If you asked most coaches and trainers in the diet / fitness space how to lose body fat, 99% of them would give you the same answer:
- Eat less, exercise more
- Calories in vs calories out
We’ve heard this repeated so much we now take it as gospel, but the cold hard truth is, this is a big f*cking lie.
No one can keep the weight off for good with this method. In fact, 90% of all dieters who try this approach gain the weight back and more within 1 year.
90% FAILURE RATE!
And if you’re anything like me and the dozens of clients I’ve worked with, you’ve had a similar experience regaining the weight a few months after losing it, without a flaming clue as to WHY.
Not only is this frustrating, but it sends us into a death spiral of shame and self doubt, questioning why we seem to be the only ones who can’t make it work. We think we just need to low-carb harder, restrict more, and run an extra 2 miles to make up for that chocolate cake we ate yesterday…
This is what I call diet-Hell.
So how do you get out?
We first have to understand why Calories In / Calories Out (CI/CO) is a big lie and start to change your beliefs about food and what it takes to lose weight.
Here’s what really happens to your body when you try to eat less and exercise more…
You reduce your base metabolic rate, i.e. you burn fewer calories.
Your body is an efficient, intelligent machine. When you put fewer calories in, your body will adjust to burning fewer calories in order to be efficient. Short term, you may shed some weight, but can you actually stick to that 1200 calorie diet for the rest of your life, without hating your life?! Probably not.
Here’s an example conversation:
You: Ok, body, it’s time to lose weight, so today you only get 1200 calories instead of 2200.
Your Body: F*ck me – there must be famine! Don’t worry, I will reduce output and hold onto every last ounce of body fat to keep you alive!
Now, your body may not have a potty mouth like mine, but basically that’s what she’s saying.
Your body’s hunger hormone is triggered, so you are hungrier and less satisfied.
When you focus on calories alone and simply cutting 30-50%, it sends your body into starvation mode (see conversation above), triggering your hunger hormone, ghrelin.
Because you’re hungrier, you’re in constant need of more and more willpower trying to avoid high energy (i.e. calorie) foods.
But ghrelin isn’t the only hormone at play… increased cortisol levels stimulate sugar to be released into your bloodstream, increasing insulin and ultimately thwarting your efforts to lose body fat.
The whole premise of ‘calories in / calories out’ assumes that our body is a single system; however, we have multiple systems running internally that play with one another. We are NOT Bunsen burners, nor are we mice or rats or chimps. So while looking at animals may seem logical – it’s not. We have very different systems physically, not to mention our emotions and cognitive thinking, like shame, guilt, emotional eating, etc.
As if the food part wasn’t bad enough, now we’re told to exercise more to create an even greater calorie deficit… triggering that hunger hormone yet again. Maintaining a 30-50% calorie deficit is simply unsustainable, but so is relying on exercise to get you the body you crave.
In one study of middle-aged women, exercising 1 hour / day for 10 YEARS resulted in losing ZERO POUNDS.
BECAUSE CALORIES AREN’T THE PROBLEM!
Now let’s say you lose even 1 hour of sleep the night before and you are 30% more hungry and 20% less satisfied ON TOP of increased hunger from eating less / exercising more, not to mention stress, forgetting to drink enough water, and an increased obsession with those Reece’s cups you swore off last night.
THIS is why you can’t maintain your weight loss efforts – it has NOTHING to do with willpower.
So what the bloody hell are you supposed to do now?!
Here’s the “secret” – your body can’t burn food and body fat at the same time.
It’s burning one or the other, and your body will not even begin to burn body fat until you are in a fasted state for 12 hours.
If you want to burn body fat, you need to give your body the opportunity, which means it can’t also be burning food.
Calories don’t make you fat.
So stop restricting, depriving, and trying to eat rabbit food all day long, just to inhale an entire pizza when you get home.
It’s NOT about the calories, babe.