When Your “Better” Isn’t Enough

In theory, the key to weight loss is consume less, move more.

It sounds so simple, so frustratingly and insultingly simple.

Within that key to weight loss though, is a vast array of complications. Things that we as people and even we as coaches don’t always remember to account for.

Years ago, a former client of mine said “I wish I could lose weight for all the things I’m NOT eating.”

And therein lies the rub.

When you start trying to improve the way you eat, you have a lot of options available to you: food tracking, smaller portions, measuring cups, food scales, habit tracking, food delivery (a la Hello Fresh), reduction of liquid calories, etc.

This doesn’t even go into the ridiculous amount of TYPES of diets: vegan, keto, IF (intermittent fasting), low carb, paleo, carnivore, raw food, Whole30, etc.

But let’s start simply with just change.

One of the first obstacles is the admission that YES, I am eating more than my body can handle…thus weight gain. (I am for the sake of some brevity, removing the rare occurrences of a medical condition(s) that could affect weight gain.)

Because we, as people, are terribly forgetful when it comes to what we eat, sometimes the changes we make are not significant enough.

Let’s look at this from a numbers standpoint for a moment.

Assume that your body, at maintenance, requires 2000 calories to hold steady at your current weight.

If you have been eating over 2000 calories consistently over time, without changing your daily activity level, weight will invariably go UP.

If you have been eating under 2000 calories consistently over time, without changing your daily activity level, weight will invariably go DOWN.

But, what if you’re well over your maintenance? We live in a day and age where portion sizes have gone up so significantly that many of us have literally no idea what a “proper” portion size is. And as portion sizes have gone up, so have our appetites. The hungrier we get, the more we want to eat.

Then you add in things like: stress, poor sleep, hyper-palatable, highly processed foods that are exceptionally easy to overconsume and you have a perfect storm of reasons why weight has gone up.

So, when we, as people, try to improve our eating habits we sometimes only focus on the fact that it is “better” than it used to be.

Let’s go back to our hypothetical caloric intake.

Let’s say that despite the 2000 calories of maintenance you “should” be at or below, you’ve been steadily increasing over time your intake and you, on average consume 3000 calories a day.

Weight has gone up, you are not satisfied with the number on the scale and you elect to make some changes.

What if those changes, significant by most accounts, only adds up to 700 calories a day that you remove?

Now, the 3000 calories that your body has acclimated to has been reduced to 700. You are still in surplus by 300 calories. You are still not losing weight.

And all you can think is: “But I’m doing so much better than I used to!”

And you would be right.

It just wouldn’t be enough.

Not to mention, the drop from 3000 calories to 2300 will be noticeable. You will be hungry. That hunger will aggravate you to no end.

And the truth of the matter, is that this same individual likely needs to be even lower…just.to.lose.weight.

And I’m talking, somewhere to the tune of 1600-1700 calories a day.

Imagine that for a moment. Taking a body that has adjusted to 3000 calories a day and driving it down by nearly 50%. Significant barely touches the surface.

A skeptical person might say: “I hear you. But there’s no way I’m eating 1000 calories above my maintenance.”

Maybe not.

But how closely have you measured?

How exact are those measurements?

How consistently are you there?

Do you eat to plan for three days, overeat for a day or two, get back on plan for two days and then wonder why you haven’t lost weight?

There are other things that matter too: the right amount of water (which is hotly debated by the way), the volume of your bowel movements (are you getting quality fiber in your diet), and the appropriate balance of macronutrients (protein, fats, carbs) that allows you to feel and perform your best.

I recently had this conversation with a client who swears as the day is long that they have been eating the right amount of calories to guarantee weight loss and the weight went up? Why? What gives?

For starters, this same client was chronically dehydrated due to a plethora of events going on with their job. You add dehydration and a lack of regular bowel movements and the body is literally retaining weight in the form of fluids and waste…POUNDS of retention.

Is is frustrating? It absolutely is.

Because we want to believe that it is just a calorie conversation. And it is…mostly.

But weight loss, or I should more accurately state, fat loss, is akin to putting pieces of a puzzle together. You might get the sense of the picture of a completed puzzle if you’re missing a piece or two but you won’t see the WHOLE picture.

So, if you’re frustrated with your results, drill down the details. Pull all of your puzzle pieces together and look harder. Ask yourself where anything could be slightly awry.

Sometimes “better” gets you there.

But sometimes, “better” needs to be better than that.

Below is my friend and hybrid (online and face-to-face) client, Scott. Despite a hectic work and travel schedule, he’s down 15 lbs. He’s halfway to his ideal weight. Scott has found his “better” and…it’s working.

“We Make Great People Greater”