Category Archives: Smarter

Have you Plateaued? Try These 3 Steps to Break Through

Recently, I’ve had several people ask me this question…

“Lauren, I was making so much progress.  I was losing weight, but then the progress slowed.  It’s finally stopped completely, and now I can’t get the numbers to budge anymore.  Pretty sure I’ve plateaued.  What am I supposed to do??  Help!”

Oh the dreaded plateau.  Anyone that’s ever tried to lose a little weight has been there.  And it’s frustrating as hell.

But let’s be honest.  You’re an athlete.  You’re not one to give up easily.  If you were, you’d have never made it to level you did, so instead of quitting like some might, you know it’s not an option for you.

Since you’re so persistent, I’m going to give you 3 tips to help you bust through a plateau.

1.  Honestly evaluate your diet and exercise when you hit a plateau.

This piece is critical.  You have to take a 100% honest look at how well you’re sticking to your nutrition goals and your workouts.  If you can’t be straight with yourself, then nothing else you do will work long term.

Ask yourself these questions…

  • How well am I sticking to my meal plans?
  • Am I letting unplanned treats sneak in?  Stuff like candy, donut here and there, chips, crackers, etc. can easily trip people up.
  • What’s my alcohol intake look like these days?  Am I imbibing more than normal?
  • Am I doing my workouts?  Or am I taking more days off than normal?
  • How stressed am right now?  Have my stress levels gone up recently?
  • Am I getting 7-8 hours of sleep?  Or have I been skimping on the sack time?
  • Has my progress actually stopped?  Or is the scale not moving but I’m still losing inches?

Write down your answers to these questions, then go back and take a look at them.

If you find that you’re NOT sticking to your meal plan and workouts that were getting results in the past, then I’ve got news for ya….

Your first step is to renew your commitment to your original workouts and meal plan.  

No, it’s not an earth shattering solution, BUT this may be just the ticket to bust through a plateau.  If the plan isn’t broke, there’s no need to fix it (as long as you’re sticking to it).

If this is you, then give it a 3-4 more weeks on this plan.  If you reel in the sweets and other treats, cut back on the alcohol, get back to your workouts and there’s still no change, then think about changing up the plan.

On the other hand, if you HAVE been sticking to your plan, then maybe it’s time to look at the plan itself and make some adjustments.  Let’s talk about those options next…

2.  Are food sensitivities keeping you stuck?

Think food sensitivities aren’t an issue for you??  Think again…

I was talking with a friend of mine several months ago about how her progress had stalled.  I asked her to share with me what she eats in a typical day and noticed that she was eating 3-4 servings of dairy a day between whey protein in her shakes, yogurt, and milk.  My suggestion to her was to reduce her dairy intake significantly if not cut it out all together.

She messaged me a few weeks later with this…

“I wanted to let you know that your suggestions and answers really helped me make some more progress, so thanks! Cutting out dairy seemed to make a difference. By cutting it out and only having it as part of a cheat meal sometimes, I actually figured out that I’ve become pretty sensitive to dairy. I’ve never had that problem, or at least noticed it before, but my stomach feels a lot better when I don’t eat it!”

Just because you don’t break out in hives when you eat a certain type of food doesn’t mean you don’t have food sensitivities.  The best way to figure out if you have food sensitivities is to systematically eliminate common culprits from your diet and monitor progress for a few weeks.

Two of the most common allergens are dairy products and gluten containing foods, but sugar alcohols can also cause problems with some folks, too.  Take a look at what you’re eating day in and day out; if you see these types of foods throughout your meal plan, cutting them out might be just what you need to give your metabolism a boost and bust through you plateau.

3.  Eat the right amount of carbs to break through your plateau.

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but gone are the days of carbing up.  Instead, you gotta start thinking about what kinds of carbs you’re eating and how much — you gotta figure out your carb tipping point.

Your carbohydrate tipping point is the amount of starchy carbs that allow you to lose the fluff and gives you enough energy to keep up your intense workouts.

Finding your carb tipping point is critical if you’re trying to slim down.  Too many carbs, and you won’t make any progress.  The same thing can happen if you eat too few carbs, not to mention you’ll be too tired for a good workout with super low carbs.

Since everyone is different, finding this tipping point typically takes trial and error, but in late March I’m launching a nutrition program to address this issue.  Stay tuned for details!

Until then though, pay attention to how much bread, pasta, grains, potatoes, and starchy veggies (corn, squash, etc.) that you eat.   If you’re eating a heavy portion of carbs at each meal, it might be helpful to cut out the starchy carbs in your last meal of the day.  Give that a try for a few weeks and make sure you record your progress.

If you eat essentially NO carbs and your progress has stalled, consider adding some carbs to your first meal of the day.  Then do the same thing – monitor your progress.

 

Plateaus are frustrating.  I’ve had more than enough experience with them, so I know they suck.  Keep making systematic changes and monitoring your progress after each change.  And be PATIENT!   You WILL break through the plateau, but sometimes the body just needs to know you’re willing to wait until it’s ready.  :)

Let me know if you’ve ever plateaued and what you did to get through it.

<3 Lauren

A Short Break… But I’ll be Back Soon!

Whew!  It is hard to believe that my move is almost here!  I’m putting the finishing touches on projects, drastically simplifying my life, and getting ready to move next week!  Eek!

I even sold my car since I won’t be needing one living in NYC!  That was SUPER weird to me, because I’ve had a car since I had a driver’s license.  It’s definitely an odd feeling being officially without wheels (even though I have a rental until I leave).

Anyway, with all I have left to do over the next week or so, it’s going to be pretty tough to be 100% sure I get a post up next week.

I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten you, so I wanted you to know ahead of time that you may not hear from me until mid-June.  I’m hoping to have an interview with another former student athlete ready for you by June 12th.  Then by the following week, I should be back at it.

Please try not to cry…  Seriously, keep it together… If you start crying, I’ll start crying and then we’ll both be one big crying mess. 

Plus, I tend to cry more when I’m stressed anyway so it won’t take much for the waterworks to start…

Going a week or two without a post from me is going to be EXTREMELY difficult to handle, I know ;)   So, to help distract you from the pain of disconnection, I’m providing you with some fantastic blogs and websites full of generally awesome stuff to go check out.

I know a few of these folks personally, and I can vouch that 1- they’re legit and 2- their stuff is awesome.  Some have been blogging longing than others, but they’re ALL worth checking out!

Enjoy!  I’ll be back soon, y’all!

——————————————————————–

FUN and AWESOME places to go.  You can find most of these peeps/groups on FB and Twitter, too, so be sure to Like and/or Follow them!

Jill Coleman (my mentor – seriously awesome stuff – she’s all about fitness and getting in the right frame of mind when it comes to deal with your body and life in general)
Blog:  www.jillfit.com

Metabolic Effect (have you noticed I love their stuff!?  LOL)
Website and blog:  www.metaboliceffect.com

Neghar Fonooni (she’s good friends with Jill, lifts heavy and does yoga – I am jealous of her strong legs, btw)
Blog:  www.negharfonooni.com

Jen Sickler (another friend of Jill’s and awesome gal!)
Website:  www.jensinkler.com

Cut the Fat Podcast (they have great podcasts and a blog, too!)
Website: cutthefatpodcast.com

The Smarter Science of Slim (all sorts of good info via blogs, podcasts, etc.)
Website: thesmarterscienceofslim.com

The Sweaty Betties
Website: www.thesweatybetties.com

LifeHacker (all sorts of random info – love it)
Website:  www.lifehacker.com

Brain Pickings (more random info that’s gear more towards art, literature, etc.)
Website:  www.brainpickings.org

Ink Young (she has all sorts of info on raising healthy kids)
Website:  www.healthygrowingkids.com

Robb Wolf
Website:  www.robbwolf.com

Susan Cain (she wrote the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” and I loved it!  Give it a read if you are an introvert or know one… it’ll give you massive insights into introverts)
Website:  ThePowerOfIntroverts.com

Recipe of the Month: Happy Summer Salad

Oh man, I’m SO excited!  Memorial Day is finally here, which means we are on the cusp of a 3 day weekend!  Yayayayay!

For a lot of people this 3 day weekend means they will be cooking out, and this can present all sorts of challenges for folks trying to eat for fat loss.  There’s always so much tasty food at cookouts, and no one wants to feel deprived by not eating anything while you’re there.

I know my FAVORITE part of cook-outs are the hot dogs… and potato chips… OH and the beer!

One of my strategies for NOT stuffing my face with hot dogs, chips and beer till I’m full (which is what I really want to do) is to bring something that I know I can eat tons of.  Then I can have plenty of that and piece on the other stuff.

My mentor Jill Coleman (@jillfit – go follow her on Twitter cause she shares tons of good info!) likes to talk about playing “dessert defense” where she brings a fat loss friendly (and tasty) dessert to parties.  I think the principle can be applied to any food, and it works for me so I use it  :)

Today I give you a modified version of a favorite salad from my childhood.  I’m calling it a Happy Summer Salad because, well, my mom usually made it in the summer!  And it tastes good.  And makes my belly happy.  Therefore, Happy Summer Salad.

It makes 8-10 servings, if your portions are on the small side.  If you have dairy issues, use almond cheese (I personally like the Daiya brand) instead of the mozzarella.

Also, this recipe is for a salad as a side dish.  If you want to make it into a main dish, dice 3 cooked chicken breasts, increase the coconut milk to a full can, and now it’s a main dish!

Make it and enjoy!  Then let me know if/how you tweak it :)

Recipe for a Happy Summer Salad

Happy Summer Salad

-1 head cauliflower, grated with biggest holes on box grater
-1 large broccoli crown, diced (you want about a 50/50 mix of broccoli and cauliflower, so you may need a 2nd broccoli crown)
-1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
-1 cup mozzarella cheese or 1 cup Daiya almond cheese mozzarella flavor if you’re watching dairy
-3/4 of a 16oz can light coconut milk
-packet of Hidden Valley ranch dressing seasoning mix

Add the light coconut milk (start with 3/4 of the can) to a large mixing bowl, and stir in the entire packet of ranch seasoning.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

The mix should seem “damp” – I’m not using the word “moist” cause I know it freaks some people out… but oops, just said it :D .

Serve immediately, but it’s best if you stick it in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors really seep into the veggies :)

Happy Memorial Day!  And don’t forget to thank the men and women who serve our country – the reason for this season ;)

Remember, let me know how you like the Happy Summer Salad!
<3, Lauren

Be a Bombshell in a Bikini: Part 2 – Eat More to Slim Down

Food.  Ah food.  How I love it.  I love to cook it.  I love to share it.

I especially love to eat it.

I love trying new restaurants and recipes.  I like giving new ingredients a chance and old favorites new flavors.  For me, food is a source of pleasure.  And it plays a big part of my life and I’m guessing it might in yours too.

Food is also an incredibly powerful tool for body change.  Why?  Because it can drastically affect the body’s hormonal environment.  And the hormonal environment is key to determining the body’s composition (how much of your body weight is fat or muscle).

One Meal Away from Fat Loss

Do you know what this means??  This means that just by changing up what we eat, we can change how much fat we carry on our body.  We can change how we look.

We can get our athletic body back (or get beach ready) if we eat MORE of the RIGHT foods to turn on our fat burning metabolism.

Yep you heard me right – to change your body and lean out, you probably need to eat MORE food.

[The food lover in me is doing a happy dance right now]

This shocks most people because in our society the eat less, exercise more mantra is the foundation of most weight loss programs.  But notice above I said more of the RIGHT foods.

This is key because not all calories are created equal.   Here’s an example that really cleared this up for me….

Say you have a generic donut and a medium-sized chicken breast.  They both have approximately the same number of calories (around 200).  So if calories are all that matters, then it doesn’t matter whether you choose the chicken breast or the donut.

BUT let’s think about this a little more…

If calories really were the only important thing, then the donut and the chicken breast should keep you satisfied for the same amount of time, give you the same energy levels in the hours that follow and have the same impact on cravings later in the day.   (Is anyone else giggling a little at the thought of NOT crashing after a donut???)

Calories aren't created equal

If you’re completely honest with yourself, you’ll probably see that the donut and the chicken breast affect you in very different ways.

For me, about 45 min after I eat a donut (assuming I’m able to eat only one), my head starts feeling fuzzy and my energy tanks.  If I’m tracking cravings, then I’d probably notice that later that day, I’m wanting more sugary or fatty foods.  Also, if by some miracle I managed to eat only 1 donut, I probably never stopped being hungry.

Now let’s pretend I ate the chicken breast instead (a delicious one of course).  After eating the chicken breast, I don’t have any noticeable drop in energy 45 min later.  Also, I’m not hungry for another few hours, and there are no noticeable cravings later on in the day.  Plus, I don’t really see myself eating more than 1 or maybe 1 1/2 chicken breasts in one sitting…

But how is this possible if they both have the same number of calories?  Something about them has to be different because their effects on me are different.

The answer?  They are influencing my hormones in unique ways.  It’s the only way to explain differences in satiety, energy levels, cravings and hunger.

Why are they affecting hormones differently?  Because the macronutrient profiles of the foods that are different.

[Don't freak out on me... All I mean by macronutrient profile is what the food is made of - what percent of the food is fat, carbohydrates, and protein?]

In the chicken, it’s mostly protein, whereas the donut is mostly carbohydrates.  The donut signals hormones that say “Store fat!!” where the chicken breast signals “Burn fat!!”

See how just by changing what we eat, we can tell the body to do different things via our hormones?  We won’t get into the nitty gritty of the hormone world today, but it’s important to realize that body change just isn’t about calories.

Yes, you do need a caloric deficit to lose weight, but you need the right hormonal environment to make sure that weight is fat, not muscle.  (We talked last week about why we want to save our muscle.  You can read about that here.)  Plus, with the right hormonal environment, you won’t constantly be hungry, exhausted and craving junk food.

This is actually the way Metabolic Effect suggests monitoring whether or not you’re priming your body to burn fat — monitor your HEC (pronounced “heck”).
Hunger, Energy, Cravings.

If these are balanced (meaning you’re not hungry, you have high energy and you’re not craving crap food) and you’re losing fat, you’re in a longterm, fat-burning zone.  If they’re not balanced, you’re likely NOT burning fat.  Or if you are, it’s probably not sustainable for longer than a few weeks.

Alright let’s get practical now.  How can you eat to get your HEC in check?
Follow these tips below…

1.  Eat 4-6 small meals per day — Eating several smaller meals allows you to eat more frequently and never get ravenously hungry between meals since that often leads to overeating junk food.  If you choose the right foods for these meals, you can help keep your energy balanced throughout the day, too.  But a big part of frequent meals is to keep yourself from getting crazy hungry.

2.  Eat lean proteins and fibrous veggies — We want to increase our food volume without increasing the number of calories we consume (this helps keep our hunger down).  To do that choose foods high in water, fiber and protein content.  These will help you stay satisfied for longer, so include these at each small meal.  (see this post for approximate protein serving sizes)

A good way to think of it?  Eat your protein at the meal plus as many fibrous veggies as you want.

3.  Drink LOTS of water — Being dehydrated can negatively effect your energy and brain function, and by the time you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.  Keep a water bottle with you and drink as much as possible…. even up to 3-4L a day.  Don’t worry, your body WILL adapt to the increased fluid intake and the number of trips to the bathroom will decrease, I promise! :)

4.  Limit foods that tend to trigger cravings and hunger — I love my coffee but my early morning 2-3 cup habit tends to trigger cravings in the evening for me.  So I’ve had to reduce that a little…  Other culprits?  Artificial sweeteners and sweet snacks can do the same thing.  Limit these guys as much as possible.

5.  Get your healthy fats in — Certain dietary fats are actually required to burn fat!  So don’t be afraid of the good ones like Omega-3 fats (6 and 9 are good too!) :) Have a few servings each day of healthy fats – 1/4c nuts, 1/2 an avocado, 6oz fish,  or 2 Tbs olive oil or coconut oil are each 1 serving.  Also, consider a fish oil supplement.

{This next one is a big one….}

6.  Limit starchy carbohydrates — Things like pasta, potatoes, cookies, bread, rice, crackers, etc (while very delicious) are considered starchy carbs and should be consumed in limited amounts.  Starchy carbs in general can wreak havoc on your body in the hormonal sense if you eat too many too often. Carbs aren’t to be avoided at all cost because you do need them, but you gotta be aware of how much of them you’re eating.

In general, I personally like to avoid the ones I just listed above and stick to mostly starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, all different kinds of squash (spaghetti squash is my fav), and eggplant.  If you want, you can also do oat bran, oatmeal, brown rice or quinoa.

Oh, because of how fruit breaks down in the body, I also consider fruit as starchy carbs in my diet.  They usually make an appearance in my breakfasts and “desserts”.

Anyway how much to eat?  I like to measure starchy carbs by bites.  It’s far better than weighing or measuring out your food.

Most people do well with 5-10 bites of starchy carbs at each meal.  However, everyone is different so you may do better with more at each meal or less.  This amount of carbs where your energy is high enough for a good workout and you’re burning fat is called your carbohydrate tipping point.  It takes a while to find this usually, but it’s important for shedding body fat.  You can learn more about it here (a Metabolic Effect blog on the subject).

Alright that’s probably enough for now :) As with anything, implement changes in small steps first.

It might be way too much to change your eating frequency AND what you’re eating all at once.  So consider changing 1 meal this week.  Then change up another meal next week.  Then add in a 4th to your typical 3 meals and decrease the size of all the meals slightly.

Example – maybe this week instead of cereal and orange juice, go for scrambled eggs with onions/peppers/spinach in it and your 5-10 bites of oatmeal at breakfast.  Then next week, keep those changes and change up your lunch to a big old salad with chicken breast and balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  Get the idea?

Keep an eye on your HEC as you make changes, and if you have questions let me know!  Ask away here in the comments or find me on Facebook or Twitter :)

How will you get your HEC in check this week to get bikini ready?

<3 Lauren