A common goal of everyone that trains is to be lean. And I don’t mean to be skinny. By lean I mean to carry the most amount of muscle mass and the least amount of body fat possible. And this should still allow us to do our regular tasks and activities without lacking fitness or mobility.
Sometimes when someone initiates a fitness program the results can be slow in coming. We know we feel better. We have fewer aches and pains. We sleep better at night. And our performance in sports is trending up as well. Yet the scale doesn’t budge.
Below are a number of nutritional reasons this may be the case.
Meals Eaten Alone
When we eat with others there are natural pauses for conversation. We want to hear how the other person’s day went. We comment on the flavour and textures of the prepared meal. We put the fork down every now and again to listen and answer.
Eating alone leads to eating more quickly. Nutritional quality tends to be lower. Maybe this is because we like to have a treat when no one is watching and won’t be judged. Or it could be that when we cook for others, i.e. for children, we feel a responsibility to provide the best nutrition possible.
Eating alone also means we could be doing something else while we’re eating. Maybe we watch a TV show. Sadly, we used to do this. Maybe we’re on our phones. Maybe we read a book. Maybe we try to get some work done at the computer. Regardless of what we do while we’re eating it serves as a distraction and leads to mindless rather than mindful eating.
Simply by eating in the company others we will eat more slowly, eat less and eat better quality foods. And if you do eat alone make sure that’s all you’re doing.
Sleep Plays a Role
When we are sleep deprived the hormone leptin is suppressed. Leptin’s job is to tell us we’re full. Compound being a little tired with eating alone and the potential for overeating becomes a real problem.
I remember one of my sisters sharing a story when she was studying while in university. I don’t want to dox her here but let’s just say she was studying for medical school and eating spoonfuls of peanut butter while studying. At one point she rotated the container of PB and saw she was getting 200 calories for every 2 tablespoons. When she saw a near empty container she realized how easily it can be to mindlessly add extra calories to the day. Pulling all-nighters for all her exams probably didn’t help.
Planning & Consistency
Nutrition is one of those things that needs to be planned ahead of time. You don’t need to go to the extreme of having a dozen Tupperware containers loaded every Sunday for the week to come. If you’re already in the habit of doing that’s great. Keep it up.
What you should do is have foods on hand for all your meals. Know what you’re going to have for breakfast before you go to bed. Make an extra serving at dinner so you can bring leftovers for lunch. Carry a water bottle so you don’t become dehydrated. And throw some fruit, nuts or bars in your car for times when you’re on the go and won’t have time to stop and eat.
What derails most is not having a plan. And not applying the plan consistently. If I skip breakfast some days what are the chances I drink more coffee to get going? Will I eat a bigger lunch? Do I wait until the end of the day and then overeat at dinner?
When you see the fuel light come on in your vehicle you plan to fuel up. You don’t ignore this signal and think it doesn’t matter. We’re similar in that we’ll get a signal of when to fuel up. We can ignore this signal and then body will then compensate accordingly.
Not One Factor
Getting lean isn’t just about a change on the scale. And it’s even possible to see no change on the scale. What we are seeking is a change in body composition. We want to add lean mass and decrease body fat.
Just as health can’t be summarized by one factor we can’t simplify our results based on the scale. We should also be measuring our strength and fitness. We should track our waist circumference and our overall health status. When most factors are moving in the right direction it’s likely a positive body composition is taking place as well.
It’s All About the Habits
I will always be lean. I don’t mean to be boastful. And sure some of the credit is due to picking the right parents. But most important are the habits I live day in and day out.
Some of my habits that I live daily to stay lean include:
- Getting 8 hours of sleep every night
- Moving every day
- Eating the right amounts of healthy foods at the right times
- Having practices to reduce stress
- Drinking enough water
- Minimizing low nutrition calories and alcohol
There are more healthy habits someone could use to get lean but those are mine.
We have compiled a list of the best evidenced-based habits that lead to weight loss. And we’ve developed a system to help our clients lose and keep the weight off.
If you would like to know more about these habits send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Healthy Habits’ in the subject line. We’ll be in touch to help get you set up with some better habits and a leaner you in the future.