It’s Friday morning, you wake up feeling slimmer and rush to the scales enthusiastic to see your success, only to be devastated to see your weight is unchanged or even worse increased! If you have been a yo-yo dieter, I’m sure you have experienced this, and I also bet that this has influenced your mood all day and maybe even made you treat yourself to foods/drinks to feel better and to overcome your thoughts of ‘what the heck after all that effort!’
Well you are not alone; weight loss can really be challenging but what’s important is not to give up. Let’s be honest why do we let the scales have such power over our feelings and moods? – does it really matter what they say isn’t how we feel and look far more important?
So, let’s look at why the scales may not be in line with why you feel slimmer:
The main reason is due to our energy storage mechanism. When we eat, our foods are broken down into glucose (for energy) and carbohydrates produce lots of glucose. We either use this up by being active or we store it short term as glycogen mainly in our liver & muscles. With each gram of glycogen, it binds with 3 – 4 grams of water. When you are active again your glycogen levels reduce and with that your internal water reserve. If you reduce your carbohydrates significantly you will get a lot of water loss and corresponding weight loss
Therefore, after a cheat day/weekend, you might believe that you have regained all your lost weight but don’t despair your hard work is not wasted this is just glycogen fooling you!
Let’s say for example you have ‘treated’ yourself ‘to lots of carbohydrates (crisps, potatoes, bread, pasta, chocolate, sweets, alcohol etc). What you have done short term, is replenished your glycogen stores together with all that added water. So, if this is just a short-term diet blip, just get straight back onto it and get active to use up that glycogen and don’t get on the scales for 3 – 5 days because otherwise glycogen will fool you and this disappointment could start you spiralling out of control.
If you don’t use up your glycogen stores and carry on eating lots of carbohydrates, you will then put that glucose/glycogen into your long-term storage (yes you guessed it – your fat cells and those nearest your liver – i.e. around your waist).
Let’s look at the bigger picture
So, weight is not important because what we are really concerned with is how much fat we have, and most weight loss programmes don’t focus on this key aspect. So many low fat/low calorie diets don’t necessarily encourage fat loss and most weight lost can be in the form of water, glycogen, muscle and some fat.
In my opinion, this is one of the biggest reasons for yo-yo dieting because if you lose mainly water/glycogen & muscle you may be happy with the scales short term but long term it will have negative effects on your health and your metabolism.
Some of us go into ‘diet mode’ when we are on a weight loss mission and cut back on what we eat to get quick results but this will just make our body go into a starvation mode. You may lose some fat in the process, but most will be glycogen, water, and muscle mass and your metabolism will slow down to protect you from this starvation. If you carry on eating too little your metabolism will keep reducing and more and more hunger hormones will be pumped into your body until you give in and eat more. Then with your metabolism being so slow you will store lots more fat just in case you decide to starve yourself again in the future.
Therefore, stop dieting! go for a balanced plate approach lots of non-starchy carbohydrates (salads/vegetables) and 25 – 30% protein to promote an increase in lean body mass and gentle weight loss. Don’t forget:
If you eat less = You’ll burn less
If you eat more = You’ll burn more
Just make sure that when you eat more it is nutrient-dense, healthy foods and then your fat loss prayers will be met over the long term and these whole foods, will kick your metabolism into overdrive.
So, if you are going to weigh – please, please only do it a maximum of once a week and ideally make it the morning after:
• You have drunk enough water the day before to be hydrated and to detox those toxins from your fat cells
• When you haven’t eaten a very large meal the night before (otherwise your glycogen stores will be very full & you’ll be storing lots more water)
• When you haven’t eaten a very large portion of carbohydrates (even lots of salad/vegetables can do this) – remember the size of your stomach is just the size of your hands so portions are important!
Or just put the scales away and use a measuring tape as a better gage or a pair of snug jeans work a treat too!