Are you plagued by stubborn fat? Low calories, low carb, low fat – nothing works? Are you convinced that your metabolism is broken?
Drs Jade, Keoni and Jill Teta as well as Dr. Jill Coleman address the reasons why weightloss becomes more difficult as we get older – it has nothing to do with willpower and all to do with our HORMONES!
I took more than 30 pages of notes at the Metabolic Effect Summit 2015 in Manchester. Find out why the inability to lose fat is NOT YOUR FAULT and what you can do about it!
#1 - Metabolic Compensation
You know this feeling? You're doing EVERYTHING right and the weight just won't come off? And when it does, it usually comes back really quickly?
Chances are you're working against your metabolism without even knowing it. This has nothing to do with willpower and all to do with hormones and your body's finely honed survival mechanism.
You can't fight against your body. Your ancestors have survived through millenia of food shortages and ice ages, through being preyed upon by predators far stronger than them. They've passed these awesome genes onto you and you should be proud of being the end result of generations of survivors.
This is the first of a series of articles explaining how our metabolisms actually perceive dieting and exercising and how we can work with our bodies to lose excess body fat.
This first article deals with the idea of Metabolic Compensation and hopefully it will cause your jaw to drop as much as it did mine when I first learned about this!
So how do the so-called diet experts advise us to lose weight?
Really Stupid Idea Nr. 1 – Our Body is an ATM
So many people still believe that our bodies work like a bank: you put calories into our fat stores like a bank account, and then you take them out through sport like a withdrawal on the ATM.
Does this thought construct work? What do you think? How many diets have you done, just to have the weight come back? In fact, less than 5% of all dieters are successful in the long run.
To quote from a recent study:
”Data from the scientific community indicate that a 15-wk diet or diet plus exercise program produces a weight loss of about 11 kg with a 60-80% maintenance after 1 yr. Although long-term follow-up data are meager, the data that do exist suggest almost complete relapse after 3-5 yr.”
Obviously, calories in - calories out does not work.
Less Stupid Idea Nr. 2 - our Body is a Chemistry Set
Another idea is that our body works like a chemistry set. You keep certain hormones low and weight drops off. Insulin is the main culprit in this theory.
Not entirely incorrect, but it disregards the fact that insulin is absolutely necessary in the body to build muscle. As an anabolic (tissue-building) hormone, insulin builds up all tissues, not just fat cells. So keeping insulin low at all times makes you lose fat but also muscle.
Ever seen people who are thin but flabby? That's skinny-fat - high body fat percentage and no musculature.
Probably the Correct Idea Nr. 3 - our Metabolism is a Thermostat
Think about it: how does a thermostat work? It’s set to a target ambient temperature and adjusts all the time depending on external input. If the room temperature drops, the thermostat will turn the heat up and vice versa.
Our bodies work the some way. If you drop calorie input and increase calorie output, we will lose weight for a while. Then our metabolism starts to adjust and compensate. Suddenly we hit a plateau and stop losing weight.
The only way to continue now is to drop calories further or exercise harder. Obviously, this is unsustainable over the long run.
The result of stress? Our bodies holds onto fat stores for the bad times. This in an animal response - our body doesn’t know that we’ll eat again eventually. Right now, we are starving. Often literally. And our metabolism makes damn sure we will survive!
So what happens?
- Leptin is the hormone sending signals to the brain that we’re full, stop eating. Leptin drops so we’re always hungry.
- Cortisol is released under stress and makes us craving food.
- Ghrelin goes up when calories go down. It is termed the 'hunger hormone' because it stimulates appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage.
- A very low carb and low calorie diet over time will suppress thyroid function. Our thyroid is super important for keeping our metabolism raving high and burning fat.
What Does This Mean For Dieters?
What all this means is that our body compensates for lower calorie intake and higher exercise levels within 4 - 10 days generally.
This accounts on average for a calorie requirement of 300 kcal less per day. Where before you could lose weight at 1500 kcal per day, now you need to drop to 1200 kcal per day, or burn 300 kcal extra per day working out. And after another few weeks, you’ll have to eat 900 kcal per days in order to lose weight.
And when you start eating normally again? The pounds start piling on like crazy because your metabolism stays at the suppressed level for up to a year. This effect is called Adaptive Thermogenesis. A study titled “Long-term persistence of adaptive thermogenesis in subjects who have maintained a reduced body weight” shows this effect clearly.
Is There a Way Out?
It’s not all doom and gloom. Many of us have extensive dieting experience (hence the title of my blog) and I’m sure you’ve noticed that what worked in our 20s, does no longer work in our 40s. That’s simply the result of a slowed down metabolism that is sick and tired of constant stressful dieting.
What we need now is a really clever strategy that works with our bodies, not against them.
In the next few weeks I’ll go into details as to how we can achieve this and get rid of even stubborn body fat.
For now, we need to get away from the concept of Eat Less Exercise More. It hasn’t worked before and it sure as heck won’t work now!
It boils down to a very simple concept:
If you burn less calories, eat less calories. If you work out hard, you need to eat more.
There is obviously more to it, but this is the gist. My next blog post will dive into Metabolic Multitasking. If you thought you can lose fat at the same time as building muscle, think again!
Please let me know what you thought about this article below.
If you’d like to dive deeper, check out Jade Teta’s article “The Law of Metabolic Compensation” .