What to do when you eat healthily but can’t lose weight

 
Australian Dietician and nutritionist Lyndi Cohen

What do you do when you eat healthily but can't lose weight?

...Stop trying to lose weight

It seems that focusing on weight loss often makes it much harder to lose weight and keep it off. 

Because when you try to lose weight:

  • you become preoccupied with what you're not allowed to eat. Then you crave these foods even more, not less. Soon, willpower runs out and you lose control completely. And need to start again from scratch.
  • When the number on the scales doesn't move, you instantly lose motivation. Therefore, nothing ever sticks. You then need to start from scratch. Again and again. 

When the only reason you are eating healthily is to lose weight, you get stuck yo-yo dieting. 

Giving up the scale was the best thing I ever did

I lost 20kg over the period of 4-5 years. If you do the math, that means I lost an average of less than 100g a week. Every few months, I adopted a couple new healthy habits that made me feel good - and that I enjoyed. 

If I had weighed myself and realised how little I was losing week by week (and realised that some weeks, I gained weight!) I would have given up within weeks. "What's the point! It's not helping me lose weight! I'm failing. Again." 

When I stopped trying to lose weight, I was able to eat healthily and exercise for the right reasons. To feel good.

I decided that I wanted sanity and freedom from food more than I wanted to look good for an upcoming event. When I let go of trying to lose weight, it happened naturally because I felt grounded. 

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Weight loss is not linear

Some weeks you might lose weight, other weeks you won't... and some weeks, you might even gain weight from no fault of your own. 

So if you're only eating healthily and exercise to lose weight, you will lose motivation when you don't see the right number on the scale. And because weight loss isn't linear, you're almost bound to fail. 

Trying to lose weight sets you up for all-or-nothing thinking.  

Weight loss is not linear

 

What to do when you eat healthily but can’t lose weight

1. Stop weighing yourself

Scary, I know! But if you want a different outcome, you need to do something different. Throw your scale away. Or put them in another room (e.g. the garage). Never weigh yourself every day or even once a week.

This doesn't mean disregarding healthy habits and giving up. It simply means you start to eat healthily for your health, not weight. You will start to measure your success by how you feel, your energy levels, your blood results, your mood etc... and not by a number on a scale (which doesn't measure health or progress).

2. Do it because you want to, not because you have to.

Ask yourself: 

  • Why am I eating/doing this?
  • Do I WANT to or do I feel like I SHOULD?

The healthiest exercise is exercise you enjoy, not the exercise that burns the most calories. So if that means you have to go for a walk instead of a run, and you enjoy and do it more consistently, you will ultimately come out on top. Swap intensity for consistency. 

If healthy eating feels like a punishment, you're doing it wrong. Stop ordering salad dressing on the side. Sprinkle parmesan on your vegetables if it helps you eat more veggies. Don't avoid carbs and enjoy a sandwich. Eat the fruit you enjoy, not just the 'low sugar' fruits. No vegetables are off limits, even the ones with more carbs. 

When you eat healthily and exercise to feel good, instead of to lose weight, it never feels like a chore. You naturally become more consistent as you enjoy it more and will no longer fall off the bandwagon. 

Swap intensity for consistency

3. Can you do it for the rest of your life?

Not willing to fast for two days a week for the rest of your life? Why bother doing it for a few weeks. Even if you do lose weight, you'll regain it again when you inevitably grow tired of doing 'fast' days. 

All diets work. But do you really want to be on a diet for the rest of your life? No way. And that's how diets fail you (not the other way around). Adopt healthy habits that you ENJOY. 

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4. Assess where you're at... Without judgement.

Every couple of months, I review my eating and exercise. I don't track my calories or analyse how 'bad' or 'good' I am. I just take stock, without judgement. When I actively become more mindful, I realise, there is room for another healthy habit. Right now, I've working on:

  • Eating more vegetarian meals. I aim to eat 100g of meat once a day.
  • Drinking less alcohol. I didn't think I drank that much until I actually looked at my habits closely.
  • Snacking on fruit, instead of chocolate. I am for 2 serves/pieces a day.
when you eat healthily but can't lose weight

5. Practice 'crowding'

Crowding is simple. Instead of focusing on what you're not allowed to eat (which only makes you crave those foods more), focus on what you want to eat more of... Naturally, you crowd out the less healthy options by filling up on plenty of the fresh stuff. 

Here are some things you can crowd with...

  • Aim to get 5+ serves of vegetables a day! 
  • Get 2 pieces of a fruit a day
  • Eat legumes 3 x week
  • Include whole grains twice a day

 

If you feel like you're always 'trying to be good' but then falling off the bandwagon, I teach all these strategies in detail (plus much more) in the Keep It Real Program

 

Leave a comment! Got a question? Want to have your say. Leave me a comment at the bottom of this blog post and I'll get back to you. 

 

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