While the number on the scale is not the be all, end all when it comes to health, it can be used as a tool. The majority of my clients have health goals, and losing weight is typically at the top of their list, but usually, it comes hand-in-hand with some other health concerns, like digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, skin disorders, or trouble getting pregnant, just to name a few. So while I don’t like to promote fad or “quick fix” diets, I do feel like learning some healthy habits can help you lose wight AND feel better and heal any health concerns, so for me, that is such a win-win for a client.

Here are some common mistake I see Women making when trying to lose weight, and some that I also used to do before I knew any better.

1. Not eating enough (of the right kind of) calories.

Meeting your protein needs are #1 when it comes to weight loss. When you are trying to lose weight, your protein needs actually increase. Use this calculator to see what your daily protein needs are based on your weight. Protein is the one thing that most women are not getting enough of everyday, so making sure you are getting protein at every single meal is a good place to start. There are so many reasons why our bodies need it, but the main one being that protein, and fat, are what is going to keep us full. If you picture a fire, think of the kindling and newspaper like the carbohydrates, which go up in flames fast but don’t last, and the fat and protein are like the big logs that you put on the fire and burn for hours. Here is a good example to bring it back to the food…Have you ever had a bowl of instant oatmeal for breakfast? Then you know that after you eat that bowl of oatmeal, you are hungry like an hour after you eat. Which will bring on more cravings, and likely for more carbs because the carbs are the “quick fuel” for the body, it’s quick, instant sugar (aka energy) but it always leads to a crash after.

The overall goal, and a place where your body will be happier, have more energy, and fewer cravings, is to eat a well balanced meal with the appropriate amount of protein, fat and fiber, after such a meal, you should not be hungry for at least 3-5 hours, until your next meal. It should sustain you that long. And a good place to start is with breakfast – make sure you are meeting your protein needs for breakfast and it will set you up for a much more stable blood sugar day, and will also lead to weight loss.

This bowl hits a lot of bases with protein (egg, edamame, quinoa), Fat (avocado, olives), Fiber (corn, sprouts, edamame).

If you’re wondering how/why more protein helps you lose weight, here is the simplified answer: When you eat protein, your pancreas releases glucagon (as well as some insulin), and while insulin is the “fat-storing” hormone (when levels are elevated a lot throughout the day), glucagon is the opposite of that, it is know as the “fat-burning” hormone. So, eating protein stimulates glucagon release, suppresses the insulin release and there you can get into fat burning mode.

There are also many woman who just aren’t eating enough – and this is in large part due to living through an era of thinking 1200 calories a day is what you should be eating. This could not be farther from the truth. You need to eat enough quality food to preform A LOT of your daily functions, and when your body is deprived, is when so many women experience hormonal issues like PCOS, thyroid dysfunction, infertility, and more. The building blocks of protein are amino acids, there are 20 in total, 9 of them are essential (meaning your body can’t make them and you need to get them from food), and if you are not eating enough protein, your body will not get the amino acids it needs to thrive.

2. Eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.

This is a common misconception that so many of us have learned in order to “balance your metabolism”. Heck, I even learned about this in nutrition school years ago. Now, there are a few cases where eating this way is recommended, like if you have diabetes, are pregnant or breastfeeding. But for the majority of us, it is much more effective to eat only 3 meals per day, with a break of at least 4-5 hours between. The break in between meals will allow the digestive system to rest, and it will also allow insulin levels to come back down to baseline. As a reminder, insulin is the hormone that is released by the pancreas when we eat food, to escorts the glucose (aka sugar) into the cells to be used as energy. If your insulin levels are elevated a lot throughout the day, like if you are snacking frequently with little breaks between (1-2 hours), then the body gets into “fat storing” mode, and also increases inflammation levels in the body. Here are some graphs to show the difference between eating frequent meals throughout the day, versus, eating only 3 meals a day without snacking in between.

The blood sugar roller coaster.
Healthy peaks and valleys throughout the day with breaks in between, notice the blue ‘pools’ that allow for fat burning.

When you are eating frequently and you are on “the blood sugar roller-coaster” which you will see in the first graph above.

Some common signs that your blood sugar is imbalanced:

  • You typically crave carbs
  • You always crave sweets after a meal
  • You feel like you need to take a nap or lie down after a big meal
  • You easily get “hangry” or irritable if a meal or snack is missed
  • You need some caffein to get you through the afternoon
  • You try to lose weight and the things that used to work just aren’t anymore.

And just because I can’t stress this insulin piece enough, here are some other health factors that are greatly affected by increased insulin levels:

The effects of insulin.

3. Doing the wrong kind of exercise.

The more muscle mass you have, the more fat will be burned when you’re not working out. So although there is nothing wrong with aerobic exercise (like running or cardio), you need to add in some resistance training as well. Resistance training is using weights, and that can even include your body weight, you do not need to lift heavy weights. So a body weight squat can be resistance, essentially making your muscles resist weight in order to grow. Gone are the days of running on a treadmill or elliptical for hours watching the calories burned count go up thinking this is the only piece to the weight loss puzzle.

Use cardio as a warm up, but don’t skip the weights.

So if you enjoy going for a run, or love a cardio class, then by all means, keep doing it! But also add in some resistance, with body weight and/or weights to the mix. This will also help you as you get older and muscle mass begins to decrease. So the more you are working on building the muscles, the more it can combat the natural loss that comes with age.

As a side-note, I used to believe (and you may have too), that if I lifted weights I would get too muscular-looking and bulky. But this too is a dated misconception, and it actually has slimming effects. Plus, there’s nothing like feeling strong!

4. Skipping Meals.

Intermittent fasting is such a fad now – where you fast for a number of hours overnight and into the morning, bringing many women to skip their breakfast. This has been shown to be an excellent tool in some individuals, but mostly post-menopausal women or men…NOT menstruating Women. And that is because of our hormones. By skipping meals on a daily basis, it adds an extra stress to our body, that can actually have an opposite effect, and lead to weight loss in the long run. So make sure to eat 3 square meals a day (including fat, protein and fiber) to get all the nutrients you need and not put an added stress on your body. If you do feel inclined to try an intermittent way of fasting, just don’t eat after your dinner, eat a little earlier (like at 5 or 6), and then you will be fasting for a little over 12 hours overnight. And make sure to break your fast with a higher protein, savoury meal to set yourself up for a balanced blood sugar day.

5. Only focusing on the number on the scale.

Yes, weight can be used as a marker, and if you work with me, we may even use a scale as a check-in tool, to measure overall weight loss. BUT, it is not the only marker we should be looking at. My very first measure of getting healthier and losing weight is; how do you feel? Do you have energy, are you feeling bloated, do you have heartburn after you eat, regular headaches, constipation? The way you feel should be your top priority. Next, you can use a flexible tape measure to take some key measurements (at belly button, around thigh, waist), because the number on that scale may not be moving down, but your measurements may be and your clothes will fit better. That can provide enough encouragement while adopting a newer healthier lifestyle and diet. Also, if you are exercising, and especially doing resistance training, no doubt your muscle mass will be growing and muscle and fat have a very different composition. We want more muscle for overall health, especially as we age and our muscle mass decreases over time (usually starting to decrease after the age of 40).

Another very key marker to look at is your blood work. This will give a great snapshot into your health and look at important markers like cholesterol and inflammation. Seeing those markers come down can be so encouraging and also lend itself to better health, feeling better and living for longer. When you work with me and the Metabolic Balance program, we take your blood markers at the beginning, then a few months later you can get re-tested and we can see how much the plan has helped your overall health markers

If you want to learn more about a Weight Loss program I offer and can guide you through, click this link to learn all about the program and what is included as well as the cost.

Listen to the accompanying podcast here.