Did you know that our bodies actually try to stop us from losing weight? I know. It’s annoying. But our bodies launch a three-sided attack against shedding the pounds – and that’s okay. Once we know these three things, we can use them to our advantage. As it turns out, education is the secret key to losing weight!
If you want to read this… welp, you know the drill, keep reading!!
If you’d rather watch/listen to this blog:
1. Diet mode = survival mode.
When you start a diet, your body goes into survival mode. This has been happening since the beginning of time, back when life was classified into two seasons – feast or famine. Our bodies used to go long periods of time without eating out of necessity. They didn’t know when the next meal was coming.
Because of that, they developed a really cool biological process to keep us alive. Super cool for our ancestors, because they were able to survive – but super bummer for us, because we now have UberEats and McDonald’s and Chipotle and grocery stores in abundance, so the starvation threat is effectively gone, even though our bodies don’t realize that.
So, riiiight when you start to diet, your body will register a low calorie intake and think, “Oh, okay. She’s feeding me less. I will conserve energy.” This is where we all wish we could sit down and say, “No! Please keep giving me all the energy. My to-do list hasn’t changed. I’m not hibernating. I still have to wake up at the same time, get dressed, brush my teeth, make meals, work, and exercise.”
Essentially, your body is trying to run like a hybrid car, it goes long distances with little fuel, and you want it to run like a diesel truck, i.e. burn through fuel quickly (aka your body fat) to get anywhere… How can we fix this? Simple – by getting strategic about calories.
If I went from eating 2200 calories a day to 1200 calories a day, my body would absolutely freak out. The starvation response would be triggered – and now we know why! Those drastic drops actually signal our bodies to store fat rather than burn it. I’d drop some pounds initially, but then the preservation instinct would kick in, and boom – that’s the end of my diet, or at least the end of me losing weight … and my willpower when my hunger ramped up!
A better plan: moderately drop calories as you slightly increase cardio. If you’re eating 2200 calories a day, drop to 1900. When you acclimate to that, move to 1600, so on and so forth. These smaller drops give you somewhere to go after you hit that weight loss plateau! If you start at a 1200 calorie diet and your body realizes it, you are effectively stuck. You have no more calories to cut! This is why a health coach is beneficial – we construct a program all knowing what your body’s response is going to be and leave room for the anticipated adjustments.
2. Hormone signals gone wrong.
If your body can’t stop your diet through metabolic processes, it taps your hormones on the shoulder and says, “your turn.” We all have two hormones that play a major role in hunger — leptin and ghrelin. Leptin tells you when you’re full. It pops up and says, “hey guys, I’m all good! You can stop eating now.” Ghrelin, on the other hand, tells you when you’re hungry. This is the hormone that cues a stomach growl or that all too familiar, hangry.
When you start to diet, your body adjusts both of these hormonal levels. Ghrelin production increases, so you’re feeling hungry more often. Leptin levels decrease (so you’re not being told that you’re full), so that you’ll eat more at each meal. Remember: your body is already slowing your metabolism to keep you from losing weight, and now it’s sending signals to you to trick you into feeding it like you were before this diet started. Whaaaaat?!?
How do we outsmart this? You guessed it – strategic caloric drops. Working with a coach will help you ensure you’re actually getting the nutrition you need through a ratio of proteins, fats, and carbs that work for your individual needs. That way, when ghrelin says, “I need more food!”, you’ll know that you’re actually in a healthy caloric deficit. Just because your hormones say you’re hungry doesn’t mean you need to eat. But again, working with a professional will keep you on a healthy path as you shed some pounds and build some muscle without that hunger getting out of control like on your last juice cleanse! 😉
3. Pack it back!
If you’ve successfully evaded the preservation response and the hormone saga, congratulations! You’ve probably lost weight. But if you thought your body was done, think again. Your body will catch up to your current caloric intake and energy exertion (aka how much or how little you’re eating, and your exercise) and it will try to bounce back better than ever. Well, better than ever for your fat cells – certainly not better than ever for you.
Your body has the best of intentions, but it can get seriously misguided. After getting results from a diet your body will try to “help you” put on any weight that you lost. It wants to revert things right back to where you started (remember, this is a survival instinct). Your body remembers everything it’s been through before, it is ALWAYS paying attention – and yes, that includes past diets. I know this isn’t fun to hear, but that means that if you have a significant dieting history, your body will fight just a little bit harder not to lose weight in the present day.
Does this mean you should try an all-new crash diet? Absolutely not! I’ll say it again: the most important thing in losing weight is education. When you understand your biological processes, you can learn how to effectively overcome them. This will take time, patience, and strategy, but it can absolutely be done – and it’ll make you much less miserable than a crash diet, a super low calorie intake, or an extreme cleanse… and actually get you results…
In this final stage (end of your diet), it’s super important to create an eating plan that breaks the cycle, so to speak. You may be familiar with carbohydrate cycling or refeed days – just don’t call them cheat days, because cheating inherently implies you’re doing something wrong. You should eat more some days, even on a diet! This balances out your hormone levels, calms your preservation response, and helps your body stop fighting to pack in more fat cells. By “breaking up” your diet, you can actually extend how long a diet is going to be effective, which means better results in the long run! It won’t be flashy, and it won’t offer overnight results, but you’ll find yourself living a more sustainable, healthy lifestyle.
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