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Why Nutrition-Only Programs Rarely Work



If you’re in search of a program to feel better, build muscle, and shed excess fat, it can feel overwhelming to know where to start to find one that’s designed to work.

Scrolling social media can keep your head spinning with options (some based on science, some just on opinion) about how to get transformational results. When I tested it, a quick internet search of “body transformation program” took only 0.55 seconds to display 363 million hits. Often, it can even cause a case of paralysis by analysis, leading to someone not taking any action for their health at all.

The most heavily marketed transformation program options available are often based on diet alone.

As a dietitian (with nutrition as an obvious passion point), I don’t disagree that changing what and how you eat is pivotal for success. However, I’ve learned that there’s a serious disconnect between what a lot of nutrition-based programs out there can do for your health compared to what someone participating in those programs hopes for or expects in terms of their body composition.

An effective program must include nutrition change and guidance, yet at the same time, most people are surprised to hear that nutrition-only programs rarely work for the long term. Here’s why.

You risk losing muscle and tone.

It might be shocking to learn that weight loss does not always mean fat loss. In fact, scale weight often is not the best measure of success. If your goal is a toned look, it’s important to build muscle and lose fat. This can seem tricky on the scale because muscle is dense and heavy compared to body fat, which takes up space but is relatively light compared to muscle.

As a result, those truly getting leaner in a healthy way often do not have as much of a change in scale weight as anticipated. Many nutrition-only programs create an aggressive calorie deficit, which consequently can trigger both muscle and fat loss. This can be problematic for how you feel, as well as for both short- and long-term health.

It’s critical to prioritize maintaining muscle during any transformation program. Not only does muscle provide an aesthetic “toned” look, but it is vital for your health and immunity. Building and maintaining it requires adequate calories, ample protein, stress management, and regular resistance and strength training.

Learn more about the truth behind scale weight here: Measuring Body Weight.

You may need to start with exercise.

I always say that 80 percent of success is above the neck: Your mindset is critical.

During any transformation journey, celebrating frequent small wins keeps the consistency going to drive behavior change and healthy habits. As you see little wins and successes, you get hits of dopamine that can drive excitement and motivation for continued change. It’s a snowball effect.

In a lot of cases, nutrition can feel intimidating to change when compared to fitness. Exercise typically involves an hour or so of focus on a given day, whereas nutrition changes involves a larger span of your waking hours. It’s especially subject to getting thrown off by schedule disruptions, cravings, and old habits.

Sometimes shifting exercise habits first can start the ball rolling with a healthy lifestyle, giving you the (literal and figurative) reps under your belt to make nutrition changes feel more doable. Plus, from my experience in working with clients, when you exercise, it’s a lot more likely you’ll stay on track with your daily nutrition.

You need a lifestyle change, not just a nutrition change.

Did you know the average person tries to lose weight four times per year — and has trouble keeping off whatever they lose?

If we know anything, it’s that “diet” doesn’t work for long-term success as a verb. The concept of dieting itself infers restriction. Instead, try to focus on the work “diet” as a noun, referring to what you choose to eat on a regular basis.

The truth is that your diet (as a noun) is impacted greatly by your environment, social circle, exercise habits, stress levels, and sleep. For example, a lack of sleep, a strenuous workout, or a stressful day can physiologically trigger cravings. And when cravings hit, it can be tough to stay on track with nutrition, leading you to mentally beat yourself up for slipping.

In any successful program, it’s critical to recognize the interconnectedness of your exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle in context. They all feed off each other, and to be successful, all areas need to be accounted for.

You need a finish line.

Think of the last time you felt motivated; it’s likely there was an upcoming vacation, event, or reunion you wanted to prepare for.

When a comprehensive program has an end date, countdown, or finish line, it automatically builds in urgency and motivation to make changes as the days of the program go by. It also builds in the opportunity to make the necessary shifts to your exercise program (training style and training phase) to continue to see progress, along with a time to reevaluate your results and reestablish your goals.

However, for programs that focus only on food (without context regarding real-life scenarios, such as going out to eat or what to do if you deviate from the plan), when exactly is the “right” time to stop?

There’s no end date to good nutrition habits. The most important and effective nutrition approaches ought to by nature be longer term. While they can — and should — be dialed in as part of your overall approach, it gets tricky if your program does not include some of the other core components and changes needed to be successful.

The post Why Nutrition-Only Programs Rarely Work appeared first on Experience Life.

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Sleep Deficiency Hinders Weight Loss, So Try Better Sleep Habits



Do you wake up feeling tired? Well, you’re not alone. One in every three Americans does not get the recommended sleep needed for optimal health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Sleep deficiency is known to cause weight gain, but also contributes to a whole list of more serious health issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and diabetes, just to name a few.

Why Sleeping Is So Important for Weight Loss

Believe it or not, each and every day the most important thing that you do all day is sleep. Yes, you heard right! Sleep quality and duration are so important that they directly affect everything else you do in life.

“We are nothing but slaves to chemical processes,” says W. Christopher Winter, MD, in an article for Livestrong.

Nearly one third of our lives are spent asleep. During sleep, it is peak time for our bodies to repair muscle and release hormones that control natural processes, including appetite. All this is being done without any conscious energy being consumed.

Consequently, a deficiency in the sleep column affects everything; more specifically, it cuts weight loss and exercise performance by nearly 20%. This spirals into a decrease in hormone production, (which occurs when we sleep), and ultimately affects our daily eating pattern. Popular studies show that weight gain occurs because more calories are consumed on the following day, because of lack of hormone release. Therefore, a continued deficit during the night will only lead to months and years of unnecessary weight gain. On the flip side, if you aren’t already experiencing weight gain, you may just be unable to lose weight at all. So you don’t have weight gain, but no weight loss occurs, either.

Practice Better Sleep Habits

The best advice is to practice better sleep habits, getting optimal rest and avoiding insomnia.

Start with controlling your sleep environment by setting it at the appropriate temperature. Experts suggest trying between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Try eliminating all computers and television sets from your room as well, since any source of light tends to disrupt sleep patterns. Aim for consistency rather than trying to catch up on hours you might have missed the preceding day. Don’t be afraid to take short naps when feeling fatigued. These should be anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes long to help improve alertness, performance, and mood. Lastly, never consume caffeine in the afternoon because it has the ability to stay in your system and interrupt the natural onset of sleep several hours later (See our blog on giving up caffeine).

The final verdict is in. A poor amount of sleep greatly hinders weight loss and sets you up for other health problems. So do yourself a favor: turn out the light, tuck yourself in, and get some much-needed Zzzs.

This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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YES — You Can Lose Weight Without “Starving”!



The other day, one of my weight-loss clients told me that she’d been “starving” while waiting for lunchtime to come around.

Of course, she didn’t mean that she was literally starving. She was just trying to say she was feeling “especially hungry.”

But I always discourage people I work with from using that word, because — aside from being insensitive to the fact that lots of people really ARE starving — it just creates a terrible mindset for anyone who’s trying to eat purposefully and lose weight.

Whenever you say that you’re starving (even in jest), some part of you begins to panic. And that feeling of panic can lead to bad decisions — like choosing to eat the next thing in sight.

And when the next thing in sight is a bag of chips or a sugary snack — that’s a choice that won’t help you reach your weight-loss goals and probably won’t even alleviate your hunger for long.

So before switching into panic mode, I advise my clients to take a breath — and instead of saying “I’m starving,” — say “I’m okay, I’m just hungry and I need to eat something.”

I always tell them to start by drinking water first (because hunger is very often dehydration in disguise!) and to remind themselves of WHY they’re trying to lose weight.

After that, it takes them just a few extra minutes to think of a healthy, filling option that will satisfy their hunger, nourish their bodies, and still help them reach their weight-loss goals.

Remember, you’re always in control of the food you eat — that’s an amazingly liberating idea!

Learn to eat because you’re hungry — not because you’re “starving” — and you’ll take a giant step down the path to a positive weight loss and mindset.

Be sure to look for my new nutrition program — the 2B Mindset™ — available beginning May 2 on

It’s a healthy approach to weight loss that shows you how to coexist with food in real-world situations, outsmart your cravings, and manage setbacks before they even occur.

Best of all, it is designed to help you feel full and satisfied after every meal — so you can lose weight happily and learn to keep it off for good.

Enter your email address below to receive Ilana’s “5 Simple Secrets To Outsmart Overeating,” plus more free weight-loss tips and updates about the 2B Mindset.

Ilana Muhlstein, M.S., R.D.N., created the 2B Mindset as a way to help herself lose 100 pounds — and keep it off — after years of unsuccessful dieting.

After becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, she refined her breakthrough approach to healthy eating into a system simple enough for everyone to learn. To date, hundreds of her private practice clients have successfully lost weight using the same powerful principles she developed for herself.

Today, she’s excited to share those secrets with anyone who wants to lose weight without feeling hungry or deprived — with the 2B Mindset.

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creating healthy habits

Out with the Old: Change Your Workout to Improve Wellness



Take yourself back to the 1970s when Arnold Schwarzenegger was preparing for the Mr. Olympia contest. Everybody wanted to try his incredibly intense workouts. It has been rumored that Arnold’s workouts were so intense that at least three different trainers would have to give him separate workouts in order to keep up with him.

Following in the king’s footsteps, anyone who wanted to be a bodybuilder or get into shape undeniably thought that working out six days a week, two times a day, was the way to make this happen. Luckily for us and all of America, workouts have evolved from the old-school mindset to the new school.

Varying Your Workout Old School: Sticking to the same workout for months.

Although this was the go-to, this pattern isn’t always going to work. When you do the same sets and reps for every workout, you miss out on allowing your body to change.

New School: Implementing the SAID principle.

The SAID principle is an acronym for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. When the body is put under different stress, it starts to adapt. In other words, the body is trying to get better. By providing your body with different types of sets, reps, and loads, you are able to tap into more of your muscle fibers, increase strength, and avoid plateaus.

Targeting Training Old school: Focusing only on the trouble spots.

This type of focus won’t work for the majority of people who are coming to the gym to work out or lose weight. When there is variety in your workouts, there is room for growth and development. Focusing only on the areas that are the weakest isn’t going to help the areas that are already strong continue to get stronger.

New School: Correcting trouble spots while also training strong areas.

Correcting a weakness and building on a strong point at the same time will enable you to improve your body as a whole. A way to correct those problem areas is to figure out exactly why they are causing you problems. The Functional Movement Screen captures fundamental movements, motor control within movement patterns, and competence of basic movements uncomplicated by specific skills. It will determine the greatest areas of movement deficiency, demonstrate asymmetries, and eventually correlate these with an outcome.

Cardio vs. Strength Old School: Focusing only on cardio will increase weight loss.

While it’s important to incorporate cardio into your workout regimen to help build and keep your cardiovascular systems stronger, it is not the only type of exercise that is needed for weight loss. Focusing only on cardio will lessen your chances of building muscle.

New School: Getting a healthy dose of both cardio and strength training will improve overall health.

Much like how a car stays warm after it turns off, the same can be said about your body after you finish a workout. EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) explains how your body’s metabolism can continue to burn more calories. Resistance training can provide a greater EPOC effect than running at a steady speed.

Out with the Old and in with the New

Training methods will come and go, and at some point the new-school methods will become old school. At NIFS we offer a wide variety of programs, assessments, and education to help turn those old habits into new routines. Stay positive, be willing to accept change, and explore to find what works best for you!

This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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