Eat less. Move more.
No one ever seems to mention the intense hunger signals, the fatigue, or the fact that your weight doesn’t decrease no matter how many calories you cut!
If weight loss was this easy, developed countries would not be facing the current obesity epidemic. In the past 40 years, humans find themselves weighing more than they ever have in the past. Consider the following (alarming) statistics:
- Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
- In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.
- 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese.
- Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
Do you really think that the tripling of obesity levels since 1975 is simply because you’re eating too much?
Granted, the modern-day diet often consists of high-calorie, low-nutrition food types. Calories do indeed play a role in weight gain. But I think it’s also clear, given the exponential rise in weight gain, that there’s more going on than just eating too many calories.
To give my theory a little more believability, think about the last time you tried to lose weight.
What did you do?
Odds are you went on a diet, a 30-day challenge, or joined a group like Weight Watchers. And I’d bet my house that whichever diet, challenge, or support group you joined instructed you to decrease the number of calories you eat.
You followed the instructions to the tee. And maybe even lost some weight.
So, why didn’t it stay off?
Doctors suggest that by simply reducing your calories, you’ll achieve weight loss. They don’t mention how fatigued you’ll feel. Nor do they mention that even radical calorie reduction might not result in permanent weight loss.
When you don’t lose weight, they say that you must not be sticking to the diet. Or, you’re lying about the size or amounts you’re actually eating. Meanwhile, you’re dealing with intense hunger pangs, struggling through your workouts and still not losing weight.
The reason you can’t lose weight is that there’s more to the story than calories…
Calorie counting won’t help you lose weight and will probably cause fatigue
To this day, the adage is that weight loss or weight gain equals calories-in minus calories-out. If you eat more calories than your body needs, you gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than your body needs, you lose weight. I suspect nearly every diet out there plays on this equation.
If you think about it though, if calories in versus calories out were the truth, it wouldn’t matter if your calories come from chocolate cake or broccoli.
And 2000 calories of chocolate cake are not the same as 2000 calories of broccoli.
Not to mention, the metabolic pathways for carbohydrate digestion are completely different than the pathways used for fat or protein digestion. Where your calories come from matters a great deal!
Much like the model of adrenal fatigue, the calories in versus calories out is overly simplistic. It doesn’t illustrate the complex interplay of hormones and metabolism that happens every time you eat.
Did you know that the number of calories your body needs can change depending on your weight?
No wonder you feel so much fatigue at the start of a new diet or nutrition plan!
In this study, researchers took participants of a healthy weight and had them eat excess calories until they gained an extra 10% of their original body weight. They found that the number of calories the participant’s bodies burned performing basic bodily functions increased by 500 calories after the weight gain.
Researchers then took the same participants and decreased their body weight to 10% lower than their original body weight. The bodies of the participants responded by requiring 300 fewer calories than their baseline each day. Or, 800 calories less than when they gained weight.
Notice how the number of required calories quickly adjusts itself to whatever body weight the participant is at. If you’ve gained weight, you use more calories. If you’ve lost weight, you use fewer calories.
Let’s say you want to lose weight. So, you go on a diet that cuts your calories by 500 each day. When you start, you’ll likely feel hungry throughout the day and a great deal of fatigue – especially during your workouts. But, you persevere! The first couple of weeks, you lose almost a pound each week. But then your body adapts. Weight loss stops. But you’re still tired and hungry!
You see, cutting calories is a stress to your body. And your body loves to maintain homeostasis. To combat the stress of low calories, your body simply reduces the amount of calories it needs.
Fewer calories needed means that your previous 500 calorie deficit has become the new normal. You’re no longer in a calorie deficit. Which means you’re no longer losing weight. Even though you still experience fatigue, low energy during your workouts, and strong hunger signals!
This is why weight loss plans are so frustrating. And why they seem to work in the beginning but then never hold up over the long term. There’s more to weight loss than calories. Much more.
No, the missing piece is not exercising. Even the addition of exercise won’t necessarily help with weight loss.
Is exercise the missing piece for those that can’t lose weight?
What’s combined with nearly every diet?
Exercise. If you want to lose weight you need diet and exercise.
Or do you?
First, let me start this section by saying that exercise is incredibly important. There are thousands of excellent studies citing the many health benefits of exercise. And I completely agree with them.
But I will challenge the assertion that exercise automatically leads to weight loss. In the context of losing weight, exercise is viewed in the same light as calorie reduction.
Exercise can help, sure. But exercise may also just end up adding to your fatigue. Decreasing your calories through diet and then asking your body to do high-intensity exercise is a sure-fire way to feel exhausted!
What happens to your appetite after exercise?
It increases. So how the heck are you supposed to maintain calorie reduction and intense exercise? Through sheer force of will. But you’ll feel miserable the whole time you’re doing it.
Exercise is not the secret to weight loss.
Much like reducing your calories, adding an exercise plan is an overly simplistic way to approach weight loss. Just like when you reduce your calories, after exercising for a while, your brain re-adjusts the calories it uses for basic functions. And suddenly you’re no longer losing weight.
More proof that diet and exercise don’t result in weight loss
Consider a groundbreaking study known as the Women’s Health Initiative. One part of the study looked at the effects a low-fat, low-calorie diet and exercise plan would have on weight loss. Researchers estimated the average women would lose approximately 32lbs of bodyweight each year.
Seven years later… the women who followed the diet and exercise recommendations had an average weight loss of less than one pound!
In seven years they had an average weight loss of 0.88lbs compared to the women who didn’t reduce their calories or exercise. Even though these women stuck to both their diet and exercise routines for 7 years, they were still unable to effectively lose any weight!
Another study found that obese individuals who were recommended diet and exercise plans had a failure rate of 99.4-99.9%.
Neither of these studies tracked fatigue or energy levels of participants. If they did, I would not be surprised to learn that the majority of participants felt a decrease in energy while implementing the nutrition and exercise changes.
Don’t feel guilty about your own struggles to lose weight. It’s not your fault. You’ve been given the wrong information.
Keep reading to learn the real reasons you can’t lose weight. Plus I’ll tell you what you can do to lose weight and keep it off – and how you can do it without experiencing any fatigue!
The real reason you can’t lose weight
The real reason you can’t lose weight – no matter what diet you try – is because you’re not dealing with a calorie problem.
Do you decide when you’re hungry?
Of course not. Your hunger signal is mediated by a hormone named Ghrelin. You can decide whether or not to listen to the hunger signal. But the signal itself is not under your conscious control.
In much the same way, you cannot decide how many calories to burn performing bodily functions.
The calories-in/calories-out hypothesis is far too simplistic. It fails to consider the intense effect your hormones have on weight gain.
Control your hormones, control your weight. The real reason you can’t lose weight is due to a hormone imbalance. But the main culprit is probably not who you think!
The one hormone that ensures you can’t lose weight
With a lot of fatigue-related conditions, cortisol can be the villain of your weight loss drama. But there’s another hormone that’s even more likely to cause weight gain and contribute to fatigue.
That hormone? Insulin.
When you eat, your blood sugar rises. Insulin is the hormone responsible for taking the sugar in your blood and transporting it into your cells. Having too much sugar in your blood is dangerous. Diabetes is the medical condition in which you have excess sugar in your blood. Insulin is there to protect you from high blood sugar levels.
You probably already knew that about insulin, right?
What you may not know about insulin is that it is also a storage hormone. Meaning that when there’s excess energy (glucose/sugar), it’s insulin that instructs your body where and how to store it.
The first thing insulin does with energy storage is it converts glucose into glycogen. Think of glycogen as glucose stored away in mason jars within your pantry. In this example, the pantry is your liver.
Should your energy levels dip, all your body needs to do is convert glycogen back into glucose. It’s a super easy process. It’s as simple as you going into the pantry and pulling out some food.
But your pantry is only so big. Once it’s full, there’s no more room to store food. Such is the case with your liver. Your liver can hold a decent amount of glycogen. But once it’s full, there’s no more room for storage.
Once your liver is filled to the brim with glycogen, your body is forced to store this sugar through other means. Fortunately, it comes with a neat trick – a process called de novo lipogenesis, also known as fat storage.
Insulin instructs your liver to transform that extra glucose into fat. Where does that extra glucose go? Right to your waistline.
All this comes about via instructions from the insulin hormone. Insulin is the hormone that’s causing you to gain weight. Even if you don’t have diabetes, insulin could be the reason you can’t lose weight.
How could insulin be the cause of your weight gain?
I know what you’re thinking – insulin is for people with diabetes. And you don’t have diabetes.
Let’s start by talking about what insulin does on a typical day.
When you eat, your blood sugar rises. The amount your blood sugar rises is dependent on the sugar content of your food. Foods higher in carbohydrates will raise your blood sugar far more than foods high in fat or protein.
With elevated blood comes the release of insulin. The higher your blood sugar level, the more insulin needed to be released. If there’s room to store the excess glucose in your liver, the glucose is converted to glycogen and placed inside your liver for safekeeping. If your liver’s glycogen storage facilities are full, the excess glucose is stored as fat – usually around your midsection.
Then, some time goes by and you get hungry again. The hunger signal is triggered by a drop in your blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar also equates to low insulin levels. At this point, your liver will start to convert some of its stored glycogen back into glucose. If you use up all your glycogen stores, your body will then start to burn fat in order to raise its blood sugar levels.
What I’ve just described is a healthy response to insulin. That’s what is supposed to happen. For most of us, that’s not what happens. And the breakdown of this system is the reason you can’t lose weight.
When you eat too much glucose or eat too often, your blood sugar never falls into low ranges. This means insulin never gets a break. Insulin is continually being excreted.
As you now know, insulin is the hormone that instructs your body to store glucose – usually in the form of body fat. Chronically high levels of insulin are the reason you can’t lose weight. High levels of insulin results in high levels of body fat accumulation.
Even if your doctor tells you that your blood sugar looks great, chronically elevated levels of insulin could be occurring inside your body right now!
If you want to lose weight, you need to balance your insulin levels. I’ll show you how to do that below! But first, a deeper dive into how insulin could also be causing your fatigue!
The insulin-fatigue connection
When you eat, your blood sugar rises. In order to combat high blood sugar levels your body releases insulin. Insulin brings your blood sugar back into safe ranges.
But what happens when you have too much insulin?
As I described above, being overweight or obese is the result of having too much insulin in your system, not calories.
When you have too much insulin, what do you think happens to your blood sugar?
It gets low. Sometimes too low. All that circulating insulin can push too much sugar out of your blood and into your cells. This results in low blood sugar levels. You probably know low blood sugar as being hangry.
When your blood sugar drops, your body releases a different hormone to increase blood sugar levels. This hormone is cortisol. Cortisol is the sister hormone to insulin. Insulin lowers blood sugar. Cortisol raises blood sugar.
If you have chronically elevated levels of insulin, you’re going to need more cortisol to keep that blood sugar of yours balanced. Should this situation occur for years, your brain is going to become concerned about the high levels of cortisol circulating through your body.
Remember, cortisol is a stress hormone. High levels of cortisol are indicative of your body experiencing stress. And your brain doesn’t like to feel stressed for long periods of time.
When this occurs, your brain elects to decrease cortisol production. You may know this state as adrenal fatigue. Doctors call it hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction.
What’s the number one symptom associated with low cortisol levels?
This is how being overweight adds to fatigue. Suffice it to say, if you want to lose weight AND avoid experiencing fatigue, you need to balance insulin levels.
Now I’ll show you how to do that!
How to balance your hormones for weight loss
By now you’ve probably realized that my recommendations on losing weight go strongly against conventional advice.
If you take one thing away from reading this post, let it be to ignore conventional wisdom on weight loss.
Cutting calories and increasing exercise will not help you lose weight and keep it off. But it will result in high levels of fatigue. And a lot of frustration.
When you’re overweight, your liver is overflowing with excess sugar. Your body has to put that sugar somewhere. The safest place to store it is in fat cells. It follows that being overweight is caused by excess glucose/sugar storage.
Therefore, your number one priority should be to lower glucose/sugar storage!
That right there is the secret to weight loss. To do this, you need to lower insulin levels. Insulin is released when you eat. The more sugar you eat, the more insulin is released.
In order to reduce insulin levels, you need to:
- Eat less often
- Eat fewer foods that are easily converted to sugar – namely, carbohydrates. Especially refined carbohydrates.
Imagine a bucket. The bucket is your glucose storage. You have a hose adding water to your bucket on a regular basis. The hose and water is your carbohydrate intake. Your bucket has a small hole that water can escape through. The hole is your exercise regime. To avoid weight gain and fatigue, you need to ensure your bucket doesn’t overflow.
Conventional wisdom suggests that you focus on making the hole in your bucket bigger. This will work to some degree. But in my opinion, why wouldn’t you focus on turning off the hose? That will give you a far greater benefit.
To turn off the hose, there are three rules you need to follow. These will balance your insulin levels which will result in healthy weight loss without any fatigue.
1. Eat real food
Refined carbohydrates are the number one food for raising insulin levels. If your food doesn’t rot, don’t eat it. If your food comes in a bag or a box, don’t eat it.
The more you process/refine a food, the less fiber it contains. Fiber helps to keep the sugar content of the food lower. Processed foods contain little fiber. Thus, they’re very high in sugar content.
High sugar = high insulin
The simple act of avoiding processed foods will bring a dramatic reduction to your insulin levels.
2. Eat more healthy fats
Replace your commonly consumed carbohydrates with healthy fats like:
- Fatty fish
- Coconut oil
- Nuts and seeds
Instead of toast or bagels for breakfast, have a couple of eggs. Instead of granola bars, choose nuts or seeds. Instead of pasta, opt for fatty fish like salmon.
Foods that are high in fat cause almost zero insulin release. Swapping carbohydrates for fats will dramatically lower your insulin levels. Which, of course, will increase both your energy and your weight loss!
3. Practice fasting
The best thing you can do to reduce elevated insulin levels is fast. Remember, insulin is released when your blood sugar rises. Which is any time you eat. By eating less often you create a dramatic reduction in insulin levels.
Start with a 12-hour intermittent fast to slowly build up your fasting muscles. 24-hour fasts are an incredible means to lower insulin levels. But as I mentioned, slowly work up to this level.
Ok, now you know the secrets to long-term weight loss!
Now, I want to hear from you!
What strategies have helped you lose weight without feeling tired?
Leave your answers in the comments section below!