Aubs, I see the scale and I am overwhelmed with discouragement and frustration. I haven’t seen any changes.
I find myself having this same conversation with individuals in our community, gym members, and active nutrition clients who come to me about how unhappy or discouraged they are with the way their diet is going. “Why?” I ask, and the answer is always the same, “I’m not seeing results or changes.” There are always different things I consider when I hear this answer, and it usually brings to light areas where improvement can be made or changes that need to happen, because not seeing results generally falls into one or more of these “explanatory” categories.
DO YOU HAVE TOO MANY BLTs?
I’m not talking about sandwiches—although I do enjoy a good toasted sourdough stacked with turkey bacon, lettuce, and freshly sliced tomato. I’m talking about BITES-LICKS-TASTES. How often do you finish stirring a pot of sauce and taste the spoon to make sure the temperature is just right? When you made that last round of cupcakes, did you lick that small bit of batter off your fingers? Remember when mom made that delicious meatloaf and you just had to have an itty bitty piece off the corner? Whether you track your nutrition regularly or eat mindfully, every single time you have a B-L-T, you’re contributing to your total daily calorie intake. No matter how small, its counts, and when it counts, it contributes.
Most of us know that to maintain, lose, or gain weight we must control our total daily calorie intake. Let’s apply this to B-L-Ts. If we account for and measure out 32 grams of peanut butter and then lick the spoon, we have officially B-L-T’d beyond the accounted calorie amount. This little habit can cause flucutations in daily intake totals and can result in overall end of week changes.
Why? How? The next time you have a little leftover peanut butter on the spoon and you want to lick it off, instead scrape it on to a scale to measure how mduch there actually is. A normal serving of peanut butter (2 tablespoons/32 grams) contains about 16 grams of fat. By eating the PB left behind on the spoon—let’s say about 9 grams—you would be consuming an additional 4.5 grams of fat = 40.5 calories. This, plus the additional calories from the PB’s carbs and protein being unaccounted for will change your entire intake totals around.
I TRACK ALL WEEK, AND THEN I GIVE MYSELF THE WEEKEND OFF
Call it what you want, but I’m gonna call it what it is. Weekend binge eating . If you maintains a consistent nutrition intake, whether tracked or untracked, during the week only to hit the weekend and allow yourself more freedom and less accountability, then you may find your body never truly changes. After a weekend of lax eating, do you find yourself doing one of the following come Monday:
- Stepping on the scale with hopefulness and caution
- Stepping on the scale with one eye open
- Avoiding the scale completely
If this is you, it’s time to let go of the “I’ll start again on Monday” mindset and shift your focus to breaking past self-limiting choices and beliefs. Friday through Sunday is primetime for socializing, date nights, parties, weddings, sports, and decompressing from the week. This can cause weekday routines to fall to the wayside and your body can easily enter a calorie surplus. When this occurs, you are at an increased risk for putting on fat mass, disrupting metabolic consistency, and holding on to excess water. Your body can also experience…
BLOOD SUGAR SPIKES AND CRASHES
Increasing calories with junk food, refined or processed carbs, and booze can lead to sugar overload. Spikes in blood glucose levels means the body releases more insulin (removing sugar out of the bloodstream and into cells for energy use), leading to a rapid surge of energy. The pancreas (responsible for insulin production) won’t stop producing insulin until the brain senses that these levels are safe. However, by the time the brain stops, it is often found that too much sugar has now been removed. This can result in weight gain and other serious health symptoms, including feelings of tiredness, dizziness, and even depression. The body and brain are left feeling the need to eat more sugar and more carbs to help lessen the feelings from these energy surges, ultimately causing sugar spikes.
CHANGES IN GUT BACTERIA
Yo-yoing between weekend binge eating and eating well during the week can be just as bad for your gut health as a consistent diet full of junk! Gut bacteria has a dramatic influence on our health, including assisting in the extraction of energy from food, building and maintaining the body’s immune system, protecting against infection, and influencing muscle and fat mass.
FUELING UNHEALTHY NEGATIVE ACTIONS
Overloading calories on the weekends (or weekdays) can really mess with our emotional health too. Food highs that come from over eating can cause a vicious cycle in the brain, leading to heightened chances of feelings associated with depression, shame, and guilt.
When we get hungry, the brain seeks out what aids in our survival, food, and when we eat we are rewarded with dopamine, the chemical responsible for flooding the pleasure center of the brain. Once we have eaten enough, dopamine is no longer released.
If you are in the cyclic habit of eating within your means during the week only to go off track and back to square one on the weekends, you may be building up a tolerance. This means the brain can lose its ability to stimulate and release dopamine because it will no longer be able to recognize what a healthy amount of food is to your body. The unaccounted for high calories may turn into more frequent overeating, resulting in an increase in weight gain and unhealthy eating habits.
In addition to what’s happening internally, we also need to consider what we could be doing to our progress. If your weekends (or bad weekdays) are neutralizing your overall intake goals, then your body WILL NOT experience changes. Instead, what will change is all of your hard work.
I stress this throughout my blog, whether you ARE or ARE NOT tracking your nutrition, your body can tell when you are in a deficit (state to lose weight) or surplus (state to increase weight). For example, if you’re accountable and consistent during the week and in a deficit, your weekend indulgences can take your body out of the fat-burning phase and either enter it into the maintenance or surplus phase. Science is science and the body is very receptive to what we are doing.
This is why you can’t outsmart or outwork poor nutrition and poor habits.
USING BODY PARTS AS MEASURING TOOLS
Although it has been a long used food measuring and tracking tip, using your eyes as a food measurement tool instead of weighing it out, is a surefire way to throw off your weekly nutrition intake goals. No matter how confident you are about being “accurate” when you eyeball how much you are eating, chances are you are either underestimating or overestimating your portion sizes. It’s time to “scale” the odds and see which “weigh” is better (I love a good nutrition pun).
They say 1 cup is about the size of your fist or a baseball and your hand is comparable to 3 ounces of meat. Comparisons like these have always made me laugh, and for good reason. How many people can say they have placed their fist into a measuring cup or sized it up to a baseball? I mean, can you even fit a baseball into 1 cup? Another thought is what about a 7-foot-tall male’s fist vs. a 4-foot-9 female’s? No two fists are the same, making no two eyeballed fist measurements the same. I’ll keep this one simple, let’s just leave hands and baseballs to sports and not involve them in measurements at all.
CHANGES IN DAILY ACTIVITY
Even with the best intentions to get healthier, life can sometimes intervene with daily exercise routines and plans. The absence or change in exercise can cause the body to backpeddle and leave us feeling discouraged and down.
I call this cold turkey syndrome.
- Work picks up and you start pulling longer hours behind the desk
- The kids are learning remotely and are more demanding of your attention and time
- College courses just started back up and assignments are piling up
- Life went from controlled and predictable to chaotic and stressful
When you experience cold turkey syndrome, you drop everything you do for yourself and you take care of everyone else around you. The initial intention is to find a way to fit what is important to your health into the new day-to-day changes, but four weeks later you’ve become sluggish, unmotivated, and just want to quit. Maintaining movement is vital and impacts more than just energy and positive attitude.
YOUR BRAIN AND EXERCISE
Exercise pumps oxygen to the brain. Go cold turkey and you may experience feelings of cloudiness or being off. There’s a groovy neurotransmitter called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF for short). BDNF helps promote the growth of new brain cells and enhances connections between existing ones. Dopamine levels will decrease with time away from exercise, which can lead to feelings of anxiousness and fatigue. This can influence your motivation and leave you feeling tired and stressed. These mental and emotional combinations can easily make us avoid returning to exercise even more. Ever wonder why it’s so hard to start back up once you have been off for a long period of time? Now you know!
Almost instantly from the time you stop exercising, your blood pressure is higher. This is because our blood vessels adapt to the slower flow of a sedentary lifestyle after just 2 weeks . Within 1 month, arteries and veins stiffen and send your BP back to where it would be if you had never worked out before.
CHANGES IN STRENGTH AND LEAN MUSCLE MASS
Inactivity eventually leads to a decline in strength and lean muscle mass. When you stop moving, your muscles stop firing the same due to underuse. As muscle fibers start to realize they no longer need to store energy, they begin to store less. This is called atrophy (the shrinking of muscle fibers). As muscle fibers shrink they require more stimuli to contract, which means you will have to work harder to see results.
After you eat, your blood sugar rises and then drops again as the muscles and other tissues suck up the sugar needed for energy. Go cold turkey and after just 5 days , your post-meal consumption blood sugar levels stay elevated. A constantly creeping blood glucose level can increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions.
All it takes is 2 weeks of not working out for the amount of oxygen your working muscles use to dramatically decrease. Decreasing endurance levels will continue to go down over a 4 week period and feelings of being winded will occur more frequently and with less effort. What’s worse, your lean muscle will recede as a result of losing the little mini-factories in your muscles responsible for converting that oxygen into energy (mitochondria).
Aubree Rose Shofner
Fitness & Nutrition Professional