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Are You Metabolically Flexible?

How many diets have you been on?  Were you successful on any of them, losing the weight?  Yet, the weight returned and you wonder what you did wrong.

Actually, you did nothing wrong except ignoring your body’s biology.  As hard as you work to lose weight, your body will try to maintain the status quo.  As research keeps trying to find out why the body defends what seems like a setpoint, a weight that won’t budge, there is something you can try.

 

It’s More Than Diet

I’m a dietitian who specializes in weight loss.  You might expect that my approach would be to tell you what you should and shouldn’t be eating.  But, guess what?  It doesn’t matter how you achieve eating fewer calories, whether it be a high-protein diet, low-fat diet, low-carb diet, or any restrictive approach (although I don’t like people to lose weight on fad diets.  I’d rather see them lose weight on healthy, well-rounded diets that decrease overall calorie intake.)

There’s no question that in order to lose weight you are going to have to eat fewer calories.  That part is a given.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a treat now and then.  Never think you can’t eat your favorite foods.  You definitely can’t eat as much of them — that is for sure.  But to eliminate particular foods is to create cravings.  Makes no sense.

 

The Downside of Dieting

The objective of dieting is to create an energy gap.  You need to be eating fewer calories than you have been eating and burn up more than you have been burning.  Yet, doing that makes you hungry.  Your body is just responding naturally.  Your brain is going to kick in and demand you eat.

First you’ll use willpower.  You’ll show your body who is boss.  It works for a while, giving you a little time to take off a couple of pounds.  The biggest bummer is that as you lose weight, your metabolic rate decreases.  Now what?

 

Metabolism is a Key Player

Exercise is the answer.  You probably didn’t want to hear that.  Who has time to exercise?  Maybe you don’t even enjoy exercising.

Okay, instead let’s call it physical activity.  You need to get off your butt several times a day and accumulate about 60 minutes of aerobic activity.  It’s not just a matter of making sure you get up and walk to the water cooler.  No, I’m talking about something that is a planned activity, whether it’s indoors on a treadmill or elliptical or outdoors walking briskly (not a stroll) or playing a game of tennis.

I’m sure you knew all this before you even started reading this post.  However, there’s probably something you didn’t think about and I’m about to tell you.

 

The 6-Month On Again / Off Again Program

Choose whatever way you want to lose weight.  I personally believe that losing weight according to who you are — an approach that is tailored to your personality type — is the best.  It’s up to you how you want to change your eating habits.

Instead of skipping breakfast, thinking that that’s a good way to avoid calories, make sure you have a hearty breakfast.  When I say hearty, I don’t mean a lumberjack’s breakfast with bacon, eggs, waffles, etc.  I mean fruit, whole grain cereal or bread, a good source of protein (dairy or eggs, etc.).

If grazing works better for you than three set meals, graze.  People are often surprised at how little food it takes to actually satisfy their hunger.  Think about the big warehouse stores or grocery stores that offer samples.  By the time you’ve made your way through the store, sampling this or that, you find  you’re not hungry.

You need to include some physical activity.  Decide what works best for you and when you can fit it in.  This is one area that you are going to have to make a priority.  Everyone has to eat and so that’s just a matter of deciding what to eat.  Exercising is another story entirely.  Unless you purposely make it part of your day, it just isn’t going to happen.  Life can throw you curve balls and provide you with every excuse there is to avoid the exercise part.  And yet, exercise may be even more important than what you eat.  (And you heard that from a dietitian!)

Continue eating in whatever way that allows you to lose weight.  Do this for six months.  Make a date with yourself on the calendar as to when the diet is over.   Make it exactly six months to the day you started the diet.

Now your objective is not to lose any more weight.  The objective is to maintain your new weight.  Continue to eat about the same amount as you have been eating to lose the pounds.  No more restriction or eating fewer calories.

Do maintenance for another six months.  If you want to lose some more weight, do another 6 months on / 6 months off program.

 

Maintenance and Metabolism

Now is when exercise is really paramount in maintaining the weight loss.  This is where the metabolic flexibility comes in.  Less weight on your body means your metabolism will naturally want to slow down.  That’s when exercise really becomes an important part of the program.  That 60-minutes a day of exercise is what you’re going to need to maintain the weight you’ve now reached.  It’s the only way you’re going to be able to keep your metabolism revved up.

Remember:  Weight-loss is driven by calorie restriction (and helped by exercise) while weight maintenance is driven by exercise.

 

Why? What? How?

What we didn’t talk about was “why” are you losing weight?  Without a good “why”, it doesn’t matter “what” you do to lose weight or “how” you do it.  No one but you can answer the question “why”.

Linette has been heavier more years than she can remember.  She does remember being an outgoing person when she was young, but has now withdrawn.  She’s no longer socializing with friends, keeping to herself most of the time.  When asked why she wants to lose weight, she says it’s to live a healthier life.  But that response just begs for another “why do you want to live a healthier life?”  Linette wants to have a family, but has yet to find the right guy who doesn’t appear to be repulsed by her weight.  When Linette kept asking herself “why”, she finally realized that she felt she had lost her soul to the weight.  No one got to know her as she knew herself.  The weight was hiding her from others.

Find your own “why” and the “way” will follow.

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