I’ve Tried it All: Dieting, Exercise, Fasting & Restricting. The Weight Just Comes Back. What Gives?

I’ve Tried it All: Dieting, Exercise, Fasting & Restricting. The Weight Just Comes Back. What Gives?

As most of us are acutely aware, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among adults in the United States is an endemic affecting nearly three quarters (73.6%) of the population (NCHS 2021). While this statistic is alarming, it is an issue that has been ongoing for decades and if you are someone who has been characterized as overweight or obese, I would like to say to you...

‘It is not your fault. After all, you are in the majority, not the minority. In fact, I would argue that your story is all too common and that like many others, you are simply a victim of America’s highly commercialized, fast paced, high stress and fast-food oriented culture. One of many social dilemmas inflicting over 200 million people.’

 "It is NOT your fault. 73.6% of the population is facing this issue."

We spend too much time feeling ashamed for being overweight in a society where being the opposite is nearly a statistical anomaly. I say this only in hopes of tipping your thought process from believing it is your ‘fault’ to one of, ‘I am fighting an uphill battle along with three fourths of the population and if I want to succeed in changing my narrative, I need to put in some work.” (i.e. binge watching Disney Plus or sitting on Discord isn’t putting in work, unless you’re doing it from your NordicTrack Bike).

Now that I’ve made myself clear, I hope this can be the nudge you need to shift the way you view yourself and the way you view food, psychologically.

Rebranding our relationship with food

Many of my clients come to me with personal anecdotes of how they once viewed food: as the enemy, as a debilitating addiction, or as a coping mechanism. As their coach, I believe it is my job to work with my clients, week after week, month after month on reshaping this perception of food. If we can learn to view food as nothing more than the energy needed to fuel our bodies, then I believe we can begin to build healthful relationships with all the foods we love. In fact, it is through this lens that I believe trendy diets that emphasize restriction of foods do us a disservice. If we are restricting the foods we love during our weight loss process, we can’t build healthful relationships, which means we can’t find balance. When we don’t find balance and these foods inevitably re-enter our lives, we will be at higher risk of falling back into old habits.

In order to rebrand our relationship with food, we need to:

First: learn how to view food as energy needed to sustain our bodies, and…

Second: we must be willing to learn about the energy contained in the foods we eat, so we can fuel our bodies appropriately and learn how to measure a portion size that is ‘moderate’ for us.

Think about it this way: if your car’s manufacturer says you have a 16-gallon tank, you’re not going to try filling it with 17 gallons of fuel. In fact, you likely wouldn’t be able to because most gas pumps have a built-in level sensor that switches the pump off upon reaching its maximum fuel level.

Unfortunately, our bodies do not have a maximum threshold sensor (if we do, its easily overridden) and any extra fuel we consume is easily stored in our back-up fuel tank (i.e. body fat). So what we must do is make the decision to become more conscious of the foods we eat in order to gauge how much energy we are consuming. Since each person’s metabolism is uniquely different, we must go a step further and identify approximately how much energy our own body needs so we have an idea of how much food is appropriate.

Calculating our caloric needs 

We can Calculate our Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) using a standard equation or online calculator, then calculate a caloric deficit that would lead to an approximation of our desired weekly weight loss. To do this, simply multiply your TDEE by .9 for a 10% deficit, and .8 for a 20% deficit. There are several calculators across the internet to help with this, but it is always recommended to speak to a qualified professional (i.e. doctor, dietitian, certified personal trainer etc.). I personally use the Mifflin-St Jeor equation in my personal training business, as it continues to yield great results for my clients.

Equation is as follows:

Male: 9.99 x weight + 6.25 x height – 4.92 x age + 5

Female: 9.99 x weight + 6.25 x height – 4.92 x age – 161

Note: Weight in kilograms, height in centimeters, age in years

Please keep in mind that nutrition science is not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as you are able to calculate a rough estimation of your TDEE, and you are able to track your foods consistently and as accurately as you can, you will begin to see results before you know it. Every person’s body is different, so you may need to troubleshoot and tweak your daily caloric intake during the first few weeks before you begin to see your desired results.

Tracking your food intake

If food is your fuel source, we measure that fuel in a unit called k/cal or simply, calories. In my program, my clients do not track calories. Instead, they focus on meeting their personalized macro-nutrient goals which focus on the grams (g) of fat, carbohydrates, and protein in a single serving of food. This approach allows me to optimize each program and achieve the desired results, but it also forces each client to be aware of the kinds of energy each of their foods contain.

Nutritional information can be found on the nutritional label of your food’s packaging (or on google), as can the specific food’s serving size. A serving size can best be measured by weight, either grams (g) or ounces (oz), on a standard food scale. You may also opt for measuring cups or measuring spoons, but food scales tend to be the most convenient and accurate measurement tool. 

We measure the foods we eat each day because it allows us to measure how much energy we are consuming, but it also allows us to become aware and intentional with how much and what kind of energy we are fueling our bodies with. You hear often that you ‘should’ be eating foods in ‘moderation,’ but what that statement fails to do is contextualize what moderation means for you. Moderation for one person may be 1 serving of rice per day, while another person may eat 3 servings of rice per day (per the nutrition label on a bag of rice). So, what you must do is learn what a moderate portion size is for you, based on your individual caloric needs (which may very well be 2 servings).

No weight loss journey is easy, but that is as expected. It is called a journey because along the way, you learn something new about yourself: you learn your strengths and you learn your weaknesses. You learn how much energy your body needs, and you learn what a moderate portion size looks like, for you. When you commit to reshaping how you view food and to learning what a portion size is for you, you’ll not only make progress toward reaching your goal weight, you’ll also learn how to maintain and sustain your new-found weight when you get there, while enjoying the foods you love in moderation to you.

Why it isn’t easy

This process of rebranding the way we view food is not easy for all the obvious reasons, but what I believe is the most challenging aspect for many of us in the United States is the evident uphill battle and our lack of desire to do the necessary work, coupled by our misconceptions around how we got here and why others aren't. We look around and we see our friends who appear to be indulging and enjoying whatever they want, without putting on too much weight. Or we believe we ‘should’ be able to lose the weight simply by ‘watching what we eat’ or doing a few hours of cardio each week or fasting for 20 hours and eating calorically low foods for the remaining 4.

The truth is, we don’t know how much work our friends are putting in behind the scenes to be able to indulge and enjoy all the foods they eat. Watching what we eat isn’t always achievable because we can’t always hold ourselves accountable or even remember what we ate, or how much we ate, from one moment to the next. The energy provided in some foods are simply not proportionate to their physical appearance and excessive fasting, and excessive cardio, doesn’t work because it just simply isn’t sustainable.

A balanced, sustainable approach

When we choose to embark on a weight loss journey, we are doing so because we believe that in the end, we will have achieved an improved quality of life. If improving the quality of your life is the end goal, then there is no sense in cutting corners or shortchanging yourself. Achieving your goals will require that you make (some small) sacrifices and adjustments to your daily routine. It will require that you put in some effort to track your foods each day, stay well hydrated, and burn a little extra energy, but it does not need to be painful.

What it doesn’t require is excessive fasting or excessive cardio. Instead, you might try simply scheduling your meals and snack times each day. Meal prepping is an awesome way to help with timing of meals and with portion control, as your portions are already prepared in advance. If you wish, you could try a mild form of intermittent fasting, such as a 12-hour or 8-hour window in which to eat your meals, as this may help you with structure and portion control.

When it comes to exercising, consistent short workouts each week are better than sporadic inconsistent workout sessions that are longer in duration. In fact, many of my clients do short 10–20 minute workouts, 5 days a week, right from home. Any exercise is better than none, but the general recommendation for adults is 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Think of exercise as both necessary and supplemental to the weight loss process.

Exercise is essential for musculoskeletal and cardiac health, but it is also important for weight loss, as it stimulates a metabolic response that results in an increased metabolism. Aerobic exercise in particular trains your metabolism to burn fatty acids more efficiently for energy, therefore tapping into the body’s fat storage. Additionally, strength and resistance training develop muscle that is more dense and as a result, this muscle requires more energy for maintenance. However, it is not exercise that is of primary importance to the weight loss process— it is diet. A balanced diet appropriate for your body’s needs is the one and only silver bullet.  

If you enjoyed the article, please let me know! If you desire to learn more, speak with me directly or download the free Nutriculture Ebook, Weight Loss vs Fat loss: Your Guide to Success, find it here: https://mailchi.mp/aabc87d0be99/nutriculture-free-guide-download

Contact me: lorenzo@nutriculturellc.com

                     +1 (315) 812-1872

SourcesPrevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Severe Obesity Among Adults Aged 20 and Over: United States, 1960-1962 Through 2017-2018

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