It’s true that weight loss is a lot about energy consumption balance – calories in, calories out – and that your activity levels and the amount and quality of nutrients you consume have a direct effect on your body composition and size. But behaviour doesn’t always follow biology. In other words, your body will probably regulate your appetite downward when you’re less active and upward when you’re more active (the reverse is also true: your body will be more compelled to be active when it is well fed and less energetic when it is underfed or fed but nutrient-deprived) – but it is up to you to heed those signals and avoid the habits, routines and pressures that compel us to overeat and/or to generally lay around on the couch waiting for someone to hand-feed us grapes.
I have been using the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s Healthy Weight Action Plan to keep track of my own weight loss efforts as I drop the last 5 pounds since the baby making stage of my life ended 2 1/2 years ago. I am still breastfeeding, but only a couple of times each day. My activity levels (Belly Bootcamp for 1 hour 6 days per week plus jogging alone or with clients up to 2-3 times per week, plus walking/playing with kids) help keep my appetite high most days and I eat well and track my food, according to the recommendations of the HWAP.
But sometimes a great day of eating or a great week of eating gets kiboshed by an invite out for drinks or a pre-dinner temper tantrum party and a rash decision to order pizza (what? me? I have no idea what you’re talking about…). So how do you keep yourself on the weight loss train in between these discretions and get back on the horse when you’ve fallen off?
Here are some rules I follow when it’s time to crack the whip on my own postpartum (or post-vacation, post-Christmas, post-fall of the wagon) ass.
1. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. It’s true that eating more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day will help you to maximize your metabolism, but more opportunities to eat means more opportunities to cheat. When I need to lose weight, I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Outside of those meals I allow myself only fruit and vegetables. I can still eat frequently but I have to be really hungry to reach for a mid-afternoon salad. Sticking to a produce-only rule for snacks tends to make me snack less. A lot less.
2. Go to bed. When the body is tired, the brain begins searching for sources of energy. The biggest sources of energy (energy = calories) are sweet and fatty foods, so it’s no surprise that I lose all willpower in the face of a tub of Haagen Dasz once the clock passes 9:00 or 9:30 p.m. In fact, studies show most ice cream is actually eaten after 11:00 p.m.! The body doesn’t need calories at night; it needs sleep. If you stay up past your bedtime (the bedtime you should have, I mean – sometime between 10:00 and 11:00, probably) you are asking to gain weight.
3. Stay busy. Idle hands truly are the devil’s playground. If I’m alone in the house for too many hours without much to do, I snack. I’m a boredom snacker. After dinner, facebooking, doing crosswords, painting your fingernails or folding laundry – whatever floats your boat – will keep your hands full and your stomach empty. Good luck eating chips with wet fingernails.
4. Tell people. Let me tell you, it’s easy to keep your fitness motivation up when you’ve got clients and the ladies of the Yummy Mummy Club watching you. It’s my job, after all. It might not be your job to be fit, but the more people you tell about your fitness efforts, the more accountable you’ll feel to your goal. When your girlfriends invite you out for cocktails and you switch from cosmos to spritzers, they’ll applaud your willpower instead of accusing you of going all Boca Vista on them. Tell your work friends, your hubby, your family and everyone you normally eat with or around. To save your own ego, you’ll tend to stick with your fitness and diet plan when you feel like you’ve got something to prove.
5. Weight watch. I never stress out about my clients’ or my own weight. Weight is just not the be-all and end-all of fitness, and it doesn’t reflect one’s ability, strength, muscle tone or body type. Just pure pounds. BUT… it does provide a barometer. When I’m not losing weight, my scale stays tucked away, covered in dust. Literally. When I have pounds to drop, I weigh in once per week on the same day of the week at approximately the same time of day – usually in the morning after peeing and before eating. Weighing daily has been proven a successful weight loss tool. Daily is a bit much for me. Choose the one that’s right for you – daily or weekly – and force yourself to face that number on the scale. It will set the tone for your day or week and really help you stay on track.
6. Move. Every day, without exception, try to do something physical. It could just be piggy-backing your kids around the house for 10 minutes. Sometimes it’s just a couple of sets of push ups for me on the living room floor with one of the kiddos. If I’ve been active I feel much less tempted to overeat. And being active more frequently is one of the most important factors in weight loss. You’re much better off to do 20 minutes of exercise several times per week than one or two long workouts.
So start doing crosswords and eating salads and piggy backing your kids and tell me what you think. I GUARANTEE these tips will help. They helped me take off 45 pounds after my first munchkin was born, and they’re the same tips I’m using now as I chip away at these last few vanity pounds. They’re also the same tips that have helped countless clients achieve weight loss goals big and small.
Tried and true.
Another great tip is to ensure you’ve got a support system! Need a little coaching, motivation and inspiration? The Healthy Weight Action Plan has free weight loss tools like food and exercise trackers, meal plans, recipes and everything you need to get started cracking the whip on your own ass. It’s free and super simple to use – sign up now and join me!