Does it feel like 2023 is moving at warp speed? The start of the new year brings a flurry of resolutions – fresh plans to get healthy, exercise, eat better, and shed those extra pounds. But by the end of February…a lot of us are sheepishly looking in the mirror and admitting we've fallen off the wagon. Or we've been relatively consistent (80/20 rule, right?!), but we've hit that dreaded weight loss/inch loss plateau. Ugh! Both can rob us of our motivation. Don't give up – resolutions don't have expiration or use-by dates!
Let's Get Things Moving In the Right Direction
The first issue of not carrying through with our January resolutions is an easy one to solve.
- Was your resolution overly ambitious? Recalibrate it and start again.
- Was it unworkable with your life? Set a better plan that works for the real you (be honest with yourself – nobody eats salad every day.)
- Were you just not into it? Hey, today's a new day, and you can try again -- no harm, no foul.
As for the second challenge, if you've hit a weight loss/inch loss plateau, here are some things to consider:
- Muscle weighs more than fat, so don't just obsess over the number on your scale. A scale is a tool, but so is your tape measure. You might find that you're losing inches and transforming your fat mass into lean muscle mass, which means the scale might go up.
- Stabilizing your blood sugar levels and getting enough food and healthy fats can help break a plateau. It sounds counterintuitive, but you've got to get healthy fat to get fit, and you've got to help your body burn fat as fuel rather than cannibalizing muscle or feeding it cheap, fast fuel like sugar. Fat and fiber can be your secret weapons.
- More water can break the weight loss/ inch loss wall too. Focusing on your water intake rather than obsessing about calories will help you achieve your weight loss/ inch loss goals.
You may be thinking, "How much water do you REALLY think I can drink?!" We have a notion that eight eight-ounce glasses a day will do it – hot tip: that's not 100% true.
Let's dive into why these three simple concepts can be your key to getting back on track.
Muscle Weighs More Than Fat
You've probably heard this a million times, but it bears repeating – especially if you're feeling disillusioned. You lose up to four pounds of fat for every pound of muscle you gain!
Muscle is much more dense than fat, meaning it takes up less space but still holds the same mass. Think of muscle as one big heavy brick versus fat being an entire stack of light foam blocks. Your scale can't reflect that difference, but your tape measure can!
Unlike fat, your muscles do more with less, giving you more strength, endurance, and superior overall performance. More muscle also increases your metabolism because muscles keep on keeping on, and that requires energy…from fat. So, the trick is to ensure your muscles are burning fat for energy rather than robbing Peter (your own Muscle) to pay Paul (your muscles doing essential work that keeps you alive, like keeping your heart beating, your lungs breathing, and your digestive system moving things out rather than letting them ferment in your gut.)
We tend to obsess about our bodies' rainy-day fat stores. Our bodies store extra fat for energy in places on our bodies that don't get a lot of action – our hips, our knees, our elbows, etc. – in anticipation that we might need that fuel for a fast getaway sometime in the future.
Thankfully we don't have to escape the saber-tooth tiger too often anymore, we have access to a steady supply of food, and we really don't have those rainy days anymore.
How Your Blood Sugar Contributes to Weight Gain – And Weight Loss
Maintaining an even blood sugar level can help break through a plateau. One easy change is eating low glycemic foods so that we aren't fueling the blood sugar roller coaster. We can also increase our gut flora with good microbes that don't encourage sugar cravings.
If we don't manage our blood sugar levels, it can increase appetite, feed our cravings for more and more sugary foods, and make it difficult to reach our weight loss goals. High blood sugar levels cause more glucose to stay in the bloodstream than is necessary. Your body "banks" the excess energy by storing that extra sugar in your fat cells for that rainy day.
While glucose is necessary for our bodies to function well, it's important not to flood the body with it. We often overlook foods that look like starches but convert to sugar. We console ourselves by thinking we're not eating "that much refined sugar."
Did you know that a bagel and cream cheese convert to more sugar than if you'd just eaten a slice of chocolate cake? So, it's important to identify the hidden sugars in our diet and find ways to substitute other foods that make us happy or to blunt their impact.
An easy way to blunt the effects of sugar in your body is by adding more fiber to your diet (nobody really gets the USRDA of 28 grams of fiber a day, let's be honest.) Fiber helps with blood sugar in a couple of ways. First, it gives you a feeling of satiety (the signal to your brain that you feel satisfied and full.) Second, prebiotic fiber feeds your good gut bacteria and helps crowd out the bad actors that love sugar and manipulate your hormones and brain to crave more of it (now you know part of the reason you get cravings.) Third, it balances blood sugar by slowing digestion and making it more even throughout the day. This prevents blood sugar spikes and troughs like the famous three o'clock sugar low that causes so many people to faceplant at their desks. Adding more soluble fiber to your daily intake can help improve gut health, reduce belly fat, reduce inflammation, and improve insulin sensitivity, all of which can contribute to healthy weight management.
Another Key To Losing Weight? Fatten Up Your Diet.
We went through a phase when fad diet experts told us to cut out fat if we wanted to get fit. Boy, did they miss the mark on that one! Fats are an essential part of any healthy eating plan. From fueling brain function and supporting cell growth to providing important vitamins and minerals, fats are one of the macronutrients that help us get moving. Olive oil, avocados, nuts, and fatty fish like salmon are great sources of essential nutrients, and their fat content helps us feel fuller for longer.
Fat also helps us absorb certain vitamins and can give us long-term energy. They also help us feel fuller faster, so we eat less. And, as any cook will tell you, the flavor is in the fat. Interestingly when the no-fat diet foods hit the markets, they tasted horrible. To make them more palatable, food engineers added sugar to make them more marketable. Now in hindsight, we've learned what a health disaster that was.
Polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats help reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol levels and maintain proper hormone balance. There's even recent research that points to inflammation being a contributing factor to depression.
"I'll Have Another--Thanks!"
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much water a person should drink each day, a commonly cited recommendation is to drink at least 2 liters (or about 8 cups) of water per day. This recommendation is based on the average amount of water a healthy adult might need to replace the fluids lost through sweat, urine, and other bodily functions.
It's fairly obvious that the "average adult" benchmark is a pretty wide range! In truth, the amount of water a person needs to drink is dictated by several factors: age, sex, body weight, activity level, and climate. For example, if you are exercising, pregnant, and living in a hot and humid climate, you need to drink a lot more water to stay properly hydrated.
For a more accurate general recommendation, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that men consume approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces) and women consume about 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water per day, including water from food and other beverages, not just water itself. Another good rule of thumb is to use half your weight in ounces from all sources as a baseline for your basic water intake need.
So how does water help you break a weight loss/inch loss plateau? Drinking more water can help you reduce your calorie intake, boost your metabolism, enhance your exercise stamina and performance, and reduce water retention. That last one probably made you cock your head – reduce water retention? It's true. When you are dehydrated, your body holds onto water in an effort to conserve it. This leads to water retention, which can make you feel bloated and cause the number on the scale to go up. Increasing your water intake can reduce water retention and flush out excess water weight.
If you're stuck in a plateau, more water is often your secret weapon to breaking it. It's important to listen to your body and drink enough water to stay hydrated based on your own unique needs and then give it a little boost with some extra hydration to help your body get rid of that excess weight. To turbocharge water's benefits, combine it with increased prebiotic fiber in your diet. The benefits of both used together are more significant than just each alone.
An easy way to get more fiber into your diet is Ready Fiber. Our clear, liquid, unflavored fiber stirs into your coffee, juice, tea, or smoothie easily. You can add it to pancakes, waffles, and muffins. Just one ounce provides 12 grams of soluble fiber! Ready Fiber contains SoluPure™, a proprietary blend of polydextrose (soluble dietary fiber) and fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Another bonus of Ready Fiber* is that FOS naturally sweetens anything it's added to without increasing sugar, so you get the added flavor without a blood sugar spike. In fact, you get just the opposite. And, don't worry, if you don't drink down Ready Fiber mixed into a liquid right away, you won't need a chisel to clean things up like other fiber supplement products.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Lisa Moretti is a Certified Health Coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN), the largest nutrition school in the world. She was at the top of her cohort in 2015. She's been involved in the natural health and supplement world professionally since 1981.