You work out. You've cut out sugar and eat a balanced diet. But those last 10 pounds just seem to linger. This can be frustrating, to say the least. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some areas you may want to address that can help you shed those last few stubborn pounds.
Boost Your Protein Intake
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you want to lose weight is not consuming enough protein. Eating too little protein can put your body in a state of stress. Stress increases the production of the hormone cortisol, which slows down the conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 into T3. Cortisol also places a burden on the liver since excess cortisol has to be detoxified by this organ. The extra burden prevents the liver from being able to effectively break down other toxic compounds and hormones.
Stress also suppresses the function of the pituitary gland, which is responsible for releasing thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). And don’t forget, high cortisol levels promote the formation of belly fat.
Studies have shown young men need at least 20 grams of quality protein per meal and older men need twice that amount just to maintain muscle tissue.
Muscle meats, such as those from poultry and fish, are high-quality protein sources, but they also contain fairly high amounts of the amino acids tryptophan, methionine, and cysteine, which can suppress thyroid function. This doesn’t mean muscle meats are bad for you. Eggs, cheese, shellfish, milk, whey protein, and wild game are also rich in the same amino acids, yet they are all excellent food choices. The key is to get your protein from a variety of sources and, just as important, include other foods that balance or allow your body to properly utilize these amino acids without suppressing thyroid function.
Foods that help balance amino acids include stews that use all parts of the animal, bone broths, and/or gelatin. Believe it or not, we were designed to eat practically the entire animal. About half the protein in an animal is collagen (gelatin), which is formed primarily from glycine, lysine, and proline (but it is deficient in tryptophan and cysteine). When you include gelatin in your diet, it helps balance out the other amino acids that are abundant in muscle meats, all while building and retaining muscle tissue.
Change Your Eating "Experience"
Brian Wansink, who directs Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, has studied eating habits for the last 25 years. His findings show that simply changing your environment can have a huge impact on weight loss. Rather than focusing on diets or exercise, his research looks at how your surroundings subconsciously influence what and how much you eat and drink. Here are just a few findings I’ve gleaned from his book, Mindless Eating.
- The color of your plate influences the amount of calories you serve yourself. Your plate should be a different color than the food you’re eating. For example, when study subjects helped themselves to white pasta on white plates or red (marinara) sauce on red plates, they served themselves 18 percent more calories than when the plates were a different color than the food. Since many of the higher carbohydrate foods so popular in this country are white (potatoes, pasta, rice, etc.), using darker dinnerware would be a better choice for weight loss.
- Use a smaller plate. Eating from a plate that was 8.6" to 9.8" in diameter versus a larger plate 11.8” in diameter resulted in consuming 22 percent less. Even the size of the serving spoon makes a difference. People tend to serve themselves 14 percent less food with smaller serving spoons.
- Serve yourself from either the stove or kitchen counter rather than putting food platters on the table. Having to get up and walk to the kitchen to get seconds, rather than having the food conveniently in front of you, was shown to reduce consumption by 19 percent. Before mindlessly getting seconds, you start to question whether you’re really still hungry. So if you want to consume more vegetables, make them readily accessible by leaving them on the table.
- Sit at the table. Having your meal in front of the television makes you eat more.
I thought some of the most interesting findings came from a study where the researchers visited 230 homes in Syracuse, NY—a typical small city by US standards. In each home, they took detailed pictures of each kitchen and the refrigerator contents, and then weighed the inhabitants. The pictures and data were analyzed for eight months to see if there was any correlation between the two. They found that the contents in the kitchen, not the size of the room, had a huge effect, mostly on women.
The type of food left on the counter also influenced weight. Women who lived in homes with potato chips easily seen on the counter weighed roughly eight pounds more than neighbors who didn’t. But the most damning counter food was breakfast cereal.
Women whose kitchens had even a single box of cereal within eyeshot weighed an average of 21 pounds more than those women who lived in homes with no noticeable cereal boxes. Again, visible potato chips or cereal didn’t correlate with weight differences in men, only women. Wansink thinks this might be because most of the marketing efforts for these products are directed toward women. Either way, keep the snacks and cereals in the pantry...out of sight and inconvenient.
The only food on your counter should be fruit. And speaking of fruit, keep fruits and vegetables highly visible and ready to eat on the middle shelf in your refrigerator.
Wansink’s research also points out how to reduce wine consumption, which can be another source of excess calories. When pouring wine, he found the focus is on the height of the pour and not the width. For that reason, people tend to pour 12 percent more wine in a short, wide glass compared to a tall, skinny glass that holds the same amount. Also, people pour 12 percent less wine when standing up and looking down at a glass, as opposed to pouring when seated and looking at the glass from the side.
Wansink has a wealth of data that examines mindless eating in restaurants that also might be helpful to you:
- When eating out, sit far away from the bar. People tend to drink more when they sit closer to the bar.
- People eat more (particularly fried food) when they sit in darker areas of the restaurant or close to a television. They are also 73 percent more likely to order dessert.
- People sitting at high-top bar tables and closer to windows or the door tend to order more salads and make healthier food choices.
Additional Weight Loss Tips
- Consume small amounts of higher protein/fat foods every couple of hours (cheese, avocado, nuts, peanut butter, or cottage cheese). This will fight off cravings and keep your blood sugar from falling.
- Add coconut oil to your diet. A couple of tablespoons a day taken at different times should be enough. Roughly 2/3 of the fatty acids in coconut oil are of the medium-chain variety, which actually raise your metabolic rate without contributing to weight gain or fat storage. Remember, protein and dietary fat aren’t converted by our bodies into fat…but excess carbohydrates are.
- Thinner individuals have a greater variety of beneficial bacteria in their intestinal tract. Make sure you have a proper mix of bacteria in your gut by eating fermented foods and taking a daily probiotic supplement.