As of this weekend, I’ve worked with, or consulted for, 147 individuals regarding “having trouble losing weight”.
Caloric imbalance (eating too much and not working out and burning enough calories) was the reason for 1 (yes just ONE) of those 147 people.
Of the remaining 146: they worked out (some of them worked really hard and competed regularly in athletic events), ate “healthy” and led a generally “good” lifestyle, but still couldn’t shift the weight.
I personally went through this journey. I lost a lot of weight when I first took part in triathlon 6 years ago, but then got “stuck” at a level, which was still overweight, and no amount of training and dieting could change that (including training for and competing in 2 Ironman triathlons). It was virtually impossible for me to have a calorie excess given the amount of training I was doing.
I finally cracked it 2 years ago and lost the remaining weight with far less training and ZERO dieting. HOW?
The 3 most important things you need to understand
Your body is a chemical factory
What people don’t realize is that their bodies are chemical factories: every single thing that enters your body triggers a certain chemical reaction, and that chemical reaction will ultimately shift your body’s balance towards “storing fat” or “letting go of stored fat”.
“Things” enter your body through 3 main doors
Everything that enters your body and triggers a chemical reaction comes through one of 3 doors: (i) your digestive system, (ii) your skin, (iii) your lungs
Most people completely forget about their skin, not realizing that the skin is like a sponge and absorbs everything that comes in contact with it, and channels it straight into your blood.
Your body is like a thermostat
Your body is designed to maintain a state of “homeostasis” or “balance”. When your body is in balance, it doesn’t need to store fat, you won’t feel any “hot flashes”, you won’t have an “upset stomach”, your immune system is “strong”, etc.
Some things which enters through one of the 3 doors and cause a chemical reaction that throws your body out of balance (out of homeostasis) will cause a cascade of consequences, including weight gain, discomfort, pain, and ultimately disease.
Ok, so how do I put this in practice?
I’ll keep it simple. When it comes to weight loss/gain, the chemical reactions you need to worry about the most are related to 2 hormones: Cortisol and Insulin.
To put it in simply, anything that causes your body to go out of balance continuously by causing Cortisol or Insulin (or both) to remain “chronically” elevated will ultimately result in weight gain (and stop you from losing it despite diet and workout).
The idea is: Cortisol is good, Insulin is good. Too much Cortisol is bad, and too much Insulin is also bad.
Exercise causes Cortisol to rise, but temporarily. Exercise combined with a stressful day at work means your cortisol is now continuously elevated. Too much repetitive exercise without sufficient rest and recovery does the same thing…
The things that cause Cortisol and Insulin to remain chronically elevated and what to do about it
- Food reason #1: Foods that cause inflammation for everyone (especially processed foods, pesticides, sugars, gluten, commercial dairy, eggs & meat, soy)
- Food reason #2: Inflammation caused by food intolerances in some people (especially corn, grains, dairy)
- Food reason #2: Not enough food (dieting) in combination with hard exercise (constantly pushing your body into “starvation” mode by being in a calorie deficit day in day out).
- Lifestyle reason #1: Insufficient “quality” sleep (min of 7hrs of “quality” sleep – use a monitor, if unsure about the quality of your sleep)
- Lifestyle reason #2: Lack of sufficient recovery between bouts of hard or long exercise (very common among Crossfit and endurance athletes, which is why many appear “bloated” or “skinny-fat”)
- Lifestyle reason #3: Environmental factors (including air pollutants, hormonal disruptors in skin products & make-up, etc.)
- Lifestyle reason #4: Mental & emotional stress (avoid stress or use stress-reduction techniques, including deep breathing, yoga, meditation)
Going into each one of these causes in this post will bore you to death (but contact me if you want to know more). I previously wrote 3 long posts on the best ways to approach exercise and nutrition for weight loss. You can find them here:
Part 1: Top 3 Weight-Loss Mistakes (and my top 3 tips to achieve results)
Part 2: My Top Tips for Achieving Weight Loss (Part 2/3)
Part 3: My top TRAINING tips for achieving weight loss (Part 3/3)
Note: I put gluten under Food Reason #1: that’s because research has consistently shown that no human being can digest gluten. Some people experience digestive discomfort while others don’t, but the inflammation caused by gluten affects every single human being on this planet. The science on this is clear and I will post more evidence about this later this week.
High Performance Coach
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By the way, I've put together a carefully crafted marathon training plan for the "busy executive, parent, entrepreneur". It's balanced, has far less "hours of training" vs common plans, and is designed to take absolutely anyone from 0 to marathon without uprooting your life in the process. You can read more about it here.