The Three Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight
As I have spoken about before in other blog posts, I am a firm believer that failed weight loss has little to do with willpower, laziness, weakness, discipline, or any other such nonsense. I fully believe that failed weight loss efforts are a combination of three things:
- Bad advice
- Physiological-driven Cravings
- Learned habits
If these three components can be skillfully approached, anyone can lose weight and keep it off all while feeling amazing. Anyone.
Let’s look at these three issues one at at time.
You’ve Been Set-Up To Fail: The Consequences of Bad Advice
I have outlined all the bad advice in a previous blog post here. So for this post, I’m just going to reiterate some key principles.
Many people have to eat every few hours to sustain their energy levels, mood and mental clarity. Even people who successfully lose weight, will inevitably gain it back within 2 years. This is because we are coming off the heels of approximately four decades of mediocre to downright bad nutrition advice. We were told for years to eat low-fat, high carb. We were told to eat every 2-4 hours to “keep blood sugar stable”, we were told to exercise until the cows came home. We were told that calories in-calories out was the magic formula.
How’d that all work out?
Terribly. Most people who followed this conventional strategy either failed entirely or if they did lose weight, they gained it all back plus more. Not only that, many effectively “broke” their metabolisms. This is what happens when the body slows energy expenditure as a consequence of hormone imbalance, so that no matter how much they exercise or use caloric restriction, the person cannot lose weight.
Most of the time, this terrible advice is doled out by well-intentioned clinicians and experts. These include individuals from the conventional “expertise” sector like Medical Doctors, obesity experts, Dietitians, Nutritionists and other well-meaning professionals.
Do I think these clinicians are dumb? Hell no. I am not saying that at all. I believe that these are smart, capable, educated, mostly credible experts who want you to get better, to lose weight and to make healthy changes. But unfortunately, conventional nutrition advice has been fortified, packaged and sold to academia by a confluence of influences. These range from flawed science, to the profit-driven monolith that is the industrial food complex. These topics are too complex to get into in one blog post, but for more information on them, please read Nina Tieicholz’s book The Big Fat Surprise, Gary Taubes book Good Calories, Bad Calories, or Jason Fung’s book The Obesity Code.
As we patiently wait for the conventional sector to play catch-up to the science, in the meantime we can empower ourselves. But how do we do this?
We start with changing our hormones and thus our, physiological desire for the very foods that exacerbate cravings. Namely, sugar, refined carbs, grains and other foods that spike glucose and insulin.
Change Your Hormones, Dramatically Reduce Cravings
It takes approximately 30-90 days to go through the process of correcting the hormones that keep you overweight. During this time period we make changes.
We want to:
- Eliminate Sugar, Refined Carbohydrates, Grains, Legumes, Beans and Potatoes.
- Increase Fats
- Eat tons of non-starchy vegetables
- Eat moderate-to-high (depends on the individual) amounts of protein.
- Lower blood glucose
- Dramatically decrease insulin production (your pancreas will thank you, as will your liver and your heart)
- Balance hunger and satiety hormones (leptin and ghrelin)
- Cause you to start burning fat
- Cause you to stop being hungry all the time. In fact, you will start to forget to eat.
Depending on how carb-dependent you are, you will go through a period of time during your transition when cravings may be intense. You also may go through a period of time that is colloquially known as “keto-flu”, which can be uncomfortable, but it is actually a positive sign that you are making a meaningful metabolic shift. Your body is transitioning from fat-storing (glucose dependence) to fat-burning.
This initial phase can be a little bumpy. You are essentially going through carbohydrate “detox”. The antidote to failure during this crucial time, is not willpower. Your antidote to failure is preparation. You prepare your life, your environment, your kitchen and you reframe your habits. Easier said than done, you say?
That’s where your expert support comes in. Hiring an expert to track your progress, provide support and monitor your blood labs and glucose readings is part of the preparation. If you need it. Some people can make meaningful lifestyle changes without a ton of support. Kudos to them! However, at some point, because this is a lifestyle–not a diet–getting moral support and sound advice is key to the process.
Change Your Habits, Change Your Life
Changing habits sounds like a daunting task. After all, we’ve spent a lifetime developing habits. We like familiar surroundings and predictable solutions. We like to pop into the grocery store and walk directly to the familiar parts of the store where we grab our favorite foods. This makes it quick, easy and mindless.
Quick, easy, and mindless is very beneficial in a busy life. You don’t want to have to think too hard about everyday tasks. You don’t want to have to think about your route home. You just drive home, listening to the radio or music and tuning out the world. Your brain likes this because it likes to conserve energy. Once a habit is established, it makes it easy to fall into the mundane. Life is simplified by our habits.
Therefore, when we change our habits we have to change our brains. This is the hardest part. It is not necessarily the habit we are afraid to lose, it is the unknown replacement of that habit. It is also the mental energy that is needed to learn something new.
The antidote to this is to understand this process and to plan your way through it. At the end of the process, you will have new habits and new ways of doing things. Your old ways will just be that. Your old ways.
It’s Like Starting A New Job
Remember what it’s like to start a new job? You may go through days or weeks of training. You meet new people and learn new systems. This process can feel like an eternity. You are physically and mentally tired at the end of each training day. You are sometimes excited by all the new people and what you have learned, but you are also a little frustrated and exhausted by the experience. You just want to know everything you need to know now!
But then what happens? A few weeks later, or perhaps a few months later, you are suddenly comfortable. You know where your workstation is, you know who your colleagues are and you know what your job duties entail. The day starts to go by faster and you are feeling more comfortable in your skin. You don’t miss your old job at all. In fact, you love your new job!
Your old eating habits are a result of old training and old habits. You were trained by family, friends and likely some medical professionals. You may have gotten some dietary advice from places like Weight Watchers or a meal replacement service. You learned to cook (or not cook) by example. You have done your best to follow top advice and to “eat healthy”. You may have made some progress and had some setbacks. You may live a busy, hectic life. You may have some extra time but just are not sure where to start. All of these factors have shaped your habits.
So what is next?
As I always say- gather data, assess your needs and formulate a plan for progress!
To talk about next steps or ask questions about this process, call the office and make an appointment for a 15-minute complimentary consultation. This is an excellent way to ask questions about your particular situation and see what kind of program would be a good fit. My office offers personalized nutrition, metabolic testing, meal plans with a personal chef and ongoing support to meet your goals.