New Year’s resolution: Be conscious of these six tricky things that can keep you from losing weight
Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final article in a five-part series about New Year’s resolutions. Search “New Year’s resolutions” at http://www.vaildaily.com to read additional articles in the series.
New Year’s resolutions: We have all been there. “This is the year I am going to take control of my health. I am going to eat better and drop some unwanted pounds.” On average, this lasts less than two weeks.
Weight loss is far and away the No. 1 New Year’s resolution in America, far out distancing resolutions regarding finances and happiness. The Vail Valley is quite different from the obese culture across the country, but most residents still have a goal of dropping those last 5 to 10 pounds of body fat that have been hanging around for a while.
Sound familiar? Here are six less-obvious things that could be hindering your progress toward hitting your optimal health and body composition.
1. Your current diet has created bad gut bacteria: Cravings aren’t all in your head. They’re partly caused by what’s going on in your gut. Your diet creates an environment for gut bacteria, good and bad. Researchers call it a gut bacterial ecosystem.
The problem is, when you try to change your diet, your “bad” gut bacteria will demand to be fed, making you experience cravings. It’s a lot like withdrawal symptoms. Metabolically unfavorable (bad) gut bacteria can cause cravings of the junk foods that best feed them. They can also cause you to feel dysphoria when they’re deprived of their favorite foods.
The good news is you can break their control fairly quickly by not giving in. When you consistently don’t give in, these bacterial populations reduce, you become metabolically healthier, and you start feeling better, with increased energy and clarity of mind.
Think of it almost like a relationship between parasite and host. To continue thriving, your gut bacteria consume what you give them and make you feel physically deprived when you go without it.
Fix it: If your gut’s ecosystem makes you crave what you consistently eat, then change your cravings by changing your gut’s ecosystem. Want to crave healthy foods? Then consistently consume them. Feed the good gut bacteria.
How do you get rid of the bacteria that create addictive tendencies toward junk food? You starve those little suckers. Yes, you’ll feel “deprived” at first. Count on it. But you can survive without junk food. The bacteria that feed off it can’t. Eventually, you will lose the craving for low-nutrition foods densely packed with calories (i.e. junk food).
2. You’re battling your brain: When it comes to cravings, part of it is in your head. Research shows our desire to eat a balanced diet is reduced when we eat high sugar, low satiety foods.
This has a massive impact on your brain’s reward centers, driving you to eat more of these foods and actually decreasing your appetite for nutritious food. Regularly eating junk food will make all other food less appealing. You’ll also be fertilizing the bad gut bacteria discussed above.
The more junk food you eat, the less rewarding it becomes to the area of your brain that measures reward and pleasure. You’ll have to consume more to get the same pleasure response.
Fix it: Think ahead. You know your triggers. If a chip is going to make you want half a bag of chips, then eat an apple or have a protein shake instead. You know which option will satisfy hunger and which one will set you up for more rationalizing.
Junk food is only tempting to two kinds of people: Those who regularly eat it and those who’ve just begun to avoid it. People who’ve gone without junk food for a long time usually don’t crave it. It actually sounds and looks awful. Junk food won’t be a temptation once you develop an appetite for higher-quality foods.
3. You’re becoming your parents: Everyone says they’ll never turn into their parents, yet most do. We either revert back to the habits we grew up with or we spend a lifetime fighting them. Junk food lovers, overeaters, chronic sitters, drinkers, smokers, hoarders, you name it — if these are your parents, you’re going to need to be even more conscientious about avoiding the same path.
This is how adulthood was modeled for you, but it’s not only about behavior. Our genes are like the hardware that is passed down to us. Epigenetics, meaning environment plus genetics, is like the software — changeable.
Geneticists now say that the choices and life experiences of our parents — their epigenetics — impact our DNA. So if your mom and dad smoked, drank excessively, ate junk and now are suffering the deleterious effects of these choices, then you may have inherited more than height and hair color.
Bottom line: If your mom and dad had lifelong habits that were unhealthy, you will have to be more disciplined and vigilant than those whose parents were healthy.
Fix it: Don’t blame your parental unit, but don’t go with the flow either. You’ll need to be more intentional than those who grew up under different circumstances. The way you live determines how your genes manifest. Because of epigenetics, you can actually turn on or turn off certain genes through your behaviors.
Nobody has more control over your choices than you. Whether you think you inherited “fat genes” or just developed the same bad habits over time, all the more reason to create lifestyle decisions that will benefit your health and the health of your offspring.
First, don’t buy or bring home any of the nostalgic foods and drinks you fell in love with as a kid. Leave them in the past. Your life’s pleasures shouldn’t revolve around things that historically make you gain body fat and decrease happiness.
Eat like your parents and move like your parents, and you will suffer the same maladies, take the same medications and get around the same way. Know your vices, know their vices and then make intentional decisions.
4. You’re not doing challenging strength training: Lean body mass is everything on your body that’s not fat. You can raise its metabolic effect by incorporating challenging strength training. This isn’t only about the scale, but also about body composition.
This can be counterintuitive to many people in the valley. But some people (men and women) rationalize a fear that strength training will lead to bulk, increased weight, etc.
Fix it: Don’t think of muscle as more weight on the scale or more size on your frame. Think of them as metabolically expensive tissue that will help you get leaner and eventually drop a lot of fat. Lean muscle improves your body composition. It can also help you lower your body fat set point.
Learn true strength-training principles from qualified fitness and strength professionals. There are effective strength strategies that are designed to lean you out instead of creating a lot of mass. Find a great functional fitness professional. Strength training does not equate to bodybuilding.
5. You lie to yourself: This time of year, many people say they are serious about changing the way they eat, and then as soon as their cart passes the junk food aisle, they grab a couple of boxes of cookies or a few boxes of sugary cereal.
Why? Rationalization — the act of making plausible excuses to justify destructive behavior. We’ve all been there; we tell ourselves we’re only going to have a small serving a day, or we’re getting it to save until we’ve been “good” enough to deserve a treat, even though our history shows differently
We create endless rationalizations. When a craving hits, your own mind will betray you by making you believe happiness equates to eating XYZ.
Fix it: Call yourself out. Think back to all of the times you rationalized buying junk and then ate more than you intended. You’re pre-planning failure when you make excuses. The best way to keep from doing it is to remove the opportunity.
Don’t try to avoid food when it’s in your home; avoid it when it’s at the store. Because once you get home, you’ll make even more rationalizations about your appetite, what you deserve, how hard you trained that day or how avoiding junk food is depravity. You have access to all the healthy food and water you need; you’re not deprived, you’re just deceived and dependent on junk. Wake up.
6. Your TV is killing your diet: Food is pleasurable, TV is addictive, and this combination is a way to destress. I get it and can be guilty of this destructive combination, too.
The problem is, sitting in front of the tube means focusing on the plot, characters, drama or game … not the amount or quality of what’s going into our mouths. The stuff we can pack away during this TV-trance adds up — quickly!
Fix it: Try one or all of these tricks:
• Swap the kind of food you’re eating for something more filling and nutritious, and cap the portion before you sit down.
• Cap your TV time. Then spend spare time going for a walk, getting your food prepared for the next day, reading or fooling around with your partner.
• Have your dinners with family and friends. Engage in conversation.
• DVR your favorite shows and save them for the weekend just to shake up your routine. Then add them back when you can sit and watch without also munching.
• Practice viewing without eating.
Dogma Athletica has created effective body composition and weight-loss programs for many Vail residents. We have programs that have helped many people drop 50-plus pounds of fat and keep it off. We also have helped numerous athletes drop those last few stubborn body fat pounds to help them look, feel and perform their best. Contact Dogma Athletica at 970-688-4433 regarding its 2016 Body Composition Nutrition plan.
Rod Connolly is an exercise physiologist and owner of Dogma Athletica, a premier athletic training facility located in The Riverwalk in Edwards. Contact him at 970-688-4433, or find more information at http://www.dogmaathletica.com.