Why do we make things more complicated than they need to be?
When we decide to diet for the goal of fat loss, there are a finite number of answers as to why we can’t get lean.
We desperately want this to not be the case.
We all want to think that we are a “special snowflake”.
This would give us validation for our past, our present, and perhaps even our future.
If we are one of those “blessed with a slow metabolism”, then we can justify our current sizes and have ammunition whenever the topic of weight is brought up.
You can then pass the buck to a myriad of health issues, most of which are questionable. Adrenal fatigue, heightened cortisol, and “gluten intolerances” will become the go-to reasons behind your jeans being too tight.
For some, this becomes all the excuse they need, and they end up shrugging their shoulders and go about their merry way.
But some people won’t accept this as their fate, and they will continue to search for the solutions to their own, personal obesity crisis.
Coaching others through fat loss has been a rewarding experience that has opened my eyes to the human condition.
We are a strange species.
We create our own stories in our head to justify our actions (narrative bias), we seek out confirmation of that which we think is true (confirmation bias), and we tend to believe anything we read on a trusted media site (availability bias).
Those 3 biases: narrative, confirmation, and availability – create a near-lethal trifecta of fat-loss hindrance.
Here’s how this works:
===> Stories about “the reason why you can’t lose fat” are huge click-bait pieces, as this is one of the most common problems we face.
One of the best ways to drive traffic to your site (and earn advertising dollars) is to talk about “why you’re still fat” (for a lack of a better phrase.).
Throw in a fancy sounding medical ailment (that most likely you don’t have), and you start to believe it’s true.
Since fat-loss issues are a huge draw and can go viral, you get loads of articles about “The Top 10 Signs You Have Adrenal Fatigue”.
The availability bias comes into play (since these articles make up most of what is “available”) and you start to think maybe you do, in fact, have a medical problem.
===> After we have made up our minds that this is surely our “condition”, we seek confirmation.
We then go look up this “problem” and we run into another “click bait” article.
You begin to read about your “issue”, and the symptoms repeat themselves at each click.
You begin to take these articles as gospel. There is no need to question their validity. You have just diagnosed yourself via the Internets.
After all, the symptoms they list are EXACTLY what you’re experiencing.
Of course, the symptoms of your ailment are also the same symptoms anyone suffering from obesity has. Indigestion? Fatigue? Low energy? Low libido? Heartburn?
These issues are “problems of the West” that plague a huge portion of society. The authors know this and use it to their advantage.
Confirmation bias cannot see this as we are seeking a positive “diagnosis” subconsciously.
We must have this relatively rare issue that only a Doctor (or voodoo magic) can fix.
===> We then create a story (or narrative) – based on the diagnosis – about why we can’t lose fat.
This narrative becomes our “fat loss crutch”.
We begin to reiterate this story, which was totally fabricated based on availability bias and confirmation bias, to anyone who will listen.
We discuss the difficulties we have faced due to our medical problem, whether it is legitimate or not.
We tell this story so frequently, that we truly believe in its existence, for no reason other than we created it in our own realities.
We fail to see the plank in our own eyes, and justify our shortcomings.
Narrative bias is creating an untrue story to better “understand” our situation. It’s real and it happens to many of us.
Working with a large population of online clients – both men and women – has made it clear that we all have mental hurdles to clear.
Being self aware is an excellent first step, but if we truly believe some of the fables we are telling ourselves, the mess may be difficult to untangle on our own.
If you’re currently struggling to lose fat, and you don’t have a pre-existing medical condition, you’re making some mistakes in your approach.
There is an exponentially greater chance your real fat-loss issue is below and not on some silly click-bait article from the Huffington Post.
The Most Likely Solution To Your Fat Loss Problem:
You’re eating more calories than you think.
It can’t possibly simply be that you’re eating more calories than you think, can it?
There’s no WAY that’s the case.
You’re hungry most of the day and your portions are super small.
You’re practically starving.
This cannot be true, it must be something else, if you’re eating too much NOW, just imagine how little you will actually have to eat to lose fat!
In many cases, this is exactly what is happening.
Humans are very poor at two things when it comes to our diets:
- Estimating the calories we eat.
- Estimating the calories we burn.
In fact, we are so poor at this that we often underestimate our consumption by 50% and we overestimate our burn by 50%.
In practice, this looks like this:
- We roughly estimate we ate 1,750 calories in a day.
- We actually ate 50% more than this, which is 875 calories more (2,675 calories in total).
- We roughly estimate we burned 1,000 calories running on the treadmill for an hour.
- We actually burned 500.
- Since we thought we burned 1,000 in our sesh, we add in an extra 1,000 calories – on top of the 2,675 we already ate.
Let’s math together:
- You’re aiming for 1,750 calories.
- You actually ate 2,675 “normal” calories due to your poor estimation.
- You ran on the treadmill and burned 500 calories, but you ate an extra 1,000 due to your miscalculation.
- Now, you’re at 2,675 calories + 500 calories = 3,175 calories – holy crap, that’s almost twice over what you thought!
Maybe you’re macro counting, though, so this doesn’t apply to you.
Maybe you don’t “estimate” – maybe you are “exact”.
But are you really that “exact”?
- Do you weigh your meat before you cook it?
- Do you use a measuring cup to measure your rice?
- Do you get out the tablespoon to measure your salad dressing?
- Do you abstain from all “extras”? All the “licks, bites, and tastes”?
- Do you throw away your kid (or spouse’s) food when it’s left over on their plate?
- Do you sneak a handful of candy here and there at work?
- Do you weigh your pasta? Your potatoes? Your bananas?
- Are you abusing simplifications?
For someone trying to lose a pound of fat per week, your “buffer” is rather thin. 500 calories per day, on average.
You can have a perfect week and drink 3 beers and eat a few snacks on the weekend and – POOF! – progress all gone.
Solution: Tighten up.
Be 100% exact and on point for a month and see what happens.
Weigh everything – pasta, rice, meat, etc. All nutritional labels have weight conversions. Use them instead of using cups and spoons.
When you Google the nutritional information, and you have 15 different number sets, use the biggest set you can find. This will ensure you actually consume at or under your food.
Common problems usually have common solutions.
And the most common solution is you’re probably just eating too much.
Perhaps you’re not grazing, though. That’s not the only way to mess up.
Maybe you’re using a “cheat meal”.
Warning to you:
“Cheat meals” are one of the most overhyped
and misused “fitness tools” that exist.
Sometime in a fitness fantasy world far, far away, someone came up with the mythical idea of the “necessary cheat meal”.
They decided that being in a calorie deficit for a long amount of time would cause your hormonal profile to plummet and you would need to “cheat” on your diet to return it to normal levels.
This might be true…………..for contest bodybuilders or fitness models who are starving for months on end to achieve brutally low body fat percentages.
This isn’t true for a low-carb dieter who went from 40% body fat to 33% body fat in two months.
You do not need a “cheat meal”, a “refeed day”, or a “diet break” in most of these cases.
Even if a “cheat meal” will help psychologically, most people screw them up greatly.
A few thoughts about “cheat meals”.
- “Cheat meals” should be taken at maintenance calories.
- “Cheat meals” are not unaccounted excuses to splurge.
- “Cheat meals” should have raised carbohydrates, which is what will help raise leptin levels if you actually did, in fact need them.
- “Cheat meals” are not high in fat.
- “Cheat meals” should only be used when totally necessary, which 99% of people do not need them.
With our online clients, we often use what we call “off plan” meals or “non-counting” meals.
Off plan meals or non-counting meals are NOT “cheat meals”.
“Cheating” gives the connotation that this will be a no-holds-barred Royal Rumble of Asian buffet-style food orgy.
“Off plan” or “non-counting” sounds much more rational, doesn’t it?
Our guidelines are simple for an “off plan” meal:
- Eat lean protein and veggies only up until your off plan meal. Save all your fat/carbs for your off plan meal.
- Stay hydrated.
- Order as you wish, but be sensible.
- This means emphasize protein and be mindful of fats/carbs.
- Eat a meal of whatever you wish (within reason). Pick a dessert, an appetizer, OR 1-2 alcoholic beverages.
- If you pick all 3, you will be way over on calories.
- When you are finished with your non-counting meal, you are back on plan 100% when you leave the restaurant.
See how this is different from, “Fuuuuuuck yeah, I’m going to Pizza Hut buffet, time to eat, bitcheezzzz!”
I know you want to believe you’re special.
Our mommies told us we were, right?
Fact of the matter is, we probably are just like everyone else.
And everyone else struggles with fat loss, too. You’re not alone.
Also, most of the “others” that struggle with fat loss are probably just eating more than they think.
Or burning less than they think.
Or using cheat meals in an inefficient manner.
But no matter which way you slice and dice it, if you’re not losing fat fast enough, there’s almost a 100% chance your answer is simple:
It’s a matter of too many calories.
Yours in honesty,