The real reason why you can't lose weight (all 6 of them)
Anyone can lose weight. You know that. You’ve done it a million times. And that’s the problem. A crash diet is painful, but if you really put your mind to it you can shift a couple of pounds. But to lose weight for good? That’s tough. And not just tough. For nearly all overweight people it proves to be impossible. They stay fat for the rest of their days.
This is the horrible truth we don’t want to face up to. None of us. The diet industry doesn’t because there goes the ‘wonder weight-loss’ promise, and the media think the same way; everybody loves a good before and after story. The authorities don’t want to admit it either; they’re worried that admitting how tough it is will stop people from trying in the first place. And lastly, we don’t want to admit it to ourselves. It’s just too depressing.
So why am I writing this?
Because it’s not always impossible. And because, if you’re going to lose weight for good, you need to know what you’re up against and you’ve got to have the right tools to beat it.
So, this is what you’re going to have to beat.
1. You Eat Too Much
First up. You eat too much. That’s a much tougher truth than we really want to face. We’d like to think that a diet will reduce our weight, and that once we’ve reduced the weight we can go back to ‘normal’ and carry on at our new lower weight.
It doesn’t work like that. You put on weight because you eat more than you need. And, unhelpfully, the older you get the less you need. At the rate you ‘normally’ eat you will go back to putting on weight. And the more time goes on the more your body learns to stick to its heavier weight and the faster it returns to that weight after every diet.
If you stand any chance of losing weight for good you will have to accept the idea of eating less forever. I told you it was hard.
But it’s not all bad. It doesn’t mean calorie counting, it doesn’t mean going without your favourite treats, it doesn’t mean going hungry. There ways to make it easier, but it’s never going to go away.
2. You are a Fat Magnet
You are better at storing fat than a polar bear. We all are. Humans are made that way because, biologically, we are scavengers. But for you it’s probably worse. If you’re reading this then, the chances are, you struggle with your weight. And that’s likely to be because you’re a particularly good Fat Magnet. Some of us are genetically skinny. Some fat. In prehistoric times you’d have been a survivor. Your naturally slower metabolism and your excess of fat storage cells would have put you ahead of the pack. And you can probably thank your ancient ancestors for it because that’s why you’re here. But fat lot of good it’ll do you now that you are here, Literally.
Scientists are agreed that genetics have a big role to play in our tendency for weight gain. But in terms of staying slim it means you’re going to have it tough. Little Miss Beanpole and Young Mr Matchstick Legs can eat hundreds more calories per day than us no-so Little-Misses-and-Misters without putting on a pound. And they can cope with all sorts of overeating without ever noticing it.
If you are naturally prone to carry more weight, you’ll see it in your family history. And it’s up to you how you deal with it. My family are all on the large side. I’m not …any more, but I know I could be. Yes, it’s harder for us. No, it’s not a life sentence.
And there’s one small consolation. You can tell those skinny bitches who think fat just a punishment for eating badly to f**k off. They’re the kind of people who give you the glib advice to ‘eat less and move more’. They have no idea. That kind of trite comment only makes sense if you’ve never dieted.
3. You live in Traybake Times
There’s a chocolate brownie on every corner. Calories scream at you from every coffee shop counter, supermarket shelf and window display. And all of it is pimped to appeal to your base survival instincts. The colours, smells, tastes and textures that promise the fuel and nutrients that our bodies crave, are all hyped beyond anything we would have found in nature. And our brains respond to these ‘supernormal’ stimulus with all the restraint of a happy puppy. There is no hope of quiet control.
4. You’ve lost control to Amy Brain
Your Amy Brain overrides every good intention you ever have.
Thoughtful Brain says that it’s worth saying no to a treat today to achieve the reward of a trimmer figure tomorrow. Our instinctive Amy Brain says ‘f**k it, give me the muffin’. We all know the situation. But it’s not just a question of willpower. The ancient, primal part of our brains, like the amygdala (Amy, for short) which controls our emotive reactions, works so much faster and more decisively than our evolved, logical brains. But in the modern world, where we’re not fighting for survival, Amy gets it wrong in so many ways. Are we hungry - or just bored? We can’t even tell how we feel here and now let alone predict how we’ll feel in ten minutes time. As for tomorrow, forget it. We are influenced by what’s easy and available and instant. And we’d rather follow suggestions and temptations than to think for ourselves.
Your waist doesn’t have a chance.
5. You are an addict
A few years ago the newspapers got very excited about some research that showed that sugar produces the same kind of neural dependency as drugs - complete with ‘dopamine rushes’, cravings, binging and withdrawal. ‘Cupcakes are the new cocaine’, was a popular headline in our national press.
That’s probably pushing it. But there’s an underlying truth. You have a ‘dependency’ on sugar that goes beyond nutrition. Remember, all food gets turned into sugar, but the starches and simple carbohydrates spike your blood sugar levels much quicker. It’s satisfying, energising and comforting, and it does lovely things to your opioid receptors. So start reducing carbs, and it’s no surprise you’ll get withdrawal symptoms. Cut back on bread, pastry, pasta and the loss of all that comforting yummy-ness is going to leave you wanting.
Put it that way and dieting is a form of cold turkey. Your body craves what you won’t let it have. And you Amy Brain is in on the act too. Now you are hyper sensitised to the foods you’re missing. So when the skinny bitch stands in Starbucks waiting for her mocha-choca latte that won’t add an ounce to her washboard-flat stomach she won’t even notice the sticky, flaky, gooey delights alluringly stacked behind the glass. But to you they’ll be calling out like demented sirens.
And Amy won’t ignore them.
6. You are on a diet
And, more importantly, it’s not your first.
That’s going to make things worse. As if it’s not bad enough that dieting doesn’t work, your body really knows how to kick you in the gut when it comes to trying to lose your gut. Every time you fail to lose weight you get worse at dieting. A combination of hormonal, chemical, neural (and frankly mental) changes mean that each time we try to lose weight our bodies try harder to hold on to it. And I’m not going to go into the science here (because I don’t pretend to properly understand it) but experiments have shown that people who have lost weight are metabolically different to people who haven’t. An ‘averagely’ 11 stone woman who has never had to diet in her life will stay at 11 stone easily, even with wide variations in her diet from week to week. An 11 stone woman who has dieted down from 12 stone is a coiled spring ready to get back there. According to the science, her metabolic rate can be as much as 30 to 40% less.
Talk about rubbing salt in the wound.
There’s six reasons why losing weight for good is tough. It’s so tough that some scientists are arguing that there’s no real solution beyond the recommendation not to put on weight in the first place. Thanks for that, Scientists.
Some people use it as an excuse to give up.
But there’s a better way to look at it. For a start you can stop beating yourself up that it’s so hard to lose weight. It’s not that you are weak or easily tempted. And you can stop comparing yourself to those chicken-legged shrimps that eat chocolate cake for breakfast and still look like a cocktail stick. They are lying f**kers anyway.
Yes, you need to know that it is tough, but I can promise you it’s not impossible.
You need to think of it as a something more than dieting. You are going to have to make some changes for life.
Forget diets. Or forget hoping that a new one will solve the problem.
No single diet is ever going to help you lose weight for good.
It means that you’re going to have to look to your behaviour. You’re going to have to make some changes that you can stick with for good. How? Well, I can’t vouch for ‘forever’ yet but I’ve lost 4 ½ stone and kept it lost for 4 going on 5 years now. I’ve done it by introducing simple behaviours to counter the issues we face. I’ve based them on the same instincts that get us into trouble in the first place – so they are intuitive and relatively easy to follow. And I’ve tested them across different diets. You can read about the eight key behaviours in the Diet Groove. And it’ll give you everything you need to get started. You can find it at www.thedietgroove.com. There are some questions there to help you think about if its right for you, too.
And, if it is, good luck! But you won’t need luck if you’re prepared to face up to the truth you face. Just a good dose of honesty.
Do let me know how you get on.