“I don’t get it, I am a 270 pound female, I eat 1800 calories a day and I workout 6 days a week. I can’t lose weight!!”
I’m using an extreme example to prove the point, but this happens for a lot of people. The answer is something they aren’t considering, because they are so focused on their excess fat that they don’t consider how the body wants to work.
What causes stress? What doesn’t cause stress is probably a better question. Two stressors most people don’t think about are diet and exercise. By diet, I mean not eating an adequate amount of food for what you do. (In the example above, she should be eating 2,895 calories a day to support her metabolism.) So let’s stop here. Does this person over eat and have some bad habits? Very possibly, and so working on behaviors can be important. The more likely scenario, though, is that she dieted her way to her current situation. Diets have a 93-97% failure rate, and I would argue that those numbers might be wrong. In my book, the success of a diet comes down to being sustainable. Were those folks able to keep that weight off? That answer, as most people know, is a resounding “no”. (there is more article below the offer)
Cortisol is secreted for a lot of reasons, but for the purpose of this article I want to focus on two things: the protection of carbohydrate reserves and under eating.
In a lot of cases, your solution is actually the problem
There are people advising you to get your cortisol levels tested while suggesting a diet consisting of almost exclusively meats and veggies. THOSE FOLKS ARE THE PROBLEM! I am not going to insult your intelligence and explain why eating a lot of meats and veggies is generally a good thing, but when you leave moderate carbohydrate consumption out of the mix, you are working against the way your body would like to work. Which brings me to intuitive eating. People will often say they need to “clean up their diet”. Some people think, “Yup, I need to stop hitting the McDonald’s drive thru 5 days a week” while others think, “I eat too much fruit”. See the difference? In the wrong hands what is seemingly a good message gets lost in nuance.
It’s this idea that you can not consume starches and even a moderate amount of sugar on occasion that is hurting a lot of people.
Minimum effective dose
“Okay hot shot, then how do I lose weight?”
It’s actually simple, you have to do the opposite of what you are doing now, and the process will be far from linear. First, we are going to assume that you haven’t done a great job rebuilding the tissue you are tearing down in the gym. The amount of muscle you carry correlates positively to a healthy functioning metabolism. The good news is when you stop eating like a rabbit trying to “hate yourself lean”, something interesting happens. Your accumulated stress goes down, you sleep better, you want to have more sex, and in general, you become a human being again (that’s not nothing, folks). Most people assume that someone with more fat to use must be overeating. I would argue that’s too simplistic. Let me break down how it worked for me and let’s see if you can identify the pattern. Let’s call this the flawed “less food solution”:
175 pounds (I wonder what it would be like to have abs. I must eat less and avoid energy dense foods.)
160 pounds (I guess I kind of have abs but man, that sucked. It sure would be nice to eat normally.)
185 pounds (Wow, eating normally caused me to gain 25 pounds, that sucks, really need to clean things up.)
Let’s stop here, eating normally means occasionally having foods you enjoy in moderation. But when you stress your system out by under eating, first off you make your body cellularly inflexible. In addition, when you do eat, your body will store more nutrients for when food is less abundant later. The good news is you will be doing another one of these cycles in 6 months so you will be able to test that reality.
170 pounds (I tried to get back to 160, but without chopping an arm off it just wasn’t going to happen. Man am I hangry, pass the chicken wings.)
195 pounds (Guilt and shame, wow I am one weak individual. I probably need to exercise, I bet that’s it. Bring on the cardio.)
175 pounds (Wow, that took a lot longer than I thought it would this time given all that running. Friends are asking me if I am sick. Maybe they are right, maybe I just wasn’t meant to be healthy.)
Without some level of resistance training and no prolonged period of adaptation your body fat percentage rises. Even without lifting weights, your body will add muscle to your frame to account for the additional weight. But if you never give it a chance to adapt, you become under-muscled.
205 pounds (Whoa, I am over 200 pounds! This has gotten really awful. Why is my willpower so bad?)
175 pounds (Nope, willpower wasn’t the problem. I got back to 175 pounds. I can’t imagine living like this with so little food and doing so much, I think I would rather be heavy. Why can’t I land in the middle ground?)
The periods between the highs and the lows got shorter and shorter. Basically, I was causing more and more stress each time. And not surprisingly, I overate as a stress response and never really landed in “the sweet spot” of being under 200 consistently. I couldn’t have cared less about abs at this point, I just wanted to take a decent picture and not have a fear of dying during sex.
I landed at 230 pounds before the only obvious solution I had never tried became obvious. I now weigh 170 pounds, I eat pizza every single Friday night. I don’t avoid foods but I mostly eat meats and veggies. I am active, not as a price I need to pay to eat food, but because it makes me feel more alive to be the most capable human being I can be. Eating to Perform does that for you. I don’t know what your situation is or how you will need to peel back the onion. But I do know that being alone with no information isn’t helping. The people giving you lists of good/bad foods and 7 youtube videos to change your daily habits? Yeah, those folks are the problem. I’m not going to say it won’t take a little work and self discovery. And just in case you are wondering, yes, you will probably gain a couple pounds and yes, you will feel bloated occasionally. The body likes abundance. That’s how it deals with stress. The key is to stay as stress-free as possible while addressing energy input levels (i.e., how much you eat).
After we stabilize you and you have a better understanding of how your body works, then we can talk about pursuing weight loss again. Until then, enjoy the sleep, enjoy the sex and enjoy those foods you thought were the problem. Believe it or not, they are part of the solution.
For the best article on Cortisol you will ever read, even though it’s a bit geeky (other than this one) click here.
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