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” I just gained another 1/2 pound again this week!” “What am I doing wrong?” I hear this on a daily basis from people who are trying to lose weight. It’s the same story different person every time and when I ask them about their eating habits I get well I cut way back on what I eat and I have started exercising a lot more. Many ask, is it because my fat is turning into muscle and muscle weighs more than fat? That question makes me cringe because, I know they misinterpreted this statement from many of the infomercials out their claiming that you can turn your fat into muscle. (side note, this is impossible because fat and muscle are two separate tissues in the body) More on that another day, back to the topic on hand. Why am I gaining weight from eating less and working out more? In a word, metabolism.
First let me start by defining metabolism in the sense of eating and energy for weight loss, as there are many types of metabolic processes that happen in our bodies, I want to make sure that I have everyone on the same page. For the purposes of this blog, “Your metabolism is how, and how fast, your body converts food into fuel and burns it. “ (WebMD.com) So to paraphrase what WebMD said, metabolism is how effectively your body changes the food you eat into energy that your body can use. Now the old adage eat less, exercise more can really trip things up and upsets this food to energy conversion. Meaning that a person who eats less than what their body needs to function, the less they eat the more they are going to gain. This is due to the fact that we are actually starving our bodies and it is our bodies job to stay functioning so it slooooows things down to keep up with the amount of work you are doing on a daily basis. Now that this is covered. Lets keep going.
So I have a client Jill (not real name) and she is 149 approximately 5’6” by no means obsese or over weight. However, she wants to weigh 135. This is where she is comfortable and feels that she can maintain her weight. There is some basic math that you must understand and that is the equation of your basal metabolic rate. That is the amount of energy your body needs JUST to FUNCTION. This means, breathing, sitting, standing, eating, thinking etc. I always explain to my clients that losing weight is 80/20 meaning that 80% of your weight loss can be attributed to your diet and how well you eat and 20% is attributed to exercise and the amount of lean muscle you build in your body.
So just to function, I used this equation, to figure out Jill’s BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161
(10×67.7) + (6.25×160) – (5×43) -161 = 1301 Calories just to function.
Jill tells me guess what, I am working out 4-5 days a week. High Intensity along with our weight training sessions. I am eating 1310 calories based on an app that I found on my phone. I gained weight how is that possible? I say well you are only eating enough to function not enough to cover the amount of exercise you are doing each day. I then take a look at what she is eating based on her app. She was not eating enough carbohydrates and she was eating a ton of foods that contained high levels of salt. Now I am not a dietitian and I never claim to be one. But as a fitness professional I do know enough to know that this is NOT HEALTHY!
So I explain to Jill why she might be gaining weight and I show her on her app how to try to fix it. I told her she needs to eat more healthy carbohydrates and lower the amount of sodium she is ingesting. I suggest she add some whole grains to her diet and reduce the amount of deli meat and high salt soups she has been eating.
I also recommend that she change the settings on her app to say that she is moderately active rather than sedentary. This raises the amount of calories that she is eating to a level that can allow her body to function AND work out so that she can lose weight. She kinda freaked a little when I did that. So I then explain to her that she needs to fuel the fire, meaning she needs to speed up her metabolism by eating more so that her muscles have something to burn and keep the metabolism moving. A week later, we meet for our regular workout. She says, guess who lost 1.1 lbs this week? She was so ecstatic because this was the first time in months that she had actually lost weight. I was very excited for her. I was glad that she took what I said to heart and started to eat more and by doing so she lost more.
I know that it is an oxymoron, but its the truth. You have to eat more to lose more. What I love about my job is that I get to educate people to live healthier lives and help them change their mindset about food. I love that I can tell people to eat more because the look of amazement is awesome! I love that people are open to not restricting themselves and being OK with eating a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I never want to make someone feel anxious or nervous about eating. When someone tells me that they are afraid to eat a small bowl of pasta, that makes me sad because they should not have to give up something they love out of fear. Whole wheat pasta as a side dish is a great way to get in healthy slow digesting fiber filled carbohydrates. Having an almond butter sandwich is a great way to eat healthy good for you fats. When you eat to live and not live to eat, that feeling of agitation goes away. That feeling of guilt goes a way. We are able to make good choices and live healthier fuller lives. The quicker we are able to understand our mindset towards food and allow our bodies to eat what it needs. Then the weight will slowly but surely come off. Not only that but we will keep it off because it no longer becomes a battle with our “will power” (another topic on another day) or inner beings. It becomes a lifestyle that we live everyday and that is what keeps us “on track” and living better!
Happy Summer! In good health with good food and good hearts!