Why the diets you're currently on don't work.
If you google the words “weight loss diet” you get over 56 million results.
If you put every different type of diet together into one you will literally cut out every single food group and food item imaginable. Yes, even kale…the new super diet food of the future will get cut out (its actually ‘goitrogenic’ meaning it may negatively effect your thyroid function…if you have a thyroid disorder.) That being said, with all the effort you put in on these diets and workout programs why aren’t you seeing the results you want? If you’ve been training your butt off and following a strict diet and the results still aren’t coming, read below for some insight on what may be the real culprit.
Why Diets don’t work:
Think back to every diet you have ever started. You read something or someone passes along some information and you get super excited to start and go gung ho into your new meal plan. 12 weeks and I’m going to be bikini ready! Then…day 3 comes and you’re hungry. Its okay, you’ve got willpower, you can be hungry. Then day 6 comes and well guess what, your significant other orders pizza and you lose your mind. The internal battle of why you’re even dieting starts. “I’m only doing this to lose 10 pounds.” “What’s ONE slice of pizza going to do?” “I deserve this, I’ve been working so hard for 6 days.” Guess what happens, you have the slice, the slice turns into half the pizza and then you’re out drinking beers and demanding frozen yogurt on the way home. Well guess what your body just did… It said “WAHOO!” “We get calories!” Since you’ve been depriving your body while its been telling you its hungry for the past 6 days, it decides you should store all of those binge calories just in case you go back on this crazy diet for another week. You wake up the next day feeling guilty and you go back on the damn diet, your body says bunker down its time for survival mode again. You make it another 6 days and the cycle happens again. If your goal is weight loss, your body will never let go of any extra pounds in the long run under these extreme conditions. This is what I like to call the diet/binge cycle…and I will tell you that its not healthy for your body, mind and probably any type of relationship you’re in because honestly, people who are “dieting” get crazy.
Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning.
Now lets say you start your diet and you’re following it perfectly. Maybe you’re eating between 1200-1500 calories a day, you’ve cut your carbs and you’ve got insane focus. You’ve got your workouts dialed in and training 6 days per week and still…nothing is happening.
Here is why…
Overtraining: “Go hard or go home.” “No pain no gain.” “Team no rest days.” These are absolutely ridiculous statements that do not take into consideration the physiology of the body or how the body can be trained for performance and weight loss. The harder you train does not directly correlate to your results. The smarter you train does.
Every time you exercise your body stimulates a small amount of cortisol (yes, the stress hormone, your body views exercise as stress.) When you finish a workout your job is to stop the production of cortisol by recovering. Recovering is fueling with proper foods, getting optimal sleep and taking an adequate amount of time between workouts. Everybody recovers differently; some people need a day and some people need three. Now you decide since you’re going hard or going home, (I went home hours ago by the way) you’re going back for session two for the day and your cortisol levels haven’t dropped from the first workout; now you’re building cortisol on top of more cortisol. You’re doing this day in and day out and your body under all this stress has elevated cortisol levels every single day. Cortisol causes inflammation, which breaks down muscle tissue, tells the body to hold on to body fat and long-term effects may cause adrenal fatigue and possibly thyroid issues. All the over exercising you’re doing now is counterproductive. Have you listened to your body at this point? Of course not! You’re not a quitter, you just need to clean up your diet. Keep the two a days and the fact that your body seems to be holding water like a boss and now lets just cut calories and carbs. Great idea. Absolutely NOT.
One of the only ways for your body to recover is to give it proper fuel through protein, fats and carbohydrates. Well good job, during your new extreme diet you just eliminated these and now you’re really not going to get those cortisol levels down. The problem now lies with the fact that constantly elevated cortisol levels may lead to adrenal insufficiency or adrenal fatigue.
What does adrenal fatigue mean? It means your adrenal glands, which release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol work overtime pumping out these stress hormones. Over an extended period of chronic stress you become exhausted but are unable to get restful sleep at night, hold onto unwanted weight no matter how hard you try to get rid of it and everyday stressors seem to suck the energy out of you. Eventually under constant adrenal fatigue you may negatively affect the performance of your thyroid. The thyroid controls your metabolism to state it simply. If you negatively affect its performance through over exercising and under eating you will end up being caught in a vicious cycle that you may need to start seeing a physician to reverse.
What do you do instead?
-Focus on what’s sustainable- Creating goals that are long term rather than short term is a great way to start. Rather than focus on a 12-week bikini body or 8 weeks to being shredded, focus on a lifestyle change. What can you stick to for a year? How about 18 months? I promise you, if you can find a healthy eating plan that you can incorporate into your current lifestyle and a training program that doesn’t leave you exhausted at the end of the week you’ll have much better results and be happier in the long run.
Focus on what’s good for you- When you focus on what to eliminate in your diet you’re focusing on the negatives. Create a nutrition plan for yourself that focuses on what you want more of. Set goals of eating more vegetables in every meal, getting complex carbohydrates pre and post workout and drinking more water. If you focus on what you can have in abundance you’re more likely to stick to the plan.
Eat for performance not for weight loss- When weight loss is your goal and on the forefront of your mind you tend to think of cutting calories, cutting certain macros out and deprivation, which is the opposite of what your body needs. Focusing on nutrition to perform better in your workouts, have more focus in your day and fuel your recovery will heal your body rather than send it into a stressed out state.
Set realistic goals- Having big goals is a good thing, but unrealistic goals or goals without a timeline or steps to get there are not. Set a goal that seems somewhat out of reach to challenge yourself but don’t make it outlandish. Saying I will lose 30 pounds in a month is possible if you have a lot of weight to lose but unfortunately the body stresses out when you lose weight this fast. Since we are educated about cortisol and adrenal fatigue we know that this fast weight loss is not sustainable. The body will begin to fight us, and the possibility of gaining all that weight back and then some is highly probable.
Commit to a lifestyle not a short term goal: Aesthetic goals or vanity goals as I like to call them are more prevalent than anything nowadays. I hear it all the time, “my goal is to have six pack abs.” “I just want to lose that last 5-10 pounds.” Vanity goals don’t create that deep desire to stick to too much of any plan once life gets in the way. Focusing on aesthetics can lead to different issues such as low self-esteem and self worth and possibly disordered eating. We owe it to ourselves to set goals that drive us to be better people. Maybe you want to lose weight to have more energy so you can spend quality time with your family, the energy to finally start your own business on the side of the work you do now or maybe you have a chronic health condition that can be alleviated through exercise and healthy eating. Maybe you have a goal to become an athlete and want to prove to yourself that you can finish a 5k race or do a triathlon. There are so many goals other than just weight loss. If you’re going to make all of this a lifestyle you need a lifestyle goal that excites you or you’ll never be happy with the results of your efforts.
What can you stick to for a year?
Like I said earlier, what is something you can stick with for a year? Or even want to stick with for the rest of your life? Giving yourself a mission and changing your lifestyle rather than depriving yourself for an aesthetic goal for 8 weeks will create a much more sound mind and body. You will heal your body from the inside out and you’ll be able to focus more on what’s truly important in life, whether its your family, relationships, business, religion or whatever else makes you happy. Free up your brain space of the obsession losing those 5-10 pounds and focus on what truly matters to you. I promise you if you stick to a healthy eating plan and sustainable exercise program you will lose the weight, you just wont torture yourself (and possibly those around you) in the long run.