Why do 95% of dieters gain back the weight they lose, often ending up with more weight than they started with?
I believe this is primarily a result of failure to protect the metabolism during weight loss. When I work with women one-on-one who are tired of the weight cycling, my first priority is to help them build a better metabolic rate. This is not the fastest way to weight loss. In fact, it can slow down weight loss at times in favor of fat loss (preserving muscle). But fast weight loss is quickly regained because of the plummeting metabolic rate it causes. Here are just a few basic hints at turning your body into a more efficient fat-burning machine.
1. Lift weights (boot camp!).
This is the only way to avoid muscle loss while you lose weight; cardio is not enough. For every pound of muscle on your body you burn 30-50 calories a day. A pound of fat will get you 2. You will preserve as much muscle as you can during your weight loss by incorporating strength training into your workout 2-3 times a week. When you do lose the weight, the result will be a healthy body composition and a lean, tone physique instead of the infamous "skinny fat." As a trainer I have measured women of 125 pounds at 40% body fat. There is nothing healthy about this and I guarantee that woman does not feel attractive underneath her size 6 jeans.
2. Do not eat less.
Of course there may be situations where overeating is occurring and calorie reduction is needed. But often with women we see a trend of chronic low calorie dieting with plateaued weight loss well before a healthy goal is met. In general, when we reduce caloric consumption we decrease the metabolic rate, and when we increase caloric expenditure through exercise, we increase it. Weight loss is NOT as simple as "calories in, calories out." Focus on making healthier food choices instead of eating less. Consume nutrients your body will know how to use to repair cells and burn fat. Avoid sugar and all refined carbohydrates except for quick energy to prepare for or recover from a hard workout.
3. Exercise more.
This may be old wisdom, but there is a misunderstanding of the role of exercise in weight loss. Again, it's not just calories in, calories out. Avoiding a cookie for dessert is not "equal to" running 2 miles. Exercise increses oxygen in the body and creates a favorable environment for fat-burning all day long. Your metabolic rate will be higher for several hours following an exercise session.
4. Use intervals.
See previous blog :). You will have much better results in terms of fat-burning and fitness level with 30 minutes of intense intervals than a 6 mile steady pace run.
5. Eat often, and eat balanced.
Fuel your metabolic furnace by not going more than 2-3 hours without food. Choose balanced selections - protein and/or fats with your carbohydrates every time to reduce the insulin response. Insulin is not your friend when it comes to fat-burning.
More and more studies lately are looking at the effect of sleep deprivation on our waist lines and the results aren't pretty. Getting less than 7-8 hours a night appears to lower your metabolism and also increase caloric consumption.
7. Drink water.
Studies have shown that improving hydration levels increases metabolism. Water is the medium in which all metabolic reactions take place and "survival mode" is not a good place to be when you want your body to do the extra work of burning fat. Bonus tip: drink it cold! Just the work of your stomach heating it during digestion will cause a spike in your metabolic rate.