What am I doing wrong?

Anyone who has struggled to lose weight knows this thought.
 
You do your best to eat healthy while your friend seems to live on junk food. Or, somehow, even though you eat the same, your friend never seems to gain any weight. You start cranking it out at the gym every day but the scale isn’t budging. You start to think your metabolism is slow or broken, and you look for the right detox or cleanse to get it working again. Eventually, it all starts to feel pointless, like you’re somehow doomed to stay overweight forever.
 
You are not doomed. The internet is full of fat loss myths that stop you from reaching your goals and keeping the results. Let’s take a look at some of these scenarios, let me know if they sound familiar to you.

#1: I Eat Healthy, But Can’t Lose Weight

Meet Bo and Kenzie. Kenzie seems to stay skinny even though she only eats junk food, and Bo has started to envy her metabolism. She eats healthy food but can’t seem to lose a pound.
 
A typical day for Kenzie may look like this: 2 poptarts for breakfast, a McDonalds burger and fries, a frappucino for that mid-afternoon boost, and a packet of ramen for dinner.
 
Bo’s nutrition is on point. Her typical breakfast is avocado on whole wheat toast with two poached eggs, salad at McDonalds, a fruit-packed smoothie, and whole-wheat spaghetti with organic tomato sauce for dinner.
 
Bo’s meals are higher in nutrients than Kenzie’s so why is Bo struggling to lose weight?
 
Let’s dig in a little deeper:

  • 2 Poptarts – 420 Calories
  • McDouble and Small Fries – 610 Calories
  • Frappucino – 230 Calories
  • Ramen – 400 Calories per pack

Kenzie’s Total: 1660 Calories

  • Avocado Toast w/ Eggs: 500 Calories
  • McDonalds Salad: 690 Calories
  • Smoothie: 350 Calories
  • Whole Wheat Spaghetti & Meatballs: 600 Calories

Bo’s Total: 2040 Calories

While Bo may be getting more nutritious food, she may be eating more calories than her body needs. Especially if she is short and sedentary.
 
Bo has fallen into a trap known as the “Health Halo.” We perceive foods marketed as healthy to be lower in calories than they actually are. A salad may sound healthier than a burger. At most fast food places, salads often have more calories, fat, and sugar than a cheeseburger.
 
I would not recommend Kenzie’s typical daily food. It sounds like a recipe for being sluggish and malnourished. If I was trying to help Bo, I’d have her reassess her portion sizes. Also, she should watch out for healthy calorie traps like fruit juices and nut butters.

#2: I Eat The Same as my Friend but her Metabolism is Faster

Meet Faith and Willow. Faith and Willow are planning on having a lunch out at their favorite fast casual restaurant. So, they plan on having a light breakfast and a light dinner afterwards.
 
While they are out they split a spinach dip appetizer, and each have a burger and fries with a fun, fruity cocktail.
 
Faith finds herself wondering why Willow manages to stay so skinny, even though they eat the same. Let’s unpack the situation.

In the evening, they’re both pretty full so Willow has some greek yogurt with berries, and Faith has a salad while they catch up on their netflix shows. Again, Willow’s dinner totals about 300 calories. Faith’s could be as much as 500 depending on what kind of toppings and dressing she uses.
 
Additionally, Faith and Willow don’t see each other every day. Willow works as a waitress and is on her feet a lot and generally does not eat out. Faith works a desk job and is more likely to pick up food from a nearby restaurant for lunch. While it may seem like they eat the same foods, Willow’s daily routine has her moving more and eating less.
 
The big lesson I want to teach Faith is not to compare herself to others. This works two ways. One, Faith needs to eat for herself and no one else. Her energy needs are different from Willow’s. There are many factors that determine the calories we burn. This is known as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE.) Your height, weight, age, and activity level are variables which will make your TDEE unique to you.

Click here to calculate your TDEE.

Two, no one’s fitness journey is going to look the same. We all have different goals, different obstacles, and different techniques for getting there. Once Faith has gotten her TDEE and figures out her calorie goals, she may want to look to the internet to find the best way to stick stick to it. Other people may have tips and suggestions on the “best” way, but ultimately the best way is the way Faith can hit her targets consistently.

#3 I’m Working Out But Still not Losing Weight.

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Leland was a pretty fit guy in college, but ever since he graduated and got a job the pounds started piling on. He decides he is going to start going to the gym after work every day. After a few weeks, he does not see any change on the scale. What is going on?

The culprit may be in his mindset. Now that Leland is going to the gym every day, he is eating his dinner later. So, on his way to the gym he puts a scoop of protein powder and milk into his shaker bottle. Little does he know the 200 calories in that bottle is about equal to the 200 calories he’s burning at the gym.

Also, he has started having a “cheat” meal on the weekend that he wasn’t having before because he feels like he’s earned it with his new workout routine.

Leland has a lesson he needs to learn. You can’t outrun your fork.

It can take anywhere from an hour of walking, to 45 minutes of a cardio dance class, to 30 minutes of running to burn 250 calories.

It takes two minutes to eat a 250 calorie candy bar.

When it comes to fat loss, it is more efficient to control how many calories you take in than try to increase your TDEE. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body. It increases strength and bone density, improves your cardiovascular system, decreases symptoms of depression, and protects against various cancers. It just might not be the solution to fat loss.

#4 – I Need to Detox or Cleanse my Body to Fix my Metabolism.

Linda from my office did a three-day juice cleanse and lost 15 lbs. Should I try it?

No. Linda temporarily lost water weight that will come back when she goes back to her old eating habits.

In the end, Linda isn’t going to accomplish much. She got short term results for short term work. However, she hasn’t acknowledged the reasons she gained weight in the first place (spoiler alert: she’s consuming more energy than she actually needs.)

This lesson is a short and sweet one. Unless you have problems with your kidney and liver, you do not need to detox or cleanse anything in your body. The only thing you will lose will be money and joy. Your metabolism is not some magical engine that can break or need to be restarted. Which brings us to our last point.

#5 – Dieting Damaged my Metabolism.

It is the total energy used in the chemical reactions in your body – breathing, digesting, pumping your blood, activating your muscles, growing new skin cells. In fact, we mentioned it by another name earlier. Your “metabolism” is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure.

Jayne is taller and weighs more than Simon, they are equally physically active. Jayne is going to have higher energy needs than Simon.

As Jayne loses fat, he’ll have less mass and his energy needs will decrease. Colloquially, we call that a slower metabolism, but nothing is broken. If Jayne lost 20 lbs, that is 20 lbs worth of cells his body no longer needs to feed every day.

Granted, everyone is unique. An individual may burn 100 calories more or less than someone else with the same stats. Much like body temperature, you’d expect someone to clock in around 98.3 F or 99.0 F as their typical body temperature, but not 102 F or 93 F.

Jayne’s lesson is this: recalculate his TDEE after every 10-15 pound loss and adjust his goals accordingly. He should also be mindful about the calorie creep! Sometimes he finds himself getting comfortable with his weight loss process and gets a little lax with checking his portion sizes or letting himself have an extra treat. He needs to keep himself accountable and honest.

Summing Up

The pill that lets you lose fat while eating whatever you want. The detox that kickstarts your metabolism. The workout program that blasts fat even in your sleep! You know the kind of promises that fitstagrammers are hyping trying to sell that new diet tea or detox wrap.

As a fitness instagrammer myself, I can tell you these people aren’t hitting their goals with these products. They’re hitting their fitness goals through consistent exercise and energy balance. That is what is going to get you to your goals, too.

So remember:

  • Don’t fall for the health halo
  • Don’t compare your journey to others
  • Don’t try to out exercise a bad diet
  • Don’t try for quick fixes
  • Don’t forget to reassess and reevaluate

Also, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so you can keep in touch.

Want to have your own question answered? Hit me up at ray@superpowerssoldseparately.com

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18 Comments

    • I find myself doing it too, especially when I feel like I’m not improving fast enough. That’s when I go back to all of my befores to see how far I’ve come.

  • Wow…that is an amazing way to look at it. I must say until now I have believed everyone of those myths. Lol i love the part where you talked about it takes 2 minutes to eat a candy bar and it takes like 2 hours to burn off just part of those calories. I am so guilty of that.

    • Oh I am too, lol! And I definitely don’t see anything wrong with the occasional “well, I’m going out to dinner tonight so I’m going to get a little extra workout in.” It’s all about balance and the long term. Also, chocolate tastes so much better when it’s an occasional treat. Like mindblowingly good.

  • This is all true. I am guilty of believing a lot of those crazy magic pill commercials and I wish I could go back to the past and kick myself in the butt. I’m not 135 like I was before kids but I’m much more happier with lifting weights, eating what I want (in moderation), and living life. Not stressing about what I can or can’t eat.

  • Wow! What a great perspective on so many myths and one-by-one, calling them out. It is all so confusing, but like you said, it comes down to ‘consistent exercise and energy balance. That is what is going to get you to your goals.’ Thanks for making sense of all this! 😉

  • THANK YOU for busting these myths! All too often this is exactly what people think and it’s just plain WRONG!!! Diet out weights exercise for sure, however, exercise is still very important! Detoxing is a bogus word I hate. And people cannot compare themselves to others EVER!

  • I don’t eat the calories I “burn” from activity because I know I over estimate them and it slows me down. I do like the initial water weight drop though.

    • That initial water drop is always fun to see lol. I am thinking about writing about water retention and plateaus soon.

  • Yes yes yes! The comparing is the worst! Its easy to do, but we are all different and our bodies will lose weight, build muscles differently. Thank you for these awesome reminders!

  • These are great tips! I can’t wait to pop this baby out and start my fitness journey. I will definitely be saving these for reference later. I know in the past I have fallen into some of these myths.

  • These myths are very true and of course they don’t help us when we are trying to loose weight. But the funny thing is that we are so busy, most of the times, and continue doing the same mistakes with no results in the end.

  • These are fantastic reminders. Our bodies are pretty amazing and it takes a lot of work to get them to change, it doesn’t happen over night s

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