Are you struggling to get your body fat loss down a few percentage points to get your abs to pop or would you simply like to be a healthier body weight? Yet you can’t seem to shed the last vestiges of stubborn fat around your waist or tummy despite exercising and eating sensibly.
It’s frustrating when you feel like you’re doing everything right and you can’t quite reach your goal. The reality? You’ve reached a fat loss plateau! Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to power up your fat loss once you’ve reached a plateau. Let’s focus on what you can do from a nutritional standpoint.
Fat Loss Tip #1: Nix the Sweeteners
You may have cut back on sugar to reach your fat loss goals, but you might still be clinging to artificial sweetener, thinking they’re better for you than sugar. Theoretically, artificial sweeteners sound like a “sweet” deal. You get the taste of sugar without the calories. Yet these processed sweeteners are so intensely sweet that they make it harder to appreciate the taste of whole foods in their natural state.
Plus, studies suggest that people tend to make up for the calories they save with artificial sweeteners by consuming them somewhere else. For example, when you drink a sugar-free cola, you get the sensation of sweet on your tongue but your body doesn’t register calories. This creates a mismatch that fuels the desire to get the calories and energy you saved.
Plus, there’s the issue of the impact these sweeteners have on the gut microbiome. Some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners alter the bacterial composition of the gut. It matters because your gut microbiome plays a role in appetite and weight control. On the plus side, research shows that curtailing sweeteners of all types over weeks can reduce the desire for sweet-tasting foods. So, nix the sweeteners, even if you have to gradually taper them, and see if it jump-starts your fat loss.
Fat Loss Tip #2: Upgrade the Quality of Your Carbs
Carbs aren’t the enemy. It’s the ultra-processed ones that are problematic. Starchy carbs, like potatoes, white rice, and pasta, aren’t as nutrient-dense as colorful fruits and vegetables. They also cause a more pronounced blood sugar response that, in some people, can impede fat loss. Switch those white potatoes for a bowl of leafy greens or a plate of broccoli. Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are among the most nutrient-dense foods per calorie on the planet. You get more bang for your buck with these foods because they’re rich in vitamins and minerals like magnesium and potassium. If you saute them in olive oil, you get healthy fats and the satiety benefits that olive oil offers.
Fat Loss Tip #3: Watch What You Drink
It’s not uncommon for people to focus on what they eat and disregard the type of liquids they consume. Liquid sugar and calories count too! Keep tabs on what you’re drinking for a few days and you might be surprised at how much extra sugar you’re sipping. Soft drinks are an obvious source of sugar, but fruit juice, despite its health halo, is jam-packed with sugar and devoid of fiber.
Other common sources of liquid calories are sports drinks, bottled tea, and dessert coffee drinks at Starbucks. The amount of sugar in some Starbucks concoctions is shocking. For example, a seasonal drink, the gingerbread coffee Frappuccino with skimmed milk, has almost 70 grams of sugar! Brew your own tea or coffee at home or drink more of the universal beverage, water. Make tap water more drinkable by investing in a water filter or infuse your water with fresh fruit slices or herbs. If your fat loss has stalled, think about the extra calories you’re drinking and make some tweaks.
Fat Loss Tip #4: Change When You Eat
Even if you make the right food choices, there’s evidence that when you eat matters too, especially if you’re trying to jumpstart your fat loss. In one study, researchers looked at the impact of eating three meals and two snacks between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. to consuming a similar number of calories between 12:00 p.m. and 11 p.m. After 18 weeks, the subjects who ate their meals and snacks during the afternoon and evening experienced more weight gain, reductions in insulin sensitivity, and a slowing of metabolism relative to the early eaters. Based on natural circadian rhythms, your body isn’t as primed to deal with calories later in the day. Enjoy dinner as early as possible and shut down the kitchen after 7:00 p.m.
Fat Loss Tip #5: Add More Protein to Each Meal
Protein is the macronutrient that helps you get full faster and reduce the desire to snack. In fact, a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that consuming more protein with meals and snacks leads to greater feelings of fullness. You don’t have to go low carb to get the benefits. Just choose high-fiber carbs and combine it with a healthy source of fiber, including plant-based protein sources. With plant-based protein sources, you get the fiber too for added satiety.
The Bottom Line
There you have it – five tweaks you can make to help jumpstart fat loss. Also, learn to recognize true hunger from boredom or stress nibbling. Mindless eating can undermine your attempts to get lean. Plus, in some cases, you might not be aware you’re doing it. Think before you bite! Rate your level of hunger. If it’s not at least a 3 out of 5, find something else to do. Making small changes like these can help you reach your goal once you’re reached a standstill. Take advantage of them!
Harvard Health Publishing. “Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost?”
Yale J Biol Med. 2010 Jun; 83(2): 101–108.
Medical News Today. “More evidence links weight gain to meal times”
MedPage Today. “Morning Breakfasts May Make Weight Loss Easier”
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. June 2016Volume 116, Issue 6, Pages 968–983.