By: Tammy Tredoux – Womens’s Wellness Contributor
This is a question that I have been asked many times by some of my clients. Unfortunately the answer is not simplistic. The body is an amazing machine, however each one works differently. So to fully understand why you’re packing on the kilos, let’s answer a few questions first…
- How long am I sitting still? I know… What on earth does this have to do with weight management? Let me explain. Sitting still for a few hours inhibits the body from producing lipase, a digestive enzyme to help you break down fat. Stand and stretch every now and then to boost your metabolism.
- Have I hit a weight loss plateau? This happens to most people, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve regressed with your transformation program. During the first few weeks, your body will rapidly drop the weight, and this is normal, however as you lose fat, your body loses muscle too, and your metabolism will start to slow. To speed up your metabolism, you would have to decrease your caloric intake or increase your physical activity.
- How many calories do I consume a day? This is an important question because a lot of people either consume too many or too few, and this directly affects weight (obviously). First thing you need to do is work out your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). Speak to your trainer for this one, as some people may use the internet to figure out how many calories they can consume per day. Most people forget that these calculators already factor in your workout or fitness program, so they end up adding those calories that they burn back in, which means they would consume more than necessary.
- How stressed am I? Women today have an enormous amount of stress, both in their careers and home life. As a co-breadwinner, the responsibilities of running a home are still placed squarely on our shoulders. As a result, the body starts to produce the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone is secreted through the adrenal glands, during times of high physical or psychological stress and can lead to increased appetite. Unfortunately what the body craves during these times is sweet, high-fat and salty foods. Also, the body will produces less testosterone which could lead to decreased muscle mass; subsequently you would burn fewer calories. This is a good time to go to that yoga class you’ve been eyeing for months.
- Am I getting enough sleep? Sleep deprivation can contribute heavily to the fact that you are gaining weight. Not getting enough sleep, will cause your body to produce vast amounts of cortisol, thus producing those unwanted cravings. Try setting routine and eliminating stress-triggering environments. Eliminate the coffee, TV, tablet, laptop and cell phones, before going to bed.
- Are you paying attention to assessments? Strictly speaking, you should be getting an assessment on a monthly basis to track your progress. This ensures that you are on the right track to reaching your goals. On occasion you may find that you are not losing any weight, and this could be very frustrating. Take a breath… There is some good news. Firstly, your body knows best, and it could be that you are at your ideal weight. Secondly, muscle mass is far denser than fat. What this means is that muscle takes up less volume than an equal mass of fat, so pay attention to the centimeters lost, your body fat percentage, and most importantly, how your clothes feel on you.
- Am I doing enough strength training? It’s not strictly true that cardio alone is capable of assisting weight loss. Begin hitting those weights! Strength training will develop lean muscle which increases your metabolism. The body will burn 30 times more calories maintaining lean muscle, than it would to maintain fat.
- Am I starving myself? We assume eating less throughout the day would contribute to losing weight faster. NO! The literal meaning of breakfast is to ‘break a fast’. Yes, your trainer will go on and on about eating a healthy breakfast but there is a very good reason. When you go to bed at night, and wake up in the morning, you haven’t eaten for nearly 8 hours. Should you skip breakfast, it will add roughly another six hours, essentially starving yourself for a total of 14 hours. Once you eat, your body will store all you’ve consumed as a fat reserve, and lower the rate at which you metabolize food. Ideally, you should be eating every 4 – 6 hours to kick-start your metabolism.