Break On Through

It is inevitable. Your magic number might be 15 or 20 or 37. Others reach 42 or even 55 before it happens. Then, despite the fact you can rattle off eight different ways to cook chicken breasts and you feel naked without your heart rate monitor, you can’t lose another pound. Desperate to carve off the next 10 pounds, you eat less or you throw your hands up and eat more while cursing your mom’s genetics and your thighs. What can you do to break on through your weight loss wall? One of the most important things you can do is to begin your day with breakfast. Everyday. No exceptions. Ever. After 8 or more hours (read: a good night’s sleep) without food your body is ready to go into so-called starvation mode. This means your metabolism slows down to conserve energy and you burn fewer calories. Of course, a pop tart in your car doesn’t really count.

You need the quality calories found in such breakfast staples as eggs, oatmeal, whole grain cereals and low-fat milk. The fiber and protein will keep you feeling full longer and provide your body with a metabolic jumpstart.

To keep your body burning calories consistently, have a snack mid-morning. Once your body processes the morning’s meal, you’ll start to feel hungry. Usually this happens about 3 hours after eating. This is the perfect time for a calcium-rich snack such as yogurt (watch the sugar!), low fat cheese or soy milk, if you don’t eat dairy. Calcium helps your body metabolize fat more efficiently. The calcium found in food, not supplements, works best.

You can add another fat burner at lunch by topping your salad, chicken or baked potato with salsa. A delicious and low-fat alternative to dressings and condiments, the chilies in medium and hot salsa aid in a temporary metabolism spike. And, salsa is low in calories.

Another great substitute for the mid-afternoon blahs is a 15-minute exercise break. You were going to take a break anyway to walk to the vending machine for a sugary pick-me-up, but keep walking this time. Short bursts of exercise throughout the day keep your metabolism up and will give you a no-crash energy boost no amount of sugar can match. If you’re really motivated, try dips or knee ups at your desk, or shut the door and go through a quick series of yoga poses.

If you’re not going straight to the gym after work, you may be tempted to have a drink or three to relax. If you are serious about losing weight, you may want to stop at one. Everyone has heard about the heart benefits from moderate drinking, but the key word is moderate. A glass of merlot may be good for your heart, but another one is not good for your waistline. This is because the moment you put alcohol into your body, your liver converts it into fuel for the body, instead of using your fat stores or whatever you may be noshing on.

Finally, get some sleep. When you don’t sleep enough, you don’t give your body enough time to repair itself from your workouts, which means you don’t receive the full benefit. Specifically, you need a full night’s sleep to allow the growth hormone and appetite regulating hormones, leptin and ghrelin, to be released. When you don’t get enough sleep, you will experience more cravings and your body will more readily store the food you eat as fat. Your body interprets lack of sleep as stressful and stress slows your metabolism. Besides, you have another appointment at the gym tomorrow and you want to be well rested.