One of the most prevalent questions I get asked goes something like this, “Dr. Jade, I have done everything right and I am still not losing weight, why?”
The answer is simple for me, but complex for everyone else. It is simple because I have the benefit of having worked with thousands of people over several decades. This gives me a unique perspective.
Let me share with you three reasons I believe most people think they are “doing everything right” when they clearly are not.
People think weight loss is about diet and exercise. This is only half of the equation; the other half may be more important.
I break it down into a framework I call the 4Ms:
Usually, those who say they have been “doing everything right” are focused on meals (what & how they are eating) and metabolics (exercise).
What they miss is movement and mindset.
Most people don’t understand why I would distinguish movement from metabolics (i.e. exercise). “What’s the difference?"
Exercise, or metabolics, is certainly a type of movement. But it is a structured, planned event with the distinct aim of stimulating the metabolism for some defined goal. Burn fat, build muscle, get faster, stronger or train longer.
Movement is just what you do when you are living. It is not exercise when you walk down to the store, fidget, garden, clean the house, have sex or type on your computer. All that stuff is what researchers call NEAT or (Non Exercise Associated Thermogenesis).
It turns out this NEAT movement is a HUGE component of total daily energy use, and varies widely from person to person. Research looking at a person who sits all day long and then does a 30 minute workout (metabolics), compared to a person who moves all day long but does no structured exercise, suggest the mover is far better off health and fitness wise than the metabolic exerciser.
This NEAT component of metabolism is also dramatically impacted by eating less and exercising more. The less you eat and the more you exercise, the more the body compensates by spontaneously decreasing NEAT.
If you are not taking NEAT into account than you are not doing everything right no matter what you think. This is one of the reasons why policy makers suggest walking 10K steps per day. It is a way to make sure we move in more of the way our, naturally thin, ancestors did.
My recommendation is to get an activity tracker. My favorite is fitbit. Accumulate as much movement as is feasible throughout the day.
I personally have a fitbit and it keeps me conscious of movement. When I talk on the phone I pace. When I take a break from work I stay on my feet. Cleaning up becomes a movement opportunity. I take the steps, not the elevator. I walk daily.
I also have a Cubii desk elliptical and a standup desk. All movement counts.
If you are not getting results from diet and exercise, then you are not doing everything right, no matter what you think.
You see, the idea that you are “doing things right” comes from the idea that there is a right way for all people to do things. And that is a VERY WRONG idea.
There is no perfect diet, no matter what the paleo, keto, vegan, gluten free people tell you. There is also no perfect exercise system no matter what the body pump, yogis, runners and Crossfitters would like you to believe. All these approaches can work wonderfully for some and fail miserably for others.
Doing everything right means abandoning the very silly, and pervasive idea, that there is one single way to do things.
You need to find what works for you, and that requires an entirely different approach. It involves becoming a metabolic detective, rather than a dieter or workout fiend.
It involves a learning process of trial and error. It is about forgetting about one-size-fits-all rules, but rather, writing your own.
The idea that some magic elixir- of coffee and butter, or grass fed organic beef steak wrapped in bacon and avocado, or whole grain sprout wrap with quinoa sprinkles- works for everyone is just plain, well, dumb.
To find "what works for you,” here are my suggestions:
Monitor your SHMEC hourly and/or daily (sleep, hunger, mood, energy and cravings)
Measure your shape change weekly
Measure your blood labs quarterly
The right approach for you will keep SHMEC in check, result in fat loss and optimal body change- hourglass shape for females and v-shape for men- and result in vitals and blood labs improving.
If the above checks are showing positive results, keep doing what you are doing, even if that means your wine habit. If that is not true adjust your approach. More details on how to do that HERE.
We talked about movement, so here we talk about mindset. The human body is one big stress barometer. Everything your metabolism does is designed to do one major thing……measure and react to stress.
It is the metabolism’s prime directive. This means your mindset around stress, like movement, is everything; and almost no one pays any attention to it.
How many people do you know who say to themselves, “I am having trouble losing weight, I should take a nap, a hot bath or go have an orgasm?”
Usually, they are doing the exact opposite aren’t they?
“I need to take this supplement, drink this magic elixir, exercise twice daily doing the new tangerine-theory-interval-workout; oh- and eat nothing but organic kale and wild, line-caught salmon.”
If there is any one thing you should do, is plan to mitigate stress. Mindset around a new lifestyle prioritizing rest, recovery and relaxation is the cure.
We now know stress activates the reward centers of the brain, makes us crave high calorie food, and causes the body to make new fat cells and grow those cells bigger. Check out the blog for the science HERE.
Laughing lowers cortisol. This is why time with friends, connection to family, hanging with pets, and anything else that puts you in a happy mood is key.
Sex and cuddling, both separately and more powerfully when combined, are powerful stress reducers. Orgasm, whether through masturbation or sex, immediately puts the metabolism in relax and recovery mode. Add a long cuddle to that and you are in stress relieving bliss.
Walking lowers cortisol. It can’t be huffing, puffing, arm-swinging, power walking; that is more akin to running. This type of walking is slow and relaxing; taking in the scenery. This is why walking is so central and shows up in two of the 4Ms (movement and mindset).
Long showers and relaxing baths. Water therapies are extremely relaxing especially, when done in relaxing settings.
Relaxing, spa like, music with candlelight is a perfect way to amplify the stress relieving benefits of water therapy.
Sleeping and napping are huge. We all know how detrimental sleep deprivation can be in terms of, elevating stress hormone production and sending SHMEC out of check. Research has shown that even a 10-minute nap can undo much of the dysfunction associated. But how many actually take the time to nap rather than insist on trying to get another workout in?
Meditation and massage are huge. Even self massage techniques, like foam rolling are wonderful.
Many people ask me about yoga, pilates or other exercise classes. Do these work to lower cortisol and stress? The yoga of the western world is typically intense and stimulating. Things like power yoga are not going to do the trick, but relaxing and stretching type yogas are great. Tai Chi is also wonderful.
The idea is to schedule these R,R &R (rest, recovery and relaxation) sessions into your daily life as much as possible.
Making walking the central focus of your stress reduction, and using other modalities daily, or even multiple times per day, are going to make all the difference in the world.
Find, and use, as many different tools and techniques as you can. The modern day is increasing its options in this regard. Spas, deprivation chambers, massage therapists, saunas, etc. Use them to decrease your stress output and your body will thank you.
If you're stuck in that "I'm doing everything right, but don't see results" window, then try some of the above suggestions.