Updated: Jan 3, 2021
Each and every one of my weight loss clients is a fundamentally unique human—that requires a personalized approach. The “one-size-fits-all” strategy that almost every fitness and nutrition guru has been preaching for years, has clearly failed most, if not all of us. The eat less, exercise more bullshit is indeed accurate at a myopic level, but far too simplistic.
We are not machines. We have brains, emotions, beliefs, and experiences that shape our outcomes.
It is impossible to invent a weight loss protocol that everyone can succeed at. With that said—if you feel you need a road map and have not had sucess with your cookie cutter meal plan and Insta fit coach—I have some areas for you to explore.
Are you ready to get down and dirty? Results require hard work. If it was as easy as eat this, don't eat that—we wouldn't have an obesity epidemic in America, now would we?
Again, this is not the one single approach that is magic sauce for everyone, but it's a logical road map of areas to explore.
If someone is eating too much, they have a good reason for it. Now finding the "why" is where the solution is hidden when searching for your forever body.
Macronutrient Balance, Micronutrients, Eating Rhythm
These are very practical places to start to work in. They are rooted in “nutrition”, and tweaking these areas will often yield some nice results in a short amount of time.
First macronutrients. If you enjoy tracking your food which is usually my type A control junkies, I will give you some guidelines for setting your numbers. I always set protein first, then fats, and the remainder carbohydrates. I've settled in at 1.5g per lbm (lean body mass) for protein, .4g-.5g per lbm for fat, and fill the rest of your calories with carbs. Keep in mind these are vague recommendations that I would tailor specifically to a client and their goals/health conditions.
If you despise tracking or it gives you anxiety, there is really no need to meticulously track after an initial trial run to see what portions look like visually. If you've already done this, no need to go back to rigidity if you know you don't do well with that approach. You know what a reasonable portion looks like at this point. General guidelines for a meal is aim for 30-40 grams of protein to ensure MPS (muscle protein synthesis), a table spoon of quality oil or one serving of a whole food fat source like avocado or nuts, half a cup of starch or a serving of fruit, and fill up on fibrous veggies. Obviously this is entirely contextual depending on caloric needs, preferences, and activity levels. This is intended to be a starting place to give you an idea of appropriate amounts if you're still strongly rejecting any form of tracking.
Micronutrients are specific vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids, and other substances that your body needs in relatively small quantities to function properly. A standard American diet rarely supplies all that you need, hence all the crazy fad diets that are achieving results, this is in part due to the increase in micronutrients alone— not avoiding a food group.
Similar to macronutrients, there is a minimum and maximum threshold for each micronutrient that your body needs, and as always context matters. These personal baseline are highly dependent on your starting point, goals, genetic predispositions, and lifestyle. Long-standing micronutrient deficiencies and excessive oxidation are the primary contributors to premature aging and increased biological age.
The solution to micronutrient deficiencies is to focus your diet primarily on whole foods. They contain a wide array of harmonious substances that are needed for better nutrient absorption and utilization. The food matrix is a thing and food contains multiple co-factors that aid in our ability to optimize our nutritional status. Survival on a McDonalds and supplements alone isn't a good health strategy.
When micronutrient deficiencies in your diet occur, your body taps into its reserves to continue functioning. Once the internal reserves are depleted, the body starts prioritizing certain internal systems, and starts breaking down or sacrificing your other systems to keep the ones most pertinent to survival running smoothly. Micronutrient depletion often goes unnoticed until seemingly inexplicable symptoms start to arise.
As for eating rhythm — I discourage constant snacking and prefer people to have set meal times for a number of reasons that I will get into at another time. Some people thrive on 3 meals per day, while others might be helped with weight loss or health by choosing 6-9 small meals per day. Find what works for you. I don't have the magic solution. If anyone promises they do, they are deluded and it's best to run the other way.
Slowing Down, Relaxed Eating, Breathing
Do you inhale your food? Most people do. I get it—you're busy, the kids are impatient, you've been restricting and food is fucking delicious. We all have our list of reasons why we just can't slow down.
Becoming a relaxed eater has a number of benefits such as improved health via less stress, lowered appetite because you can pay attention to your body's cues, better digestion, and better body-awareness. Change your narrative—slow means sexy. You deserve the time, repose, ease, and sense of abundance when it comes to food.
The virtue of letting go of the stress response around food, as well as surrendering to a humane and nourishing eating experience instead of judging and punishing ourselves, is profound for most people. Relieving the anxiety, fear, negative mind chatter about food and weight, and tension around life, allows you to focus on nourishing that incredible body of yours.
This is not a habit that is attempted once and mastered. As with any habit we want to cultivate, it will be an ongoing practice. Accept that there will be mistakes. Use these to improve your approach and don't beat yourself up for not being perfect right a way.
Remember Rome wasn't built in a day.
The “No Diet” Diet
Have you been swinging between chronic dieting and binging your entire adult life?
Well it's time to enroll yourself in a "no diet" diet if this has been your story.
Let go of all attempts at weight loss, all attempts at weight loss or purging exercise, all calorie counting, fat gram counting, or weighing yourself on the scale if you attach emotion and self worth to that number (most people do). Put it all on the back burner. Get out of the dieting mindset. Stop worrying about weight for at least a month. Give restriction a vacation. Let it go.
If this idea gives you anxiety, it's most likely showing you exactly where you're needing to work.
You can always come back to your old ways later on. It's time to let yourself focus on more important aspects of your life for a little while. Most people, when they do come back, they have a renewed sense of focus and ambition anyways.
Eating Environment And Moderation
There is no question that environment plays into peoples success. If I want to gain weight, all I have to do is put some hyper-palatable foods in my cupboards and fridge. Hello peanut butter and cheese.
Why? Can't everyone just learn to control themselves?
Moderation is an interesting concept in theory. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people that think they are somehow superior, because they believe they have mastered the art of moderation. They believe that everyone that hasn't been unable to master the art of moderation are just lazy, and undisciplined.
That is far too simplistic and ignorant. Many people find it far easier to give something up altogether than to indulge moderately. There’s no right way or wrong way— you just need to find what works for your brain. If moderators try to abstain, they feel rebellious and usually end up binging. If abstainers attempt to be moderate, they spend an inordinate amount of time rationalizing why and how much they should eat. Unlike others in the fitness and health realm — I do not see all restriction as being disordered or inherently bad. Believe it or not I think a lack of some restriction inevitably leads to an unhealthy weight in certain individuals.
With both types we often have foods with no breaks. Meaning when we start we just can't stop... or it's incredibly difficult to stop. The foods that hit your pleasure centers hard will be completely different from what hits your best friends.
We all must take our individual physiology, personality, and lifestyle into consideration when we are deciding what moderation means to us and how we are going to define it.
Remember this—one persons “moderation” is another persons “bender” or “restrictive" diet. It's completely subjective.
Restriction only becomes an issue when you view your diet as all or nothing. Or start to isolate yourself due to your dietary restrictions. If you experience anxiety around food, that is also a good indication that you are not simply practicing discipline, and it has crossed into disordered territory.
Do a pleasure inventory. What gives you pleasure in life? For many people on a weight loss journey, a fear of pleasure and a dissociation from receiving it, is the primary obstacle to their weight issues. Our emotional reactions around pleasure are often ignored due to the "getting shit done" mindset. We justify not needing pleasure because it takes too much time.
We need to work pleasure practices into our days. This includes allowing yourself to experience pleasure when it comes to food — but food can't be your only source of pleasure either. It needs to be diverse. Have at least a couple daily rituals that provide pleasure for you.
The solution here is as easy and as difficult as practicing receiving pleasure and letting go of guilt for accepting it into your life.
De-stressing in the Personal Realm
Lifelong childhood habits and unconscious programing push many people immediately into a physiologic stress response whenever they eat, or encounter food. Fight or flight at the simple sight of food. Food = Stress. This stress can cause unconscious restriction or bingy type of behavior around foods. This is a deeply ingrained psycho-physiologic pattern of stress surrounding foods.
Food becomes the perfect coping mechanism when you fail to address stressors in the personal realm. Nothing quite like the food coma to chill you out. There are biochemical reasons for stress eating. Our bodies are smart. They increase cravings for salt, sugar, and fat in times of stress. This helps the body replenish reserves for the next "fight" so to speak. Except problem is, we are constantly stressed and surrounded by hyper-palatable sugar, fat, salt combos that make it easy to over indulge on a regular basis. Hyper-palatable food environments paired with chronic stress and self soothing with food, we now have the perfect recipe for unwanted weight gain.
Eventually you will have to address the root cause of your stress, and stop trying to bandaid things with faulty coping mechanisms. What saddens my heart is to see so many people suffering over their desire to feel less pain.
Depending on what the stressor is, the solution will be different.
Explore these key domains in your life to see where the things stressing you out are focused. Are they self-chosen? Or is it the kind of anxiety that is really a constant low-level stress that is unavoidable? Finding these could be the key to your weight loss resistance. Writing out a cost, benefit analysis is helpful here. Something about seeing it on paper that helps put things in perspective and pushes our brains towards finding a solution. Sometimes things that were priorly non-negotiable stressors can be re-worked.
Achieve the End Results Now
What do you expect to happen when you lose weight? This is something you must explore. Do you think that you will finally be happy? Or that you will finally find the love of your life when you achieve the perfect weight? You will feel sexier and more confident, right?
Well I will break the bad news to you now—no person will ever reach nirvana by achieving a scale number.
Don't wait for the magic number or body composition to start embodying your end results. Feel sexy and confident now. Work on your happiness now. Practice the end results now. Do not wait.
Hating the body you are currently in and having a negative body image simply says “I reject the body given to me. I am at war against myself. I am no good. I am not enough. I am unlovable as I am. I do not deserve to experience the simple pleasure of bodily existence.”
This often leads to self sabotage, black and white dichotomous behaviors.
Entertain me for a minute — a negative body image has our brains constantly in judgment mode, talking about it in a demeaning way, and performing acts of restriction and over-exercise that are punishing. It has us walking through the world in a constant state of disapproval of who we are at an intrinsic level. Hating anything about us that society deems as imperfect. The way we counteract this and start to regain a healthy mindset is through acts of self love and acceptance of who we are showing up as in this world today. It is medicine and reprograming of the virulent disease of body hate.
Most people look to heal their negative body image by changing the body to an impossible-to-reach standard. Healing our skewed body image requires courage, self reflection, working through our painful emotions, and as with everything, time.
Authenticity is a lifestyle decision. It is based on self introspection, moral integrity, and a relentless commitment to maintain personal values, regardless of what anyone thinks of you.
In our vain as fuck image obsessed society, it can be difficult to find people who are authentically themselves. This is made more layered and complex by the fact that authenticity isn’t a black and white thing. Just like empathy, spirituality, or open-mindedness—authenticity must be created and consciously maintained throughout one’s lifetime unless it comes intrinsically, which for most it doesn't.
The real question is how do we possibly remain authentic in a world that is based on shady ass judgments constructed form other humans personal biases. We are conditioned to conform to inauthenticity.
The better we know and accept our authentic selves — the less inclined we are to pass judgement on our fellow humans. Less judgment on others, translates to more acceptance of ourselves. Our condemnation of others is deeply rooted in our own failures and insecurities. Unconscious drives at their finest. The more compassion and tolerance we develop for our own flaws, the easier it becomes to accept the faults of others. This will indirectly impact our body acceptance.
A serious question you need to ask yourself when you find yourself tearing another human to shreds in your mind—if you were happy with yourself, why would you want to bring other people down?
"The self-righteous scream judgments against others to hide the noise of skeletons dancing in their own closets." John Green
Often, when we decide to present our masks to the world, our constructed facade—it is because we want to avoid the criticism and the ‘shoulds’ of everyone else. It is easier to compromise our personal values than to rock the metaphorical boat. We want to be accepted and loved by everyone. This goes back to our evolutionary drives to be accepted by the 'tribe'. It's evolutionarily programed in, but now does a disservice in our lives.
Radical acceptance of our authentic nature is a very powerful point of personal transformation for restoring a healthy body image.
I'm sure we've all had times where we tend to eat when bored. Why do we do this? It happens when there is no physiological need of food, yet we are shoveling food in our mouths like there is no tomorrow.
I am of the belief that the remedy of this phenomenon is exploring the places where they are wanting or needing to be more creative.
Where do you have creativity waiting to be released?
What do you feel passionate about? Business, music, art, travel writing, reading, dance, martial arts, working on that hot rod, gardening, or scrapbooking? We all have something that hits our dopaminergic system that doesn't relate to food. Find it.
Explore Sexual Wounding and Healing
This topic is taboo and uncomfortable for many to address. I get it. You've been conditioned to either see it as a private matter or 'dirty'.
There are two areas where I find people struggle with their sexuality:
First is many people use weight to protect themselves—to protect against men, sexual advances, remembering past emotional wounding from sexual abuse. This phenomenon is more prevalent in my female clients due to the sexual abuse rates being higher in females, but does occur in men too.The healing and transformation happens when you can learn to trust again. I know this is easier said, than done.
Many are simply shut down in a complete fear response around their sexuality, and food becomes their only pleasure they experience in life. They utilize food as a way to avoid their sexual fears and immaturity or embarrassment in this area. Until this core issue of sexuality is addressed, the weight will likely stay on. If you've been sexually abused and still struggle with it, please find someone who can help you work through this.
Second issue around sexuality is being dissociated from the body. We tend to be alienated from our sexuality, afraid of expressing our deepest desires, shy about receiving pleasure, and inevitably end up sexually unfulfilled. Turning to food to pick up where we feel unfulfilled sexually is a band aide approach and will never 'fix' the root of the issue.
Self-expression is often a paralyzing thought for those who have rejected their body for carrying extra fat. If we don’t enjoy the body we are in, there’s a part of us that doesn’t want to be seen or touched. Let us remember though, no matter how difficult it is, we need to embody our sensuality prior to hitting that perfect number on the scale. Working new sexual experiences in to our life can have a profound impact on our body image and weight.
The magic sauce here is that when we align ourselves with our greatest expression in life, and become the person we are truly meant to be and heal our faulty perceptions—then the body and its weight will have the best chance to become what it is truly meant to be, whatever that number or shape is.
When we stop fighting the body, hating it for carrying extra fat, hiding our passions, hiding our desires, and saving all of our experiences for when we have that chiseled flawless body, then true and lasting mental and bodily transformation can happen.
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