Hunger – The Biggest Weight-Loss Obstacle?

hungry
Today marks the second consecutive day in a row in which I’ve immediately come across a doom and gloom weight-loss article. Perhaps this just a formula for writers to drive a home their main argument, but I think these articles have a way of beating down our resolve, causing a double hand throw in the air and a long look in the ‘goodies’ closet to once again celebrate defeat.
You can read the article in question here, but I’ll save you 1,000 words of reading by simply saying that the initial position of the article is that it’s purely hunger that is the true obstacle of weight-loss. Now, if you’re on a severely restrictive diet (which either means you’re in a life or death situation and under a Doctor’s direct care, or you’ve chosen a really, really poor diet) of course hunger will be a problem. However, while there are always obstacles to losing weight and even maintaining your target weight, I wouldn’t have placed ‘hunger’ in even the top 5. In fact, when I work with clients, I can’t tell you how many times I repeat “do not let yourself get hungry”. This may sound obvious, but the trick is to have a solid plan and stick to it. By doing so, you can basically eliminate hunger, or, at very least, as the article soundly suggested at one point, be easily able to cope with it if your next meal is right around the corner.

Here’s a sample of the article:

Is it possible to lose weight without hunger? Logic tells us it’s not. If dropping pounds were easy, we’d all be wearing the same size jeans we wore in high school.
The reason it’s not easy is that your body is trying to protect you. “It sucks to diet, unfortunately,” says Spencer Nadolsky, D.O., author of The Fat Loss Prescription. “Our bodies fight to regain that weight.”
Not everyone regains it, to be sure. In a Penn State study, about one in six adults who lost at least 10 percent of their maximum body weight were able to keep it off for a year or longer.
Average sustained weight loss in that group was 42 pounds. But that still leaves five out of six who regained some or all of it.
“Hunger becomes an issue whenever you try to lose weight,” Dr. Nadolsky says. “It’s difficult to continue to eat less when we have a physiological drive to eat more.”
When everything under the hood is running smoothly, hunger should reflect how much food you need to keep your body at its current size, give or take a pound or two.

Again, I recognize that the article might be using these supporting statements to set up the “8 ways to combat hunger” as mentioned in the title of the article, but I just don’t believe it’s as big an issue as it wants you to believe. Clients demonstrate a more difficult time with letting go of poor eating habits (read: cravings) than anything else, but those can easily be dealt with. If hunger is your biggest problem with your weight-loss program, it’s likely the program that is at fault, not you. Overly restrictive diets, or weight-loss programs with high intensity workouts without properly nutrition could be two big drivers.

How We Complicate Weight-loss

weightloss

Sometimes we have a knack for making things more complicated than necessary. And, once in a while, we read things that make us think that just maybe things really are complicated.  I remember a time not too long ago when I struggled with weight-loss myself. I remember clearly thinking at one point in my mid-thirties “is keeping my weight down just simply out of my control”.  Without completely understanding how to do it properly I felt lost, confused, and very frustrated.

When I read through an article on Flipboard this morning, the bleak outlook that was painted triggered those old feelings, and made me empathize with anyone who is now caught in that all-to-familiar spiral.

You can read the full story here, but here’s a sample of the content

If you’re one of the millions of people struggling to lose weight, the latest news probably isn’t helping your motivation much. I’m talking about two recently published articles, both backed by rigorous research, that paint a grim picture around weight loss and exercise. But don’t throw in the towel just yet. They don’t tell the full story.

In case you’re not familiar with the articles I’m talking about, here’s a quick recap:

Article 1: The New York Times

The New York Times article looked at former contestants on “The Biggest Loser” and concluded that almost all of them regained the weight they’d lost on the show. The article reasons that after drastic weight loss, two things happen that make weight gain almost inevitable:

1.Resting metabolism decreases (so you burn fewer calories).

2.Hunger and cravings increase, thanks to plummeting levels of leptin, the hormone that controls hunger.

“As long as you are below your initial weight, your body is going to try to get you back,” says Dr. Michael Schwartz in the article.

Article 2: Vox

In the second article, writers at Vox claim that exercise does not work for weight loss. It concludes “exercise is excellent for health, but it’s not important for weight loss” by citing 60+ supporting studies. The article reads much like a compilation of what I’ve been writing about for years. It even includes some identical messages, such as why counting calories from exercise will sabotage your weight-loss goals and why you should focus on diet, not exercise.

Still, I found myself upset after reading both of these articles—not because of what they said, but because of what they didn’t say. They omit half of the story, leaving readers with only one conclusion to infer: We’re f*cked! Your exercise has been for naught. And if somehow you actually do lose weight, expect the pounds to creep back on, because you’re fighting a losing battle against biology.

Most people take away two really impactful “truths” from this. 1) Once you start losing weight, your body will work against you to get you back to where you started and 2) exercise is pointless with regard to weight-loss.

Like the author of the blog post that cited these articles, I, too, have lost 30 lbs. and kept it off. For 8 years now.  While I’ll agree that the longest route to weight-loss and the quickest one to frustration is to solely rely on steady state cardio as a means to stay thin, I can’t say that I identify AT ALL with the first statement.  In fact, I pay very close attention to cravings and food addictions, and I have no personal experience that simply losing weight had any impact on the frequency and intensity of cravings.  Now, I can’t dismiss that what was said was scientific fact, that’s certainly possible, I just didn’t notice is to any extent that I found it demoralizing in my own efforts.

In fact, I would argue that cravings are more a function of your eating habits and routines than your body screaming for nutrients.

So before you throw your hands in the air and order a large pizza in celebratory defeat, let’s check to see just how well you conform to the true principles of long term weight loss. Perhaps you’ll realize that your frustration comes from the wrong approach rather than your body working against you.

  1. Do you strength train? – if you have any history with my blog you know I’m a staunch supporter of strength training. To the extent that it’s worth repeating that if I could only do one form of exercise, it would win out over cardio every day of the week.
  2. Do you do HIIT training? – I’m not sure why this hasn’t taken root in our society since ‘time’ is seemingly our most precious commodity, but to get outstanding results, a tremendous sense of accomplishment, a feeling of total exhaustion, and get it in only a fraction of the time? I don’t know how this is the bestselling idea since indoor plumbing.
  3. Are you eating clean? – You want to ratchet up your cravings? Eat exclusively processed, sugar-laden pre-packed foods. See if your brain doesn’t go nuts trying to get you to repeat that behavior. Similarly, want to crush your cravings, give your body clean, whole foods. Your body doesn’t raise the cravings flag when it’s getting the nutrients it needs to run efficiently.
  4. Do you say “no”? – Let’s face, life can be a succession of mine fields when you’re trying to eat a clean diet, especially now that the warmer weather is here (well, almost). You can’t go a day without someone shoving delicious treats and high fat animal protein in your face. If you’re not saying no with regularity, you’re giving your brain a reason to light up like a Christmas tree with all the fat and sugar, not only leading to a whole sack of calories, but subsequent cravings.
  5. Are you monitoring? – We at FC99 are huge proponents of living mindfully and tracking what we do. What we eat, how much eat, how often we move, how our weight changes, etc. If you’re not mindful of these things, it’s almost impossible to progress. You need to know what you’re doing each week and getting feedback from it. That’s how you make the necessary course corrections.

I’ve said this in the past.  Permanent weight-loss, in theory, is very easy. In application, it’s difficult because it requires significant changes in habits that are deeply rooted in our lives and culture.  However, all of that is simply habitual and can be changed, we just have to know how to do and to give it enough time to take root in place of the poor habits we’ve built.

For more info on personalized weight-loss plans, visit http://fitcoach99.net/personal-weight-loss-plan/

Don’t want to make major changes? Check out our Mindful Living Program. The easiest weight-loss program you’ll ever need.