You picked a diet plan. You hit the grocery store, did all the prep work and got started following that plan to a T. After a few weeks, you’re still keeping yourself strong to the plan. But you haven’t seen the scale move.
WTF?? What gives?
That scale is an imposter. It’s not an accurate measure of progress because it’s really not measuring what we want to measure!
Your goal should be to lose fat, not lose weight. Because your weight fluctuates based on what you eat the minute before you jump on the scale, your hydration, your clothing and even the time of day.
It can tell you the diet is working even if it’s not really (hello dehydration).
Or it can tell you your stagnant even if you’re actually making progress!
So instead of relying on the scale, here are 7 other ways to know if that meal plan you’re following is helping you make progress.
1. You Feel Satisfied After You Eat
We’ve all done it: mindless eating. Your stomach is a bottomless pit and you never actually feel full, regardless of how much food you devour.
Here’s why that happens: When we eat, our hormones recognize that we are giving our bodies energy. And after we’ve consumed enough energy to sustain us, our hormones Leptin and Ghrelin reach out to the brain to say “hey there noggin, we’ve got enough energy, we’re good for now.” And your brain turns off that growling stomach and allows you belly to feel full.
But this doesn’t always work. Food manufacturers have found ways to trick our human biology and prevent those signals from hitting! Those potato chips or pints of ice cream are designed with very specific ratios of fat, sugar and salt to make your body addicted. You crave the taste and can’t seem to get enough. And because those foods have very little nutrients, your body had trouble recognizing when you’ve got all the energy and resources you need.
So instead of not getting enough, your hormones say something more like “uhhh no idea what we’re getting from this stuff, but it sure is tasty. Let’s keep eating it so we can make sure to stockpile some of those calories.” Enter mindless eating with no end in sight.
But when you start that new meal plan – the one with healthy fats, lean proteins, fruits, veggies, beans, nuts – something changes. Those hormones recognize the energy and all of those good for you nutrients. And they tell your brain that you’ve got plenty of resources to power you through a few hours. That you can stop eating, turn of the hunger signals and stop thinking about food.
2. You Have More Energy
We know vitamins and minerals are good for us – but not everyone understands why. One way is by affecting your energy. Vitamin B12 helps metabolize fats and convert them into energy. Vitamin B6 regulates the enzymes we draw from our foods. Magnesium helps our body produce insulin to transport food compounds into cells for energy. When our meal plans are balanced and giving us the proper vitamins and minerals, we should feel it in our energy.
- You wake up feeling refreshed because you could rest through the night.
- Your brain feels sharp and you can make decisions faster.
- Your muscles and body feel able because your tissues are hydrated and replenished.
If you’re diet is making you feel groggy for more than just a few days (new low carb diets can give you the low carb flu) then your plan is probably not working for you. Make sure the plan is balanced with vitamins and minerals and includes plenty of water.
3. Your Clothes Feel Looser
Your body is capable of losing fat without the scale changing. Your body can get slimmer and tighter and still fight gravity the exact same. So instead of checking the scale, check to see how your pants fit. Are they looser? More comfortable? Are you shirts tucked in without the muffin top spilling over! All good signs that the plan is working even if the scale isn’t moving.
4. You Sleep Better at Night
This is one of the best ways to tell how your diet is working for you! When your body has a mix of proteins, healthy fats and plenty o’ veggies, your insulin levels can remain more stable (instead of spikes and crashes from sugar). Stable insulin keep your energy levels stable throughout the day, allowing your body to follow a natural circadian rhythm that lets you know it’s okay to sleep at night! This means better quality sleep when your head hits the pillow.
But 2 other things help you sleep! The animal proteins you eat have tryptophan in them – a compound that helps you fall asleep! And lower body fat percentages are also connected with better quality sleep. So as your body fat drops, your sleep quality goes up!
5. You’re in a Better Mood
If you diet makes you cranky, you’re probably on the wrong one. Because meal plans made of protein, fat and some healthy carbs (ie veggies) actually change the chemical structure in your brain to make you happier!
Take the omega fatty acids.
Poor diets have a high number of Omega 6s and low Omega 3s. But in a healthy plan, when those numbers are closer to a 1:1 ratio, your body actually releases a higher amount of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is your happy hormone and boosts your mood.
So if you’re dieting and always irritable, you may need to rethink you plan. Make sure it is full of healthy fats, proteins and veggies. And that you are getting enough calories – restriction diets are not the answer.
6. Your Performance is Improving
Most of us try to eat healthy in order to change how we look or how we perform in the gym (or both)! So if your noticing improvements in how fast you run, how much you squat and how hard you can push yourself – those are all signs that your meal plan is probably working for you! A balanced diet with the proper nutrients will allow your body to heal faster and increase muscle development.
If you’re skimping on calories, your body won’t have enough nutrients to allow you to grow and progress. Lacking on nutrients, you’re going to have a harder time recovering from those workouts.
So it’s a good sign when your seeing progress and noticing less soreness or inflammation post workout.
7. You’re in it for the Long Haul
I hate the word diet because for me, it’s synonymous with short term starvation. But following a result driven meal plan is about the long haul!
So if you’ve got a plan, you’re seeing some progress and you can stick with that plan for the long haul, then the plan is probably a good fit. But if you’re only seeing progress on a plan that you can’t sustain for more than a week at a time, you’ve got problems.
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