Nothing sucks more than following a weight loss program to the letter and being rewarded with no weight loss, or worse yet, a weight gain.
Generally, when it appears that you’re doing everything right but not losing weight, it’s because you’re violating one of these 10 commandments of permanent weight loss.
Let’s get into them…
Commandment #1: Thou Shalt Focus On Changing Behavior…NOT On Losing Weight
Yup, you read that right. If you want to lose weight you must stop focusing on weight loss and start focusing on changing your behavior.
Stand by for an epiphany in 3…2…1…
A healthy weight chases a healthy body and a healthy body follows healthy behaviors.
When you focus on healthy behaviors, you will be rewarded with a healthy body (and metabolism), which will reward you with a healthy weight.
Here’s why this is a REAL epiphany…
I was working with a pre-diabetic patient named Shelly and she was despirate to lose weight.
So, I started her on a walking program, which I call the 30/30 plan.
In a nutshell, the 30/30 plan involves walking 30 minutes a day for 30 straight days, rain, snow, or shine, in sickness and in health.
According to the rules of the 30/30 plan, if you miss a day for ANY reason, you must start from day one.
We made some other mild changes to her lifestyke and off she went to begin her 30 days of walking for 30-minutes a day. We scheduled a follow up appointment for 30 days to discuss her progress.
30 days later, she returned and she greeted me in the following way…
“I haven’t lost a single pound.”
To which I replied, “Ok, did you complete your 30 days of 30 minutes of walking each day?”
She replied, “I missed a day or two, but I walked almost all 30 days.”
I replied, “Great, now, how do you feel?”
“Actually,” she replied, “I am feeling better. I feel like I have more energy, and honestly, I haven’t walked this much in years.”
After some more discussion, we made a few more mild changes to her diet and supplement program and I sent her home with instructions to repeat the 30/30 experiment, only this time, I want her to make sure she didn’t miss a single day.”
Thirty days later, I called to follow up with her and she greeted me with excitement saying, “I did it! Today is my last day of the 30/30 plan and I have walked every single day!”
“That’s great!” I said, “How do you feel?”
She said, “I feel AMAZING! I have been eating better and I’m taking my supplements every day.”
“And the weight?” I inquired.
Her energy immediately shifted to disappointment, “I have only lost a pound.” she replied.
I went on to explain one of the most important lessons that I had ever learned about weight loss…
You can take 100 people and put them on the exact same weight loss program and at the end of 3 months some people will have lost 30 pounds, some will have lost 5 pounds, some will be the same weight that they were on day one, and some poor, unlucky folks will have gained weight.
Lesson: Weight loss is an ugly science.
We have very little control over how much weight we lose, but we have total control over the behaviors that determine our health and ability to release and burn fat.
So…when we focus on weight, we are ultimately setting ourselves up for frustration. When we focus on healthy behaviors, we are setting ourselves up for success.
…because when we set a habit-focused goal, such as “Drink one liter of water before noon”, we have 100% control over the outcome…we can either do the task or not do the task. Regardless, if we choose, we could win every single day.
If we set a goal of losing 2 pounds a week, well, because weight loss is an ugly science, you may win, or you may not, no matter your effort and consistency.
You have no control over how much weight you lose in a week, because it’s an ugly science and no matter what the weight loss gurus tell you, we still don’t understand all of the variables that lead to consistent weight loss.
You can only make good choices with your lifestyle, and leave the amount of weight lost to the weight loss gods.
When Shelly was focused on the 30 days of walking, she was energized and excited. The moment she focused on the weight, she shifted towards melincholy.
You could do everything right with diet and exercise and still not lose weight that week. Do the exact same things the following week and lost 5 pounds.
Most people don’t do the exact same thing the next week, do they? Instead if the scale doesn’t reward them immediately, they jump ship and go looking for some other new diet.
The epiphany is this…
Focus on changing your behaviors and eventually you WILL burn unwanted fat. You just have very little say in how much fat you lose and when.
Shelly continued to focus on behaviors rather than weight, her weight loss was slow, but she was no longer caught in a cycle of failure and melincholy. Last we spoke she was almost 20 pounds down and no longer pre-diabetic. For the first time in a long time, she is hopeful and she even said, “I just don’t worry about weight anymore. I just focus on doing things that make me feel good.”
Her weight loss is slow…a trickle even…but every month, she makes some progress and the difference is it’s permanent weight loss.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather lose 10 pounds in 6 months and keep that weight off forever rather than lose 30 pounds in one month and gain it all back the next.
Commandment #2: Thou Shalt Optimize Insulin Levels
There are a lot of things that weight loss experts can’t agree on, but I am pretty sure that it is universally accepted that high levels of insulin are bad for weight loss.
Even if it’s not UNIVERSALLY accepted that insulin is the end-all-be-all of losing weight, I can tell you that the research is pretty clear on this subject…
High insulin levels are bad for your bodyfat.
You must optimize insulin levels to promote fat loss.
What does it mean to “optimize” insulin levels?
First, I chose this word carefully, I could have said “lower insulin levels” but I didn’t…
Insulin is not a bad guy. Just like water, insulin is only bad when you’re drowning in it.
I don’t want to get into a dissertation on how to optimize insulin levels, that’s a topic for another couple dozen posts…
I just want to give you some quick and easy strategies to see significant progress with relatively little investment…
First, going for a walk is the fastest path to bring your insulin receptors to the surface of your muscle. Research suggests that any exercise with the legs will instantly improve your ability to lower your blood sugar and improve insulin levels.
Interestingly, working out the upper body does not seem to have the same impact on insulin sensitivity.
Second, fasting sucks, but it works like gangbusters to lower insulin levels up to 25%. A simple fasting protocol is the exercise while fasted protocol…
Simply make dinner your last meal of the day and skip breakfast. Then, sometime between waking and lunchtime, go for a walk or do some form of exercise.
Start off following that protocol 2–3 days a week (every other day) and see what happens. If you feel good and are burning some fat, you could follow this protocol every day of the week as long as you make sure to not starve yourself. Eat lots of healthy, low-glycemic food after your fast.
Finally, focus on carb quantity before you focus on quality.
There’s a lot of discussion on the glycemic index and eating low-glycemic carbs, but the truth is, the easiest approach to lower insulin is to simply eat fewer foods that deliver all starchy or sugary carbs.
Look, you can’t burn fat when insulin levels are always high, so just accept the fact that you can’t eat 3 cups of pasta in a sitting and expect to burn fat.
Note: A recent study found that eating one-half cup of pasta three times a week had no negative effect on weight gain and even promoted a little weight loss.
Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Correct Hormonal Imbalances
Hormones are how cells communicate. When hormones go out of whack, the metabolism goes crazy because cells are not receiving proper instructions.
Just like the discussion on insulin, this conversation on hormones can, and does, fill volumes of books.
Here’s the bottom line…
When hormones are optimal, your metabolism run like a fine tuned racecar. When your hormone signals go haywire, you’ll gain weight…lots of weight.
If you suspect that you’ve got hormone imbalances, whether it be thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone. It’s best to get a qualified physician, experienced in the prescibing of bio-identical hormones, involved to help restore those hormones to a more youthful level.
Some of the biggest hormonal imbalances that lead to weight gain are polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroid.
Some hormone imbalances can be managed using natural, non-prescription lifestyle changes and supplements, others will require prescription options.
If you’re doing everything right with lifestyle and the weight won’t budge, or you’re gaining weight for no apparent reason…look to the hormones!
Commandment #4: Thou Shalt Sleep
I know, I know…it ain’t sexy, but it’s vital to your success with fat loss.
One of the core-guiding principles of Cut The Fat Podcast is, “There are non-caloric causes of fat storage.”
That means that it ain’t all about what you eat and how much you move.
It’s true, calories do matter; but there’s much more to the weight loss story…
Certain things like stress and lack of sleep don’t add calories to your body, but research is clear…if you don’t sleep, you will gain weight…or at least it will be very difficult for you to lose weight.
Everyone is different in how much sleep you need to “flip the switch” and not suffer metabolic consequences, however, if you held a gun to my head and said “Give me a number, or else…” I’d say, “7.5 hours”.
For most of us, 7.5 hours will work miracle for our fat loss efforts.
That being said, if you feel restored and energetic with less sleep then that’s a much better indicator of sufficiency and you may not need to meet the 7.5 hour milestone each night.
Also, sleep apnea is a death-sentence for your metabolism. If you suffer from sleep apnea and you aren’t taking heroic efforts to treat the sleep apnea, you will find it nearly impossible to burn fat.
Just keep these things in mind and do what you can to get as much sleep as is possible given your very busy life.
Commandment #5: Thou Shalt Walk
In today’s Beachbody Workout culture, walking gets forgotten as an important weight loss tool.
It’s true, intense exercise is very helpful for achieving your fat loss goals, but walking is equally important. Walking is restorative.
One other core-guiding principle of Cut The Fat Podcast is “Eat and exercise to manage hormones, not to manage calories.”
If you focus on calories then jogging appears to be the best exercise for weight loss because you can burn a ton of calories in a single session.
Unfortunately, steady-state, aerobic exercise has a dismal record of success in the weight loss literature with most studies showing no benefit to weight loss compared to diet alone.
The reason steady-state aerobic exercise like jogging and cycling seem to offer no benefit to fat loss (for most people) is due to something we call the “compensatory engine”.
In a nutshell, when you burn a lot of calories from aerobic exercise, your subconscious brain forces you to eat more and move less without your conscious brain even knowing it.
In the end, you may burn 600 calories on a treadmill session but you end up eating a few more chips, a little more ketchup on your food, an extra snack here or there, while unknowningly fidgeting and moving less than normal.
The end result is you restore those lost calories for a net loss of a big goose egg…a big, disappointing goose egg on the scale.
Walking appears to burn calories WITHOUT activating the compensatory engine. It’s sneaky like that…
When you say that walking seems insignificant, your metabolism agrees and therefore does not trigger the eat more/move less engine within your subconscious brain.
In addition, walking lowers cortisol (the stress hormone) while simultaneously improving insulin sensitivity…see Commandment #2.
Yes, walking burns FAR FEWER calories than jogging, but it enhances recovery and it doesn’t activate the emergency systems that compel you to eat more and move less in response to the lost calories.
Walk as much as possible. Just a good old, leisurely walk no faster than you’d walk if you were late for a meeting.
Commandment #6: Thou Shalt Eat…Not Too Much…Mostly Plants…some protein…some fat.
You can’t starve away fat. You’ve tried…it simply doesn’t work and, if you’re honest with yourself, you know it.
One of the biggest causes of weight loss failure is hunger, and do you want to know that the world’s greatest appetite suppressant is?
Food. That’s right, eating food.
Read this again…YOU CAN’T STARVE AWAY YOUR FAT!
Sure, you need a calorie deficit to burn fat, but a smaller deficit almost always trumps a huge deficit.
When you diet too heavily, you activate the same compensatory engine that you activate with large quantities of aerobic exercise, which slows metabolism, increases cravings and hunger, and destroys your mood.
So, eat food…not too much…and when you do eat, eat mostly plants like fruits and vegetables, eat some protein, and get some healthy fat like avocados, nuts, and extra-virgin olive oil.
Try to eat prime foods, meaning foods that have not been processed are altered to look like something else. Think grilled chicken rather than chicken nuggets, oranges rather than orange juice, sweet potatoes rather than mashed sweet potatoes, fruit rather than smoothies, etc.
Commandment #7: Thou Shalt Relax
There are two ways to make 100 out of 100 people gain weight…
The first is to inject them with large quantities of insulin, which we discussed already in commandment #2…
The second way is to inject them with cortisol or a drug that mimics cortisol, like prednisone.
Cortisol is a stress hormone and when your body is exposed to cortisol for extended periods of time, such as when people are under chronic, unyielding stress, the cortisol erodes the muscle and ruins the metabolism.
The classic body-type of someone stressed out of their minds for long periods of time is low muscle tone and a big belly.
You must learn to consciously control your cortisol production through stress relieving, restorative activities like meditation, relaxation, leisure walking, and coping skills.
You could eat perfectly, exercise all day, and fail to burn fat simply because you’re stressed out of your mind.
Dedicate your mind towards the mastery of chilling out! It will make all of the difference in your weight loss success.
Commandment #8: Thou Shalt Drink Water
Water can be a miracle for your metabolism. I have seen it time and time again…
A client can’t lose weight despite eating well and exercising, I get them to start “super-hydrating” with 80 oz of water per day and like magic, they start to burn fat and lose unwanted weight.
Besides that, their energy levels improve, their mood improves, their joints feel better, the skin starts to glow…
Water works, plain and simple.
Research suggests that low-grade dehydration triggers food seeking behavior. Meaning you eat more food when you’re dehydrated.
One study found that men and women who drank water before eating actually ate less food and lost more weight.
Other research found that drinking water helps the body to kick out excess cortisol and cortisone from the body…which, as we discussed in Commandment #7, is hugely beneficial to your metabolism.
There are many reasons why drinking good old, bland water can make your metabolism work better, but you don’t need me to report on a dozen studies to know that water is good for you.
So, just trust me on this one…drink your water!
Commandment #9: Thou Shalt Build Type II Muscle Fibers
Marathoners have a lot of type I muscle fibers, which are small, efficient muscle fibers that burn few calories. They’re great for survival and winning gold metals in distance running, but TERRIBLE for helping you to lose weight.
If you don’t want to look like an emaciated, skin-and-bones marathon champion then listen up…
When you jog and run and cycle and swim, you build lots of type I muscle fibers and your body becomes a lean mean efficient machine…like a Toyota Prius.
That’s bad when your goal is to burn a lot of extra calories.
When you build type II muscle fibers through intense and heavy restistance training and high-intensity interval training, you turn the body into a gas-guzzling race car…that burns fat, like a teenager with a credit card burns money.
This is especially important for middle-aged men and women and post-menopausal women.
More type II muscle also helps to restore lost insulin sensitivity because type II muscle loves sugar.
YOU MUST LIFT WEIGHTS! YOU MUST BUILD TYPE II MUSCLE FIBERS!
Trust me, this one is a game-changer.
If you fail to follow this commandment then even if you manage to lose “weight”, you won’t feel strong, you won’t feel energetic and fit, and you’ll probably look in the mirror and feel “skinny-fat”.
Commandment #10: Thou Shalt Get Leverage On Yourself
As I said, weight loss is an ugly science. One thing I didn’t tell you is…
The key determinant of success is the ability to tolerate changing your behavior without seeing results.
Read that again, it’s critical to your success.
You will plateau, your weight loss will stall and your dedication WILL hang by a thread at some point in your weight loss and fitness journey.
You must learn to manufacture leverage or you will succumb to the dreaded weight loss plateau, you WILL give up, and you will feel disappointment.
That leverage can come in the form of a public proclamation on Facebook, a trainer or coach, a monetary consequence (like forcing yourself to donate to your most hated charity if you don’t stick to your plan), signing up for a 5K, whatever you choose to do, it must SCARE you a little.
You need to have something to pull you through the tough days when the scale doesn’t reward you for your efforts!
Remember, weight loss is not linear, weight loss goes through an endless series of weight up, weight down, weight stagnant…
As long as the trend is downward, that is what matters and the only way you’ll stick to a program long enough is to have some sort of leverage pulling you forward during the tough times when the scale appears to have gone stagnant.
Remember, the scale crumbles beneath the weight of consistant healthy actions followed day in and day out. It all circles back to your behaviors. IF you keep building healthy habits, if you keep stacking new healthy habits on top of old healthy habits, eventually, the scale, or the tape measure, or the reflection will have no choice but to bow down before your rock solid followthrough.
When that day happens, congratulations, you’ve become the king or queen of your lifestyle and, probably the king or queen of your life!