Every year, right before the stroke of midnight to bring in January 1st and the new year, people close their eyes thinking about what the year that’s about to close has done for them and what the new year promises to bring. As humans, we always strive to tell ourselves that we can be better. In the world of aesthetics, a world that applies an insurmountable amount of social pressure to look a certain way, we are constantly bombarded with pictures of models with chiseled abs and firm glutes. Neither man nor woman can dodge the onslaught of repeatedly being reminded that their body isn’t good enough for the public. Though the message the media sends to you as to how you should look is truly unrealistic, getting healthy and losing your gut isn’t! Unfortunately, most of you who make these resolutions at the stroke of midnight will fail at it and go back to your unhealthy habits before the end of January. After all, we are all creature of habit: no matter good or bad we always resort to the behaviors we are accustom to and enjoy.
Food is not your Enemy
As a sports nutritionist with over a decade of experience helping people get in shape, there is one truth that has held itself evident repeatedly; food has seemed to become the enemy. What’s worse is the fact that though food has been portrayed as the enemy it’s also something we are deeply in love with. Food brings comfort and joy into our lives. Eating releases feel good hormones in the brain like dopamine and serotonin. It’s evolution’s way of rewarding you for surviving. Yet, never in the history of human evolution has food been so readily available. Our ancestors had to hunt and forage for food. Even when we began to master agriculture, we ate the means of our farms. These days, you can drive down the street and eat 1200 calories in one sitting at any fast food place. This is not what our bodies were evolved to handle. Yes, the abundance of food is a great thing, but it also comes with the issues of over-eating.
But over-eating itself has been turned into the enemy, and people now go to extremes of the spectrum to lose weight. Their logic stems that if ive been eating too much, maybe I should eat too little. This takes the body’s metabolism from one chaotic environment to another, that of starvation.
One of the things I see repeatedly with my clients is their absolute shock when I send them a diet for cutting that has more food in it then they are used to eating. They have this unrealistic idea that they should be eating 1000 calories a day to lose weight and I send them a 2500 calorie diet made of up of 6 meals a day and more food than they can initially stomach. Yet, they start losing the 1.5-2lbs a week that I have targeted for them when they weren’t losing an ounce eating 1000 calories a day. Why is that?
Evolution has one thing in mind for the human being, survival. Since we were once hunters and gatherers and food was scarce at times, our metabolisms have evolved to make sure that we can survive for days without food. When the body does not receive the nourishment it needs on a daily basis, the metabolism starts to slow down. If your bodies total daily energy expenditure is 2500 calories and you only eat 1000 calories a day, the metabolism will fight to adjust to that caloric intake to ensure survival. In doing so, it will also try and take every single unused calorie it has and store it so that it can survive what it thinks is times of scarce food. While doing so the body catabolizes muscle for energy, further reducing the need for energy. After all, it takes much more energy to sustain muscle than it does fat.
Bob has taken his time in 2016 and ruined his body. He is a 30 year old male, 5’7 and 230lbs. Bobs body fat is around 25%, on the verge of morbid obesity. At the stroke of midnight to bring in the new year, Bob makes the new year’s resolution to lose weight. He is motivated to the core to make it happen!
January 1st comes around, Bob goes to his local gym and signs up for a membership. He goes to the supermarket and buys a bunch of food that he thinks is healthy, cooks for himself, and preps his meals every single day. Within a week, Bob loses 10lbs! He pats himself on the back and continues his journey. The next week, Bob loses another 8lbs. The week after, 5lbs. The week after 3lbs. Eating well below his daily needs, Bob starts to get sluggish and his cravings for sweets start to get the best of him. But Bob pushes on and doesn’t give in! 6-8 weeks after he starts his journey, his weight loss comes to a screeching halt. Bob gets frustrated. He is eating plain, tasteless, and healthy meals every day. He is working his ass of in the gym lifting weights and doing 45 min cardio a day 7 days a week and with all his efforts he steps on the scale and sees it isn’t budging. Bob becomes irate and frustration gets the best of him. He starts giving into his cravings. He stops food prepping and you can catch him in line at the fast food joint down the block looking for a quick and delicious unhealthy meal. Bob goes back to his old routine of eating like crap. Within two weeks, Bob has gained all the weight he lost back. Within a month, he is heavier than he was when he started. This is called yo-yo dieting.
What happened? Why did Bob fail so miserably when things were going so well to begin with? Bob fell into the same trap as every other uneducated new year’s resolution dieter. He went to an extreme. You see, weight loss is like peeling the layers of an onion one at a time. If you just cut right down the middle of it, you have nothing to work with and nowhere to go after that. But since the body is adaptive, small and slow changes should be made as to not drive your metabolism into starvation mode.
So lets go over some key points of weight loss, so that you can be better prepared for your journey.
- Don’t drastically reduce your calories! Bob’s first mistake in this whole process was dropping his calories to some ridiculous level like 1000 cals a daily. Instead, there are calculators that will give you a rough estimate as to what your total daily energy expenditure should be. Find that and reduce your calories by no more than 20%. You should be counting all your calories every single day!
- Don’t go from not exercising to overly exercising! Bobs second mistake was the level of intensity that he initially started his training program at, start slow! Get in the gym and do some light weight lifting exercises. Find a plan and gradually grow that plan as your body makes the changes it needs to. With my clients, I never start them on cardio immediately. I let the diet and lifting take away as much weight as possible before putting them on light cardio routines like 20 minutes post workout 4 days a week with a heart rate of 130. That’s usually a fast walking pace on a light incline for most!
- Don’t look for fast weight loss! Bob was happy when he lost 10lbs in the first week. If any of my clients were to lose that much weight, or anything more than 2-5lbs the first week, alarms would be going off in my head and I would immediately increase calories. What you are looking for is an initial drop of weight that is 2-5lbs and then a steady 1.5-2lbs a week from there. Nothing more!
- Don’t eat plain, tasteless food! Bobs next mistake was his inability to have culinary creativity. Learn to use spices, pastes, and other healthy seasonings to make your food livelier!
- Cheat! Yes, that’s what I said, cheat! Reward yourself for your good behavior. Since you’re counting your calories daily, take a portion of those calories and save them for something you enjoy once or twice a week. The cheat shouldn’t be anything more than 25% of your daily caloric intake. If you’re eating 2500 calories a day, you can partition 625 calories towards something you like once or twice a week! Just keep track of your calories!
Keeping these things in mind, I believe that you should have a much easier time keeping your goals on track after the new year.
I hope this article helps you in the path of your journey.
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