That Last Little Bit
There can be a handful of factors at play that may be keeping you from your desired weight loss goals.
Nothing can be more frustrating than to be a devoted follower of the Paleo lifestyle and still be plagued by excess belly fat. You think you’re doing everything right – you work out regularly, and you’ve cut sugar, dairy and grains from your diet – according to all of the Paleo book covers and websites you’ve seen, you should be rocking a 6-pack. So what gives?
Well, if you are otherwise healthy (i.e., no thyroid issues or underlying health concerns), than there can be a handful of factors at play that may be keeping you from your desired goal. See if any of the following apply to you:
Water. Water is essential to help you flush toxins, reduce inflammation and can help you get rid of some of that extra “puffiness”. Make sure you’re getting enough of it! Try this water calculator to see how much your daily intake should be.
Overeating. This seems like common sense, but there is a common misconception that you can’t overeat on the Paleo diet. This is not true. If you eat too much protein, fruit, sweet potatoes, nuts and seeds, your body will store anything that it can’t process and use immediately as fat. Truly you cannot overeat vegetables, although I have yet to meet the person that wants to eat 4 cups of broccoli in one sitting.
Undereating. This one doesn’t really seem fair, but it is a common problem. Many equate eating healthy to depriving themselves. Understand this - your body responds to starvation by clinging on to any excess body fat– a survival trait that you would be thankful for in the wild. The macronutrient people tend to skimp on most is good, healthy fat (from grassfed meats, coconuts, avocados – NOT NUTS!). This is especially true for athletes – if you’re working hard and not losing those extra pounds, try upping your healthy fat intake. You may experience an energy boost as well!
Paleo treats. Another misconception is that Paleo treats are good for you. While they are easier for your body to digest than conventional or processed desserts, they are still treats (i.e., something you have every now and again). Imagine eating a regular cupcake everyday and expecting to lose weight.
Exercise. Are you doing it right? It may be superfluous to point out, but HIIT (high intensity interval training) or CrossFit workouts are effective only when done at high intensity. If you are not pushing yourself to your full capacity, you will not receive the benefits of the workout’s designed stimulus. These types of workouts are designed to be “hard and short”, so make sure you’re not just making them “short”.
Sleep. We all know we should be logging 7+ hours of sleep every night, but did you also know that not getting enough sleep could cause you to pack on the pounds? Ensuring that you get enough slumber is critical to restoring/recharging your body and staying healthy. Not only can sleep deprivation cause a hormonal imbalance, making you feel hungry and eat more, but it also stresses the body. Which leads me to the next stumbling block.
Stress. In addition to the side effects of stress eating, the stress hormone, cortisol has been linked to higher levels of visceral fat. Finding ways to cope with stress is essential to both good health and a healthy waistline. Carve out some time for you to breathe, meditate, run, or go to yoga. Find your Zen!
Drinking too much…or not enough? We all know that if you want to lose some extra pounds, you should cut back on your alcohol intake. Aside from being processed in the body as sugar, alcohol lends itself to poor nutritional choices. Yet, recent studies suggest that maybe a glass of wine (not 3) may actually help you shed some body fat. When studies encourage wine, why not?
Probiotics. They say good health starts in the gut. But, according to Chris Kresser, if you are not taking a daily probiotic or eating fermentable fibers on a regular basis, not only are you are missing out on some major health benefits, but you’re missing out on a belly-slimming opportunity as well.
As you can see, dropping those last 5-10 pounds is not as cut and dry as it would seem. There are indeed many hidden factors that could be impeding your efforts.
But, before you drive yourself crazy trying to “get it right”, there are three more things to keep in mind:
- You cannot “spot reduce” or target specific areas for fat loss. Losing belly fat can only happen with overall fat loss. Ladies, sometimes this means you lose fat in places that you’d prefer to keep it. Nature is cruel.
- Fat loss will not and cannot happen overnight. There are no quick fixes. If it took you weeks/months/years to put fat on, you can expect for it to take you a good amount of time to take it off.
- Genetics. As unfair as it is, there are just some things we cannot change. While some are blessed with the ability to attain a “cut-up” physique (with hard work, of course), others will have the predisposition to carry around a little extra weight, despite their efforts.
It’s a lot to think about, for sure, but I have one last thought.
For most, attaining aesthetic perfection comes at a cost: your lifestyle. If you’re a person that gets excited about weighing/measuring your food, ensuring proper macronutrient ratios, and diligently getting to bed by 9:30 in preparation for the next day’s training session, then have at it.
If however, you’re a person that enjoys good craft beer, staying up late engrossed in conversation, or indulging in delicious food every now and again, than that 6-pack may not be worth the sacrifices.
In the end it’s about achieving the lifestyle balance that best fits your goals. Do what makes you happy.