FIRST, LET ME APOLOGIZE for calling you fat. I really did not mean it like that, but rather was making reference to the fact that overweight and obesity are an epidemic so really lots of us are fat.
I was also alluding to the issue of “weight loss resistance”, which is the idea that many people believe that they are, quote “doing everything right” and still not getting results.
Not only that, if I want anyone at all to read this blog in the age of a million internet voices shouting at once, I need to do something to get your attention. Making you think I am calling you a fatty, which I really wasn’t, is one good way to do that. I apologize, now get over it… hahah
I hope this information helps you forgive me, because I am going to tell you exactly why you, and so many others are having trouble losing weight and keeping it off. Just to warn you though, some of this wont be easy to hear and I am personally exaggerating and expressing some “tough love” to make a point in this blog.
The reason we are all getting fatter is due, in my opinion, almost entirely to three main reasons. Lets tackle them one at a time.
Reason 1: You don’t know how the metabolism works
The metabolism does not work like a calculator the way the calorie zealots want you to believe. It also does not work like a chemistry set the way the insulin junkies try to convince you. It is not about quality or quantity, it is quality and quantity.
You continue to fail at this because you are playing a game you can’t win. Your metabolism is playing chess and you think it is playing checkers (CLICK to Tweet). That is why you are so damn confused and frustrated.
The metabolism is adaptive and reactive. It is not some static thing that works in a predictable fashion whenever you reduce calories or cut carbs.
These simplistic assumptions get you in trouble because they give you the wrong idea. The calorie model, which says all you need to do is count calories and you will lose weight, is not correct. Nor is the low carbohydrate insulin model, that says you just need to cut carbs and lower insulin and the fat will melt off.
If we are going to use simplistic models, which we really shouldn’t, then the best way to think about the metabolism is as a seesaw or yo-yo or boomerang or pendulum. Perhaps the best model to use is a thermostat.
In other words, the metabolism has sensing and feedback mechanisms that make it adapt by reacting in the opposite direction.
You eat too little or exercise too much and the metabolism adapts and reacts by adjusting its metabolic dials to increase hunger, adjust energy downwards and elevate cravings. It does all this while lowering your daily energy use.
The metabolism is smart and it does this for a reason. Instead of understanding this phenomena and working with it, most people insist on trying to circumvent it by using a worn out militaristic model of willpower dominance. Not a good a move.
I have news for you, you will never be able to “out willpower” your metabolism (tweetable). It is too damn smart for that.
To lose weight requires two things:
1. Calorie deficit => 2. metabolic hormone balance
First, it requires a calorie deficit and then it requires you do something to balance the metabolic thermostat so it does not fight back against you.
The problem with the “eat less, exercise more” and “willpower like crazy” models is that they create the calorie deficit, but rather than work with your metabolic hormones, they work against them.
So, the first thing you need to do is understand the way the metabolism really works and work with it rather than against it.
That means eating, exercising, and living in a way that balances hormones in addition to lowering calories. The good news is, when you do this, the calorie part of the equation becomes much easier and requires much less willpower.
I can’t go into all the ways to do this because it’s an entire book, not just a blog. The good news is, my brother and I actually already wrote this book. GET THE BOOK HERE
But rather than leave you with nothing, here is a very quick synopsis:
- Learn to understand your HEC (pronounced heck). HEC is an acronym for hunger, energy and cravings. Your HEC tells you about your metabolic balance. If HEC is out of check, even if you are losing weight you likely will not be for long.
- Diet, exercise, sleep and stress among other things impact HEC for better or worse and must be managed in a smarter way.
- Exercising more, or longer or harder can throw HEC out of check and derail your efforts. Whatever exercise you choose to do make sure it does not knock HEC out of check.
- Eat in a way that makes HEC work for you. This means eating protein, adequate higher fiber, high water nutrient dense foods that are also calorie sparse (vegetables, lean meats and occasional fruit). Round that out with small amounts of fat and starch eaten to your tolerance. How do you know your tolerance? If HEC is in check and you are losing fat, then you are within your tolerance.
- Manage stress and sleep in a way that is a priority. Prioritize rest and recovery activities above all else. This will balance stress hormones and control HEC.
For more read the book HERE.
Reason 2: You prefer religion to science
You know what the biggest block to knowledge is? It’s not what you have not yet learned, but rather what you are convinced you already know.
You would rather cling to your biases and nutrition teams than open your mind up to the reality that you could be wrong. This is not a judgment by the way. I do it too. Science shows all of us humans are susceptible to these biases.
The problem is they are keeping you from learning what you need to know.
I have been a member of every nutrition team and mantra you can imagine. I was vegetarian for a time, I followed Atkin’s, Paleo; you name it I have done it.
I have also read almost every nutrition book ever put out. I used to read a book and would immediately adopt it as my new religion. Until I read the next book and saw the error of my ways. Then through a long slow process of learning and confronting thousands of patients and clients who did not conform to my biases, did I finally relent and admit I was the stupid one.
This is what most people do today. They read blogs and books and follow their gurus until they find a team they like and that most of the time is convenient. They then sit and defend and argue and become entrenched in their new silly religion all the while generating a self-imposed block to learning and getting better.
You have seen the utterly stupid conversations on social media haven’t you. They go something like this:
Person 1: I follow If It Fits Your Fatsos (IIFYM). You are obviously stupid and don’t know about my favorite gurus Quasi Bloato and Pugsly Magoo (I love when they tag the guru/person too…. as if to say, ”hey Quasi, I sure am putting these people in their place aren’t I. Aren’t I a good little student?”)
Person 2: Well, you should get a life buddy. Read this blog and this blog and this blog. As well as these 9 obscure articles. It has been proven without a shadow of a doubt everyone is stupid with the exception of my guru, Bloatimus Maximus.
And on and on it goes. Neither side realizing what dumbasses they look like. It’s like when you offer that dude with bad breath a stick of gum and he declines. Ignorance is NOT bliss… it’s just ignorance.
Ok, seriously though. You get my point right? This is not a religion, this is a science. What makes it really tough for us all is that science is not exact (which is why you need to repeat studies over and over) and it is not quick (it takes time for many studies to uncover the entire truth of a situation).
But we humans are naturally delusional, biased and dumb. It’s true… don’t worry I am too. The scientific method helps us be less dumb by forcing us to question our assumptions and then test them. That is the only way we can be sure our breath stinks.
There is no room for faith and religion in science. The sooner you give up your silly dogmatic belief systems about what is or is not the best diet the better off you will be.
Just to drive this part home a little bit more, you might be a biased, dumbass human if you find yourself saying any of the following:
- Sugar is toxic
- GMO food will end existence as we know it
- Gluten will cause your stomach to explode
- The China Study is best and most definitive study ever done in nutrition
- Everyone should freebase bacon and butter and they would all be happier and healthier and live in Utopia.
Get my point? Stop with the religion. Faith is nothing but the purposeful suspension of rational thought and it really has no room in nutritional science and weight loss research.
Science is not perfect, but it is the best tool we have to make sense of the complicated mess that is human metabolism. Learn to understand it and get more savvy.
If you need help, I did a podcast on this with Dr. Spencer Nadolsky you can listen to HERE. And consider signing up for these two research review guides to get an introduction to evidenced based health and fitness (Alan Aragon’s Research Review and Examine.com Research Review). These are two among several others I get and read every month to make myself less dumb (it MIGHT be working).
Reason 3: You have no idea who you are.
Yep, you are clueless. This discussion goes back to reason 1. Not only do you not understand how the metabolism actually works, but you also don’t realize that your metabolism is different.
Now don’t get me wrong here, most of how your metabolism functions overlaps with the rest of us humans. You can think of it this way, when you look at me you can immediately recognize me as a human (albeit a scary bald Shrek lookalike human, but a human none-the-less).
But look a little closer and you can see I have a unique face, body, and voice, skin tone, etc. etc. etc. Well, my metabolism is slightly different as well. Just like you have a physical fingerprint, you have a metabolic fingerprint as well.
But that is not the only way you are different. You have a unique psychological make up as well. Your personality determines how you handle stress, your likes and dislikes, etc. This impacts how you approach food, exercise, sleep and stress.
You also have varied personal preferences. These are important too and they are almost completely ignored in discussions about diet.
In fact your unique metabolism, psychology and personal preferences almost never get talked about at all in diet discussions. And that is why diets fail.
If you want to succeed you need to stop jumping around from blog-to-blog, diet-to-diet and guru-to-guru and instead start studying yourself.
Do you know what foods help with HEC and which ones hurt? Do you spend time seeing if gluten really is an issue for you or do you just cut it out of your diet because Paleo Petey told you to?
If you are going to be successful at this game, you need to stop being a dieter and start being a detective. You need to start approaching this thing in a way that works and fits for you.
You don’t find a perfect diet, you create it. You don’t follow a protocol, you create a lifestyle you can own, live with and love.
That is the way it really works. It has always been the way it works.
So from now on instead of doing programs and following protocols then discarding them when they don’t work, consider approaching things this way.
Here is the thing to remember… Go ahead and shout from the rooftops and tweet to all your friends if you like: a one-size-fits-all solution is not and never will be an individualized solution.
So your job is to learn by exposing yourself to new information. Try it on, consider it and see if it works. Adjust it, mold it, and tweak it. Discard it if it does not work. Keep it if it does. Make it your own.
Stop following rules. Instead see everything as guidelines and considerations to “try on.” Do what one of my heroes, Bruce Lee, suggests: “Keep what is useful, discard what is not and add what is uniquely your own.”
This process is a journey not a destination. It is a process not a protocol. If you are ever going to win at this game then you need to stop looking and start creating.
There is a way to do this, and I have shared some of it with you already in this blog. I call it structured flexibility. We all need a little structure and guidance at first. But once you have that, its time to become the detective and begin to tweak mold, and bend the guidelines in a way to fit your unique metabolism, psychology and personal preferences.
My brother and I go through how we approach this process in our book, Lose Weight Here, but there are many ways to do it. The important thing is just do it. It is basically the diet and exercise equivalent of trial and error (well, it is a little more scientific than that, but you get my point).
And if you don’t like this idea and just want rules, religion and simplistic ideas about how the metabolism works… well, then forget everything I just said. But if you do, don’t be surprised if you stay fat and frustrated.