If your health goal is weight loss, you’ve probably heard the advice: eat less and exercise more.
It’s such simple advice. So logical.
But it’s really a shame that it DOES NOT work.
Ok yes, maybe for the short term you might be able to catch your body off guard and see some optimistic-looking results. You can force yourself to eat less and force yourself to get to the gym more, and you will probably lose some weight.
But long term (and let’s be real – that’s the most important part of weight loss, having the weight stay off!!), your brain will not let this happen for you without a fight you likely won’t win.
The same way like forcing yourself to take long, slow breaths while you’re running upstairs won’t last. With effort and concentration, you can do it at first, but in time your brain takes over and demands what it needs.
Maybe on a smaller scale you’ve seen this too. Maybe you eat “really good” all week, don’t eat a lot of food, only eat real, whole foods – nothing processed, no sugar, but then on the weekend you go bananas and gorge on anything in sight.
Or maybe you do something like a Whole30 or Keto and eliminate grains or carbs from your life, but ultimately find yourself eating ALL the carbs. It’s like your body is regulating and balancing out, finally getting what it has been asking for.
Let’s talk about the “why” behind this myth.
Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. They help control practically every single process in your body. Leptin is the hormone that tells your brain two things:
- You are not hungry
- It’s time to get active
If your hormone levels are being disrupted, your leptin won’t register properly, and your brain believes you are starving. Things like elevated insulin levels block your hypothalamus from seeing the leptin in your blood.
It literally forces you to eat more food and slow down/conserve energy…or exercise less!
No one has enough self-discipline or willpower to overrule their brain, especially not long-term in a way that’s sustainable.
So you may be thinking: well what’s disrupting my hormone levels? LOTS of things do, like eating sugar or unbalanced meals (missing nutrient groups, like carbs), chronic stress, not enough sleep, drinking coffee, and the big ones: eating too few calories and over-exercising.
When we push our bodies at the gym and hold back on giving them the nutrients and fuel they need to keep us healthy, we can experience push-back signals from our bodies. These signals can include difficulty sleeping, low energy, and weight gain from slowed down metabolism.
We’ve been conditioned to think of exercise as a key ingredient, if not the most important ingredient, of any weight loss effort.
But really, evidence has been accumulating for years that exercise, while great for health, isn’t actually all that important for weight loss.
Mind = BLOWN!
Exercise is, however, one of the most powerful contributors to a happy, healthy, and fulfilled life. It boosts your mental health and mood, reduces your risk for various diseases, strengthens your bones and muscles, and increases your chances of living longer.
Learn to think of exercise as necessary for your brain, spirit, and mood, and keep it separate from the number on your bathroom scale.
Abs really are made in the kitchen.
First off the bat, calorie counting doesn’t work. Check out this post! All calories are NOT the same. What the calories we eat are made up of gives different signals to our hormones, triggering them to do different things.
For example, eating 100 calories of Oreos tells the body to store fat. Eating 100 calories of broccoli tells the body helpful nutrients are comin’ in – get ready for goodness!
Next, instead of listening to external cues, like diets and meal plans, to tell you what, when, and how much to eat, start getting in tune with your own body. Start by paying attention to when it’s tell you you’re hungry.
Question those signals – am I really hungry? Or just bored? Or procrastinating from doing this project? When you do eat, give your body the fuel and nutrients it needs to do its job.
You can’t expect to have a ton of energy, sleep great, and be at your natural bodyweight if you’re not giving it the right tools it needs to do its job.
Another tip when you’re eating, do so mindfully. Eat slowly, notice the smell, taste, and texture of your food. This will let the brain know you’re eating, so it can help signal you to stop when you’re full.
Our bodies have built-in portion control systems if you eat in a way that is mindful and intuitive (aka listening to your body). This system gets thrown off when we don’t listen to it, but we ALL have the ability to kick it back into gear again quickly!
The more you practice this approach, the easier it’ll be to feel comfortable and confident in your body steering you in the right direction.