For people who are struggling with those last few pounds to lose or any other self-discipline goal out there for that matter, the first step is to realize and acknowledge that our bodies are wired against us. This is not meant to discourage you, but rather empower you.
– Research has shown essentially that knowledge is power. Once you know something and accept it, rather than being stressed or frustrated by it, you can then be powerful over it.
– If you remain in that state of frustration or “powerlessness,” then your genetic wiring has won the battle. Don’t let it win!
How do we do this? Well, unfortunately when our wiring is one way and we can’t change it, and our environment exposes us constantly to the wrong temptations, our only solution is willpower.
#1— Our bodies are wired to get and maintain body fat
– When you over eat, or eat something that is sweet or high in carbohydrates, insulin spikes. Insulin does three important things:
1. Shuttles extra calories quickly into fat stores
2. Shuts off all fat burning for energy
3. Lowers blood sugar
#2— If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you WILL lose weight
– It’s a fact – no matter how difficult this weight loss struggle seems, the fact is
that if I put you in a hospital bed and didn’t let you get up for a month to even do one second of physical activity, but I fed you a calorie-restricted diet, you would
– No matter how hard your body tries to hang onto body fat, it’s ALWAYS a calorie equation.
– YES – when you restrict calories, your body slows down its metabolism to preserve body fat stores for some future starvation movement. BUT, it will never slow down its metabolism to zero. It’s impossible. You MUST burn calories to live and think. Your brain alone burns about 30% of your calories. (Ever wonder why you snacked more when you were studying really hard in school?)
#3 — If you never get into a fasted or calorie-restricted state you will never lose weight. Put another way: if your body has any calories around to process or you have stores of glycogen (storage form of carbohydrate) left in your liver or muscles, it’s going to burn all that first before attacking fat.
– In other words, you can’t lose weight without going a little bit hungry!
– I think this poses one of the greatest challenges for people because being hungry is not comfortable. Accepting this as part of the deal is important. And, I think this is one of the ways exercise helps those who are successful at losing weight because during exercise, hunger is suppressed.
#4 — It doesn’t matter HOW you restrict calories, as long as you do. There are hundreds of different diet plans out there: South Beach, Whole 30, Weight Watchers, Ketogenic, Intermittent Fasting, etc. They ALL work. Just pick the one that works best for you or make your own healthy eating plan that makes you happy.
– The bottom line is:
A. You must figure out a way to do this that you like well enough to stick with it
B. You must get into a fasting or calorie-deficit state in order to burn away fat for
energy. And if you do this, you WILL lose weight.
C. I recommend if you want to be scientific and objective about this, then you seriously need to consider counting calories in some way. Use Weight Watchers points, a book of food values with a food journal, or an app for your smartphone (there are LOTS to choose from). But somehow, some way, you’re going to HAVE to quantify what you eat in order to reduce it in a logical fashion.
– Many people like to say that they don’t want to have to count calories.
And for those who are migrating from a really unhealthy diet to a really
healthy one, they will lose weight without counting calories. But if you’re
already eating healthy and you can’t budge that scale, you’re probably
going to need a more scientific approach.
– Think of it this way: imagine you are building or remodeling a house and the contractor you hired has no plans, no budget, and is just going to jump in there and start building and see what happens. How comfortable with that would you be? I’m sure you would be very uncomfortable and worried about cost overruns, etc. But guess what? This is how most of us approach eating! We just jump in and go for it with no plan whatsoever. Trying to lose weight without quantifying and PLANNING your food is like building a house without plans.
You need to have a plan! And those who do are the most successful.
#5 — There are two ways to boost metabolism: eating and exercise
– Remember feeling uncomfortably warm after a meal that was too heavy – like Thanksgiving dinner? This is why. The problem is, if metabolism is boosted in this way it means you’re in a calorie excess state. And that is a prescription for weight gain, not loss. BUT, if you’re counting your calories and starting from a place of knowledge, then the smart dieter will restrict calories by just a few hundred per day so as to lose fat at a slow rate and not cause the body to really slow down metabolism.
– Of course, exercise is an excellent way to boost metabolism. But it also boosts hunger – not during, but after. So, unless you’re being very scientific about your calories, this can backfire on you.
#6 — Your body will fight you
If you can learn to calmly and gracefully accept the challenges your body poses, you are more likely to successfully be in control.
– Psychological research done on humans has shown that you’re actually more likely to be able to bypass a temptation if the fact that you are craving something doesn’t make you stressed. AND, if you slip up, the best thing you can do is show kindness and compassion for yourself for having done so.
– This may seem counter-intuitive, but studies have indeed shown that the more angry you are at yourself, the harder your internal dialogue is on yourself (ex/ “you idiot” or “you’re weak”) the more likely you are to mess up again.
– This is probably because whenever we give ourselves negative internal dialogue we simply perpetuate feelings of guilt and inadequacy, depression and so forth and the quick chemical remedy for that is EATING! Especially eating high glycemic foods which temporarily boost serotonin and make us feel better.
Research has shown that if you show yourself the same amount of understanding, love, and compassion that a good friend would show you if you accidentally screwed up, you’re less likely to continue screwing up.
– This is logical because the more kind and accepting you are toward yourself the less likely you are to feel guilty, feel depressed, and reach for food as a way to feel better.
– I do believe we often use food to self-medicate. Our brains are wired that way – to crave what we need. If our serotonin is low and the brain wants to feel happier, guess what? Eating carbs, sweets, or chocolate WORKS!
So be compassionate toward yourself if you’re not perfect and you screw up. You’ll be less likely to continue screwing up if you do this.
Willpower: the only thing we have to fight the temptations that abound and our own genetic wiring.
You WILL face willpower challenges. And once again, your body is wired against you.
Knowledge is power so here we go:
When you are confronted with some sort of good-tasting, yummy-smelling food – right away the dopamine center of the brain kicks in. Dopamine is our pleasure and satisfaction neurotransmitter. But, it also causes stress. So not only does dopamine compel you to want to eat that pleasurable food right in front of you, but it ALSO causes you to feel a bit stressed if you DON’T eat it right away.
– This is all about survival when food in the world was scarce. Now food is abundant and that is our biggest problem.
– So once again, the best thing to do in this situation is to be calm and compassionate with yourself. Don’t make a hasty decision and whatever you do, don’t start beating yourself up or creating more stress. Much like meditation, calmly acknowledge those thoughts and cravings, understand WHY they are there, remember WHY you have goals and what they are, and then make a thoughtful decision on whether to indulge or not.
– When you’re about to face a willpower challenge, vaccinate yourself beforehand by first taking time to remember WHY you are not eating chocolate or sweets or extra calories.
– Think of the long-term goal – think of what it will feel like when you reach it, what people will say, and what you will say to yourself.
– Visualize, hear, feel, smell, taste this in your mind and then think of this FIRST in the process of contemplating that next temptation and you’re more likely to make the right choice.