You know the feeling. You actually have a reason to wear real clothes, then you reach for those favorite pair of jeans/skirt/pants and then…YIKES.
First, DON’T PANIC.
Your weight is not like the national debt. It does not just have to keep going up. Contrary to popular belief, it is not hard to lose weight. It just takes more than 5 seconds and in our instant gratification society, that means we give up easily. The first thing you have to change before your body changes is your mindset.
You need to think of weight management like a game of chess. It’s a long game. Think of all your successful projects at work. Looking at it as a whole, something magnificent came out of nothing but an idea – a desire, an ask, sometimes seemingly an impossible one. But now, you have this major accomplishment. The process in between is the test. The test of whether you will give up when there’s a roadblock or refuse to let the game intimidate you. So pick up your pieces and get to that chessboard. You got this.
Here is the list of 5 things you can do (or stop doing) immediately to lose your winter weight.
1.DON’T Drink Water Out of a Plastic Bottle
If you Google “how to lose weight” or “how to lose the last 10 pounds” almost every article will tell you, drink more water! But did you know all this water you are dutifully guzzling could completely upend any effort to actually lose weight – and in fact, cause you to grow fat cells and GAIN weight?
The social conscience has shifted towards prioritizing climate change. So right now, drinking out of a plastic water bottle is just gross. But there is another big reason as if our planet isn’t big enough – a recent Norwegian University peer-reviewed study that is breaking the internet finds that PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN. The study published on January 26 in Environmental Science & Technology found that plastics found in everyday products like frozen meal packaging, yogurt containers, drink bottles, and even kitchen sponges may impact weight gain.
The study found that on average, plastic water bottles contain 55 000 different chemicals that can in a sneaky way be a major factor to being overweight. A research group looked at 34 different plastic products in the laboratory to see which chemicals they contained. Chemicals from one third of the plastic products investigated in the new study were found to contribute to fat cell development in laboratory experiments. These products included water bottles.
In a nutshell, you drink a lot more than that purified pricey water from that bottle. The chemicals from the plastic in the water bottle actually leeches and enters the body (yeah, even the BPA-free kind). The study found that these chemicals reprogrammed normal cells to become fat cells that proliferated more and accumulated more fat. While some plastic products contained known metabolism-disrupting substances, others did not but nevertheless induced the development of fat cells.
This is also applicable to the plastic cover on your Starbucks coffee cup. And wouldn’t you know it, Starbucks just announced that they intend to phase out disposable cups by 2025? So get ahead of the game and start bringing your favor ceramic cup for your order!
2. DO Exercise LESS
Say what? Exercise can definitely be addictive. It releases all kinds of feel good hormones, including dopamine. It de-stresses. But, as over 60 studies have shown, it has very little to do with losing weight. In my post breaking down CICO (calories in, calories out) I explain why tracking your food intake and staying active throughout the day is far more effective than killing yourself on the Peloton for an hour and winging your estimated food intake.
Exercise throws off your natural ability to sync what is responsible for 90 percent of your body weight composition – WHAT YOU EAT. Exercise throws that off because it makes you HUNGRY. Especially if you are doing a lot of cardio. What’s worse is that most of us have a fitbits that make us think we are burning all these calories because we are walking all these steps when the reality is they are almost completely useless for that purpose.
So just for a few days, a week if possible, pump the brakes on working out. And use that time to focus on your diet. The number one strategy to lose unwanted weight is an adjustment of diet. When I have gained a few pounds, and oh yeah it happens, the first thing I focus on is my diet and recalibrating my daily food routine. In order to do this, I need the extra time that I would normally spend on longer workouts. Time you can use to prepare home cooked meals (see next tip), but also time to get in sync with your natural hunger signals and how much you really need to eat.
Then, slowly phase workouts back in – you really do not need a lot of time to get an effective workout. If you read our companion article on mini-workouts, you will see that a great workout can be had in 5-10 minutes.
3. DON’T Eat Out More than Twice a Week
Even if you stick to the healthier meals on paper, the fact is that there is a reason this food tastes so good – and that is the abundance of butter, oil, salt, and sugar that is used to prepare the food. Try this the next time you order in – take one side of a paper towel and put it on the plate, then gently push it down. Now take it off and look at it in the light. Uh-huh. GREASE.
The alternative of cooking at home can seem daunting, especially for people with jobs like us. But it does not have to be complicated, or time consuming. Following The DAOFitLife Little Black Dress Method means you have a rotating menu of 3-4 dishes you can put together on the go.
Another practice that can help is focusing on one meal a day, because 3 can be overwhelming. For example, dinner is usually the eassitest to start with, so I have some ideas for you below.
The easiest choices for dinner are what I call “stick in the oven and get more work done” meals. Meaning you can get the meal started and go back to your business for 30 minutes, including knocking out those last few emails, getting things set up for the next day, or unloading the dishwasher, whatever. You can even do a quick mini-workout, as you will read about in our accompanying post this week.
The very best choice for “stick in the oven and go” recipes are sheet pan recipes. All this requires is an oven, a sheet pan, parchment paper or foil, a protein, and some vegetables. And you can use frozen vegetables. They are NO LESS HEALTHY than their fresh counterparts. If you have fresh vegetables and more time, have at it. But I definitely love my frozen vegetables and you can get them in all kinds of combinations for little cost, even at Whole Foods, where they have this Mediterranean blend or California-style blend. Most of the time, a simple drizzle of avocado oil (which has a higher smoke point than regular olive oil) with salt and pepper will make it a tasty meal. But if you like a little sweetness, you can experiment with adding tamari sauce, drizzle honey, or even rice vinegar. If you want some toothsome texture (and have no allergies) try sesame seeds or a teaspoon of pepitas. Less is really more.
For some awesome sheet pan recipes, head to the Girl on the Bloor blog. She has it organized by beef, chicken, fish and vegetarian/vegan. The other awesome thing about using frozen vegetables is that you actually don’t have to thaw them – in fact, they will come out better if you just stick them on the frozen pan, which I found out through this article. One of my favorite recipes I came across was this sheet pan salmon and broccoli recipe.
If you are an air fryer or Instant pot junkie, there are definitely plenty of one pot or pan recipes there:
- 42 Healthy Instant Pot recipes(Fit Foodie Finds)
- Air Fryer Vegetable recipe (Taste of Home)
- The 100 Skinny Instant Pot Recipes (Health Magazine)
This advice can be difficult to apply if you are on vacation – so head over to my post here if you are about to go on Spring Break.
4. DO prioritize sleep
Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain in a number of ways. Research from the National Institute of Health shows that sleep deprivation actually changes the chemical makeup of the brain in a way that predisposes you to gaining weight. This happens because sleep deprivation can increase appetite, decrease energy expenditure, and affect hormones that regulate hunger and fullness. When we sleep, our body produces hormones that control appetite, hunger and metabolism. The hormone leptin decreases when we don’t have enough sleep which makes us feel hungrier than usual and less able to burn calories.
The time you sleep is also a crucial time to digest the food you have eaten that day. When we sleep, our body produces hormones that control appetite, hunger and metabolism. The hormone leptin decreases when we don’t have enough sleep which makes us feel hungrier than usual and less able to burn calories.
A surprising factor that could affect sleep is your Fitbit. This New York Times article explores how using a Fitbit to monitor your sleep can actually make insomnia worse, due to the hyperfocus on how much sleep you are getting and the fact that the device may actually attribute time spent sleeping to time spent lying awake because they rely on motion detection.
This last tip goes with the second tip – exercising less. One common pitfall that happens is that one may deprive themselves of sleep to get an early morning workout before work – but that is actually counterproductive because of the way your body reacts. Your metabolism will be slower and you will end up eating more. So you are better off getting the extra sleep and focusing on your diet.
5. DON’T wear your yoga pants unless you are doing yoga (or barre or whatever)
Yes, those yoga pants are a walking talking pair of liars! The creeping in of athleisure in our society has transformed our culture to embrace comfort, and there is nothing wrong with that. But there is a line between wearing yoga pants to go get coffee in the morning and wearing yoga pants to church (which I have been seeing more of lately)! And the more we stay home and find reasons to do everything remotely, the more justification that will bring for reaching for those comfy pairs of leggings or sweats.
Here’s where you really need to watch out. The stretchy lycra/nylon/spandex combo has a lot of give and you will be completely blind to putting on anywhere from 10-30 pounds if you are judging the fit of those pants alone. It is easy to attribute the extra pulling to wear and tear, washing, or just the right nature of the pants in general.
Also, this article talks about what really happens to your body when you wear yoga pants all day – among the problems you could experience include fungal infections and WORSE cellulite, because of the restricting fabric cutting off your circulation.
Make it a point to change into something with a zipper before noon. This will give you both a reason to eat more mindfully and a better sense of monitoring where you are at with your fitness goals. Also, for the office it will give you a feeling of professionalism and purpose, even if you are working from home. We may be less comfortable in regular slacks, skirts, and dresses, but we sure all look a heck of a lot smarter.
If you need an even better reason, it is imperative from a hygienic standpoint to change out of those pants after a workout, even if you did not sweat during a gentle yoga class. This is because basically your leggings act like a magnet for bacteria on your skin and other people’s germs. So you need to strip them off and wash them ASAP!
And to wash them every time. If you do not want to do a million loads of laundry a week, consider sticking them in the freezer.
Weight management can be tricky, but it is no more difficult than the challenges that you have overcome in your career. In fact, it is a lot easier. We tend to overcomplicate things by nature, but making a few simple changes to take better care of your body and your mind will have you sliding into those jeans in no time.
- 6 ways to reset your diet this spring (MyfitnessPal)
- Why Can’t I Lose Weight? 19 Reasons Why According to Experts
- When A Step is Not Just A Step: Specificity of Analysis of 5 Physical Activity Monitors (PLOS One Organization)
- Gaining Weight Despite Working Out? 4 Reasons Why (Open Fit)
- Sleep Deprivation and Obesity in Adults: A Brief Narrative Review (NIH)
- That Sleep Tracker Could Make Your Insomnia Worse (New York Times)
- Build your Bite: Frozen Roasted Vegetables Recipe
- 50 Different Recipes that Make Frozen Vegetables Taste Great (Taste of Home)
- A great, comprehensive read on why exercise in and of itself won’t make you thin (Time)