As the summer approaches, many begin to think about bath suit season and losing weight.  If you are trying to lose weight for whatever reason, you are not alone.  Gallup estimates that 51% of adults in America are trying to lose weight and 68% are considered overweight or obese.  For those who are attempting to lose weight, dieting can be frustrating when the numbers on the scale are not moving.  At times, even with strict adherence to a weight loss plan losing or maintaining weight can be a struggle.  Many factors other than reducing calorie intake and adding exercise can affect weight loss and some are little known.  Changing these factors will help with lasting success.


5 Things You May Not Know About Weight Loss

  1. Sleep is necessary for weight loss and maintenance.   A University of Chicago study showed that individuals who slept over 8 hours lost more fat than those who slept less than 5 ½ hours when eating the same number of calories. Sleep deprivation slows down the metabolism and the body’s ability to process the hormone insulin.  Insulin is necessary to convert food into energy.  In addition, inadequate sleep impacts two hormones that regulate hunger and fullness which leads to overeating.  Basically, the result is not sleeping enough increases the appetite to allow for the energy demands needed for longer wakefulness.   Moreover, too little sleep causes spikes in cortisol which results in the body slowing down to conserve energy which leads to reduction in metabolism.   Other problems with inadequate sleep are reduction in will power, too little energy to exercise and late night snacking.
  2. Stress causes weight gain. As with too little sleep, stress is responsible for spikes in cortisol which slows the metabolism and increases the desire for sugar and carbohydrates.  Studies have shown that people who reported being under stress within 24 hours of a high fat meal burned less fat calories than those who reported no stress.   In addition to the metabolism slowing down, stress also causes emotional eating or eating for reasons other than hunger.  Unfortunately, for many who are trying to lose weight, food has served as a coping strategy for stress.  To lose the weight, a stress reduction program can be the first step in the weight loss plan.   Even something as small as incorporating a guided visualization or a short breathing exercise can be a good step.
  3. After age 40, performing weight-bearing exercise is essential to lose or maintain weight. While weight-bearing exercise is important at all ages, it is critical after age 40. Beginning after age 30, muscle begins to diminish.   Then after 40 hormonal changes and slowing of metabolism also lead to slow weight gain.  While cardio exercise is important to losing weight and heart health, adding weight-bearing exercise to add muscles will boost the metabolism.   This boost in metabolism occurs even when the body is at rest.  In addition, adding weight-bearing exercise tones the muscles and strengthens the bones which help with staying active as we age.   This does not mean we need to become body-builders but incorporate an appropriate form of strength training to your routine.
  4. Portion sizes have become large. The National Institute of Health studied portion sizes and found that they have doubled and sometimes tripled over the last 20 years.  While some are obvious, like a “supersize” meal, other over-sized portions might not be as obvious.  An easy rule of thumb is to not each any portion larger than the size of your fist. One good way to start a weight loss plan is too eat only 2/3’s of the food on your plate or eat from a smaller plate. In addition, be careful of the many of the newly popular sugar and cream-filled coffee drinks which can add up to the calories in a large milkshake.
  5. The “Yo-Yo” effect wreaks havoc on your metabolism. “Yo-Yo” weight loss and gain or weight-cycling occurs when you lose weight and then gain it (and maybe more) back several times.  Not only is this difficult from a psychological standpoint, it can negatively impact the metabolism over time making it more challenging to lose or maintain weight loss.  What happens is when a diet becomes too restricted, we feel deprived. If the deprivation is not addressed, the tendency is to then over-consume to counteract the feeling which leads to a cycle of loss and gain.  For this reason, it is important to find ways to counter the feeling of deprivation with other non-food rewards.  In addition, it is important to moderate and allow for small portions of the foods you enjoy so it’s not an all or nothing feeling.

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