On an Internet forum I read an older woman recently started a thread about her current weight loss problem. According to her post she has been doing 40 – 50 minutes of exercise 6 times a week and eating a “healthy balanced diet of about 1,400 calories a day”. This involved no sugar, very little carbohydrates and good fats. She has lost 30lbs so far but now the weight loss has stopped dead.
By following this sort of program this woman has found herself in a position where she can’t eat much less than she already does (she’s already starving her body but I’ll get to this in a moment) and she also says she can’t exercise more than she already does. Her exercise program included a little kettlebell work, 15 – 30 minute walks on a treadmill and some other exercise. Despite losing 30lbs her scale is telling that she has 39 percent body fat.
What You Can Learn from this Example
I’ve relayed this woman’s case to you today because it is a useful example of how misguided the whole idea of weight loss has become. Sure, if you restrict your calories to really low levels your body’s mass will reduce and the scale will tell you that you’ve lost weight. However, you will only find yourself to be a smaller “skinny fat” version of yourself.
This sort of approach to weight loss does nothing for your body composition. Using this approach a person may start out at 90kg (198lbs) with a body fat percentage of 25%. They restrict their calories to 1,000 a day and lose 10kg (22lbs) in a few short weeks. They now weigh 80kg (176lbs). The problem is their body fat percentage is still 25%.
The reality is they are just a smaller, still fat, version of their previous bigger fat self. Their overall mass may have changed but their body composition still sucks and they still look and feel terrible despite torturing themselves mentally and physically with caloric deprivation.
Not only is this approach always going to lead to the same dead end but also its unhealthy and that will always have negative repercussions. To quote someone I respect you get healthy so you can lose weight. You don’t lose weight to get healthy.
Staving your body of the vital nutrients it needs through insanely low calorie diets is a recipe for disaster. Your body simply will not give up its reserves (body fat) in times of stress. Your body certainly will not give up its reserves during a famine. Your body is extremely intelligent and very good at adapting to a given environmental stimulus with the primary goal being survival.
During lean times your body naturally holds onto every little bit of fat so that it can survive through to when food is plentiful again. When you eat a really low calorie diet or skip meals you’re telling your body that times are lean when really food is everywhere. It reacts to this environmental stimulus by down-regulating metabolism and stubbornly holding onto all the fat it can.
Why Stressed People Tend to be Fat
There are many sources of stress in our modern human environment. In past times stress was a purely episodic phenomenon. Today most people walk around bathed in stress hormones. Cortisol is one such stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol happens to be a blood sugar mobilizer.
My recent articles may have you studiously avoiding sugar but if you’re stressed all the time it doesn’t matter. Cortisol will up your blood sugar for you from within so that you can physically deal with the stressful event. What happens when you’re stressed all the time and thus have high cortisol and thus high blood sugar? You get insulin resistant and thanks to insulin resistance you get fat. As an added bonus you also get adrenal fatigue.
Sources of Stress
In your body stress is much more than simply mental stress about bills or relationships. Stress that you can learn to deal with constructively. A lack of sleep will stress your body as will too much exposure to light and too much of the wrong type of exercise. Chemicals and toxic metals in your drinking water and in your shower water stress your body every single day.
Chlorine, a toxic chemical added to water to kill biological organisms (just like you), gets absorbed through your skin and is evaporated in the steam. You inhale chlorine in the steam of your shower or bath every single day. It goes into your lungs and thence into your bloodstream. This is why I recommend everyone use showerhead water filters. They are inexpensive, easy to install and will soon be available through my Balanced Existence store.
Think about the chemicals you put on your skin every day in the form of moisturizers, makeup, deodorant, perfume, cologne, aftershave, foaming cleansers and so forth. Turn the packaging of any one of these over and you’ll see an ingredients list of chemicals that you probably can’t pronounce. These things are a daily source of stress to your body.
The rule is don’t put anything on your skin you wouldn’t eat. I use organic cold pressed coconut oil as a moisturizer and happily eat it to. Coconut oil happens to be anti-fungal and antibacterial as well.
Think about the pesticides sprayed on your non-organic food. These things can’t be washed off, as they are oil soluble so they don’t wash off in the rain. Think about the growth hormones in chicken, the antibiotics in feedlot beef, the stress hormones in inhumanely raised and slaughtered animals.
Wrapping it Up
There are many reasons why a complex system of systems like the human body comes to be out of balance and thus unhealthy and overweight. If you would like to reduce the amount of fat you’re carrying around the only healthy way to do it is to make changes to your lifestyle that are conducive to the improvement of your health. If a change you’ve made makes you feel better it was a good change.
To get fat off and keep it off health must be your primary focus. No truly healthy body carries excess fat. It is possible to be lean without being healthy, but what’s the point? In fact being super lean and ripped is not necessarily a sign of a healthy body. Being too lean can serve as just another source of stress. And you know where that goes. Make health your top priority and everything, given time and consistency, will fall into place. Throw out your scale and focus on your body composition. Learn how to deadlift, use kettlebells and work up to using weight that is heavy for you.
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