I've seen it a million times before, someone updates their status on Facebook about having a hard time losing weight. Suddenly the comment thread is full of MLM schemes, supplements, paleo diets, detox teas and the worst fitness tips ever. Yesterday, after prodding a gentleman who ended up calling me a fucking bitch because I told him he was handing out bad advice, I decided this topic needs to be covered. So, here are a few things people say to those who are struggling with weight loss and why I think it is garbage:
You're not losing weight Because Muscle "Weighs More" than Fat
We all know a pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of muscle, it just takes up far less space. Let's get that little detail out of the way. This is true. You can be heavier than you were and look better if you are muscular. Hell, I'm up from where I started years ago and look (and feel) way better than I ever have when I was lighter. HOWEVER, this statement is often applied to someone who just started their weight loss journey and is stuck in that initial phase of "I'M DOING THE THINGS AND THE NUMBERS ON THE SCALE AREN'T DROPPING!"
The fact is most people see little to no initial loss right away. Your body is not a machine, it is a biological organism that has to operate on a cellular level. Your metabolism has settled in to match your intake and activity level as best it can, and it has been operating this way for a long time. This process has to change, and convert fat to energy, cell by cell. This does not happen overnight, or even in a week. It's frustrating, but you have to be patient.
Building muscle does not happen overnight, either. It takes months and months (at least) of resistance training. You cannot jog on a treadmill for a week and build muscle. Just because you work out a few days does not mean you have built a few pounds of muscle. Trust me. It took me years of heavy training and caloric surplus to build a mere few pounds of muscle. This stuff doesn't pile on without effort and consistency. You are most likely experiencing water retention. I know that isn't very motivating, but if you have the delusion that muscle just pops up with little effort, you are setting yourself up to be very disappointed later. There is nothing wrong with you and it is perfectly normal. It is better to be realistic and understand there is a stretch of time you will spend where it seems like NOTHING is happening.... until it starts happening.
EAT MORE - You're in starvation mode!
Starvation mode is a popular term meaning you have been operating on such low calories that your body "clings to fat" for energy and won't relinquish another pound. More appropriately, your body tries to become more efficient on less calories until it has nowhere to go and you plateau. Or, in some cases, you develop anorexia, and restrict further, until you drop down into a dangerous place of jutting bones and organ failure (actual "starvation mode." )
The first thing people tend to do when they try to lose weight is cut calories, usually to the tune of a simple calculator on their fitbit or weight loss app. This, in of itself, isn't necessarily a bad thing and it won't put you in "starvation mode." Most apps don't suggest such extreme cuts. This early on in the game, the pounds that remain are water and the slower-than-we'd-like process of energy conversion.
What I would advise, when cutting calories, is to not go too low at first - not because of "starvation mode" (which is generally associated with long periods of low intake, not a short-term dip) but because it is unsustainable. You will inevitably be hungry, feel deprived, and, 9 times out of 10, binge the fuck out after a certain point. This compounds if you start exercising and rev up your metabolism. In the battle of will power versus biology, biology always wins. Try instead, to cut out a few hundred calories at a time. Or you can take something out that is creating a surplus. For example, simply quit drinking alcohol or pop during the week, then cut more when you stall out.
PALEO IS MAGIC - Cut OUT all carbs
And on the other side of the fence are the people who suggest calorie restriction through cutting carbohydrates (or, more specifically, simple carbohydrates.) Of course they don't realize this is why low-carb works. They think it's some magical anti-inflammatory, paleolithic mumbo jumbo, but it's just calorie restriction. This diet only works when you don't over-eat other foods to compensate.
If this type of diet satisfies you and you are healthy and happy, no problem. But more often than not, life happens and you cannot always control the food available to you at all times. Plus, you will set yourself up for the longing of that which you "can't " have. Being flexible helps to control cravings and remain relaxed during those times you aren't in control of the menu.
DM ME - you need to check out my company
For the love of all that is good in this world, pills, supplements, shakes, teas and wraps will no nothing for you besides drain your bank account and change the color of your pee. Detoxing is a LIE. There is no such thing when it comes to dieting. Not all nutritional supplements are bad, but chances are they are completely unnecessary and this person only wants to make money off of you. I did a piece on Thrive by Le-Vel a while back and I still get thousands of hits on it. These are often the people that say their product is just an "enhancement," so when you have a negative side effect or it doesn't work... well, it's obviously your fault for not doing your part.
It's 80% diet / 20% exercise
This is the argument that awarded me "fucking bitch" status. Look, if weight loss alone is the be all/end all, dieting down works. But I think this advice is abysmal - for women, especially. Look, weight loss is important. There are many health problems associated with being overweight, and overweight alone, not counting the rest of your health profile.
But what really happens when you adopt a strict diet with a little jazzercise on the side?
You lose weight! ....Then one fucking thing happens and it sends you into a death spiral of binge eating and gaining all your weight back, plus more. Don't believe me? Really? Why is the diet industry worth bazillions of dollars? Why do people buy fat burner pills and "slimming" teas by the carton full? If just restricting what you eat for the rest of your natural life actually worked -no one would need that shit.
In my (un)professional opinion, we need to rethink that silly ratio. Exercise needs to be moved way up in this dynamic. When you build muscle and increase your conditioning through exercise you not only benefit from improving your cardiovascular capacity and strength, You also:
Energy begets energy. The more you sit and chill, the less you want to do anything. The more you exercise, the more you want to exercise, thereby getting fitter and burning more calories.
You do not feel energetic for long, by simply "dieting down." In fact, the buzz most people feel at the beginning of a diet is just excitement about changing your life.
Burn More Fat at Rest
If you choose resistance training (weights, etc.), you will build muscle which burns calories at rest to merely exist on your frame. If you add some higher intensity intervals to your cardio routine, you also burn more calories in your down time than you do otherwise, approximately 24 hours of benefit!
You don't burn extra fat and calories at rest "dieting down." Period. Full stop.
Grow your brain Power
When you exercise, your brain boosts its own growth hormone and studies have shown it revitalizes and grows new pathways in your brain.
Do I need to say a "diet" won't do that? Nope, there is no evidence for that claim - not even a smug, pseudo-spiritual, "raw vegan non-GMO superfoods" diet.
The best serum for anti-aging does not come in a fancy jar - it happens inside your body when you work out. Not only do you release the "feel-good" hormones, but vigorous exercise also helps boost testosterone and HGH, making you feel younger and retain youthful performance.
Cutting calories alone just makes you feel lighter and less shitty.
Release Stress. Anxiety & Depression
Studies have shown regular exercise to be just as beneficial as medication to those with mild to moderate anxiety and depression symptoms. Plus, the effects seem to last longer than medication alone. Something about all the above positive impacts, plus the release of endorphins helps to regulate mood.
Just dieting puts you in the mood... to eat. And the effects of feeling good about weight loss only tend to stick around if you are, in fact, actively losing weight. Once the scale stops moving, anxiety and depression can go up.
You Want to Eat to perform
Now this is where you get synergy! When you start to love exercise, a brilliant thing starts to happen. You want to eat the right way so you can cut your mile time, hit your squat goal, play your sport better, build bigger muscles or smoke the WOD. Instead of focusing on the scale to go down, we focus on driving our performance up. This is so much better for the psyche - ESPECIALLY a woman's psyche - than trying in vain to whittle away and be perpetually defeated by the fluctuation of our weight.
Dieting alone traps most people in a cycle of restriction, then failure, then self-punishment, and guilt.
It's not that diet doesn't "work," it is that it fails to address all the underlying issues as to why we are overweight or give us a purpose other than to be thin. I'm actually heavier than when I was at my unhappy place, a few years back. But daaaaamn, if I don't look better. If I'm not stronger, fitter, happier and more motivated. This 80/20 thing is bullshit and often propogated by people who have something to sell you - a meal plan, a supplement to "help" you, an MLM "premium lifestyle," etc. I'm not saying eat garbage, or overeat consistently, I'm saying fitness should have much more priority than a scant 20%. There is little benefit to be gained from such a neglectful amount. Why bother?
Next up, I'll give you the BEST WEIGHT LOSS ADVICE..... Stay tuned!