Recently a friend pulled me aside during a night out. About a year ago, she lost a ton of weight by changing up her eating habits and working out. "But now," she confided, "I've totally plateaued and I feel stuck. I'm doing cardio all the time, eating low-fat, and watching all my calories. What am I doing wrong?"
Surprisingly, it's those seemingly healthy choices that she's making on a day-to-day basis that have slowed her progress. Trying to break through a weight-loss plateau? Read on to see if you're sabotaging your health by following these "healthy" rules.
Eating low-fat foods
Since the 1980s, when low-fat became the trendiest diet around, low-fat foods have dominated the market as the" healthier" option. But fat is what gives food its density and flavor—so food manufacturers load low-fat foods with sugar and chemicals to make them more palatable. Extra sugar equals a higher calorie content, so if the reason you’re going low-fat is to lose weight, you may not see the scale budge.
Plus, eating a low-fat diet encourages people to avoid super healthy foods like fish, meat, avocados, coconut, and nuts. Research tells us that the healthy fat in these foods is necessary for a cardiac function and overall health.
Finally, you found a workout routine that you really enjoy. Maybe it’s a class, training for an event, or just following a plan, but you love it so much that you’re working out everyday for hours, and sometimes more than once. Time to slow your roll.
Overtraining is one of the most detrimental things that you can do if you’re trying to get in shape. Not only will you see deleterious effects on your body and potentially injure yourself, but there’s a chance you’ll totally fry your adrenal system, which can cause weight gain and hormonal imbalance.
If you’re overtraining you’ll stop seeing results from your workout—plus you'll feel tired, puffy, and moody. So if you’re cramming in an extra hour of cardio every week in an attempt to lose the last bit of belly fat, you might be sabotaging your weight loss goals. Instead, focus on quality sessions three to five times a week, and make sure you get enough rest every night in order to recover from your workouts.
Chugging green juices
It seems that there’s one on every corner in cosmopolitan cities like LA and NYC, but even smaller towns have seen a boom in organic juiceries in the past few years. Before you swap out your lunch salad for a green juice, you need to know the effects of these drinks on your body. Yes, juicing raw veggies can be a great way to ingest certain nutrients quickly and with minimal digestion, but you’re not getting necessary fiber, complex carbohydrates, and fats that help to maintain your body’s blood sugar.
Additionally, most green juices that are made up of just veggies like kale, spinach, and cucumbers are low calorie, so they can't effectively replace a meal. Bottom line? You can definitely down an all-vegetable juice if you like the taste, but pair it with a meal to balance blood sugar and ensure that your body can absorb all the nutrients in your drink.
Eating too few calories
Wait, what!? Cutting calories plus working out equals weight loss, right? Not so much.
If you’re not eating enough calories on a daily basis, you’ll throw your body into starvation mode. Basically, your body will think that you’re trying to survive a famine, so it will retain as many precious calories as possible to conserve energy and keep you alive for longer. Plus, the calories you do burn will be coming from your muscles, not your fat stores. The result? Less muscle mass, decreased energy, and screwed up hormonal levels—and no real change in your body fat percentage.
Stretching before your workout
No, you don’t need to hold that stretch for thirty seconds before you charge off on your evening run. Turns out static stretching, or long stretches where you hold a position without moving for a period of time, isn’t actually helping you prevent injuries during your workout or keeping you from waking up sore. Instead, try dynamic stretches like lunges and leg swings to get your heart rate up and your joints lubricated.
If you're beating yourself up because you're guilty of a few of these seemingly healthy habits, don't feel too bad! These simple fixes can get you on the path to health in no time.
Illustration by Karley Koenig