The formula to lose weight is simple – consume less and burn more than you’re taking in. The problem is, we are impatient and get discouraged easily because we don’t see progress right away and give up. We make a few minor changes and expect to see drastic changes quickly. Sorry, that’s not how it works.
I commonly hear from friends and strangers, or from overheard conversations around campus that, “I’m eating healthy and working out, but I’m not loosing any weight – and I’ve been drinking protein!”
My first thought is, define healthy.
“Well I’m eating salads, lots of protein- like whey protein and eating protein bars, and drinking smoothies and stuff.”
Let’s break this down.
Protein drinks and protein bars are not magical products that are going to instantly make you lose a bunch of weight (like those It Works! Wrap). The macros (calories, sugars, protein, etc.) in protein shakes/bars (and smoothies) vary greatly by the type and brand. Some have really poor macros, with really high calories and unnecessary sugar. Compare products, because at the end of the day, loosing weight is all about being in a deficit with your calories. So if you aren’t mindful about your total macros for the day, and have a protein shake/bar, or anything without checking the label, you may be eating an excess of calories which will actually set you back from your weight loss goals. What you don’t use, your body will store as fat; It doesn’t care if it’s a protein bar or a donut – excess calories are excess calories.
A great tool to monitor all of your macros is MyFitnessPal. Put in your age, height, weight, etc., and choose your goal weight and a reasonable amount of time to get there.
As for salads, what are you putting in your “salad”? Is it iceberg lettuce, cheese, bacon bits, a bunch of croutons, maybe some cold pasta, followed by drenching it in ranch dressing, because that’s what makes it taste good to you? Because if so, you might as well not even bother with having a “salad”. Putting all of those things in an unreasonable proportion is defeating the purpose of actually having a salad.
Iceberg lettuce has little nutrients and is made up primarily of water. That’s why darker greens, like spinach are better for you, because they’re rich in nutrients. Yes, they have a stronger, somewhat bitter taste, but like anything, you’ll eventually get used to it and (hopefully) start to enjoy it.
Alternative example: Spinach, grilled chicken, garbanzo beans, onions, green peppers, no croutons, little or no cheese, broccoli, and a little bit of oil and red wine vinegar as a dressing.
The second question is, how long have you been eating differently, and what is your mentality like with exercise. Do you just go to the gym to check it off your list like a chore? Or, do you go into the gym, with the mindset of, “I’m going to challenge myself and work purposefully, focusing on each exercise, with each rep to make it count.”
Many girls go into the gym and only do the treadmill or elliptical because it’s less intimidating and if they were to pick up a weight and lift it, they’re going to all of a sudden get big and bust out with manly muscles. Or, they go into the gym in hopes of making their butt firmer, rounder, bigger, or all of the above, so they do only body weight squats and butt kicks. These exercises are great to start- to get the movement and contraction down, but if you really want to develop a better bum, honey, you’re gonna have to put some weight on that thang and challenge the glute and hamstring muscles if you want it to grow/ tighten/round! That’s why squats, lunges, deadlifts, and hip thrusters are such great exercises. They’re compound movements that target several muscles at once.
And don’t just do exercises aimlessly without thinking about what you’re doing. You see people doing this in the gym all the time and they wonder why they aren’t seeing much progress. Slow down, focus on what you’re doing with purpose; on the muscle(s) you’re using to push/pull the weight, and make it count!
Another factor that may be holding you back from loosing weight is alcohol. This is especially applicable towards college students. You can’t be drinking heavily every single weekend and expect to loose weight. A beer has typically 150 calories give or take. Say you have 3 in one night – that’s almost 500 calories. Have drinks in moderation, and if you know you’re going to have a couple drinks later that night, work with more intensity in the gym, and do extra cardio.