The other day I held a lecture at the Winter Health Festival. The topic was emotional eating.
Afterwards a lot of people came to ask me questions in person about matters they were interested in. The question that came up most frequently was: “What can I do about those 2-3 kilograms that I have been trying to lose all my life?” You probably find yourselves in a similar situation. You don’t have too much weight to shed and perhaps people even describe you as “slim”. Still, you find flaws in the way you look and want to correct them. That was also true of the women who asked me this question. So now I am going to give you an idea what you can do to polish what you see as a flaw and get rid of the desire to adopt an even more restrictive diet.
I am going to discuss two cases – one is that of a woman whose weight is evenly distributed and the other one is that of a woman, in whose body those 2-3 kilograms are obviously concentrated around her belly.
A woman with an evenly distributed weight
I asked all women who wanted to find out how to deal with those 2-3 kilograms the same question: “Do you work out?”The answer was either “no”, or “I do cardio from time to time”. In this case the solution is quite simple – you need to start working out, and not do just cardio. It would most certainly do you good to start training with weights. And don’t take this to mean something extreme – no one comes into the gym and puts 50-70 kg on the bar the very first time they work out. Some people never get that far. Everyone starts by learning the technique – first with their own bodyweight, then adding more and more weight. The resistance of the weights and even the work you have to do in some bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups (even if you are doing some kind of progression), shrimp squats, BG squats, lunges, are a stimulus and a signal to the body that the muscles perceive and transform – this means that you start shaping your body and acquiring the toned look you want to have. This kind of workouts also has a very good effect on our metabolism and calorie partitioning, but I will explain this later on.
If you do work out, but do too much cardio and avoid higher-intensity workouts, then you should change the ratio between your cardio and your high-intensity workouts. Many people make the mistake of thinking that shortness of breath and sweating mean intensity. This is not the case and in this post you can read more about what a high-intensity workout is (here).
This way you can draw a benefit from both types of workouts. Doing too much cardio usually stresses the body and leads to the “soft” look you don’t want to have. Too much cardio and elevated stress levels can even be the reason you feel like you are retaining water.
And last, but not least, the amount of food you eat is important as well. If you eat too much, you know what to cut back on. But if you are one of those people who are superstrict and are in the habit of restricting their food intake too much and they also train too much, this may be the reason you can’t lose those 2-3 kilograms. When we are physically active, eating too little is our enemy, too. The amount of food we consume should be proportional to the amount of physical activity we engage in, and not the other way around. Too much physical activity and too little food is a recipe for slowing down the metabolism. And a slowed-down metabolism always goes hand in hand with the inability to lose weight; the body even tries to hold on to our current weight.
A woman with fat, concentrated around the belly
If this is the thing you want to change and you don’t work out, you should definitely take my advice to start working out with weights. Apart from the benefits I mentioned, working out with weights improves a person’s insulin sensitivity. Improved insulin sensitivity is always beneficial for the way we process carbohydrates and the way consumed calories get partitioned, i.e. whether they get stored as fat or get used for energy.
Insulin levels and carbohydrate consumption are related. Carrying more fat around the belly and the “love handles” indicates that we consume too much carbohydrates. So if you work out, but you still tend to gain fat around your waist, you should monitor your diet. Is your menu too carb-heavy? If this is the case, you should reduce your carbohydrate intake and also make sure you consume enough protein. People who overeat carbohydrates don’t consume enough protein. What can be measured can be achieved. I recommend that you write down the food you consume for a week. You can even enter everything into MyFitnessPal – not because you should obsess about this, but to help you get an idea what your diet looks like. This will show you quite well what the percentage of carbohydrates in your menu is and how many grams you consume. The percentage of carbohydrates depends on the fat you consume – they are usually inversely proportional. This means that when you increase carbohydrates, you should cut back on fats, and the other way around. My advice is that you consume at least 25-30% of fats, if you prefer to also eat more carbohydrates. But you should not go higher than 40% of carbohydrates either. Many people feel better (mentally and physically), when they eat a more balanced diet and the share of each macronutrient is about 30-35%. And this is a very good start. And then, if you want to achieve even better results, you can manipulate your fat and carbohydrate intake – you can try to increase one and decrease the other and see how you feel. What energy levels you have; if you feel hungry; if you feel satisfied after you eat. This will tell you if you need to consume a little more carbohydrates or a little more fat. In both cases you will get results – just choose what you can stick to. And most importantly, don’t cut out carbohydrates or fat entirely. They both have a place in a healthy eating plan.