There is no doubt that a major aspect of losing weight and staying in shape is exercising properly. But, it is a balance between exercise and calorie intake that is the healthiest way to prevent weight gain. “However, to create the caloric deficit required to see consistent weight loss, we have to address the input side of the equation,” Bob Wright explains. “For example, if your goal is to create a caloric deficit of 3500 calories through exercise alone during the course of a week, you would have walk or jog 5 miles every day of the week. You could create the same deficit by reducing your caloric intake from 2000 calories a day to 1500. Neither change is easy, but it is more efficient to create the deficit by reducing the caloric intake.”
Without a solid night’s rest your body can not function properly. “When we don’t get the minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep that our body needs, a hormone is secreted that actually makes us feel hungry all day when in fact we’re just tired,” says Herkowitz. Studies have also shown that sleep deprivation can cause lower resting metabolic rates. It also impairs brain activity in the frontal lobe, which controls behavior and choices (such as choosing what to eat).
It is often overlooked that liquids have calories. Calories from juices and soft drinks can quickly add up and at restaurants where free refills are a norm, the calorie build-up can go unrecognized. Wright also explains that liquid calories have no sateity factor. “Sateity relates to how long we stay satisfied after we consume something. If you ate 500 calories of healthy solid food, he/she would be full and unlikely to eat anything for quite some time, but after drinking the same amount of calories in orange juice, cola or root beer, you might be hungry minutes later.”
Too much of a good thing, can still be too much. Studies have shown that when people think they are eating healthy, they tend to eat much more. Wright explained one study that named this the “health halo”. Wright explains that Dr. Brian Wansink found that those who thought they were eating a low fat granola bar ate 49% more than those who thought it was a regular bar. “When people were given a food labeled ‘organic’ they estimated the calories to be 15 – 20% lower than when it wasn’t labeled organic. When given either a fast food burger or Subway sandwich of the same calories, those having the sub assumed it had significantly fewer calories. They then rewarded themselves by having more cheese, mayonnaise and cookies,” continued Wright.
Many people do not realize that weight gain is not just fat gain. Weight training can increase your muscle mass, therefore increasing your weight. When you gain muscle faster than you lose fat, your body mass is increasing.
Skipping meals may keep your calorie count down, but your body will not react happily. Dr Jackie Buell explains that all bodies are different, “When we restrict calories, some people lose weight as they should and others will plateau or even gain weight. If you are eating less than about 1600 calories per day and not losing weight, you might consider if you are eating enough to allow your body to support your metabolism.”
Don’t fall for the fat-free and low-fat labels. Cohen finds that many people take the term ‘fat-free’ as an invitation to pig out. “On the contrary, generally, when fat is totally removed from a cookie like product, the fat is replaced with high amounts of sugar to lend more flavor to the taste.” she says. “As a result, insulin levels peak in the body, which of course in turn leads to weight gain. In savory food products, when the product is "fat free", lots of salt(sodium) is usually added to enhance the flavor profile.”
It’s natural to want to reward yourself after hard work at the gym. But, surprisingly, most people see that reward as indulgent food. Cohen says that people often say to themselves something along the lines of, ‘hey, I did a double workout this morning, I earned this 600 slice of pie a la mode’. “This just isn’t the case,” Cohen continues, “remember the good old saying ‘you are what you eat?’ Well that’s the truth. Exercise (even lots of it) cannot erase poor eating habits.”
Over training is also a common reason that people tend to gain weight. Long workouts can take a toll on your emotion and psychological well being, which is very important to weight loss. Completing longer workouts will put unnecessary pressure on yourself which will cause over stress.
Stress is often associated with a temporary loss of appetite, but chronic stress can actually be tied with an increase of appetite and weight gain. A study by Dr. Elissa Epel found that often the activity that relieves stress becomes eating, and since with depression your neuro-endocrine system does not work properly it sends a hormonal signal which makes you feel hungry.
Dehydration can seriously affect the mechanics of your body. It affects how your body burns fat and can encourage an excessive calorie consumption. Also, dehydration can slow down your metabolism, cause fatigue, digestive disorders, and the energy needed for your body to maintain or lose weight.