5 things you need to know about losing weight: Part Deux
Hola! If you're here, I'm guessing that's because you've already memorized part 1 of this post and are ready for the exam. I hope you brought a #2 pencil and your TI-83 calculator. Just kidding. Actually, there's a solid chance that half of you reading this are too young to know what a TI-83 is, because I was THIS old when it was released in 1996:
I may or may not be the 4th Hanson brother. Okay onward.
If you haven't read part 1, click HERE and catch up so this will make more sense. If you have, then without further adieu, here's part 2:
3) To lose fat in a sustainable way, you gotta be diligent, not militant.
When it comes to weight loss, we think we're being consistent as long as we stay in a deficit for 5 days in a row followed by "just a weekend of whatever I want meals", which in Jolly speak means, "I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED BUT THERE WAS LOTS OF CAKE INVOLVED."
That's not the kind of consistency you need for fat loss.
Let's say that in order to lose 1 pound of fat per week, you need to eat 1500 calories per day for 7 days straight. However, those few glasses of wine during the week (which really equate to 2-3 servings per glass because I know you aren't busting out your measuring cups for wine night) add up fast. I'm using wine in this example because it's easy to drink calories, however feel free to insert candy, small bites of random things, cereal, or whatever it is that floats your boat. The point is that it is EASY to add 500-1000 calories to your day without really recognizing it. Here's a graph to demonstrate!
In this scenario, while 4/7 days of the week are spent in a deficit, the other 3 are spent in a calorie surplus, taking the weekly average above 1500, which means no 1 pound fat loss for the week. This type of weekly routine would put a person at about a 0.5 pound loss for the week. This is still totally awesome, however when we don't get the results we expect, most of us are much more willing to assume there's something biologically wrong with our bodies than to actually entertain other possibilities. Thinking you're in a bigger calorie deficit than you really are is really common on the “reasons why I'm not losing fat” list. And it doesn’t have to be the alcohol. Plug in any food. If you've ever felt like a failure for trying and working hard and not seeing the results you expected, DON'T. What it all boils down to is that weight loss done the right way, with consistency and patience, is HARD. In order to make progress, it's important to trust the process. Making good nutritional choices that support fat loss does NOT have to feel depriving, overwhelming, and put you into a state of psychosis. It just requires prioritizing in a way that does not negatively impact your quality of life.
4) Your metabolism won't break if you lose weight, but your body will find ways to conserve energy (burn fewer calories) as your fat mass decreases
Your brain doesn't give a crap about your bikini body goals. The gospel truth is that you're hardwired for survival, not struttin'. When you go on a diet, your brain gets the message that you're in a situation where you've got less food than you did before. Maybe it thinks you're trapped in a cave. In the dessert. In a glass box of emotion. Whatever the case, your body will begin to use your fat stores for energy because, well, that's what you were made to do to in order to survive.
The more fat you have to lose, the easier it is for your body to "give it up" in a sense. Excess fat on your body = excess energy, and your brain knows it. When you start consuming less calories than you expend, whether it be from decreasing caloric intake, increasing exercise, or a combination of the two, your body starts tapping into excess stored energy (fat) for fuel and as long as you are being consistent, the numbers on the scale will start decreasing. Cool beans. However, as you continue using your fat stores for fuel (while dieting and
exercising), it's completely normal for the rate of weight loss to start slowing after a few months. This is because you are smaller. The less of you there is, the less energy in the form of calories is required to keep you alive. The scientific way to say this is that your basal metabolic rate (BMR) decreases. If your body senses that your weight is decreasing too much or at too fast of a rate (especially if you have less to lose to begin with), it can respond by decreasing the amount of energy you burn while eating and moving throughout the day. This is where the survival part comes in. If your body detects a lack of resources, it will do what it can to protect the fuel it has, because that's what keeps you alive.
Not to mention the fitter you are, the harder it is to burn calories during exercise. If you burned 600 theoretical calories in your workout 3 months ago, you may be only burning 450 today, EVEN IF YOUR WEIGHT HASN'T CHANGED. This is because you are more fit internally. The more fit you are, the easier it is for you to get through workouts (even if they still feel challenging). This is a normal and GOOD physiological adaptation to have. Your body is doing what it was designed to do, in this case adapt to a physical insult (exercise). I'll come back to that in a sec.
If you have set a goal for yourself that is reasonable (represents a healthy weight for your height), you can get there by simply decreasing your caloric intake a little (200-300 calories) if your progress starts to stall. However the leaner you seek to become, the greater the cost. For women, seeking to attain a body fat percentage below an already fit 20% requires a more strict approach because well, your body naturally doesn't want to go there. It's got a built in alarm system when it comes to dropping to a low body fat percentage, and it silences that alarm by slowing down it's internal processes a bit so that you don't burn as many calories at rest (your BMR decreases), during digestion (your TEF decreases), and during exercise. It is my both my professional and personal opinion that the stricter the approach, the crappier the experience. I'm sure there's a more eloquent way to say it, but having to give up time with family, friends, or pack a special lunch to go to the lake while everybody else eats hot dogs sounds pretty crappy to me. The leaner you want to become (on top of already being at a healthy weight), the more you're going to have to do stuff like that. This is why when I get asked how a visible six-pack is attained (for women, this would represent a body fat of about 15% or less) I explain the scenario above. Because that's what it takes, all the time, no exceptions. It's not glamorous, it's tough.
And yes, exercise is technically an insult to your body. It's a form of external stress. For all your brain knows, you're rolling around in a trench somewhere even though you know you're doing burpees in a nice air-conditioned space with a cushy mat and your fancy water bottle next to you. That's why I wouldn't recommend using exercise as a means to continue losing weight to anyone who has already been traveling down that road. It's easier to adjust your caloric intake to a new number than it is to increase the number of minutes you spend in the gym (especially if you're already working out HARD 1 hour per day). Exercise is a fabulous way to maintain weight loss and build muscle, but it is not sustainable to try to create your entire calorie deficit for weight loss by exercising like a hamster on a wheel.
5) Quit using your fitness tracker to determine how much you eat.
We've made it to the end! Point number 5 is going to be short and sweet. Go ahead and cover the ears on your Garmin device so it can't hear. And don't freak out when I tell you this:
Quit allowing your Fitbit, Garmin, Polar, sundial, thermometer, apple smart TV, or any other technological device determine how many calories you should eat based on what it says you burned or didn't burn calorie wise during your workout.
I know you love your smartwatch, so I understand why you are upset with me. Gimme a chance.
A calorie by definition is the amount energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 °C.
Your watch can't measure that.
A heart rate monitor can kinda help with that based on some R-squared values obtained from statistical analyses of linear regression models looking at the relationship between heart rate and calorie expenditure waaa waaa waaaa waaa.......
A laboratory with zip-zorps and wiggamawomps and dohickeys is the best option we have, and even that's not perfect.
Your watch isn't a lab, so let it go. It's okay to use your device to compare what your expenditure is between different types of workouts, for example your calorie burn in yoga should read less on your device than in spin class. So, you can gauge what types of workouts your body is having to work harder at by comparing the calorie expenditure there. But quit letting that fitness tracker determine how much you should be eating. They overestimate, you won't end up in your calorie deficit, and you'll be fussy about it.
I hope that these last 2 posts have done well for your mind, friend. If there's anything we can help you with regarding the things we presented here, don't hesitate to ask.