In Greek Mythology, Sisyphus was doomed to spend his entire life pushing a boulder up a hill, only for it to tumble back down to the bottom and he would have to push it up again. Not only have I just described what the gym feels like for some people, but it is most people’s experience with weight loss: A futile effort where a sense of accomplishment never arrives.
It is one of life’s most cruel ironies that weight is incredibly easy to put on, and incredibly difficult to lose. Unless you happen to be one of those people, those that won the genetic lottery who seem to stay slim, this irony has probably kept you up at night. And you wouldn’t be alone.
Recent polling has found that up to 60% of Australians are trying to lose weight at this very moment. But given that 67% of Australians are overweight, it seems like the problem, like the extra kegs, isn’t going anywhere fast.
So, why is it so hard? Well, there are a few reasons:
Your Metabolism slows as you get thinner
This may come as a bit of a shock, but most of the kilojoules you burn aren’t swallowed up from time spent in the gym or pounding the pavement. It is actually spent by your organs and muscles keeping yourself alive.
And when you lose weight, your metabolism slows down and you burn fewer kilojoules from incidental movement. It makes sense if you think about it; consider how much effort it would take a larger person to move around an office than the slight person. The lighter you get, the less effort, and the less fat is burnt.
Your brain works against you
Some of you know this to be true in other areas already: Why did I make that joke? How could I forget that person’s name? Well, the grey matter in your cranium also conspires against your quest to be in shape. As you lose weight, a hormone in your brain called leptin starts to deplete.
It tells your brain that you are entering starvation territory, and causes you to become hungrier. In an evolutionary sense, it is a wonderful thing: It would prevent you from accidentally starving to death in the wild. When you’re intentionally trying to reduce weight? It becomes much less helpful. Thanks again, Brain!
Listen to your gut
Often referred to as your second brain, your gut plays a big role in your weight. Your biome is the collection of good bacteria in your gut, and if it is imbalance with bad bacteria, it can affect your body’s capacity to burn fat.
A meta-analysis published in Gene reported a positive correlation between those who took probiotics to balance their gut health, and the capacity to lose weight when compared to a group who had been given a placebo.
Your genes will decide your jeans
I’m not being defeatist here. But research is beginning to suggest that your inherited genetic make-up will determine up to 70% of your body weight. This is not to say it is impossible to be in shape, and so you should drown your sorrows in a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. It does however require a calibration of your expectations.
Not everyone will be able to achieve the legs of a runway model, or the abs of a Calvin Klein advertisement. But everyone can be healthy relative to their own bodies. Unless we know what ‘healthy’ or ‘thin’ looks like for our own bodies, is it any wonder why we feel like we are never good enough?
It all sounds a bit bleak, doesn’t it? But fear not! There can be a happy end to this story if we are intentional. We are not doomed like Sisyphus.
We live in a wild world, where food is scoffed down in a cubicle, or absent mindedly in front of the television. This all culminates in a situation where you are not overly conscious of what you are eating, how much you have eaten, and where you actually need more. Instead, consider mindfulness in your meals.
Be attentive to what you are eating, and enjoy the experience, savour the flavours of your food. No TV, No eating on the run. This will give your mind the time to register that you are actually full. It is a way to limit portion sizes without having to feel like you’re missing out.
Increase Protein first thing
Protein for breakfast is not just for the body-builders and hunters of the world. It actually has a profound impact on how full you feel throughout the day by increasing your levels of peptide yy, GLP-1 and cholecystokinin.
You don’t find yourself glancing at the clock by 10:30 wondering whether you have a stash of biscuits hidden nearby. Go all out on eggs, quinoa, nuts for breaky, and you will set yourself up for the day.
Low GI foods will keep you more full
The body has been hardwired to see sugar as desirable because it used to be so rare. Berries and honey would give our bodies a rare little kick. If your cupboard is anything like mine, sugar isn’t rare. It is in everything, from the sauces we cook with to the juices we drink.
You have to be intentional about avoiding it these days, but if you can find their natural opposite, the foods which release energy slowly over time, you will feel more full for longer, and when you do settle down for your next meal, the desire to overeat is just not there. Consider whole grain rice, fruit, and nuts. You won’t even notice that lunch time has rolled around.
Input vs. Output
Ultimately, weight is about ensuring that your output exceeds your input. One of the best ways to do this is to embrace a diet low in calories. Optifast is a company which specialises in developing shakes which keep you feeling full so that your natural metabolic burn will cause you to lose weight.
An optifast shake or a few optifast bars for lunch leads to a whole body shift towards fat stores being utilised as the major source of energy through a process called ketosis. This results in consistent and successful weight loss.
This is a difficult journey. And it will not be easy. But it is not, and never will be futile. If you know what you’re doing, a slimmer waistline is within your grasp.