Last time we talked about not looking at our workout as a way to merely burn calories. Trust me, you will be sorely disappointed if you do that. Not only will you realize that you burn more calories cleaning the house than you did spending your time on that elliptical, but you will realize that the LESS time you spend in the gym the leaner you will be. NO, that is NOT a typo. I said it and I meant it. Let's look at it this way- you are hoping that one hour of your day will some how magically fix what goes on the other 23 hours of the day. Not. Going. To. Happen. Ok, so the next step is spending more hours in the gym and trying to burn MORE calories, right? If 1 hour 3 times a week won't cut it, then maybe 1 hour SIX days a week will!
So you set out on that path, certainly burning more calories than you were before. Of course since you are wanting to lose weight you keep your caloric intake the same, or better yet, you may even drop it a little bit -heck that is what all of the holiday magazines are suggesting. Exercise more, eat less. The standard prescription for weight loss. These days you can even find apps for your iphone or armbands to wear that can calculate all of this for you..even better, you can do it without even thinking!! Tell me how that works out for you.. Never mind, let me guess. For the first week or so, you may actually drop some weight and feel pretty good. The next few weeks don't go quite as well. You start to feel tired and run down. You feel 'softer' and have stopped losing weight and may have even put a few pounds back on. Frustrated you decide to INCREASE the amount of time you spend in the gym. You must've hit a plateau and exercising more to increase your caloric burn must be the way to get through it.
...and so goes the cycle.
Let me fill you in on what is actually happening here. You have increased your energy expenditure by increasing your exercise, yet you have maintained or even dropped your caloric intake causing a large caloric deficit. This is a rather new state for your body to be in and it hasn't figured out how to fix it yet (read: lessen the caloric deficit) so you lose weight (notice I did NOT say you lose fat. You are most likely losing muscle). Our bodies are an amazing balance of chemical reactions. When one thing changes our bodies react in a way to bring things back into balance. What am I saying? I am saying that if you created a large caloric deficit by exercising more and eating less, your body is going to work hard to reduce that deficit. It does this by expending fewer calories and asking you to take in more. So the more you exercise, the fewer calories you burn. You head home and then wonder why you are starving and searching for things to shove in your mouth. Things that once satisfied you now leave you wanting more. Not the recipe for weight loss that you thought you had signed up for. Enter frustration.
So what DO you do? Well, first off stop counting calories. Yes, you heard me. Stop counting the ones you take in and stop counting the ones you expend. Stop wearing those silly arm bands and watches that "measure" the calories you burn during your workout. Stop using the app on your phone that logs all of your food intake and plots it against your exercise. This doesn't work. (You're welcome) It might work if we did it for a day, but we don't. It might work if all calories were the same, but they are not. It might work if our bodies didn't respond by expending fewer calories and demanding more be taken in, but they do.
After you throw your armband in the trash, the next thing you need to do is eat something. Yes, eat. If we feed our bodies we have a much better chance of accomplishing what we want. In other words, put food to work FOR YOU. Lean protein, vegetables, fruits and good fats should be the crux of your diet. Eat small meals throughout the day (every 3-4 hours) and be sure they include the staples I just mentioned. Should you exercise? Yes, of course. Just don't go into it thinking about burning calories. As I mentioned in Exercise and Weight Loss Part I you should look at exercise as a means for making yourself a better functioning machine- for the 23 hours of the day that you are NOT exercising. THAT is what exercise does.
Keep in mind that a large caloric deficit is NOT the way to lose weight. Eat and exercise, but don't eat less and exercise more. Eat better and exercise smarter.