If you have read any of this site before reaching this page you know that my general thesis is that simple weight loss has become cluttered and overcomplicated resulting in more weight GAIN than loss.
And whether the complicating information is outright wrong or simply misleading or irrelevant, the result is the same. In my opinion the article 7 Signs You’re Making Weight Loss Harder Than It Needs to Be in Runner’s World misses the mark on all three counts. It contains some wrong, some misleading, and some irrelevant information on the subject of weight loss.
The “7 signs” listed in the article are:
- You run on minimal sleep
- You’re following your BFF’s diet
- You’re always working out
- You’re the cardio queen
- You avoid carbs and fat
- YOU’RE NOT EATING ENOUGH
- You exercise on empty
I realize that the whole numbered-list theme for online articles is all the rage, but in the end, if you need to lose weight and you’re having trouble with it, the real list of culprits has one item: You are eating TOO MUCH. If we must have a list, make it a six-point list: (1) YOU (2) ARE, (3) CONSUMING, (4) TOO, (5) MANY, (6) CALORIES.
Let’s take a look at each item listed in the article (not my list).
You run on minimal sleep
OK, yes, of course, sufficient sleep is important for health. And yes, inadequate sleep reduces insulin sensitivity and increases appetite, and consequently, weight gain.
This is all true. AND generally speaking ALL systems work better when you get adequate sleep.
But most likely if you’re trying to lose weight and not experiencing much success, this will be a fringe issue at most.
And let’s face it. If you’re over 25 or 30 years old your sleep habits are probably relatively fixed. You might make an occasional New Year’s resolution to get better sleep, but it goes the way of most New Year’s resolutions. And, if you’re going to put any mental/emotional energy into overcoming your habits/drives, better to put that into simply RESISTING that increased appetite!
Ultimately, if you’re going to lose weight, you’ll need to eat fewer calories. And that’s almost always going to take some serious dedication, planning, and willpower. Put all that dedication, planning, and willpower into controlling your calorie count rather than forcing yourself to sleep more.
You’re following your BFF’s diet
I can’t argue with this one as long as we’re really speaking psychologically and not physiologically.
The only diet that “works” for weight loss/weight control is the diet in which you eat fewer calories than you burn for the longest amount of time. PERIOD.
If your BFF’s magic diet is 1200 calories/day of rice cakes and you hate rice cakes, then the rice cake diet won’t work for you. But if you love rice cakes, the rice cakes diet will work for you (I’m not recommending rice cakes! It’s just an example).
You’re always working out / You’re the cardio queen
I group these together because the answer is the same to both.
This is another one of those theoretically true things that simply have little bearing on real life. Over training IS bad for you, and it can result in some biochemical and physiological conditions that MAY hinder weight loss. But in reality if you’re having trouble losing weight it’s almost surely not because you’re working out too much. It is because you’re EATING too much.
HOWEVER, as I point out at Exercise and Weight Loss and many of the pages to which it links, exercise is highly overrated as a way to help you lose weight. And further, cardio/aerobic exercises are not as good as anaerobic exercises.
So I agree with this point in the Runner’s World article, TO A POINT!
But there’s a difference. I say that exercise isn’t as important as people think related to weight loss. It simply won’t help you lose weight. But training TOO MUCH won’t PREVENT you from losing weight. It’s about the CALORIES!
If working out results in an increased appetite, you just have to RESIST that appetite. That’s a given already if you’re trying lose weight. Your body will always be telling you to eat more and you have to refuse. If you don’t learn to resist those signals and stick to the plan, you’ll fail anyway!
You avoid carbs and fat
Just like the sleep issue addressed above, carbs and fat are important for optimal health. But again, like with so many things related to this niche, it’s much more theoretical than it is practical.
If you’re having trouble losing weight, it’s probably not because you’re not getting enough carbs or fat.
YOU’RE NOT EATING ENOUGH
THIS is my all-time fave! And if you’ve read much on weight loss, you have surely encountered it before. But I love it because it is a perfect example of of the kind of information clutter and junk science that results in America being the most obese country on earth.
IN THEORY it goes like this: If you eat too little, your body kicks into some kind of “starvation mode” and clings to that life-sustaining fuel, fat, for survival. And it does this, so the story goes, by lowering your metabolism AND releasing hormones that increase appetite. So it makes you BURN LESS and EAT MORE, and at least makes it harder to lose weight, if not actually causing weight gain.
But it’s a theory that’s too smart by half (i.e. it’s stupid). It relies on a few very small, insignificant truths to extrapolate out to one big ERROR. That error is that eating too little makes it harder to lose weight.
There IS a “starvation mode”, but research seems to indicate that it doesn’t actually turn on until you’ve been TRULY STARVING, and for a LONG TIME. And in this context, “starving for a long time” means taking in less than half your daily caloric needs for weeks at a time. And even then your metabolism only slows A LITTLE – like 10%.
Further, as you lose weight your body burns less because it has less tissue to support, hence it burns less.
But even in “starvation mode” you STILL LOSE WEIGHT, just not as fast.
If you’re not losing weight…
This article makes the point that the difference between maintaining and losing weight is 500 calories/day, and that most women needing to lose weight need to shoot for approximately 1200-1500 calories/day to pull that off. That all sounds about right.
I can tell you right off the bat that someone eating 1200 calories/day will lose weight. If that person is not losing weight it is because they’re eating a lot more than 1200 calories/day, NOT because they are eating a lot less than 1200 calories/day!
But I get the appeal for both the proponents of such thought as well as the audience.
For the proponents it goes like this: It’s a catchy, edgy, counter-intuitive claim that gets clicks and eyeballs. And in publishing, whether it be online or hard-copy print, clicks and eyeballs means revenue.
For the audience it’s EXACTLY what they want to hear. They know that limiting intake is difficult and that they have failed at this. Then they read an “expert” saying that their failures MAY be the result of NOT EATING ENOUGH.
It’s every dieter’s dream solution: EAT MORE!
If you’re having trouble losing weight, it is most certainly NOT because you aren’t eating enough!
You exercise on empty
As the reasoning goes:
“A lot of women go into their workouts without eating in hopes of a bigger caloric deficit,” says Perkins. But if you’re exercising for weight loss, you need to power your sweat sessions with food. Without proper fueling, your body can’t perform at its best.
This assertion is far too terse to address very thoroughly, but it is pretty off base even in what it does say.
But first, IF one is exercising for weight loss, in most cases they’re already fighting a losing battle. See my reasoning at Exercise and Weight Loss.
But putting that aside, it really doesn’t matter whether an activity is properly fueled or not. In fact, there has been an actual research study on this exact question. One group was fed before workouts while the other group ran on empty. Both groups lost the same amount of weight and fat.
I’m a big Runner’s World fan, but this article is simply a perfect picture of the problem that contributes so much to America’s obesity problem.
It really is as simple as this: If someone is trying to lose weight but not having satisfactory success, IT IS BECAUSE THEY ARE CONSUMING TOO MANY CALORIES. That’s it! Or that’s at least 95% of the problem in 95% of the cases.
Every other point made in this RW article is misleading, questionable, irrelevant, insignificant, or flat out false. Ignore it. Read the Runner’s World shoe reviews, training tips, race news, and celebrity bios, but scrap the weight loss advice!
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