You “eat clean” most of the time… You exercise regularly… You don’t even look twice at a bag of chips or a soda… You snack on carrots sticks and almonds on the regular.
Why, then are you still not losing weight?! Or, even worse, why are you gaining weight?!?!
The truth is, just “clean eating” isn’t always enough to produce weight loss. You can, in fact, eat a super healthy diet and still be gaining weight.
4 reasons you may be gaining weight while clean eating and how to fix them
- You’re eating too many calories.
Even healthy food has calories. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will typically gain weight. In fact, some healthy foods like nuts, nut butters, coconut oil, chia seeds, and so on are very calorie-dense. Just a handful or two can pack up to a few hundred calories. These foods are easy to eat a lot of without realizing how many calories you’re actually consuming.
The fix: Beyond just portion control, weighing, measuring, and tracking your food can give you an idea of how much you’re actually eating. Try this for a week or two and you might find you’re actually eating more calories than you need. Then all you have to do is cut back on your portions of these healthy foods to create a calorie deficit and you should start seeing results.
- You’re not eating enough calories.
If you’re focusing on eating only healthy foods, you’re fearful of carbs or fat or you put certain foods “off limits,” you might actually not be eating enough for your body to produce weight loss. Just like the body needs a calorie deficit in order to lose weight, the body also needs a certain amount of calories to function. Eating fewer calories than your body needs can put it into starvation mode and shut down fat loss. Healthy foods like lean proteins and fruits and veggies are nutrient-dense and it can be tough to eat a lot of them. Which means you might be barely taking in 1200 calories a day.
The fix: I want you to think of your food as fuel and make sure that you’re eating enough to fuel your body. Try not to put food “off limits” or fear things like carbs; your body needs them! Focus on eating good carbs like sweet potatoes, rice and quinoa.
Take a week to measure and track what you’re eating and if you’re eating under 1,200 calories, work on bumping that up little by little, a 100 calories a week until you get to a good healthy range that’s going to allow you to still lose weight without starving your body. You may find you actually start to lose weight by eating more.
- You blow it on the weekends.
Maybe you plan your meals for the week, have a healthy breakfast each day with a salad for lunch and a healthy home-cooked dinner. Then Friday comes and you’re ready to relax a little. You go out to dinner and drinks with friends. On Saturday it’s more social commitments and eating not-so-clean and healthy. Sunday you like to go to brunch. Then Monday it is back on that “clean eating, meal prep” life… Do the math on that. If three days a week you’re not so diligent, that’s 12 days a month.. nearly half the time! You can’t be on track 50% of the time and expect to get 100% results.
The fix: I’m not saying you can’t be social or go out and enjoy yourself, but rather than having five great days and two completely off days, how about seven great days with only one or two slightly off meals. When you go out, have the indulgent dinner or drinks or dessert. Not all three. Maybe don’t go out to dinner both Friday and Saturday and brunch on Sunday. Balance your social life with your body goals and make your choices accordingly.
- You fall for marketing gimmicks.
Marketers are smart. They use certain words like “organic” to fool us into thinking something is low calorie or healthy. A Cliff Bar appears to be a healthy choice, but it has as much sugar as a Snickers bar, and MORE calories! The term “organic” refers to the amount of pesticides on a certain product. So buying an “organic” Peanut Butter cup isn’t any lower calorie than a Reese’s. A bagel from Panera is still a calorie-dense sugar BOMB, despite the fact that Panera uses warm, earthy tones in their restaurants and words like “fresh.” A bagel is no better for you than a donut, whether it comes from Panera or not.
The fix: Don’t be fooled by clever marketing tactics. Do your own detective work and read labels. Try to avoid eating packaged and processed foods as much as possible. Stick with fresh produce, lean meats and poultry and nuts and seeds. When you do buy packaged and processed foods or eat out at restaurants, look at the nutrition facts and make a choice based on what you see there, not by what the company tells you. They don’t care about your goals; they want to make money.
Just because you’re eating healthy does not necessarily mean you’re going to lose weight. If you’re struggling with this, first determine if you’re eating too much or too little, blowing it on weekends or falling for clever marketing tactics and loading up on faux-health foods.
Eat enough to fuel your body with a small calorie deficit, make room for a couple small indulgences on weekends without over doing it, and focus on nutrient-dense, fresh whole foods rather than cleverly-marketed imposters.
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