You’re Screwed from the Start
When you think about losing weight, there is very likely a misalignment between your expectations and realistic results.
It’s not your fault; big media, deceitful marketing, and gimmicky before/after photos make us all believe that weight loss is easy.
There is no secret.
There is no magic program.
Rather, what is actually required to lose weight is a calorie deficit over a period of time, often a lonnnng time.
That’s not so bad, is it? Just restrict food intake nearly every day for somewhere between several months and 1-2 years.
Yeah, it’s not so bad, if “not so bad” means waterboard me and pull off my fingernails instead.
Losing weight sucks; it is harder than any other fitness goal.
I am going to explain why:
- so everyone currently struggling through this process knows, you are not alone
- to set up proper expectations for those of you that want to lose weight
Before we begin, here is the #1 takeaway from this post, a little secret no one talks about:
Losing weight is much more difficult than the general population believes; however, once you are lean, maintaining your weight is much easier than believed.
5 Reasons Why Losing Weight Is So Damn Hard
1. Your Workouts Suck
Lifting weights while in a calorie deficit is like rollerblading on grass.
You CAN, technically, do it. But there are much more enjoyable ways to partake in said activity, such as a freshly paved tar, or a massive calorie surplus.
Training while under-eating sucks because you don’t have enough fuel in the tank. If you want to get nerdy, you are lacking the muscle glycogen (carbohydrate storage) necessary to fuel a high quality workout.
If you have ever intentionally eaten a calorie surplus for muscle gain, you know how much more energy you have for these workouts. Your glycogen stores are full and your hormone profile is in a healthier state – allowing for optimal training performance.
In a calorie deficit, strength might stay relatively consistent, but your energy levels will suffer.
2. You are a Social Misfit
A good friend of mine is immune to social pressure.
I have seen him walk into a party and reject a vodka-tonic, stating,
“I can’t drink that – I am counting my macronutrients, and I prefer zero calorie mixers with my vodka. Do you have soda water?”
Girls roll their eyes, people shame him and say he has an eating disorder – they think he is the weirdest dude they’ve ever met, but he doesn’t care.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, the social pressures to conform, and maybe the etiquette involved in rejecting a gifted drink, deter us from making the tough decisions necessary for continued fat loss.
For example, have you ever been out to eat and had the following exchange?
“Caaaaan I take your order?”
“Dressing on the side.”
“No mayo, no cheese, no bacon, and, ummm… can I have double chicken?”
“You want a second chicken breast on your bun-less sandwich?”
[passively nod in affirmation]
We are affected by how others perceive us. It’s human nature. When we get stares, eye rolls, or outright verbal jabs because we make unconventional lunch orders, this deters us from our fat loss program.
Which ties into point number 3.
3. Your Friends and Co-workers Hate You
While restricting calories probably makes you more cranky and insufferable than normal, that isn’t the reason you get flak from your peers. People project their own self-dissatisfaction and insecurities onto others.
For example, when your boss makes a snide comment about your lunch order he isn’t actually offended that you turned down pizza day to eat chicken and broccoli. Rather, he is projecting his own issues onto you. It could be a testosterone issue causing problems at home with wifey. It could be that he can’t play backyard football with his son because going up and down the field might put him in the ER. Who knows.
What’s important is that you understand this: it is not your behavior that is causing this negative feedback, rather your boss (or whoever) is more likely projecting self-hate than actually taking issue with your lunch order.
4. You Feel a Lingering Sense of Hunger… All The Time
You wake up hungry in the morning. You go to bed starving at night.
There are ways to minimize these feelings of hunger (increase protein, increase water, increase fiber, increase caffeine, strategic cheat days), but hunger is going to exist when you eat fewer cals than you burn. Plain and simple.
It sucks, but it’s how you lose fat. This pain will be worth it, as you will see below.
5. You are Mentally Exhausted.
The brain needs carbohydrates to operate. Well, technically, if you eat zero carbs the body will turn amino acids (your muscles) into glucose (carbs) to fuel the brain, but this is baaad because:
1) You will likely still feel sluggish and slow
2) You are using muscle to fuel your body; loss of muscle is bad.
So, we probably want to eat some carbs. Still, you aren’t getting as many carbs as you’d like, leaving you wiped.
[Insert study re-posted 1642 times about will-power and it’s lack of infinititivity]
“Further studies have suggested that willpower is fueled by glucose—which helps explain why our determination crumbles when we try to lose weight. When we don’t eat, our glucose drops, and our willpower along with it.”
You aren’t the only one who is less mentally sharp when dieting.
Okay, so, I already thought losing weight was hard. But you’re telling me that it’s even HARDER than I think? Why do I want to do this…
Well, in the grand scheme of things, which we will quantify as somewhere between 15-60 more years on earth, you are sacrificing a relatively short period of misery for an entire lifetime of benefit (your health, functionality, confidence and of course, the good looks).
Remember, fat loss is harder than we think. HOWEVER, maintaining a lean body is much, much easier than expected.
5 Reasons Why Maintaining A Lean Body Is So, So Easy
10-11ish% bodyfat for dudes, 16-18ish% for the ladies.
1. You Get to Eat More Food, Like, WAY More Food
There isn’t much more to say here.
The average calorie deficit on a fat loss plan is between 5,000 and 10,000 calories per week. When you revert to eating maintenance calories, you go back to being a regular person — accepting dinners out with friends and eating like a NORMAL human, drinking alcohol, eating dessert, occasional fast food if that’s your jam, or whatever guilty pleasure suits you.
2. Your Body Will Partition Calories More Efficiently
Partitioning: where the calories go when you eat lots of them, and where they come from when you eat fewer of them.
In a perfect world, all excess calories go toward building lean muscle, and all calories burnt come from fat storage. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
While calorie partitioning is determined in part by genetics, there is another leading indicator that dictates whether these nutrients are coming from/going to muscle versus fat.
Your bodyfat percentage.
As your bodyfat percentage decreases, excess calories consumed will shift from fat storage to muscle building.
So, the leaner you are, the easier time you will have adding lean muscle and keeping fat off of your body.
3. Counting Macros Becomes Estimating Macros
No more weighing everything you eat.
No more stressing about cooked versus raw meat.
No more wondering if that was high-fat butter or zero-cal cooking spray.
The stress of constantly micro-managing your food intake dissipates with leanness for a couple reasons: (a) you have built healthy eating habits by practicing macro-tracking for a while – these habits will allow you to mindlessly eat near your maintenance level, and (b) your increased calorie intake and more productive partitioning forgive you for over-eating when you incorrectly estimate your macros.
4. Your Calorie Maintenance INCREASES
This seems backwards, you lose weight, yet your calorie maintenance goes up?
Let me explain. Once you are lean, your training efforts will primarily result in muscle gain (that’s what that partitioning was all about, remember?). Each pound of muscle requires 3-4x more calories than it’s equal weight in fat.
So, lose a bunch of fat, gain a bit of muscle and the result is that you get to eat more food.
Now, if you lose 100 pounds of fat and your total muscle mass remains the same, your maintenance will decrease a bit. But for most people, at some point during or after their weight loss journey, muscle mass will increase resulting in a net increase in calorie maintenance.
Additionally, research on bodybuilders (which applies to us non-meat heads too!) has shown that we can actually increase our calorie maintenance while maintaining the same weight over a period of time. By slowly and strategically increasing your food intake week after week, you can increase your maintenance by hundreds of calories.
5. Party Time
Sure, you can get away with drinking while in a calorie deficit, there are plenty of tricks that make alcohol and fat loss go together.
But what if you don’t want to eat 6 cups of kale and 32 ounces of dry chicken breast, just you can “earn” a few cocktails at your office holiday party?
Once you are lean, there is much more room for the boozey-booze in your regimen.
Once you have spent one day feeling confident and comfortable living in your own skin, I promise, you will never want to give that up.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
All of this misery will create a better life.
The obsessive calorie tracking and constant physical and emotional stress of living life in a calorie deficit will subside.
But, you need to battle through the weight loss process first. Then life becomes a playground. Nutrition and exercise will integrate seamlessly with your lifestyle, rather than dominate your existence.
However, you have to endure the weight loss process first.
Who’s with me?
Weight Loss Made Simple
Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone. Join us in Weight Loss Made Simple, Fitocracy’s Team Fitness program designed for beginners who have over 15% of their bodyweight or 20+ lbs to lose. Weight Loss Made Simple is an 8-week course that teaches you the science and psychology behind weight loss.
Ice cream photo credit: Zechariah Judy. Used under CC Attribution license.