What To Do When You Feel Like You Are Doing Everything Right And Not Losing The Weight You Want
By Jackie Wicks, PEERtrainer Co-Founder
We got a post on the new PEERtrainer Facebook Page the other day that sounded all too familiar:
"I feel like I've hit a brick wall. I've lost 20 lbs since since January (it’s now May) and I'm 172 lbs and have been for the past 3 wks. I feel like I should have lost something since I workout everyday and eat less than 1300 (calories) a day. What else should I do?!?!"
The post easily could have been this because we get emails, posts, questions like this all the time:
“I do EVERYTHING right. I workout, I eat well, I watch my portions but I'm not losing weight. I'm doing everything right. What is wrong??!??!”
This is what we see on PEERtrainer everyday. Actually, not just on PEERtrainer, but also in our everyday lives. People make a goal, they get motivated, and then they get a plan in place.
They search their memory for what worked in the past, or they find a friend who "did it" or they scan for the latest diet and fitness breakthroughs and they begin with total vigor.
Because there is a certain "narrative" or accepted set of ideas of what an "Official Diet" is, it's not hard to come up a list of what this person will probably do. The person with the motivation and the goal and the plan, probably will come up with a plan that includes "Official Diet Foods." (Hope we are not infringing on a trademark here ;)
And currently, what we are being told to eat as your “Official Diet Foods” are as follows:
-- Get your lean proteins in the form of fish, egg whites and turkey.
-- Low fat dairy is a great way to lose weight and still get your calcium.
-- No white carbs, focus on the "good" carbs like whole grains and whole wheat.
-- Fiber, fiber, fiber. Get your fiber in. There’s even a sprinkle on food powder for getting your fiber intake higher.
-- Get rid of the processed foods: No hydrogenated this, or high fructose corn syrup that. You can have chocolate chip cookies, but make them natural with whole eggs, agave and other “natural ingredients”.
-- Eat the junk (you don't want to get an eating disorder!!) but do it in a little dose! A 100 calorie snack pack will satisfy your need for cravings for the food you love.
-- It's simple math: Calories in vs. Calories out. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight.
These tips are followed with the best intentions. I remember one of my favorite status updates of a friend from a few months ago about her “diet foods”.
"That's it! I'm going on my diet and I've made my food for the week. Turkey, hard boiled egg whites, lowfat tuna fish with low fat mayo, high fiber whole wheat toast and lowfat cottage cheese. I'm ready!"
I am not suggesting these tips aren't good ones. But I am leading up to an important point for those who are not losing the weight they want. (And this includes those of you think you have it figured out, but are still 138 and wondering why you are not 120.)
It is indisputable that when you get rid of the processed foods in your diet, you're no longer wreaking havoc with your natural appetite suppressants in your body.
It is also indisputable that if you only eat one 100 calorie snack pack and you used to eat 1/2 of an Enteman's coffee cake (this was me just a few short years ago) you're going to make progress. No question.
All of these tips work. You can get to a certain point in your weight loss progress when you follow one or some of the "official diet" suggestions.
And if you're lucky enough to be younger, you might even get to the exact number on the scale you want.
I've seen plenty of 20 year olds with lean, enviable figures that inhale fat free oreo cookies and dance all night after they've downed lemon drop shooters. And of course, you can get to that magic number if you're blessed with those genes.
But for most of us, you get to a certain weight, maybe even one you can live with, but it stops there.
And you're left wondering why -- when you do everything right -- you're not getting there.
Here's the deal: one of the guidelines that does exist in the dominant diet narrative is the increase of fruits and vegetables. You often hear benefits such as “vegetables are high in fiber" or “oranges are high in vitamin C".
You know that you should choose a salad or eat an apple as your snack and you might even do it once in a while but this is the thinking that I often see: "there's no way I’m going to skip the egg white. I wouldn't want to do without my protein. And I must have my low fat blueberry yogurt. I need my calcium."
The key concept I want to communicate
I'm not suggesting to do away with these things. I'm suggesting -- that based on what we've seen over and over and over in the millions of people who have come through the PEERtrainer "weight loss lab" -- that your vegetable and nutrient intake needs a total overhaul.
A significant increase is required. It needs to be integrated with your meal. An apple can't be the afterthought after you’ve decided your snack will be lowfat yogurt. It can't be, "I’ll have salmon and risotto, now what will I have as a side vegetable?
The "official diet" thinking has to be turned on its head.
The vegetable/high nutrient food becomes the first thought and the “diet foods” are the additive. Think "a bit of almond butter would be great with this apple."
“Some fresh lemon/caper grilled salmon would be perfect with my chopped salad."
Based on what we see, if you don't add high nutrient foods and you don’t focus on your energy levels, meaning, what foods make you happy, excited and full of energy, you're going to have a tough time getting to where you want to go.
The Three Pillars Of Diet Fusion
There are three pillars to what we've coined as "diet fusion", meaning fusing diet approaches to find what works for you and creates lasting weight loss:
- high nutrient foods
- eating for energy
- portion control
(June 2001 Update: The PEERtrainer Cheat System was built to give people a structured way to do "Diet Fusion." It works really well. (And the meal plans and recipes ARE on the way... And if you need to download a new copy we have a link on the Discussions section of our Facebook page)
When you only focus on calories in vs calories out or what is commonly known as “diet foods”, you're only focused on one pillar.
And what's worse, if you have portion distortion - you think you're demonstrating portion control but you don't really know what a true portion size is - you're really spinning your wheels.
You really only want to be in that "portion control" pillar 20% of the time and it’s reserved for when you're at a party, or otherwise in a place where you can't control, or really just feel like having what you want. 80% of the time you want to focus on the high nutrient foods and eating for energy.
If you focus on eating for energy and eating high nutrient foods 80% of the time, based on what we've observed at PEERtrainer, you will have the body that you want but most importantly, the energy and health to live a really great life.
(This is what we teach in the Point Of No Return program - how to master these fundamentals, in a step by step manner. The reason we created this program is that our habits are deeply embedded and ingrained. We find that most people need some level of help making this transition.
It is one thing so say, ok, turn your whole notion of eating on its head. And another to do it in the context of the reality of your life. That is where the work comes in. We dig deep and pull at the roots of your old habits, in a wide variety of ways. It takes work beyond reading an article or an email.
Note: we need to make quite clear that we don't seek to a) "fix" you or b) teach you mumbo-jumbo about just wishing something true.)
People who are extremely overweight and people who just need to lose 20 pounds or people who are sick of living with low energy learn the formula and change their lives.
Take a serious and honest look of how you're currently eating. How many high nutrient foods do you eat a day? Salmon has some great omega 3's. But it's not high in the micro nutrients - folate, phosphorous, magnesium, just a few – that only exist in high quality vegetables.
And I’m not knocking salmon! I’m just giving a shout out to vegetables! Because unfortunately, they don’t have the coffers that low fat dairy and 100 calorie snack packs do.
If you're "doing everything right" and getting nowhere fast, start piling on the vegetables. Make a vegetable soup. Hit the salad bar at lunch. Almost every food place available has a salad option.
If you're in Chipolte, order the beans, salsa and pile on the tomatoes and lettuce. If you're going to subway, overload your sandwich with vegetables. They're happy to do it.
We are so fortunate that we have access to high quality greens everywhere we go. Restaurants will handmake whatever you like. We were at lunch recently with Dr. Joel Fuhrman and instead of looking at the menu, he simply asked the waiter, what are your freshest vegetables today? Joel made up his own "entree" of spinach, beans and tomatoes.
Dr. Fuhrman also has a great visual in his book Eat for Health. He shows 3 pictures of what 400 calories worth of food in a stomach looks like. The first picture has fats and it's about 1/16 full. The 2nd has lean proteins and it's a bit more full, maybe 1/12. The stomach with 400 calories of vegetables is completely full.
High nutrient vegetables make you full. And satisfied.
What About Discipline?
Discipline (also a part the common “Official Diet Food” narrative) is great when you have it. But no so much after you've just worked out and you're starving. Not so much after you've had a stressful day at work and you really "need something satisfying". High nutrient/high quality foods make discipline an after thought. When you're full, you don't need discipline.
I'm hearing this already - "I know this Jackie, but what if I don't like vegetables??" I don't like lettuce on my sandwich. I don't have time to go shop. I work and travel.
If you don't like the taste of vegetables, start juicing. Many places will juice for you. kale, celery, ginger, lemon and apple makes "green lemonade". Start masking them in a smoothie (you don't even taste spinach in one) or add vegs to your current things you do like to eat. You'll see that you don't even notice it. And the high nutrient foods get added more and more and they become a part of your life.
If you're still shaking your head and saying, but I'm doing all of these things, I'm eating 50 - 80% vegetable high/nutrient meals, please watch this video about sugar burning vs. fat burning and see if this might resonate with you.
If there's one thing I would ask of you today is to start doing something that I've seen work over and over and over. Just take on the challenge of adding one vegetable/high nutrient food to every meal.
Just one. If you've added one, add two. When you find yourself thinking about making tilapia tacos for dinner, turn it on it's head and think those will be a great side, what soup or salad can I have as the main course?
I call this "observations of thin people" but it should really be observations of thin, healthy people. You'll see plenty of thin people in magazines or in your community but many of them take diet pills (and would never tell you) and many of them have had surgery.
The only short cut I see over and over is significantly increasing the high nutrient foods. And it's really not a shortcut when you think, wow, not only will I actually like what I look like in jeans, but what could hurt? High nutrient foods have been linked to improving your health in every study. But who needs a doctor or a study, or a magazine or even me to tell you to eat your vegetables?
This also must be said: Diet is one piece to the puzzle. You realize the the more you learn the more you don't know. Many become flummoxed by the sheer magnitude of how much information is out there and how to make it work.
There is a carefully spun web of connections between the nutrition, fitness and psychology part of the puzzle. Always be open and most importantly trust your intuition about what is working for you. After all, I'm just observing what works. Make it work for you.
***I need to add that this does not happen overnight! I became aware of the acid/alkaline connection over 10 years ago and then became immersed in the nutrient density connection for a full 2 years before I made a meaningful change.
Some people get it right away, and they start burning fat easily. Some people don't. And a key reason people go off track is they make a change for a few days but the withdrawal from sugars, etc kicks in and they don't see the results from increasing the nutrients fast enough.
Since it "doesn't work", they conclude that the "whole vegetable thing just doesn't work for me." For some, the benefits of increasing vegetables in your diet appear immediately. For others, it can take a month, sometime three months, sometimes it can take longer.
Give it time. If you don't change overnight, so what. You now have the information and you will make a change.**
: Did you get a chance to look over my interview with JJ Virgin last week