Hormones and weight gain after 40 | why nutrition matters even more now

Several weeks ago, I initiated a conversation about hormones and weight gain after 40.

In that post, I highlighted the physical changes women can typically expect to face during peri-menopause and the menopause transition itself. The picture I painted wasn’t pretty and many of you wrote to say that you’ve experienced the changes I described, including muscle loss, weight gain, insatiable food cravings and a belly or ‘muffin top’ that won’t go away.

hormones and weight gain

I promised to do some research and come back and share what I discovered about the effects of exercise, nutrition and overall lifestyle on the challenges we’re all facing.

Today’s post will focus on nutrition, which means we’ll be once again talking about the hormones estrogen and insulin. (And just a head’s up, they’re just as important to the upcoming posts on exercise and lifestyle change, so pay attention :) ).

Many (if not all) of my 40+ female clients lament the fact that they can no longer eat the way they did in their 20′s and 30′s and zip up their favourite jeans. Gone are the days when a weekend of pizza, chips and beer had no effect on your body come Monday morning.

We’ve already touched on the primary reasons why people (both men and women) tend to gain weight as they age, but decreased physical activity and loss of muscle mass are only part of the story.

For women entering their peri-menopausal years, the frequently-observed increase in ‘middle of the body adiposity’ is directly tied to lower estrogen levels.

Estrogen is a most interesting hormone. In our reproductive years, it initiates breast development and helps to maintain pregnancy and kickstart the development of fetal organs.

Evidence from animal models tells us that estrogen also plays a role in

  • feeding behaviour (estrogen-depleted mice consume significantly more food than their ‘normal estrogen profile’ counterparts)
  • the uptake of lipids from the circulation (lower estrogen levels result in greater lipid uptake and ‘middle of the body’ fat storage)
  • the development of insulin resistance (recall that insulin’s function is to remove excess sugar from the blood; when you become resistant to the effects of insulin, your body stores that excess sugar as fat)
  • physical activity and energy expenditure during physical activity (estrogen-depleted mice move less and burn fewer calories while engaged in ‘exercise’ than ‘normal estrogen profile’ mice)

“Eat more, move less” is almost always a recipe for weight gain, regardless of whether you’re “mice or (wo)man”!

So, what does this all have to do with nutrition? How can we take this information about hormones and turn it into a plan for counteracting their effects on mid-life weight gain?

The following list will be familiar to you if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile :) (And if you haven’t, take a minute and enter your email in the box at the top right to get an alert every time I publish a new post. Alternatively, you can also follow my blog on Bloglovin’; click on the ‘Follow this Blog on Bloglovin’ box, midway down the right sidebar)

It’s based on the premise of clean eating. With a little tough love. If you’re serious about losing or maintaining weight through the menopause years you can’t keep eating the way you have been and expect to see any changes in your body.

  • eliminate processed foods and added sugar. Without estrogen around to help you out, excess dietary sugar will be transformed into fat, in particular, belly fat. The high sodium count in most processed foods will also lead to water retention which only contributes to that puffy look.
  • pay attention to serving size. Educate yourself about what a serving of lean protein looks like. Do the same for grains and healthy fats. Weigh or measure portions until you can do it on your own. Given that energy expenditure during exercise can decline with estrogen levels, keeping your calorie count in check is more important now than ever.
  • notice how you feel before, during and after a meal. Keeping a food journal is always helpful when trying to lose weight, but even more helpful when you’re experiencing food craving and lack-of-estrogen feedback about satiation. Pay attention to your trigger foods and learn about your body’s response to carbohydrates.
  • re-think that drink. Alcohol is a sugar and your body metabolizes it as such. Still can’t give up your weekend wine binge? Don’t expect to lose your belly bulge.
  • experiment with reducing grains and dairy. I’m not suggesting that you ‘go paleo‘ here or jump on the gluten free bandwagon. However, many women find that reducing their consumption of these two food groups helps with both overall weight loss and abdominal fat loss. Grains, in particular, will raise blood sugars and trigger an insulin response. Remember to journal your ‘experiment’; it’s the only true way you’ll have of knowing whether this strategy works for you.
  • embrace vegetables. They’ll fill you up (dietary fibre for the win!) and help ensure that you get the calcium and magnesium you need to help offset age-related losses in bone density. In order to meet your daily requirement of 7 to 10 servings, make sure you’re adding a veggie or two to every single meal.

[Here's where I remind you that I'm NOT a registered dietician or nutritionist, so my suggestions are based on MY OWN research and the strategies that I've found to work for MYSELF and MY clients. Remember that there is no single diet that is better than all others for losing weight or maintaining weight loss; finding something that works for you and sticking with it over the long haul is key.]

To read the first part in this series go here >>> Hormones and Weight Gain after 40: the biology of aging

To read the third part in this series go here >>> Hormones and Weight Gain after 40: exercise for hormonal balance

 

Watch for parts 4 and 5; the effects of stress and lack of sleep on weight gain after 40…

Now it’s your turn. Share YOUR nutrition tips and tricks for dealing with weight gain after 40.

Anything that hasn’t worked? I’d love to hear about YOUR experiences! 

Not afraid of technical terms? Want to read more on the subject? Check out the article Understanding Weight Gain at Menopause. And my own personal ‘menopause bible’, “The Menopause Book” (2009), by Pat Wingert and Barbara Kantrowitz.

Weight gain and prescription drugs: a common dilemma

Weight loss and weight loss maintenance are difficult at the best of times. Finding the right balance of exercise, nutrition and sleep isn’t always easy and sticking with it for the long term can be challenging for many.

But what about when you have a medical condition that requires you to take medications that hinder weight loss efforts? Or worse, cause you to gain even more? Sadly, weight gain and prescription drugs often go hand in hand.

weight gain and prescription drugs

A long time personal training client of mine has recently put on a lot of weight, despite following the exercise routine and nutrition plan I’ve created for her.

We’ve had great success in the past; during the first six months of our training relationship she lost 25 pounds, many inches and made incredible gains in the gym. Clearly, her body is capable of responding positively to weight training and clean eating.

What then has changed over the past year and a half?

Turns out that this client is bi-polar (I knew this, but it hadn’t previously been an issue). She had been stable on her medication for many, many years, but suffered a breakdown last year after the death of her father. Her doctors decided to switch meds in an effort to stabilize her. Over the next six months, they slowly increased her Lithium levels and introduced a new anti-psychotic drug, Olanzapine. While her mood gradually improved and she began to returned to her usual self, she also began to re-gain the weight that she’d previously lost (and more).

Initially it was because the Lithium was making her ravenous. She was eating many more calories than required for maintenance but seemed unable to control the cravings and mindless eating. Her doctors introduced Olanzapine, which helped to control her appetite, but still she continued to gain weight.

A little bit of online research revealed that both drugs have well known weight gain effects; effects that appear to over-ride lifestyle approaches to weight loss and weight loss maintenance. Olanzapine in particular, changes the body’s sensitivity to insulin, and over time, can actually lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Talk about frustrating! Either you take the drugs to control a serious medical condition and live with weight gain and potentially a second serious medical condition or you forsake your mood and sanity in order to keep your body at a healthy weight.

My client are I are currently focusing on the myriad other benefits of exercise and proper nutrition; in particular those related to risk of osteoporosis (she’s menopausal and has had several broken bones in her lifetime), improved sleep (often a challenge for those suffering from mental illness) and mood enhancement (we all need more ‘happy’).

In addition, we’ve done some research and discovered that there’s another drug she might be able to take in place of the Olanzapine.

There are many other classes of prescription drugs that can hinder weight loss and even cause substantial weight gain, including;

  • anti-histamines (including over-the-counter varieties) that increase appetite
  • anti-hypertensives (‘beta blockers’) that cause fatigue and a concomitant reduction in daily activity
  • corticosteroids (used to treat asthma and arthritis) affect metabolism and increase hunger
  • anti-depressants that increase food cravings
  • anti-psychotics that ‘flatten’ your mood, sap your energy and affect your body’s sensitivity to insulin (eventually resulting in Type 2 Diabetes…)
  • anti-seizure and mood disorder drugs can cause as much as a 10 pound weight gain in just a few weeks

Given that many of my readers are likely to have taken, or are currently taking one of the above medications, I thought I’d share some tips for researching the side effects of common prescription medications.

  • start by reading the literature that came with your prescription; sounds simple, but many people don’t bother. Either because they trust their doctor and pharmacist to make the right choice for their health OR they simply can’t read the small print on the accompanying pamphlets (definitely a problem for those of us in our 40′s and beyond…)
  • do some online research; beware of doing a generic Google search. All you’re likely to turn up are anecdotes, message boards and watered-down information, at best. Instead, try a Google Scholar search. You don’t need to be able to read the articles yourself (some scientific writing is hard for even other scientists to comprehend…) ; just scan the summaries and see whether there’s likely to be anything useful in the article. Click on the video below to see how I use Google to find fact-based sources of information.
  • take the results of your online search to your doctor; We always assume that our doctors are apprised of the most recent research, yet the sheer volume of research generated on a weekly basis makes this next to impossible (unless your doctor spends more of their time reading journals, than seeing patients…).

Have you ever experienced weight gain while taking prescription medication?

How did you deal with it?

 

Disclaimer: While I am a certified Personal Trainer, I am NOT a medical professional. Please see you doctor or pharmacist to discuss concerns about any side effects your medications may be causing.

Healthy living and weight loss encouragement | all bets are off

In January I hosted a DietBet (lose weight, have fun, make money and BUILD COMMUNITY). Over half of my participants lost at least 4% of their body weight in just four weeks. Many of those needed to lose much more and were thrilled to find a group of motivating, encouraging and inspirational peers to share the journey with.

At their request, I decided to host a second weight loss game. Happy to continue providing a platform for positive lifestyle change and delighted to see so many people sharing their tips for curbing the munchies, fitting daily exercise in and getting back on the horse after a binge meal (or two).

weight loss

Despite the success of this second game (44% of players met their weight loss goals; you guys rock!), I won’t be promoting a third anytime soon. This decision is not a reflection on the game itself (it clearly works for people who have significant weight to lose), but a personal decision on how hosting the game made me feel unhappy with my body.

You see, I not only hosted the games, I anted up and participated as well. Despite the fact that I didn’t (and don’t) really need to lose weight.

The act of stepping on the scales weekly (and being sent email reminders to ‘weigh myself more frequently to improve my chances of winning’) did a number on my head.

weight loss

  • It made me think that my body weight SHOULD be 4% less than it is (it stressed me out to not see the scale moving despite my very clean eating habits and almost daily visits to the gym)
  • It made me consider taking extreme measures to cut calories (even though I know that caloric restriction undermines my attempts to gain muscle mass and makes me a very cranky female dog).
  • It made me think back to all the different weights my body has been during the last 20 years (marriage, pre-baby number 1, post-baby number 1, pre-baby number 2, post-baby number 2, pre-weight lifting, pre-baby number 3, post-baby number 3, teaching 10 group fitness classes a week, the arrival of peri-menopause) and decide that the lowest weight was the best (never mind that I was considerably younger and had no muscle mass…)
  • It made me forget that I love looking and feeling strong (I love having a ‘big butt’)
  • It made me think that I’d be happier if I were 6 pounds lighter (happiness doesn’t come from a number on the scale)
  • It took the joy out of eating (food is fun) and exercising (even more fun)

It took watching some of my own #FatblasterFriday workout videos to realize that the body everybody else sees is NOT the same body that I’ve been seeing when I’ve look in the mirror as of late. (That girl in those videos has a rocking bod! Strong arms, toned butt and lots of confidence in her appearance…)

While I’d love to continue motivating and encouraging my friends and followers who aren’t yet through with their weight loss journey, I just can’t do it by hosting another DietBet (at least not right now; I need to deal with my own body image issues first). Instead, I’ll continue to support and inspire by sharing workouts, healthy eating tips and thought-provoking discussions about body image and weight loss here, on the blog, and in my Facebook group (if you haven’t ‘liked’ my page you’re missing out on twice-weekly free home workouts).

And my bathroom scales? I’m finding another use for them.

weight loss 

Does the number on your scale influence how you feel about yourself?

What other ways do you measure progress towards your health and fitness goals?

Introducing the workout reward jar | get fit and fashionable at the same time

If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Sweet Relish, you’ll know that I have a ‘thing’ about shoes.

A love of funky, chunky, fashion-forward, high-heeled leather footwear. Shoes, boots, sandals, I love them all. (Exercise shoes too, of course, but it’s Fluevogs that really get me excited!)

workout reward jar

I’m not alone in this obsession. Many women (particularly women, cough, cough, my age) have a fascination with shoes, handbags and jewellery.

I have a theory about this.

Accessories always fit, regardless of the size of your body.

A killer pair of boots can cheer you up when your favourite skinny jeans won’t zip up. Sparkly bracelets never make your wrist look ‘puffy’. And handbags can divert attention from your body (as well as provide you with something to disguise your belly; remember Elaine’s giant purses when the producers of Seinfeld were trying to hide Julia Louis Dreyfuss’s pregnancy?).

Upon some self-reflection (and a frank look at my own naked profile in the mirror), I realize that the level of my interest in footwear varies inversely with how satisfied I am in my own skin.

When I feel fit and strong and lean, my shopping trips focus on jeans and curve-hugging sweaters.

When I feel not-so-fit and have put on a few extra pounds, my tastes gravitate towards shoes and boots.

I’m in a ‘shoe’ phase right now and I’m doing something about it (something other than just buying shoes, that is).

My solution? Dial in my nutrition (bye bye sugar), kick up my workouts (more intensity and consistency) and reward my hard work with a new pair of shoes.

Introducing my workout reward jar, AKA the ‘Fluevog Jar’!

workout reward jar

Since January 1st, I’ve been tossing a ‘toonie’ (that’s Canadian-speak for our 2 dollar coin) into my workout reward jar every time I complete a workout, with the goal of rewarding my efforts with a new pair of Fluevogs this summer (Fitbloggin’, Portland, June; will you be there?). 

It’s only mid-February and I’ve already saved $70. (Do the math! That’s 35 workouts in 7 weeks). If I keep it up, I may not only be able to buy the shoes I’ve got my eyes on, I may also be able to afford a new pair of jeans; in a smaller size!

Do you reward yourself for making fitness a priority?

How would you spend YOUR workout reward jar money?

Weighing in on weighing in | how often do you weigh yourself?

Yesterday was Day 1 of the DietBet I’m currently hosting (I’m super excited, as the ‘pot’ is just over $5000!).

Participants submitted their initial weights sometime between Friday morning and Sunday lunch. Amazingly enough, by mid-afternoon Sunday, nearly 20% of the participants had already updated their weight (and even more amazing, some had already lost significant percentages of their body weight…).

how often do you weight yourself?

Somehow, I hadn’t expected participants to weigh in daily. DietBet only requires initial and final weights. That’s certainly all that I was planning on. How often do you weigh yourself?

Now I’m not really a huge fan of the bathroom scales. And Friday’s weigh in was the first time I’d stepped on mine in about a month. (The number was higher than I expected, so maybe I stayed away too long..). My rationale? My scale weight isn’t a true measure of how fit and healthy I am. I’d rather focus on the number of pushups I can do and how many pounds I can squat, than how much my body weighs.

Truth be told, I’ve always found my scale weight to be higher than I think it should be (given what I used to weigh before graduate school, marriage, kids and peri-menopause…) and get discouraged when it shows no sign up changing despite healthy eating and frequent exercise.

But comments from some of my DietBet participants indicate that not everybody shares my view:

~ I have to weigh and post weight daily….whether down or up on the scale….to be accountable. …. I’ve tried that once a week thing & for me it is a disaster, LOL!

~ I weigh myself every day, usually twice a day (a.m. and before bed) 

I’d like to hear YOUR thoughts.

How often do you weigh yourself?

Why that frequency (as opposed to any other)?

Why not more (or less) often?

How do the scales help or hinder your weight loss (and weight loss maintenance) efforts?

Please discuss below! (And if you’re participating in Fitknitchick’s DietBet, let us know!)

#FatblasterFriday | Fitknitchick’s DietBet ‘Weigh In’ Workout

So, you’ve all seen my recent Tweets and Facebook updates about the DietBet I’m hosting, right?

Well guess what? It starts THIS SUNDAY! Sometime today or tomorrow, participants will receive a prompt to photograph and weigh themselves (don’t worry, photos and starting weights will be seen only by DietBet’s programmers ;) ) and to submit the info directly to DietBet.

If you’re interested in dropping a few pounds, having a few laughs and winning a few dollars, now’s the time to commit! Still on the fence? What if I were to dangle the carrot of a hand knit pair of socks in front of you? 

Fitknitchick's DietBet

Go on, click the link and ante up –>>>> Fitknitchick’s DietBet; today’s #FatblasterFriday workout will be here waiting for you when you come back!

Today we’re doing tummy work. Six exercises targeting that soft spot around your middle (the place where all the shortbread cookies are hiding). Get out your timer and set if for 6 rounds of 1 minute each. Move from one exercise to the other without a break. Rest at the end of the circuit, re-set your timer and go again.

fitnitchick's DietBet

Next week’s #FatblasterFriday workout will be an all new, real time, full body workout! Guaranteed to help you shed those pounds and win your DietBet!

Disclaimer #1: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Disclaimer #2: The above is a sponsored post; DietBet provides modest compensation for all contest hosts.

 

January motivation and inspiration | tearing into 2013

Assuming we survive the Mayan end of the world, January 2013 will be here before you know it.

Even with the best of exercise and health eating intentions, most of us will indulge over the holidays and be looking for ways to get back on track come the new year.

How about we jump on the January motivation and inspiration train a bit early this year?

I’ve got four announcements to get through today. Three of them are exercise and weight loss-themed. The fourth is for my fellow healthy living bloggers (or any of you are thinking of starting a blog, but haven’t the faintest idea where to start).

January motivation

Choose one (or more!) of the options below, commit to following through come January and enjoy the holidays knowing that you have a plan in place to quickly (and painlessly too, I hope) get right back to where you were health and fitness-wise before the seasonal madness began!

1. Need to lose a few pounds? Join my DietBet!

I’m excited to be partnering with the newest online weight loss program, DietBet! Ante up ($25), challenge yourself to lose 4% of your body weight in four weeks (January 6th through February 2nd) and split the pot with everyone else who succeeds! DietBet provides an online platform for interacting with the other challenge participants; a place to motivate, inspire and encourage each other daily. More details to follow!

Click on the link to join Fitknitchick’s DietBet. I’ve already thrown my $25 into the pot; I know that I’ll be looking to shed a few pounds in the new year…

2. Fell out of your gym routine? Try my #freshstartfitness challenge take 2!

Last fall’s #freshstartfitness challenge was such a success, I’m repeating it this January, with a twist. Rather than have participants visit my blog and log their responses to the weekly challenges there, I’ll be taking the whole thing over to my Facebook page. Each and every day in January, I’ll be posting a pinnable workout that you can print and take to the gym with you. Workouts will require minimal equipment and will be appropriate for new and returning-to-exercise-after-a-hiatus peeps.

All you need to do to join in is ‘like’ my Facebook fan page and make sure you add it to your interests list (otherwise you may not see all of my posts!). Don’t know how to do this? See below*** for step-by-step instructions!

3. Need a little one-on-one attention? Try online personal training!

I’ve had so many queries about online training, I decided to plunge right in! If you’re interested in working with a certified and knowledgable personal trainer to achieve your health and fitness goals, I’m your girl!

I’m a big believer in ‘relationship-based training’. In order for personal training to really work, clients need to trust their trainer. And trainers need to take the time to really get to know their clients before creating an individualized roadmap to health and wellness. Click the links to read more about my credentials, some client testimonials and the online personal training services I offer.

And as a special incentive to commit to a January training plan, I’m offering the first 5 registrants a 33% savings on the introductory 8 week package ($100 rather than $150). What are you waiting for?

4. Want to expand your blogging skills? Register for The Blog Genie’s “Blog Challenge Program”

Rita, the owner and chief designer of Blog Genie is running a year long Blog Challenge Program to help new and aspiring bloggers to take their ‘baby’ to the next level. Each month, her online learning program will feature a different topic, ranging from content creation to social media marketing to monetization and beyond! Registration is ongoing, but register before December 19th and you’ll also receive your choice of one of two ‘gifts’; free transfer of your existing blog to WordPress self-hosted OR a Premium StudioPress Theme.

Why am I sharing this with you? Last April, Rita worked with me to redesign and transfer my WordPress.com blog to WordPress self-hosted. She also happily held my hand as I learned how to manage the ‘behind the curtain’ details of my blog. Just this past weekend she answered my desperate email about fixing a broken blog (why do blogs always break on Sunday nights???).

I think referrals are the highest form of praise, don’t you?

And Rita was kind enough to give me a coupon code to share with my readers! Valid from December 12 until 11:59 (MT) December 19th, it’s good for $50 off the cost of the program!

There you have it. January motivation and inspiration before December is even finished. Just what you need to tackle the holidays with confidence and hope!

Have your regularly scheduled fitness and nutrition routines taken a back seat to holiday preparations?

Do you have a plan for getting back on track?

***  If you want to see ALL of my Facebook updates, please take a moment and do this-

Facebook is now pushing administrators to PAY to promote every post/update from their page. In an attempt to make page administrators pay for “promoted posts,” Facebook will now only let 7% of you receive each update I post.

Meaning that now, in order to receive all of my messages/posts, you must do the following:

1) Go to my Fitknitchick fan page.

2) Hover your mouse over where it says “LIKED” and click on “ADD TO INTEREST LISTS”

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

 

Create a visual fitness and food journal: Instagram for motivation and accountability

Love it or hate it, keeping a fitness and food journal is one of the keys to successful weight loss and weight loss maintenance.

Knowing that you have to write down everything you eat is strong motivation not to eat that package of Oreos. And being able to look back at your workouts to see how far you’ve come may be just the push you need to keep going.

Despite knowing the value of keeping a fitness and food journal, I never manage to stick with it for more than a few weeks. Why? Low fun factor, I reckon. (But also, I’ve never found a journal format that really works for me. Do you have a favourite? Share, please!)

Why not make it more fun?

Recently, I’ve discovered Instagram. Love, love, love this app!

Snap a pic with your smart phone, choose a visual effect, select a frame, write a description of your photo and upload. Almost immediately, you’ve shared your meal or workout with the world (or at least the people who follow you on social media…I’m fitknitchick_1 and I ALWAYS follow back!).

Add a hashtag or two (for example, #paleo or #cleaneating) and your photo will be included when other Instagrammer’s search for those terms.

journal your fitness and food with Instagram

Your friends and followers can ‘like’ your photo (I regularly check to see which of my Instagrams has the most likes!) and comment on it as well (comments make me swoon!).

Instagram makes it easy to share with your other social media peeps as well. Just click on the platforms you’d like the photo to be sent to (Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, Flicker and Foursquare, for now). And voila!

Once you’ve mastered Instagram, you’ll want to move up to InstaFrame so that you can include more than one image in each photo. I’m totally addicted to creating InstaFrame collages! The most recent version has at least 30 different possible configurations, depending on how many photos you’d like to include.

journal your fitness and food with Instagram

And best of all? You’re not limited to 140 characters! Try sending someone a recipe on Twitter; bet you can’t do it (even with very creative spelling and shortening of words!).

journal your fitness and food with Instagram

Why not use it to keep track of your workouts and daily eats?

journal your fitness and food with Instagram

journal your fitness and food with Instagram

Use Instagram to create a visual fitness and food journal. You’ll feel accountable to your followers and may even find motivation through their Instagram posts!

Plus, you never know when you’ll stumble across a new #cleaneating #paleo #vegan #glutenfree recipe!

Do you use Instagram or Instaframe?

What are your favourite things to take pictures of?

Are you currently using a fitness and food journal? What type?

Weight loss vs. weight loss maintenance: different strategies for different goals

On Tuesday, I wrote about weight loss. Specifically, what I learned about the best diet for weight loss at the recent Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference. Today, I’d like to expand on that post and compare it to the very different strategies required for weight loss maintenance. Indeed, weight loss and weight loss maintenance are two very different beasts.

To summarize my previous post;

To lose weight, worry less about macronutrient composition (fats vs. carbohydrates vs. protein) and more about cutting calories. None of the popular diets are superior to all others when it comes to dropping pounds. Choose a nutritional plan that you can follow until the weight is off. And a little exercise won’t hurt.”

If you read the post, you’ll remember that the focus was on restricting calories, rather than on increasing activity. Of course, movement and exercise are important for other reasons (improved cardiovascular health, injury prevention, mood elevation, to name a few), but for those who have lots of weight to lose, portion control and caloric restriction are key.

To lose weight –>> eat less, move a little

But what about once the excess weight is lost? Should you continue to ‘diet’? Will you need to count calories for the rest of your life? What role should exercise play in the maintenance of weight loss?

According to recent research, exercise is more important than caloric restriction for weight loss maintenance. In order to keep the weight off, you need to incorporate 30-60 minutes of physical activity into your schedule, most days of the week.

Of course, we’re all familiar with the saying “you can’t out train a bad diet”. So continuing to focus on reasonable size portions of the healthiest foods you can will go along way to keeping the pounds at bay :).

However, increased activity requires you to up your caloric intake. Not by a lot; perhaps a couple of hundred calories more per day than you were consuming during your weight loss phase.

To maintain weight loss >> eat a little more, move a lot

Why such different strategies? It’s all about the numbers.

Each of the following ‘treats’ equals about 500 calories:

  • grande Starbucks Cookie Crumble Frappuccino
  • 9 Oreo cookies
  • 1 large bagel plus 2 Tbsp Skippy peanut butter
  • small, butter popcorn at the movies

Yet to burn 500 calories through exercise, you’ll need to spend anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes exercising (calories burned through exercise depend on a number of variables including weight, sex, age, muscle mass and exercise intensity; the more you weigh, the harder you work and the manlier your are, the higher your rate of calorie burn. Not fair, but that’s the way it is).

For many overweight people, sustaining exercise for long enough to burn 500 calories is physically impossible. And most of us, regardless of weight, would rather skip the cookies than head to the gym ;)

As the pounds come off, it becomes harder and harder to shave calories from the diet.

In fact, most nutritionists recommend not letting daily calorie intake fall below 1 200 calories; not only is it hard to stick to such a low calorie diet without experiencing intense food cravings and extreme lethargy, over time, your metabolism may even slow down, making it harder to lose weight and keep it off once you return to a higher calorie intake

So how to keep the hard-earned lost pounds at bay? Up your level of physical activity and eat a little more!

Near daily exercise will not only burn calories, it will build muscle and stimulate your metabolism to burn calories at a higher rate. You’ll need to up your food intake by a bit; the only way to know how much is to journal both food and exercise and pay attention to how your clothes fit!

What’s the bottom line? Lose weight by eating less and moving a little. Maintain the weight loss by eating a little more and moving a lot! Need some workout ideas? Visit my free workout library!

Have you lost a significant amount of weight and been able to sustain it long term?

What tips and strategies did you find most helpful?

Disclaimer: I know I’ve told you this already, but my registration to the FHBC was sponsored by Refuel with Chocolate Milk and FitFluential. Any misinterpretations of the data are my own!