by BenGreenField Life
The strategies I’ve learned over all those years are steeped in the safe science of what works for healthy, lasting, effective fat loss—not necessarily what's going to help you drop 10 pounds before a weekend at the beach, your wedding, or so you can quickly hit your “goal weight,” only to gain it all back (plus some)—all of which can cause the hormonal and metabolically dysregulated pitfalls of yo-yo dieting, and the same problems caused by most weight loss gimmicks and fad diets.
While fat loss and carving a lean, sexy body often begins with simply “eating less and moving more,” I’ve learned that there's much more to it than that, and when it comes to figuring out the quickest way to lose weight and getting the body you want, the under-the-radar strategies that go beyond dieting and exercise are often where weight loss plateaus are overcome and healthy, lasting fat loss happens.
So in today's article, you'll discover a distilled version of much of what I've learned throughout all my years of research, including two of the most important factors related to fat loss that often go overlooked, 13 reasons why your fat loss progress may be at a standstill (and what you can do about them), and much more!
But before we dive in, let's knock some fat-loss myths out of the way first.
3 Big Fat-Loss Myths
Myth #1: No matter what you do, how much you exercise, or how clean your diet is, you’ll always be stuck with the same number of fat cells you built earlier in life.
This commonly-accepted dogma dictates that if you’ve ever had excess weight anywhere on your body, those fat cells never disappear, but instead simply shrink, waiting in the wings for you to eat an extra scoop of coconut milk ice cream so they can blow back up again.
But this simply isn’t true. I realized this when I interviewed Dr. Cate Shanahan on my podcast. Dr. Shanahan explained during our podcast—and also in her book Deep Nutrition and her equally excellent new book The Fatburn Fix—that if you banish just one notorious biological variable that’s present in most people’s lives, then you can induce fat cells to actually die. But before we get to this notorious variable, you also need to understand where fat goes when you burn it.
Myth #2: Fat is converted to energy or heat.
This actually violates the law of mass conservation, which states that “…the mass of an object or collection of objects never changes, no matter how the constituent parts rearrange themselves.” While we're on the subject of what fat does not turn into, fat also isn’t excreted as feces or converted into muscle. Instead, you actually breathe away fat as this research shows (and as I explain in detail in my book Boundless). That’s right: your lungs are the primary excretory organs for weight loss via the exhalation of carbon, which is replaced by the carbon in your food.
This means that the quickest way to lose weight starts with putting less into your body from carbon sources derived from food than that same carbon you've exhaled by breathing. Also, by performing one hour of moderate exercise each day, your metabolic rate is increased by around sevenfold, and the NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) from daily activities such as standing, taking the stairs, fidgeting, etc. dwarfs and is more meaningful for fat loss than what you burn during exercise! In other words… moving more and eating less are the key foundational principles of fat loss, yet I'm constantly shocked by the number of so-called “active individuals” who rarely exceed 10,000 steps in a day, while simultaneously consuming an extra 1000 calories a day from a handful of almonds and trail mix here and there, sugar in their twice-a-day latte, mindfully eating “guilt-free superfoods” that are laden with excess calories, and a heaping scoop of nut butter as a late-night snack. Sounds simple enough, but it's important to note here that “eating less” needs to be exercised with caution, which brings me to the next myth.
Myth #3: Eating fewer calories is the best way to lose fat.
The following explanation of this comes straight from Jonathan Bailor's book, The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight and Live Better, which I highly recommend you check out.
“Eating less does not create the need to burn body fat. Instead, it creates the need for the body to slow down. Contrary to popular opinion, the body hangs on to body fat. Instead, it burns muscle tissue, and that worsens the underlying cause of obesity. Only as a last resort, if the body has no other option, it may also burn a bit of body fat. Why does the body hang on to body fat and burn muscle? To answer that question, let’s look at it another way.
What does metabolism want more of when it thinks you are starving? Stored energy. What is a great source of stored energy? Body fat. So when your metabolism thinks you are starving, does it want to get rid of or hold on to body fat? It wants to hold on. Next, what does your metabolism want less of when we are starving? It wants less tissue (which burns a lot of calories). What type of tissue burns a lot of calories? Muscle tissue. So when your metabolism thinks you are starving, it gets rid of calorie-hungry muscle tissue. Burning all this muscle means that starving yourself leads to more body fat—not less—over the long term. As soon as you stop starving yourself, you have all the calories you used to have, but need less of them, thanks to all that missing muscle and a slowed-down metabolism. The result? Your body stores more fat.
After our metabolism is starved, its number one priority is restoring all the body fat it lost and protecting us from starving in the future. Researchers call this “fat super accumulation.” From researcher E.A. Young at the University of Texas: “These and other studies…strongly suggest that fat super accumulation…after energy restriction is a major factor contributing to relapsing obesity, so often observed in humans.”
The most disturbing aspect of fat super accumulation is that all we have to do is go back to eating a normal amount. So if eating less isn’t the solution to that spare tire around your middle, what can you do to permanently rid yourself of extra weight?”
This may seem counterintuitive, but this fat accumulation combined with leptin insensitivity and extracellular matrix damage around fat cells induced by yo-yo dieting results in significant resistance to weight loss.
Two Surprise Reasons You're Not Losing Fat
Remember when I mentioned that you can induce fat cells to die by banishing just one notorious biological variable that’s present in most people’s lives? That variable is none other than inflammation—specifically, chronic inflammation.
When you overload your body with stressful factors such as poor sleep patterns and a hectic lifestyle, and over-produce inflammatory chemicals from compounds such as ultra-processed carbohydrates and vegetable oils, it can cause some real damage and lead to a never-ending battle to lose weight.
Some of these chemicals include transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), nitric oxide synthase (NOS), and toll-like receptor-4 (TLR4), which all affect your body through dysregulation of white blood cell migration, insulin resistance, overproduction of nitric oxide, and more.
Inflammation can be caused by many stressors, including psychological stress, but the primary cause may surprise you: processed vegetable oils. Any oil that’s been fried or cooked or treated at a high temperature, or that’s been subjected to high pressure, is going to result in a one-two punch of inflammation and insulin resistance. Most polyunsaturated oils (the majority of oils you'll find at the grocery store and in the food you eat at restaurants are polyunsaturated) are dangerously unstable and prone to oxidation. Oxidation promotes the production of highly toxic substances in your arteries, which, in turn, promotes insulin resistance, leptin resistance and inflammation throughout your body.
Therefore, the number one tactic for losing fat is simply cutting out these oils (think safflower, peanut, canola, and sunflower oils) and replacing them with healthier options like high-quality coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil
Next to chronic inflammation, glycemic variability (GV) is another major player in most folks' struggle to lose weight. GV refers to the oscillating amounts of circulating blood sugar at any given point and the fluctuations of your blood sugar that occur at the same time on different days. It’s one of the most important variables to consider when attempting to burn fat.
If glycemic variability gets out of control, and your blood sugar gets too high, your body has two choices: get rid of the blood sugar by shoveling it into muscle tissue, or store it as body fat. If your energy expenditure during the day isn’t high enough to convert blood sugar into energy in your muscles, you’re going to gain fat tissue. But before going any further, you should understand one important fact: sugar in your food isn’t always bad.
Every type of sugar you consume—whether it's from fruit, honey, milk, or a candy bar—ends up as glucose in your blood. So regardless of which diet you’re following, you’re probably consuming sugar in some form. This isn't necessarily a problem; the problem occurs when your blood glucose levels go haywire, which happens when you consume too many calories from non-nutrient-dense sugar sources such as processed carbohydrates, consume sugar too often, or feed too often, regardless of the source of the sugar. It all comes down to balance. Here are my top seven strategies for controlling your blood sugar:
Walking, standing, a little weight training, a few common herbs and spices, a touch of extra fiber, and exposing yourself to cold. That’s all it takes to prevent significant amounts of glycemic variability that tend to hold many people back from fat loss.
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