cinnamon and a handful of almonds

Front-load your calories for the day and enjoy a lighter lunch and dinner.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, August 5, 2016

Menopause Weigth Gain is Not Your Fault!

As women enter menopause, their levels of physical activity decrease; for years scientists were unable to determine why. Now, researchers have found a connection between lack of ovarian hormones and changes in the brain's reward center for activity.

A study involved two groups of rats - one highly fit and one low fitness level. The highly fit group showed more activity in the brain's pleasure center with greater wheel running. After the loss of ovarian hormones, the highly fit rats saw a significant reduction in activity correlating to a significant reduction in their dopamine signaling levels. In both groups, the hormonal changes led to changes in the brain that translated to less physical activity. The findings confirm previous evidence in humans and rats that weight gain occurring after menopause is likely due to decreased overall physical activity rather than increased energy intake from diet.

Activation of brain receptors in that part of the brain may serve as a future treatment to improve motivation for physical activity in postmenopausal women. But until then, what coping methods do we have to combat this trend? Activate that reward center of your brain in these different ways.

Choose physical activity you enjoy
Play a sport. Take up a new one!
Run with the kids at the playground. Ditch the park bench.
Garden with manual tools - no power!
Hike in the outdoors - savor nature.
Swim in the ocean. Enjoy the salty breeze.

Choose to do something active daily
Make non-negotiable activity "appointments".
Create a habit that doesn't require daily choice.
Enjoy a different activity every day.

Choose activity with a partner or group
Meeting a friend keeps you accountable.
Talking while exercising makes it seem to fly by faster.
Join a class for accountability and social connection.

Understanding the physical interaction between our brains and our hormones can give us information to make meaningful changes as we journey through this season of life.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food