Struggling to Lose Weight? Here’s How to Fix It.
50 percent -that’s how far traditional diets will take you. Without considering the effects of what you’re doing to your metabolism you will no doubt stall on your fat loss and battle the frustrations associated with continuous failed attempts. The good news is you can fix it, you can finally take control of your body and free yourself from the yo-yo lifestyle.
4 out of every 5 females battle metabolic damage resulting in stagnant weight loss, decreased workout performance, and an irregular appetite. Unfortunately when those alarms start to sound, most women will begin yet another diet. In my experience almost every female I talk to has some sort of metabolic damage that causes her to unsuccessfully yo-yo from diet to diet – not knowing that each time she inevitably circles back around to where she began her attempt did more harm than good.
How do you know if you have it?
I’m sure you’re already curious if you have any symptoms of metabolic damage. It would be great if there were a simple test you could take that says “Yep, your metabolism is broke as hell” Unfortunately, no such test exists – yet. While we wait for science to provide such a luxury we’re left with having to subjectively look at signs that lead us to say “Yes, it’s time to address the iss
ue,” or “No, you’re good, keep plugging away.” As I noted before, 4 out of 5 people fall into the former, and even if you are in the latter category, knowing what to do if you end up crossing over is hugely beneficial – kind of like when you used to practice a tornado drill at school, you know, lean against a wall and shove your ass to the sky – it’s better to be proactive than reactive. Here is a list of indicators that you may be dealing with metabolic damage:
- Workout performance suffers
- Motivation decreases
- You start holding onto more water
- Immune system takes a hit and you end up with colds, the flu, and other maladies
- Appetite is all over the board
- Irregular sleeping patterns
- Depression and fatigue
- Emotional swings
- Fat loss stalls
I’m a numbers guy, those around me get tired of hearing “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” but it’s true. The above indicators don’t carry any specific numbers with them and so we’re forced to rely on subjectivity. The closest I can get to saying you do or don’t have metabolic damage is:
If you’re consuming 10 x your bodyweight in calories a day and NOT losing weight, you have metabolic damage.
What is metabolic damage and what causes it?
Metabolic damage is a series of adaptations that take place in response to operating in a caloric deficit. Put simply, it’s the point where you cannot achieve weight loss without starving yourself. You see, all the progress we strive for in the gym is an adaption to a stressor, we challenge our body with some type of external condition and hope it responds the way we like. Examples include lifting weight (stressor) to build muscle (adaptation), stretching (stressor) to increase flexibility (adaptation), and being in a caloric deficit (stressor) to lose fat (adaptation). Calories are the energy we consume via diet and it’s well known that we have to be in a deficit to lose weight – what isn’t well known is that the deficit is a huge stressor to the body, and while weight loss is part of the adaptation there are numerous others occurring beneath the surface, and when left uncheck these adaptations make weight loss damn near impossible. According to author and trainer Leigh Peele, your body makes the following adaptations when in a caloric deficit:
* Muscle mass can increase in a deficit in newer trainees. It will only increase with the aid of resistance training
This list likely makes no sense to you, that’s OK, after all you just want to lose some body fat. I’ve included it to illustrate the point that once you flip the switch and start “dieting” you are causing several changes that need attention, and I’m willing to bet you’ve never given them any.
What can you do to prevent it?
Metabolic damage can be prevented with a proper phasic approach to structuring your nutrition. This means you should be alternating between phases of trying to lose fat (dieting) and phases of restoration where you aim to reverse the adaptations (remember the boring stuff we just talked about) by increasing your intake. On paper the process sounds simple, take a break from dieting and eat more food – the application, however, is rarely that easy. The rate at which you need to increase food is very fickle and seems to be completely random from person to person. Add in external stressors and the horrifying reality that you WILL gain weight, and fat, during the process and most people elect to continue their yo-yo lifestyle. It’s important to understand that while you may gain some fluff, the outcome is far more important – it really is an instance of taking a few steps back so you can eventually take 20 steps forward.
I like to use a pendulum as an analogy. On the left side is fat loss, in the middle is maintenance, and on the right is restoration. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a pendulum swing left, return to the middle, and then swing back left. Put our phases into the mix and it would look like: fat loss, maintenance, fat loss, maintenance. That’s how 99% of people structure their lives and over time it results in less and less weight loss success – eventually reaching the point of becoming non responsive! Real pendulums swing left, through the middle,
and to the right before reversing the process.
This happens over and over and over again and you should be planning your diet in the same way, full cycles of weight loss, maintenance, and restoration until you reach a place where you’re happy with how you look, comfortable with how you feel, and where you can eat an appreciable amount of food and not worry about gaining fat – this my friends, should be everyone’s end-game.
What can you do to fix it?
The applicably named “restoration” phase is where you will “fix” your metabolic damage. During this phase your goal is to increase your daily caloric intake systematically over the course of several months – yes, I said months. The amount of time it takes to repair the damage is a 1:1 ratio of how long you spent dieting. If you spent 12 weeks in a fat loss phase then you’ll need to designate 12 weeks to a restoration phase. During the restoration phase you will aim to increase your intake by 50 calories a week, all the while keeping a close eye on your body composition to ensure you’re not gaining too much fat (you WILL gain some) – this is where having a coach in your corner can be extremely beneficial as the rate at which you’re to increase can vary greatly.
I’ve written a free manual that walks you through this process in fine detail that you can download by subscribing to my email list here: Weight Loss Coaching.
If you’re suffering from metabolic damage and want the assistance of a coach to walk you through a restoration phase so you can start losing fat again don’t waste any time and apply here: online coaching.
As I wrote this I had to stop myself from delving too far into the science behind metabolic damage. It is an absolutely fascinating process and one that will undoubtedly continue to gain traction in the dieting world. If you’re a nerd like myself and desire to learn more I encourage you to explore the resources listed below, where you will learn from some of the brightest minds on the topic.
Peele, L. (2013) Starve Mode. Retrieved from leighpeele.com
Lyle McDonald interview: