The Cold, Hard Truth About Weight Loss

Brian Haimes

Sport and Exercise Psychology, Personal Training


It's time for the article that should hopefully shape the rest of your weight loss journey for the better. Let's first start out with a fact: your metabolism, or your body's ability to burn calories, has a ceiling. We can increase the number of calories we burn in a day with activity, but there are limits. If we run three miles versus sitting on a couch, we will burn more calories. However, if we run six miles versus three miles, we see the increase of calories burned at this distance is less than the 0 to 3 mile option.


This is reasonable, right? The law of diminishing returns provides a good assessment: when the cost to create something is greater than the benefit received from creating it. This theory applies to weight loss in a very important way. We all know the person (or may likely be the person ourselves) who has killed himself on the treadmill three times a week for several weeks only to see our weight go nowhere, or even gain weight. What the heck is going on here?



Outsmart Your Brain

When our bodies receive the stimulus of "create the energy necessary to run three miles" it does so. But our bodies are brilliant—they innately understand that performing this task over and over again is going to be stressful and that stress can interfere with our ability to survive. This is how our brains work. The job of your brain is to keep us alive and it doesn't care whether or not we lose 15 pounds.


Our bodies get smart. They learn how to create that same activity with less energy each time. Our bodies learn, and when they learn, we get better at preserving calories. You can see why this not ideal. So now what? What do we do about it?



The only road to creating a fit, lean body long term is to increase the number of calories burned (un-preserve them) via the proper type of activities and reduce the number of calories consumed in a manner that doesn't tell the body to preserve calories.


Doing this is a delicate dance, and usually requires some trial and error. Finding a good coach can save you a lot of time and headache (yes, I'm a coach but no I'm not saying this purely as a plug for what I do) because there are a lot of subtle details.


That being said, let me give you a light-year head start:


  1. Learn how to strengthen your body with resistance training. A strong body, one with regularly used muscle mass, is a calorie using body — it's also a more capable, healthy, and aesthetically appealing one.
  2. Take the time to understand your relationship with what you consume, both food and drink. Do you drink alcohol every night? Do you eat chips from the bag vs. portion them out? Do you consume sufficient protein? (There really isn't such a thing as too much.)
  3. Learn about your body and mind's relationship to consuming. Is it a stress relief? Is your life organized around food in a way that is sabotaging your weight loss efforts?


These are just a few of the questions that should be answered. My most successful weight loss clients have learned how to organize and reorient the forces in their lives so they no longer interfere with their goals. And when that happens a whole new world awaits you.

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