Nothing pulls on your panic button quite like gaining weight, especially when you’re on a weight loss program. Unfortunately, it’s an inevitable fact of life. Luckily, you’ve got me here to tell you that, as long as you’re following a solid program, results will come. It’s a physiological certainty (unless you have an underlying issue, like hypothyroidism).
I realize this might take further convincing, considering our instant-gratification society. But this isn’t my first weight loss rodeo. I’ve seen almost every scenario you can dream up, most of which were solved by patience. That said, there are some strategies you can use to ensure you’re getting the most out of both your diet and exercise program. Let’s tackle five of the most common weight loss conundrums.
- I’m following the program perfectly. Why isn’t it working?!
Cortisol is a word you should become familiar with, as it’s a key factor here. What is cortisol? It’s actually a performance-enhancing stress hormone that serves an important function in survival situations. Unfortunately, when we force too much daily stress on our bodies, we shift into a state of chronic cortisol release.
The beginning of a diet and/or exercise program, however, is a survival situation. In a very simplistic sense, your body releases cortisol, which, in turn, causes excess water retention to help you rebuild broken down muscle tissue. While this is cortisol functioning properly, it does lead to a period of water weight gain as you adjust to a new program. It’s nothing to worry about. By following a solid plan, your body will adapt by repairing this muscle tissue. This results in an increase in your metabolism and leads to weight loss if that’s your goal.
The trick is that there is no hard line on how long this adaptation takes. It’s based on your individual parameters. Just rest easy in the fact that it will happen, unless you force it not to, leading us to . . .
- I’m barely eating.
Severe under eating causes cortisol release, as it’s the definition of a bodily emergency. A short period of strategic under eating with proper hydration will help your body dispense of unneeded food (especially for those who are chronically overeat) and regulate bodily functions. Go too long, however, and chronic cortisol release is the result.
This is a tough situation because our natural reaction to weight gain is to eat less. When you’re exercising, it’s important to keep your eye on workout performance, as opposed to how much weight you’re losing. You should be eating enough so that your daily workouts improve over time. As long as that’s happening, your body is adapting, your metabolism is increasing, and you will lose weight provided you also don’t overeat.
- I’ve been doing hard workouts for weeks.
You need to continually improve, which is why workouts get harder as you move through any workout program. It’s also why we add resistance (via added weight or gravity, as is the case with jumping) to workouts. If you’re doing the same workouts at the same intensity constantly, you are not forcing adaptations that lead to changes in your metabolism. This is called a plateau.
A plateau, technically, isn’t gaining weight—it’s remaining the same—but a proper diet and exercise program should continually force improvements (in the form of adaptations). Otherwise, your metabolism won’t continue to increase, which is the goal of most weight loss programs.
- My friend and I are doing the exact same thing and she’s losing.
We all react differently. The only absolute is that our bodies will change over time with a healthy program. A fitness rule called the Specificity of Adaptation states that it takes the body between 3 and 12 weeks to adapt to new stimuli, which is a very broad range. This is why it’s vital that you stick to your program and not change it repeatedly based on your daily results!
- I lost weight for a while but now it’s stopped.
Things are going great, but suddenly you plateau—or start gaining. Odds are, your metabolism has slowed down in order to deal with decreased calories. You’re starving your now fit body, so it’s doing what it needs to do to survive. The answer to this problem is pretty simple: eat more. If you have been eating the same amount of food for weeks, even months, you will have to start adjusting your intake amount. Do not fear eating more as long as it is healthy and whole clean food. Once you start adding more calories to your diet, you should see that weight start melting off!
There are no magic shortcuts. Body transformation is based on making consistent, healthy lifestyle changes. Do that and you’ll never need to ask yourself why you’re gaining weight again.