I’m gonna put my asshole hat on and rant a little bit at y’all today. So if you’re feeling sensitive and special and snowflake-y, you may want to just close this window and find something else to read…because guess what? You are not a special snowflake. Nobody is. Not as far as your body’s chemistry and composition is concerned, anyway.
Want to change your body composition? And what I mean by that is, lose fat and gain muscle? Maybe not in that order, but that’s what I hear from most people in some combination – and hey, who doesn’t want to get ripped and shredded and sexy as fuck? If you’re overweight though, I have a news flash for you: you are not accomplishing your goals because of what you’re eating. No, you probably don’t need to go to your doctor and no, there’s probably nothing wrong with you. If you do decide to go see your doctor because you are convinced there is something wrong with you, they will probably tell you to get more exercise. That’s bullshit. The problem is what you’re putting in your face hole. Not that more exercise will hurt, but sorry docs – more exercise (especially if you’re already exercising regularly) isn’t going to help you lose weight.
Want to know what else won’t help you lose fat? Diets that eliminate entire food groups, including (but not limited to) Paleo, vegetarianism/veganism, keto, etc. Also on the list of shit that won’t help you are, plans/companies/MLM’s that will charge you a million bucks to put you in a huge calorie deficit and jack you up on stimulants so that you love the whole freaking world while you lose alarming amounts of body weight (and watch out, because your body’s going to munch up your muscle tissue for fuel on those plans so it won’t be fat that you’re losing primarily). These are the real wolves in sheep’s clothing because yes, you WILL lose a lot of weight very quickly if you stick to the plan, but the minute you stop paying for the plan and go back to “normal”, you’ll put all the weight back on and then some. In short order. Know how I know? I’ve done those plans and diets myself – just about all of them. And after 7 years of nutrition coaching I have seen it happen firsthand enough that the results are firmly entrenched in my world view. Yes there are outliers, but not many.
What does stop people from being able to lose fat is physics: if you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Hold up, coach, you might be thinking: there’s more to it than that, OR on the other hand you might be thinking, THANK YOU – calories in vs calories out is all there is to it. Well, guess what? Both of those knee-jerk reactions are kinda right but also kinda wrong. Here is the real skinny on fat loss, hormone imbalances (real and/or imagined) and special snowflake-ness.
When a new nutrition client comes to see me and tells me that they eat perfectly and that their lack of fat loss is due to some mysterious underlying health condition, the first thing I recommend is that they see their doctor to rule it out. (Sorry, doctors. Sorry, overworked health care system. But coaching people with actual health problems is outside of my scope of practice and it would be irresponsible of me to keep going with someone who does have an issue.)
You know how many people have actually come back with a diagnosis that makes weight loss impossible?
You know how many people come back pissed off because their doctors told them they just need more exercise?
Neither do I because I’ve lost count.
So the next step is to have people track what they’re eating, just for a few days, so we can take a really honest, hard look at their intake. The results are usually eye-opening – not for me but for the client, who is used to eating whatever’s going to make them feel better with little thought to the consequences. See, those tracked results are not an accurate picture of what they are actually eating on a regular basis; they are the results of actually PAYING ATTENTION to what they’re eating for a few days. Those few days usually yield a couple of pounds of weight loss as well. Tracking WORKS.
Let’s talk hormone imbalances for a minute. I’d say that hormone imbalances are the number one reason people think they can’t lose weight…but guess what? If that’s you, you’re wrong. Maybe you do have a hormone imbalance (and if you’re more than thirty pounds overweight let’s be real, you probably do just because of the extra weight you are carrying around). Those motherfuckers are not your friends as far as fat loss is concerned, but not for the reason you think. If you are not overweight, but have looked at an overweight person and made a snap judgement about their character or discipline based on their appearance, this applies to you too because you are in need of some education, so keep reading. Anyway, hormones: carrying large amounts of excess fat around for extended periods of time can really mess them up in a variety of ways (including but again, not limited to, conditions like low testosterone for the guys, PCOS for the ladies, hypothyroidism, etc.) BUT these conditions on their own do not stop people from being able to lose fat.
Here is what nobody talks about: being overweight is depressing. Being overweight causes brain fog. Being overweight makes you fucking tired. You’d do just about anything to get rid of that extra weight fast, which spurs lots of people on to extreme diets, crackerjack supplements that cause more problems than they solve, injections, pills, pyramid schemes, meal replacements, and in extreme cases pathological restriction and binging and purging. And let me tell you, after a day (or days) of exercising control, depriving yourself of the fuel your body needs in order to thrive in favor of shitty shakes or pills, and being judged and marginalized because of your body shape, it is really hard to give a rat’s ass about sticking to a diet. So you eat a bunch of stuff that doesn’t do your body any good, and you start off the next day thinking that you have to make up for last night’s mistakes.
Now, if you add an actual hormone imbalance to that mix, for example low T or PCOS (to cite the most common one in each gender) you have to add in MORE brain fog, MORE depression, MORE fatigue, and (potentially) fear of infertility into that mix of stress. In a nutshell, developing an obesity-related hormone imbalance just throws gas onto the fire of insecurity and self loathing that is already merrily burning. Having trouble believing that fat loss is possible? Congratulations, now you have another hurdle to get over. Still, a hormone problem won’t stop you from losing fat. It will slow you down; you’ll have to be veeeery consistent for a longer time before you get the results you want. But stick at it: you can’t be in a calorie deficit for too long before weight loss is inevitable – that’s science!
Here are some unpopular truths about fat loss. If it’s going to last, it takes time. Lots of learning has to happen and you have to get your head on straight so that you are in a position to absorb the lessons that your body is teaching you. Your relationship with your food may have to do a complete 180. You’ll have to be super consistent for a long time – maybe six weeks (or more if your hormones are doing the funky chicken) before you see any changes on the scale at all. The hardest thing, especially if you have been telling yourself that your weight has nothing to do with the way you live, will be assuming responsibility for the way things are, because yes, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE. I’m not saying it’s a character flaw or a fault…but look at it this way: if you aren’t responsible for the way things are, how will you own any success you have?
It’s not easy – but doing it slowly and changing your mind while you change your body is worth the investment, you know why? Because the changes you make to your beliefs, and then to your outlook, and eventually your lifestyle, ARE the new normal.