Although it's common at the start of our journey, overcomplicating the process can stop us from progressing at all.
Overcomplicating the Basics
Overcomplicating is a procrastination tool for many of us – a way to avoid doing what we know we should be doing. Although society seems to place entirely too much value on more complicated tools, systems, and tactics for reaching goals, we tend to miss the obvious downside to having such values…
If the process is too confusing, we risk giving up before even starting. We spin our wheels, knowing what needs to be done, but refusing to actually start until we have “all the steps.” The ability to call yourself out when overcomplicating is crucial. In most cases, it's not a matter of doing everything we need to, it is a matter of doing the first thing we need to do… starting now.
Instead of trying to envision exactly how everything will look when you can execute each step perfectly, put whatever step you CAN do, into action – now.
For instance, many dieters will refuse to begin a workout routine because they have no gym membership. Or they will say a focus on protein is impossible because of their budget. Or that they need to research and read every little detail before knowing what to do.
Right now. With the information you have. The ability to just BEGIN lies with you. Work with what you have right now, rather than spend another month worrying about every possible piece of the puzzle that you can't control in this moment. You do not need a gym membership to be active. An extra $100 in your grocery budget to eat more protein is not mandatory. You do not need to read every last article on building muscle. Do not allow analysis paralysis to cripple you from moving forward. Walk in the direction you want to go in, with the info you have in this moment.
Allow the inevitable blindspots to reveal themselves along the way, not in advance.
Call yourself out when you let too many thoughts take over.
Stop overcomplicating things that don't need to be complicated.
Concentrate on mastering the basics and being consistent in them. Work on getting your calories up, getting your protein up and moving your body more. Any progress forward in these areas are a projection forward. Increasing protein by just 15 grams a day is progress. Using bodyweight exercises, exercise videos, or get a set of dumbbells/barbells to workout at home until you can get that gym membership. Look for the little things you can add to help propel you forward. The time will pass anyway – so let it pass while you keep moving forward, making each day a success in it's own right.
Allow yourself to be open to new ideas and new ways of thinking. You do not need to have every little detail worked out before you start. Just Start!
Sawanda's Beginning Diet Outlook
What was your life like before EM2WL? (meaning past dieting history, crash diets, starving, cardio, scale watcher, clothes hoarder etc)
Before EM2WL: Wow! I can't remember a day where I was wasn't trying to lose weight. The thought of losing weight started at 10, in 5th grade, when we took a physical test in P.E. and the teachers put all of us on scales to weigh our pre-adolescent bodies. They wrote my weight down on a piece of paper, folded it up so I won't see it, as if I would be ashamed of my weight. As I was putting the shameful number in my book bag, there were many of my classmates coming to me to see what my weight was, as if to say, ‘I'm not as fat as Sawanda, let's see how much she weighs” I do remember it being 100-something, I think 125, but I was so ashamed, I don't remember.
That started the fat shaming in my mind, therefore others felt the need to do the same – including my mother, who once told me to stop eating and run around the block 30 times! It was meant to be a joke, but, I internalized it as I'm eating too much and I need to watch what I was eating because I'm getting too fat. I tried it all. You name it, I've done it. I've taken appetite suppressant pills, fat burning pills, I've been to the weight watchers meetings and get on the scale to weigh myself weekly (although truth be told, I was weighing myself daily to see how I can manipulate the weight watchers scale and make it look like I'm losing instead of gaining). I was the cardio queen, especially when I started running. I could run 45 minutes straight. Oh how I loved how the weight was melting off, but I just didn't like how my body was looking. I was chasing this perfect number to live my life and finally be happy. Little did I know, I was ruining my health, all in the name of weight loss.
How did you find EM2WL?I was the moderator of my own fitness group. I'd lost over 60 pounds by eating, literally, 1100-1200 calories a day and 6 days a week of cardio sessions. When a social media associate asked me if I'd heard of EM2WL, I wasn't trying to hear it, especially when I used the scooby calculator and it stated that my TDEE was over 2000! WHAAAT? I could eat 2000 and still lose weight? IMPOSSIBLE! The science in my mind was always, eat less – move more, so hearing that I had to eat more just made no sense to me at all. I moved on, thinking that's crazy talk and I will not be a part of that type of nonsense.
The Diet Mentality Shift
What made you join the workshop? One year after hearing about EM2WL, I started to gain all the weight that I'd lost. I couldn't understand why when I was still using the eat less-move more method: still eating 1200 calories, and now trying to get in another cardio session during the day. Two sessions a day, which was hard for me to accomplish, but if I was going to stop this weight gain, I was willing to do it. During that time of decision, I stumbled upon the advertisement for the beta workshop, CTDM. The ad stated, “Why your diet is not working anymore!” and it resonated with me. YES! Why is it not working anymore? I needed to know so I can take back control of this weight gain and start losing weight again! Little did I know, this workshop was going to change my life forever.
How did your perspective change after the workshop? Everything I thought I knew about weight loss, was turned on its head! After the first week in the workshop, I realized that I had to totally empty my head with what I “thought” I knew and be open minded to what I'm learning. And it was a LOT of learning. Fat loss is way different from weight loss; eating more is so important to my health; Weight lifting is Queen; protein is more important than I really thought; consistency really is key; focus on ONE behavior at a time instead of focusing on “weight loss” results and GET OFF THAT DARN SCALE!
How did your life change? OMG, my life changed for the better! I have not lost a single pound, yet I'm happier than I've ever been! I gained weight, I gained muscle, I gained true health, I gained a sense of self-love, even for my body! Gaining weight is not the end of the world, nor is it a bad thing! Mental health is part of good health, and with this new lifestyle, I am not stressed out like I used to on diets. The neverending cycle of losing weight and trying to keep it off is so exhausting. With this new lifestyle, I can actually LIVE MY LIFE without the focus of irrelevant numbers (mainly weight and size). I LOVE weights! Cardio is about once a week now and I'm not afraid to eat anything and everything! Because I'm not on a diet, I can now start to trust myself and what makes ME feel good about myself and my body. Intuitive eating really is a thing – LOL! I really CAN trust myself!
The path to Healing from Diet Mentality
What are some of the biggest changes that has happened in your life now due to this shift in mentality?
Everyone who sees me and doesn't understand this new lifestyle, they think I've “fallen off” or have stopped paying attention to my health all together. It's honestly not my job for anyone else to understand (not anymore) But I can tell you, I've done more for my health in one year than I have in the 20+ years I was dieting! What I know for sure is, gaining weight is not a BAD thing nor is it the end of the world. My metabolism is close to normal again! My hair has stopped falling out, my gums are not bleeding, my nails are strong, my tongue is pink again, the mental fog has lifted and my emotional swings are fewer than before!
I don't “wait” for this perfect weight, nor this perfect size or number, to live my life- thanks to just eating what I want and when I want it! I'm enjoying my life, as I go out on dates, hang out with my friends, enjoy ALL foods with my son, without limiting his enjoyment and I'm truly taking care of ME, inside and out! I buy clothes that fit me now and I don't have to look and feel frumpy just because I'm heavier than before. I am living a true life and it just gets better and better each year as I learn more and more about my EM2WL lifestyle!
What advice could you give to someone who is just finding EM2WL right now?
If you're finding EM2WL right now, you might be mentally tired of going through the yo yo diets and weight loss. The first thing I can suggest is this: This is NOT another DIET, so you cannot come in with a diet mentality. I know you may not know what other mentality there is, especially if you've been on a diets as long as I have, so the second suggestion is to have an open mind to what is shared with you. This information is going to literally BLOW YOUR MIND! There's information you may heard of, but never implemented out of fear. YES, there will be blindspots. You will “think” you're prepared for this kind of change, but you will find very fast, that this diet mentality is so much bigger than you think. It's part of our society, even part of our DNA (generations of dieters), so my third suggestion is, stay close to the EM2WL/CTDM online community! They are EVERYWHERE (IG, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, etc..) and it's important you link up to all their social media. Seriously. If you're ready to change your life, it's time to emerge yourself in this kind of thinking. It's almost like your armor, your shield when dealing with an ENTIRE DIET MENTALITY SOCIETY! If you're really ready for a total transformation, I do suggest you invest in the CTDM! Talk about a GAMECHANGER!
Sawanda is an EM2WL member and is frequently seen in our Online Community sharing her insight and wisdom on diet mentality. She has kindly agreed to talk about her journey
Growing up I was a tomboy. I loved climbing trees, riding on snowmobiles and ice skating in Massachusetts where I was born. We moved to Tennessee when I was 10 and from then on I played softball, swam, rode bikes, took classes of some sort in the summers (dance, gymnastics, ballet). I stayed active and never thought about my weight. I remember my mother drinking Tab and keeping sugar out of the house, because she was always dieting and she encouraged my sister and I to watch our sugar intake so we didn't get fat.
Beginning the Diet Mentality Cycle
Once I hit age 14, I was in constant competition with my best friend, trying to be the same size she was. We went on diets constantly trying to get the perfect model-size body. This was in the era of Cheryl Tiggs and Charlie's Angels. I remember even going on ice cube diets. I was a size 7 but all I saw in the mirror was thick thighs and thick waist. I remember a friend in high school that would wear a bandana as a belt, and I envied her for that. Of course I never took into account the fact that she had a long and lean build, whereas I have a short (5'3″) athletic build. From that time on, I was always dieting.
In my 20s I started lifting light weights and doing The Firm videos after they came out. I loved what squats and pushups did for my build. My body puts on muscle fairly easily. In my later 20s I got burned out with the routine I was doing and I started running instead. I wasn't very good at it due to asthma, but I absolutely loved pushing myself to the point where it hurt to breathe in. I did 5Ks and for awhile every Thanksgiving morning my sister and I would meet in our hometown for the Autumnfest 8K. It was crazy, usually in the 30s and one time it was in the 20s.
Finding my passion
When I turned 37 I discovered the local recreation department offered tae kwon do classes. I signed up and never looked back. It was the best of both worlds, building muscle and pushing yourself until you're gasping for air and think you'll pass out. I LOVED IT! 3 nights a week for 2 hours I was giving it all I had, even sparring with the men. I worked out for another hour 3 other nights in my garage with a punching bag. And I was good at it!
5 years 2 broken bones and torn ligament in my finger later, I tested for my black belt. I was in the best shape of my life. I had washboard abs, shoulder muscles that popped out and strong legs. But all this time training had really hurt my home life. I had really neglected my husband and I felt guilty. Stress took hold and I lost my appetite. For 3 months I ate very little, and my muscles were the first to exit. Needless to say, the weight started climbing at that point.
I stayed with martial arts for another 2 years but I had torn ligaments in my hip from overuse and my back always hurt. I finally realized it was not worth the pain. I took up a new hobby, watching television and spending time with my husband. I tried Weight Watchers and a couple online diet companies. None were possible for me to stick with. I was used to being able to eat anything I wanted, these diets left me starving. I tried Atkins but couldn't live without carbs. I lost some weight with Thrive which was a plan created by a local man. He now calls it Shiboleth. It was doable but for me impossible to stick with. It limits carbs and fats too much for me and left me without energy and feeling weaker than ever.
Taking back my life
In 2012 I signed up with My Fitness Pal where I came across a group called Eat More to Weigh Less. I read all about it and found it to be very sensible. But I couldn't stomach a reset. I mean I just wouldn't do that. So I just watched my calories through MFP, trying to stay with 1200. I failed most days but even when I stayed on it, I couldn't seem to lose weight. I think it's because I had lost so much muscle, but losing my mother and menopause were major reasons also.
In 2017 I faced the fact that I needed to quit dieting and learn to accept myself the way I am. I got back into the gym a couple nights a week and did whatever I wanted. Walked, punched a bag, pushups, it didn't matter as long as I did something. I knew exercise would help my mood and attitude more than anything else would. I also started looking at the EM2WL website and Facebook group, where I came across the announcement for the workshop in the Fall. I signed up thinking it would just be instructions for how to get started with a reset and how to move through the phases. Boy was I wrong! (But for the better!) It was about the mental game and learning to love yourself as you are now. I really needed that. It was also about creating a path that will work for you, which is exactly what I needed.
Breaking free from Diet Mentality
I am now in my first cut phase. It hasn't been easy because we're just coming off the holidays and I've probably been in the maintenance phase as much as I've been in the cut phase, but I know now how to analyze what I've done and I know I can change the rules to make them work for me. I'm also using the EM2WL Workout app to work out and I absolutely love it! It's the guidance I need. I'm definitely increasing my strength. My clothes are starting to loosen up slightly around the waist. I haven't weighed myself and I don't know that I will. If I'm building muscle, which I'm sure I am, then the weight won't go down. But I will measure in a month or so and I do think I'll like what I see!
One of the many problems dieters encounter in their fat loss journey, is they will not pivot and make a change if something is not working. So often a dieter will hold on to whatever worked in the past as the end all, be all to get their results.
And they will keep going back to it. Over and over again.
What got you “Here”, won't get you “There”
First of all, know that there will always be bumps in your journey. Some of them will not be clear the first time you encounter them, and some of them will require running into multiple times before it will actually apply to you. These are blindspots.
“If I am doing _____ and it is working for me, why would I do ____ instead?”
Let's back up a moment.
Let's say you have never done anything physical before. So you get off the couch and start walking. Almost immediately you see results in fat loss, so you walk further. Then you start running. Again, results start to happen for you. So you run further, faster.
For the weeks or months leading up to this, maybe you have come across HIIT workouts, or someone has suggested weight training for fat loss and muscle building. It makes complete sense to you, but you are able to push these items out of your mind because running has been getting you results.
Eventually, it all stops working.
The problem with human nature is we are all egotistical at heart. No one ever wants to be proven wrong. So in this case, because you've told yourself that running was giving you progress, you can't fathom giving it up for anything else.
Soon the blindspot is uncovered – your body has adapted completely to running, and in order to get results, resistance and weight training need to be added.
A great analogy for this is a potted plant. For a seed to grow, it needs a small pot. But eventually that seed will outgrow the pot and needs something bigger. If you don't replant the pot into the ground, then the roots get stifled and it will no longer grow.
Blindspots are your seeds trying to grow. Eventually they cannot be ignored any longer and a decision has to be made whether to proceed forward, or continue stifling the plant.
These happen around every corner of your journey. Knowing they will come is a huge part of the mentality shift. By preparing ahead of time that something will need to change, we can immediately make the right decision to propel our progress forward.
Be open to change, and be open to knowing that what worked in your past, may not work for your future.
In our previous blog post, we discussed three main reasons why many women struggle with fat loss:
– Women are more focused on “weight” loss, rather than fat loss.
– Hormones can play a big role in how fast and where the fat loss can occur.
– Women generally have a lower muscle mass than men do.
While we could have certainly ended the conversation there, (solving any one of those issues could result in a shift in fat loss for most ladies), we feel compelled to bring the topic home by pointing out the elephant in the room: The Diet Mentality. Even if most ladies understand the central theme behind developing a less stressed, “muscle-based” mindset, they still want to go about solving their fat loss issues with extreme diets and unrealistic deadlines.
When we choose to diet in a way to lose “weight,” (remember reason #1!) we typically select very extreme methods to do so. (*cough* 1200 calorie diets!)
Whenever you embark on a low calorie diet your body is forced to make less food spread farther, so it often has to make budget cuts to survive (literally). Because muscle requires more calories to maintain, extreme “budget cuts” can put those precious muscles you're striving so hard to hold on to, in jeopardy. When the body is faced with a low calorie (especially low protein) diet – it has to break down muscles in order to “find” the protein it needs to survive (essentially getting rid of those dang “expensive” muscles, so that the budget can spread further!).
Most women (whether on a diet or not) prefer a high carb, high fat diet with very low protein incorporated. When coupled with little to no resistance training, and repeated bouts of super low calories, many women are living in a perpetual “muscle wasting” lifestyle. Rejecting the 1200 calorie insanity, and increasing the protein is a great starting point for most ladies seeking fat loss. Protein not only keeps you fuller longer, it helps to keep the metabolism from burning up the proteins in our muscles, thus making our workouts more effective, and allows the muscles to build up instead of break down. Once weight lifting is sprinkled in, it's icing on the cake! (Note: I didn't say anything about getting rid of cake…)
Because many of the diets that we tried in the past helped us to lose weight “fast,” it's honestly tough to NOT lack patience. Thanks to our microwave society, we tend to want alllllllll. the. things. RIGHT. NOW. We can’t understand why men can lose weight so quickly, or why younger women are dropping pounds faster than us. The media knows this, and makes sure to taunt/target/tempt us regularly with quick fixes (and we just keep taking the bait- even when we know better). We want things that happen as fast for us as they did in the past – to have the losses we did when we went on our first diet.
We say we're willing to do “whatever it takes” — but never for “as long as it takes.”
Having patience is about being willing to build/maintain muscle mass and actually stop stressing about it. It means focusing less on weight loss, more on fat loss. It's about finally settling in and doing things right by your body. It's about reaching your goals in a no-nonsense way that does not backfire in the long run: eating enough food, eating enough protein, getting enough fiber, lifting and doing workouts in a way that are built to maintain the muscle mass you already have, and maybe even encourage more muscle growth along the way.
So there you have it. The five biggest reasons why women tend to struggle with fat loss. So remember this on your journey to a better and healthier you. Dieting will lead you down a path of never ending gain/lose cycles, constantly frustrated with the lack of progress. The goal of the Diet Mentality is to make you stop enjoying your life to its fullest. A change in your diet focus, throwing the scale away, and taking the time to build your muscle mass back up while living your life now, will all put you down the path to success. The path just winds along the rose gardens, rather than plows right through them.
It's not your imagination. Women have fat loss struggles that seem to elude their male counterparts. Many of us have been known start to the “hey let's do this diet together” – only to end up frustrated when we plateau and they…don't. Of course this is an oversimplification of gender (not all men lose fat super easily — but dang it sure feels like it at times!), but men definitely have a few advantages over us.
Over the next two articles, we'll explore five main reasons why women have a harder time than men when it comes to shedding the fat.
Women are often more focused on weight loss over fat loss, which means they pay a lot of attention to the scale. And if you're constantly looking at the scale, that can skew what you think is progress. Men tend to not be focused on the scale when it comes to their weight. Most of the time, men just do one or two simple things and the weight seems to fall off of them (more on that later!) By eliminating the need to see a number on the scale, men do not get as obsessed about a certain “goal number” than women do.
You can lose weight in almost any way. You can lose weight by losing muscle mass, or water, or you can even lose a limb and see the scale drop. If the loss is coming from fat, then it actually keeps your metabolism on track. But if that loss is coming from muscle, it's actually slowing your metabolism down, which is what happens to a lot of people.
Obviously we all want to blame gains on hormones and whine “Women have it so much harder!!” Our hormones are more sensitive to stress than men's hormones may be. So when we add stress into mix, (because let’s face it, we are more prone to stress about things) our hormones actually react in a way that stops us from losing weight. It actually causes us to often gain weight, especially in the belly. Women normally tend to hold onto fat in the belly area, but when under stress this area refuses to let any fat go. (This is referred to as a “Stress Belly”)
Guys may have a hormonal advantage because of their testosterone, but if we keep our stress levels low, we can use estrogen to our advantage, and help trigger the fat loss. Unfortunately, most forms of extreme dieting exacerbate stress – lower calories, higher exercise exertions, constant weigh ins, are all forms of stress which can, in turn make it incredibly hard for women to lose fat, especially in the belly area.
Another HUGE reason for why it's easier for guys to lose weight than women is because of their muscle mass. Women naturally have less muscle. The time our muscle mass is at it's highest is when we are young teenagers. That is, unless we do something about it – unless we choose to actively seek a lifestyle that builds and maintains our muscle mass. We want to see that scale go down because we think the scale is what is going to make us skinny. This typically means that we're not focused on muscle mass.
Just like Melanie, you could be losing fat even when the scale isn't moving!
Muscle equals metabolism, so when we start putting on muscle mass, the scale may not move at all, or even go up. It's mentally tough to put focus on our lovely new muscle gains when that darn scale is going up/staying the same, so this is where we tend to self sabotage. When it comes to muscle, you can actually gain weight AND look better because the increased metabolism will help you burn fat even faster, burning calories at rest. Muscle is what keeps everything toned and tight and compact underneath your skin. Simply losing weight doesn't do that. If you lose muscle you may get smaller, but you get softer looking. (skinny fat)
Releasing the grip that the scale has on you, managing your stress/hormone levels, and focusing on building muscle mass are three major keys to conquering the female fat loss code. In our next post, we'll touch on two other ignored-but-critical factors that play a major role in female fat loss.
click here for part Two!