I see it all the time. A person gets into that super motivated place where they are ready to climb mountains to lose weight. So what do they do? They try to climb a mountain…literally. The gym is filled with the hopeful, sweating and pumping and stretching up to seven days a week, with the idea that the more they sweat and pump and stretch, the more weight they will lose. What usually happens to these ambitious fitness enthusiasts? Most of the time they build muscle, their hearts get healthy…yet those size six jeans only fit in the blissful dreams they have after collapsing at night from all that exertion.
Yes, exercise will be the magic pill for some, but it isn’t the complete answer for all. Confused? Don’t worry, I’ll explain. Your body is the super coolest machine you will ever encounter and it is programmed to keep things in balance. Keep in mind that we were constructed for a time in history when food was hard to come by and famine was a real concern. What does your super smart body do after an afternoon of vigorous ping pong? It starts growling for food like the plant Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors.
The answer then is to eat less, right? Well, not exactly. Remember what I said about your body being smart and wanting to create balance? Have you ever been able to stick long term to a calorie deprivation diet? Your body’s job is to stay fueled with a full tank of gas. Deny yourself now and your body is going to pester you for food even louder later. Don’t feed it and it will start working more efficiently. Efficient is good right? Well, this means it will expend less energy now so you can build up your fat reserves for later. Starve yourself and gain fat??? Yay for efficiency! (Heavy sigh).
So is the answer to give up exercise for a sloth like existence? Hell no! The answer is to exercise in moderation, give yourself enough rest to repair and learn to eat SMARTER. This will help your body work more efficiently in a way that encourages fat loss. How does this work? Well, the answer is a little different for everyone since we all have unique bodies. Nonetheless, this probably means:
1) Eating more good quality, lean protein. This helps build muscle as well as remove toxins created by exercise that can be getting in the way of weight loss.
2) Eating whole grains like quinoa, brown rice or barley which slowly release fuel into our bodies making us fuller for longer.
3) Eating healthy fats found in foods like fish and flax seeds to fight the inflammation in the body that encourages fat storage.
4) Using food to heal your body and create balance despite fat loss.
5) Removing man made food products like high fructose corn syrup and hydrolyzed soy protein that get in the way of repair.
So keep training for that marathon. Because weight loss is like a marathon. Sweating off quick pounds rarely leads to long term sexiness. What does work is treating your body like the high-end machine that it is and learning to use exercise as just one tool to create long term fat reduction.