I think one of the biggest lies on the internet and in health magazine is that weight loss is a simple equation.
Calories in versus calories out.
If weight loss was in fact that simple, I’d venture to guess women [and men!] would be a lot less frustrated with the scale. But unfortunately, weight loss is much more than a simple equation.
Simply put, finding your healthy set point is a delicate balance of nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management.
If one of those four is thrown to the curb, it’s going to be really hard for your body to find it’s genetic set point. Even if you’re eating super-duper-kale-at-every-meal healthy and exercising as if it’s your full time job, but you’re only getting 6 hours of sleep every night and relying on a strong cup of coffee to get you going in the morning….the scale is not budging. Sleep is HUGE in terms of finding your healthy set point. Or let’s say you are getting a restful 8 hours every night, eating clean as a whistle, and exercising 6 days a week but you’re so stressed 24/7 you snap at the littlest things…the scale probably isn’t budging.
You get my point.
The thing is, in addition to stress from our day to day lives, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, or too much or too little exercise is added stress on our body. And stress is the Great Wall of China when it comes to allowing your body to settle into it’s natural set point.
So before you go one more day being frustrated because your hard efforts aren’t getting you where you want, let’s take a look at the entire picture.
First things first, is your body actually in a place where it would be healthy to lose weight?
That’s the big question.
Becuase if we try to fight our bodies natural shape and size, it’s going to be a hard, uphill battle that causes more damage to your health than good.
And second, weight loss is never the goal. Establishing healthy behaviors that support your body settling into it’s set point is the goal.
Next, are you eating enough? You cannot continue to cut calories day in and day in out because our bodies are smart and they catch on. Over time your metabolism will slow in order to conserve energy [because you aren’t giving the body enough energy!] and your body is then able to subsist off less and less calories which means you have to eat less and less in order to maintain your weight. I like to call this metabolic hibernation. Read more on why low calorie diets are so damaging here and signs you aren’t eating enough here. Sometimes it’s not whether you’re eating too much, but rather…are you eating enough? Over time, cutting calories can actually lead to weight gain.
Are you sleeping enough? Sleep is HUGE when it comes to hormonal balance and hormones are a vital part of weight loss and long term weight maintenance. If you’re getting less than 7 hours a night, you’re not getting enough. Lack of sleep, even one night, causes our appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin to get off balance. Ghrelin tells us we’re hungry and leptin tells us we’re full, but when we are sleep deprived ghrelin is suppressed which leads us to think we’re hungry when we’re not. Furthermore, lack of sleep again causes cortisol to be released, and excess cortisol circulating around the body is not a good thing. [studies here and here]
What about other stress in your life? You can be eating well, exercising appropriately and getting your 7-8 hours of sleep every night, but if the rest of your life feels like a tropical storm, all your hard work and commitment could have zero effect on your waistline. If there’s one thing that we know by now, it’s that stress = cortisol and cortisol whacks out or body’s rhythms. In today’s society its really, really hard to manage stress and almost impossible to be stress free.
But it’s a catch 22 because we don’t want to be stressing about stressing right?? And this goes back to stressing about eating something “unhealthy.” Not eating it could be more “unhealthy” than just eating it and calling it a day.
So take a look at the big picture and if an area or two has been thrown to the curb, focus on that and listen to your body- it’s so smart.