It’s a common misconception that eating less food and exercising more will bring about weight loss. While the calorie math may be true initially, what you’ll end up with is hunger, cravings for sugar or processed foods, lack of energy, and possibly weight gain. Fat cells store calories when your body thinks you’re starving it. This is when you start to crave sugar and processed foods. Since your body doesn’t know when it’s going to be fed again, fat cells hold on to whatever you give it. You might also feel irritable and impatient if your diet isn’t sound and you’re training hard.
Here are eight nutrition and health mistakes you’re making that make you feel hungry without getting results on the scale.
“Consuming large amounts of carbs and sugars often creates spikes in blood sugar followed by crashes, which can increase appetite,” says Christopher Tuttle, R.D. The increase in appetite is a response by the body to eat more carbs to help bring up the blood sugar from crash. Gradual rises and drops in blood sugar help decrease the appetite and minimize that dreaded mid-day crash.
With fewer carbs in the diet, the requirement for insulin decreases. As blood sugars lower in the blood, the hormone glucagon raises blood sugar by tapping into energy stores (glycogen). Combine a lower carb intake and a reduced-calorie diet and fat-burning will ensue.
One way to cure your hunger and use calories for energy is to consume quality fats at each meal. Incorporate avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, or natural nut butters. When you keep your carbohydrate levels low, your good fats will keep your stomach and brain satisfied. Use a variety of MCT oils, olive oil, avocado, nuts, and nut butters (the type you stir initially). These fats are metabolized for energy and not stored around your waist. You won’t even miss the carbs in your meal.
In the last two decades, research has uncovered numerous health benefits of tree nuts for heart and brain protection. Now those benefits even extend to achieving a healthy weight, as research shows that consuming nuts can actually help people lose pounds and keep them off. A study done in 2014 by Loma Linda University found that consumers of tree nuts had a lower occurrence of obesity compared to those who don’t eat nuts. Why is this? Because nuts are filling, satisfying, and a good fat. You don’t need to overindulge to feel full. The good fat in nuts makes your body feel energized and keeps insulin levels low. The fat is used for fuel, not for filling up your fat cells. But, overindulgence in any healthy food can pack on the pounds. So, aim to keep your nut consumption to an ounce or about 180 calories per serving.
While diet and exercise are huge components of losing weight and feeling energetic, quality sleep is just as important in your overall weight loss goal. Your insulin levels can be raised by too little sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, hormonal imbalances, and an inability to process carbohydrates. To keep your body from storing unwanted fat, aim to get 7-8 hours of consolidated sleep every night, says Nicholas DiNubile, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and author of Framework.
Eat quality proteins and fats at each meal, but stick to a 3-4 oz serving of protein at meals and about 30% overall fat intake daily. “It’s essential to choose foods containing healthy fats,” says DiNubile. “This will lower systemic inflammation and keep insulin (fat-storing hormone) levels in a more constant and healthy range.”
That daily afternoon work meeting that makes you feel anxious can derail healthy eating and make you want to grab a sugary, processed, or indulgent snack. Get up and take a walk outside to change your mindset, suggests Tuttle. “You can make better decisions when you feel of sound mind,” he says. If you remove the stressors in your life, your body will be more efficient at burning rather than storing calories.
Eat an array of vegetables at mealtime to add fiber and a feeling of fullness. Experiment with zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice to give meals a different flare. Also, visit the seasoning aisle in the grocery store to add flavor.
BY LINDA STEPHENS, RD