You probably expect this to be a post entirely about nutrition and working out. With a title like, “Here is why you’re not losing fat,” it’s a logical assumption to make.
However, in this case, you’re wrong.
There will be aspects of nutrition and working out thrown in with this post. The truth is without both, you’re not going to lose body fat. But they are not the first step. You can read all the information your heart desires on proper nutrition (hint: it’s individual and you need a coach) and working out (hint: get out of breath often and pick up heavy things) but none of that matters if one thing isn’t in place: your mindset.
Now that I’ve spoiled the ending, let’s begin at the top with nutrition.
Why You’re not Losing Fat: Nutrition
The exceptionally simple-on-paper Law of Thermodynamics very clearly shows us that in order to lose body weight, you have to be in a caloric deficit. This means if you eat 2,500 calories per day, you need to burn more than that many calories in order to see a reduction in weight. If you are working out or a generally active person, this weight will largely be from fat, and you will retain more muscle as you continue to lose weight over time.
Under this light, the reason why you’re not losing fat is that you eat too much. Sure, for 1% of the population, there may be hormonal issues involved (such as thyroid challenges) but for the vast majority of the population, if you stop eating as much food as you currently do, you will very likely lose fat. You may be thinking, “But I barely eat during the week! There’s no way I’m over eating!” It is likely that you are yoyo-ing and having days which are extremely high in calories, while others are very low.
This isn’t an outright nutrition post, so I’m not going to get lost in the weeds with nutrition. Here are three strategies to quickly change your nutrition for the better, and help yourself finally lose weight and body fat:
Focus on Protein:
Protein actually burns more calories than carbohydrates or fats during digestion. Additionally, it is the building blocks of muscle and therefore if you want to keep muscle on as you lose weight, you need to be getting your protein in. If you are an active individual, shoot for 1 gram per pound of body weight. If you’re less active, aim for 0.5-0.7 grams per pound of body weight. It will feel like a lot when you start. You will feel very full. This is a good thing, because this will help you not overindulge in things like Oreos.
Drink Lots of Water:
Your body needs a lot of water to function at its peak. In order to deliver nutrients to organs and cells, you need to be hydrated. Water also helps your body get rid of toxins. However, from a weight loss standpoint, the biggest reason I include this is that it helps you feel full. Drink a full glass of water before every meal, and you’ll eat less. Shoot for at least 0.5 ounces per pound of body weight, and more if you’re active.
Eat Vegetables at Every Meal:
Do you notice how simple these suggestions are? Well, a very high percentage of the population cannot do these three things consistently. The founder of Precision Nutrition, John Berardi, has even said on a podcast, “All we focus on in my house is ensuring a protein and a vegetable.” This guy founded the most successful nutrition company in the world, currently, and he keeps it simple. Let’s do the same. Every time you eat a meal, have a vegetable. Your body will function better, you’ll feel more alert and energized, and your cravings will decrease. Just eat the vegetables.
Why You’re not Losing Fat: Working Out
If you implement the suggestions under the nutrition section, it is very likely you will lose weight and fat without any working out. There, I said it. You don’t have to work out in order to lose fat. However, here is a very simple way to look at working out as you lose weight: your nutrition impacts the number on the scale, and your workouts impact how you look at that number. To put this into perspective, a 5’10” 200 pound office worker does not look remotely like a 5’10” 200 pound NFL defensive safety. Their height and weight are the same. One of those guys works out hard, the other doesn’t work out at all. That’s the difference.
This always immediately leads us to the question of what is the best workout. TRUE ANSWER: THERE ISN’T ONE. I have met people who have had wild success doing bootcamps, cycle studios, fitness videos at home, and I also personally know countless who have found amazing success at CrossFit boxes. I am one of these people. Here are the three things all of those people who have found success have in common, and tips as to how you can have the same success:
Find a fitness program you can consistently do:
Notice that doesn’t say, “Find a fitness program you love!” The process of working out can be fun, but in the moment it looks like a lot of discomfort and sweat. While it feels downright AMAZING after the fact, in the moment, it is uncomfortable. Rather than focusing on the workout that is as fun as going out with your friends (spoiler: it doesn’t exist, just like unicorns. Sorry, Gen Z) focus on finding the program you can consistently do. The people who never end up losing the fat or reaching their goals are the ones who cannot commit to a program for long enough to see results. If you find a community of people you enjoy being around, coaches who respect you and are knowledgable enough to guide you, and a program which doesn’t feel boring it makes it much easier to commit and see results.
Make sure this program makes you get out of breath at least a few times per week:
I know you’ve seen people who only lift weights and look exactly how you want to look. They are the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. Also, the majority of all weight lifting workouts contain cardio disguised as weight lifting. Have you ever done a 20 rep set of any weighted movement? Take your heart rate after that, it’s high, guaranteed. If it isn’t, you need to put more weight on. I could design a program in which all you do is weighted movements, and it will still have your heart rate jacked through the roof. This is a basic tenant of working out. You need to elevate your heart rate. It burns calories, and beyond that, it is good for your overall health.
Also make sure this program makes you lift relatively heavy weight every week:
Just like you aren’t going to find truly fit people who never elevate their heart rate, you are not going to find truly fit people who never lift. There is a reason 80% of all runners get injured every year. They are not doing a balanced program. Just as you need to elevate your heart rate every week, you need to be lifting something heavy, as well. Heavy is relative to each person, however. What is heavy to a 25 year old CrossFit Games athlete, and a 65 year old retiree are extremely different things. But both are heavy. Make it even more simple: move something which is challenging for you to move in your workouts. Whether that is a 400 pound deadlift or a 50 pound squat doesn’t matter.
Why You’re not Losing Fat: Mindset
In reality, this section is the most important piece of the entire puzzle, and that is why at Summit we focus on getting your mind right first. If you can conquer the annoying thing between your ears, your chances of not only realizing your fitness goals skyrockets, but more importantly so do the goals for the other areas of your life. As discussed in this post from last week on why Summit exists, the strength and skills we develop in the gym impact your ability to show up well in the other aspects of your life, such as your family and your career. From a weight and fat loss perspective, here is how it applies:
The three things I mapped out for the nutrition portion of this topic are extremely simple steps. For many people, they appear “too simple.” But so many people fail to even take on those simple steps. They believe they know more than those steps. They need the thing which is special to just them. The latest fat loss pill. The latest fad diet. Why do people take this approach to nutrition? Ego. It could never be that they simply haven’t applied the simple approaches needed to lose weight/fat in the past.
Once you get out of your own way (and CrossFit humbles you daily regardless of your ability level, so your ego goes away rather quickly) you start to do simple things like drink more water and eat protein. Those simple habits stay, and so do new ones like changing simple carbs out for complex ones, and choosing healthier fat sources in your diet. You start buying only whole foods rather than the processed ones of the past. Results start happening, and you get encouraged and dig deeper. But guess what? This never happens if you don’t drop your ego from your mindset and do the simple steps first.
My dad used to tell me, and still does sometimes, life isn’t fair. This was his favorite response when my siblings or I ever complained about something being unfair. The application of this cliche in my life has been the realization that there are many things in the world that are going to be difficult. Some of these difficult things I will enjoy doing, and therefore getting better at them is both fun and easy. Other difficult things I won’t enjoy nearly as much, and therefore I have to force myself to tackle these head on, work through the really tough days, and eventually find the rewarding value in them.
Looking at the workout advice, it can really apply across the board. Being inconsistent is lack of commitment to tackling something which is admittedly difficult, especially at the beginning. If you don’t put your head down and commit, you’ll never be consistent and you’ll never see results. Similarly, if all you ever do is the activities you enjoy (just weights or just cardio) you’re missing out on a lot of results. Sure, you may not enjoy one of those things, but how many classes did you sit through in college while earning your degree that you didn’t love? How many responsibilities at your job do you not particularly enjoy, but you know are important nonetheless? Do you really enjoy getting up with your baby night after night? Nope. But you need to do all of those things to be excellent in your life. Isn’t that what working out is really meant to allow you to do? Be excellent outside of the gym?
Mindset is the key to your results.
If you can leave your ego out of your nutrition and workouts, focus on simple tasks in both, and truly decided to commit to one program, you’re going to see results. You just will. The fact is, your mindset drives those decisions. No more saying, “This program isn’t build for me,” or, “This diet doesn’t work for me.” Take the ownership, get your mind right, and watch your results roll in. It won’t be easy, but it is so worth it.