Why isn’t my diet working?

by Nashville personal trainer Dan DeFigio

The less I eat, the more weight I’ll lose, right? Not necessarily. It’s true that you have to create a caloric deficit in order to get leaner, but there’s a lot more to it than just reducing calories. Certain conditions must be met in order to make your body use fat for fuel, and correct eating habits top the list.

1) Eat regularly enough to allow your body to use fat for fuel.
If you go more than 3 or 4 hours without eating, your body goes into “starvation emergency” mode and starts holding on to its fat stores. Muscle tissue is then broken down for energy, and your metabolism is lowered. Any diet or exercise plan for losing fat that lowers your metabolism is doomed to failure. By eating small amounts of quality food every three hours, your blood sugar levels will stay nice and even all day, and your body will happily use fat as its preferred energy source for your activities.

2) Don’t make your caloric reduction too drastic.
If your body is used to a 2000 calorie per day diet, dropping to half that is going to trigger the same chemical defenses discussed above. A small caloric reduction (200 to 500 calories per day) will prevent your body from trying to save itself with chemical defenses and ravenous appetites. Couple this small reduction in food intake with a large increase in exercise.

3) Eat enough protein to support muscle tissue.
If your protein intake is low, your body can’t maintain its muscle. As stated earlier, if you lose muscle, you lose fat burning potential. Protein needs for active people can be as high as one gram per pound of body weight!

4) Avoid big surges of blood sugar levels.
control blood sugarThis causes your body to secrete too much insulin and make you crave more sugar and store more fat. Not good. Lower glycemic carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, whole grains) are preferred over simpler sugars (soda, candy, enriched grains) because they are absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly. Also remember that whenever you eat too much at one time, regardless of what it is, your blood sugar levels will shoot up. EAT SMALL, EAT OFTEN! Click here for a glycemic index.

5) Stay hydrated.
Water is necessary for the fat burning process. If you’re even slightly dehydrated, you can’t maximize your fat burning potential. Often, we mistake thirst for hunger, and we eat instead of drinking water. Drink lots of distilled water every day (up to one ounce of water per pound of body weight for athletes in heavy training).

6) Take a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement daily.
best multivitaminA deficiency of particular nutrients can cause your brain to increase your appetite to try to make up for what it’s missing. In addition, low levels of particular minerals can sabotage your fat burning efforts. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits every day, and supplement with a quality multivitamin/mineral supplement.

7) Consume adequate amounts of essential fats.
Good sources are flaxseed oil, olive oil, nuts, and fish. An easy Omega-3 supplement is distilled fish oil capsules.

8) Lift Weights.

Strength training boosts your metabolism, so you burn more fat doing everything – even sitting here reading this article on why your diet isn’t working (stand up!). So in addition to making some nutrition improvements to lose weight, be sure to put two or three strength training workouts on your calendar each week.