Weight loss has always been a numbers game, the number on the scale going up or down, calories in vs calories out, your BMI, your body fat percentage – all numbers. Even the term weight loss directly implies changing the number on the scale from a higher one to a lower one. We need to change the paradigm – we need to stop talking about weight loss and come up with another way of thinking about changing our body composition to one that is more supportive of health and well being. It is not impossible to be healthy carrying some extra fat on your body but achieving optimal health is more achievable with a lean body. A lean body is one that has sufficient fat to support life and health but not more than is necessary.
We need to stop thinking about our bodies like cars – fuel in and fuel out in more or less direct proportion or like a bank account where we deposit calories and then spend them. This creates the kind of thinking where you can eat 300 calories of Doritos as long as you spend an hour on the treadmill or stair-master. It does not support the kind of thinking that will have you eating to provide the raw materials your body needs in sufficient quantities to build and maintain itself and that exercise is more about keeping your body functional and your mood balanced.
The amount of fat your body retains is more about hormonal balance or imbalance than anything else. Of course if you eat substantially more calories than you use you will increase your fat stores but these days it is far more common to see people living on 1200 calories a day finding it impossible to reduce their fat stores. A range of hormones are key players in your fat metabolism, hormones like leptin, ghrelin, the sex hormones (estrogen & testosterone), the stress hormone cortisol, thyroid hormones and probably most importantly, insulin, a hormone, produced by the pancreas, which is regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Of course you can also reduce your fat if you follow a restricted calorie diet or count points like on Weight Watchers but who wants to live like that and anyway, it’s not sustainable because your body perceives a lack of nutrients or restriction in calories as the potential for starvation which causes a whole hormonal cascade designed to retain what fat you have to prevent possible starvation if calories or nutrients become even more scarce. Leptin goes down, cortisol and ghrelin (and your appetite) go up. High cortisol will disrupt your sleep cycle and lack of sleep increases cortisol and creates carb/sugar cravings. A whole cascade of other hormonal adjustments are triggered which will completely derail your best efforts at self-control, discipline and restriction leading to a cycle of guilt, self-recrimination and even more stress … and so begins the vicious cycle!
Besides the very complex hormonal balance, other factors that can prevent or accelerate release of fat from body stores are:
- Food sensitivities (cause inflammation and malabsorption)
- Eating the right foods for your own biochemical nature
- Toxic Load
If you’ve been trying to lost weight for any length of time you’ve probably also tried low carb at some point, as did I, and likely discovered that you could eat more calories and still lose weight … for a time. As some point low carb dieters stall out and might even start regaining the weight they have lost. Some don’t. This is because we are biochemically not all the same and some of us to in fact need more carbohydrates to have a well functioning metabolism and hormonal balance. Also, removing carbohydrates from your diet does not necessarily mean you replace it with nutrient dense foods. Most people default to the low carb bars, shakes and candies to replace the high carbohydrate version they enjoyed before. All are lacking in the basic nutrients that will nourish your body long term and an undernourished body will retain it’s fat stores.
There are some simple (well, relatively speaking) changes you can make that will start you down the path of reducing your fat stores – slowly. You need to send your body the message that the environment it lives in is a safe one that does not require the retention of fat stores for survival and depending on how ‘scared’ your body is, this can take time. You need to reassure your body that rich, nutrient dense food is in plentiful supply (no dieting, no calorie counting) and that the stressors (lack of sleep, stress, anxiety) and toxins (food sensitivities, chemicals) are substantially reduced. Your body locks toxins away in fat tissue to protect your vital organs from damage and will be reluctant to release the stored fat until you reduce your total toxic load (eating organic, using natural products, reducing chemicals in your home). Once you start doing this, then you need to learn to trust your body to take care of the rest.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be talking more about all the items listed above in more detail because understanding each one is really key to achieving optimal health and well being and by extension reducing your fat stores. Tomorrow I’ll talk about my #1 Weight Loss Tip! I don’t like calling it a weight loss tip because I started out by saying that everything about ‘weight loss’ is wrong but that is unfortunately how you play the ‘Google’ game and still the kind of headline that will catch most people’s attention. Check back tomorrow to see what that is.Share