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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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