Workout. Diet. Fat loss. Skinny pills. I’m sure you’ve seen it all.
Everyday we’re bombarded with a new workout fad, or diet, that will help you get the body you crave.
We’re constantly told what we should look like or what the ideal body type is.
Even the body positive movement, which praises all figures and body types, is OBSESSED with what your body looks like.
We waste so much time trying to become the perfect body, we fail to give our bodies and minds with what they really want or need.
Instead of truly listening to our bodies, we look outside for the answers to our burdens.
We expect to find them in books (fair), other people (dangerous), Instagram influencers (whyyy?), or magazine articles (*cough please keep reading).
Despite my fear that you will suddenly drop this article and run to an actual scientist for advice, I’m going to quickly let you in on a little secret.
The secret answer for how to lose weight won’t be found in any sort of media outside of your own body. Deep down, your body knows what it needs to do. All you have to do is stop resisting it.
Now in saying that, you probably clicked this article because you have no idea what you’re body is telling you.
So please, keep reading so I can teach you.
The body is a beautiful, fascinating, extremely complicated machine that we humans are still trying to figure out.
The only way you’ll learn what it’s saying is by learning how it functions.
Since we’re talking weight loss here, we need to first discuss the main thing that actually matters – energy balance.
When I first started going to the gym, I became obsessed with counting calories.
I would track everything I ate and spend hours in the gym doing cardio to burn it off. I wouldn’t get off the treadmill till I reached 800 calories and then I’d move to the bike, rower and finally the elliptical. On average I would burn about 1400 calories every time I went.
For some crazy reason I thought I needed to burn every calorie I ate in order to lose weight. This of course, did not actually work. I only ended up very tired, very hungry and extremely cranky ALL THE TIME. Not only that but I actually gained weight because at the end of each week I would binge eat like a horrible monster.
I was so obsessed with losing weight that I forgot why we actually needed to eat. Food was the devil to me. Needing to eat was a weakness. I had a very morphed perception of calories.
It took me awhile to realise calories are not this evil entity that magazines were making me believe they were. Yes it’s true, if you want to loose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. But there is a lot more to the story that you need to be aware of.
The only thing your body actually cares about is SURVIVAL and it will do anything to keep you alive.
So lets break down my awful training program.
In order to complete a cardiovascular exercise, your body needs calories to be able to handle the endurance. It doesn’t have much need for strength so if you don’t have the calories in your body (from food) it’s going to take them from your muscles.
This means your muscle mass will reduce and your metabolism will slow down so you don’t burn as much.
In your bodies mind, it’s doing the most amazing thing for you and deserves to be worshiped.
In your mind – you’re still fat so instead of worshipping the system that keeps you alive, you loathe it.
If you look at my situation, I ended each week binging on every piece of food I could find, only now my metabolism was so slow and so terrified I was going to starve again, it stored ALL that food as fat.
No matter how strong you think your willpower is, you’re natural survival instinct will always kick in and override it.
Meaning, if your body wants calories, YOU don’t have a choice in the matter.
Ok But What Really Are Calories?
You can skip this part if you find facts boring and only care about our fun story time. I’M KIDDING – all my words are important.
The calories you consume from food and drink are combined with oxygen to create energy.
About 10% of the calories from carbohydrates and protein are used for digesting, absorbing, transporting and storing the food you eat.
Other calories are used for breathing, circulating blood, growing and repairing cells, adjusting hormone levels… – Just to name a few.
All of this is known as your resting metabolic rate, which is the amount of calories you need just to stay alive.
If you want to know what your RMR is, get out your calculator:
For men: 9.99 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 4.92 x age (years) + 5 = RMR
For women: 9.99 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 4.92 x age (years) –161 = RMR
And then you have your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). This accounts for any kind of movement, (even fidgeting, like tapping your foot while sitting at the desk burns calories, isn’t that… neat?).
When I first read about fidgeting burning calories I went around looking like I was trapped in a seizure. MUST BURN CALORIES.
NEAT can account for 100-800 calories a day.
It’s funny how obsessed we are with burning calories, yet naturally, without any effort your body is already a calorie-burning machine.
Unfortunately though, because of how cosy modern life is – you know sitting all day and having unlimited access to food – our bodies are getting more calories than they need. So in the spirit of keeping you alive, it stores these processed calories just in case you might need them at a later date. IT’S DOING IT OUT OF LOVE I SWEAR!
Honestly, it’s a really beautiful process when you think about it. It’s a pity our society doesn’t see it as this incredibly sensitive and reactive storage system that ensures our survival. Instead fat is seen as useless, a sign of weakness, greed or emotional instability.
As Sara Pascoe likes to joke “Fat is a magnificent organ with the worst PR team in history”.
Anyway, I diverge.
So we know your body has one job – keep you alive! Knowing this information is key for weight loss. Knowing this IS the secret!
This is how you distinguish between meal plans, workouts or diets that will serve you or destroy you.
All you have to do is look at it and ask, “Will this assist my body to do the one job it is supposed to do or will it try to kill me?”
We are on the hunt for methods that speed up your metabolism, not slow it down. A daily routine that makes you strong, powerful – a calorie-burning machine! Not weak and feeble.
Let’s Talk Metabolism
Just to be clear, having a fast or slow metabolism isn’t the cause of someone’s weight gain.
I’m sure you’ve heard people blame their metabolism, saying things like “I gain weight easily because I have a sluggish/slow metabolism”. Although your metabolism is linked to weight, it doesn’t deserve the blame for weight gain. What you eat and how much you move is the real culprit.
You can’t control the speed at which your body burns energy, but you CAN control how much energy you burn.
You can also boost or manipulate your metabolism to burn more calories.
The main way to do this is by building muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn on a daily basis.
I’m still struggling with the aftermath of being scammed into thinking I had to move more and eat less to get skinny. When this whole time I had to build muscle and eat MORE.
The Beauty Of Resistance Training
How does it work?
Think about what you’re asking your body to do. When you lift weights your body needs strength. This requires muscle and muscle burns calories. The more calories you burn, the faster your metabolism.
When it comes to this non-stop access to food, a fast metabolism is the best insurance policy to avoid obesity!
There’s obviously many things I can discuss about resistance training including programing, timing, progressive overload – but that’s another article for another day.
The important thing to note – weight loss is a very simple science. Eat to fuel your muscles and workout to build STRENGTH, not burn calories.
Yet for some reason, we’re all still worrying about losing weight. We’re all still struggling with it.
It’s In Your Mind
I can’t finish this article without talking about the biggest factor in weight loss, your psychology.
I’m sure you understand about calories, metabolism and strength training. I’m sure you’ve seen it in every article, Instagram story or newsfeed, yet we’re all still looking for the secret to weight loss.
I mean, you have the answer, all you just have to do is put it into practice, right?
Not really. This “secret answer to weight loss” is actually useless because the real issue is – you hate your body.
It’s insane how much of my brain power is used up thinking about what food to eat to avoid getting fat, how much exercise I’ve done that day/week.
How to stand and sit in a way that hides fat rolls, because God forbid someone sees fat on my body.
How I can do even more exercise just in case I fail and give in to the cupcake that won’t stop staring at me!
All this energy that I could be using to invent something cool or stop climate change. Imagine what I could have accomplished by now?
Instead I’m just sat here, staring at a doughnut, trying not to eat it.
I need to leave this cafe.
Every now and then I snap myself out of it. I think about how fortunate I am to be one of the few women in this world who has shelter, water, food and a safe place to sleep. How could I be so vain to waste time worrying about something as insignificant as my body shape? How can I let something so irrelevant, make me so depressed?
Anything related to your appearance is a time tax. If you were to calculate how many hours of your life you spent plucking, waxing, tanning, conditioning, colouring, contouring, stressing about outfits, jewellery, shoes – you would probably have about four degrees.
Let’s make it five degrees if you include the amount of time spent in front of the mirror criticising yourself over how you look and letting those thoughts stop you from leaving the house.
Wait… are we still talking about weight loss?
Yes I promise I’m about to give you the ULTIMATE secret to weight loss… drum roll please…
Stop trying to lose weight. Seriously.
My sister’s boyfriend is one of the most relaxed humans I have ever met. Nothing bothers him. He never has an emotional breakdown or panics or gets angry, even if he has to go in for brain surgery (a real example). NOTHING fazes him.
One evening my sister was getting ready and begun her regular routine of screaming and crying in front of the mirror, throwing clothes around and panicking about how she looks.
Clifford (fake name of course) came into the room, wondering why it was taking her so long to change into pyjamas.
He couldn’t believe this beautiful, intelligent, talented woman was having such an emotional breakdown over a fat roll. So, for the first time EVER in his life – he blew up. Seeing my sister treat herself that way was like watching another person come into the house and stab the woman he loved (or so I dramatize).
When my sister told me the story, she said all he screamed was, “Will you JUST give yourself a BREAK!” But this random outburst was enough. Enough to snap her out of this toxic mind-set, enough for her to see the damage she was doing.
So, in the words of Clifford, “WILL YOU JUST GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK?”
All this stress about your body is not going to make it look the way you think it needs to look. It’s just going to look horrible because what you think, you become.
If you think negative you will see and be a big ball of negative. And negative won’t get you a beautiful body; it’ll just give you and the people around you a massive headache.
In summary (I hope you didn’t just read the summary), enjoy your calories, build muscle and for the love of God, stop being so hard on your body for storing fat. It does it because it loves you and literally can’t live without you.
By Features Editor Ciara Glover