So you're trying eat better, but the weight isn't coming off? You're not alone. Here's why “healthy eating” alone doesn't work for weight loss.
The Truth About Healthy Eating
Getting healthy does not guarantee weight loss, and thinking that way may be getting in the way of you reaching your physique goals.
I know that for many ladies – weight loss and the journey to become more “healthy and fit” coincide. And the line is often blurred, with so many “health” foods, gadgets, and supplements being marketed as a magic solution to make you fit, trim and lean. But the thing is, those things are not one in the same. So here's a few things to consider if you want to be healthy and lose weight.
Weight Loss Basics Still Matter
Most of us have expressed the desire to be more fit and healthy as if they're the same. We tend to assume that being healthy and losing weight are the same goal and, depending upon the information you consume, that thought is likely being confirmed.
Maybe you've experienced going to the doctor and constantly hearing about how you need to lose a little bit more weight to help solve some problems that you have in an area that has nothing to do with weight loss, like a knee issue, back pain, or fertility. We've often heard that if we lose weight, it will help. And while losing weight does affect blood markers, that does not mean that getting healthy and losing weight are the same.
Think about it.
There are so many loving, caring moms out there, who only eat organic foods. Some grow their own vegetables, and even grind their own grains, almonds, etc to make bread and other whole grain or gluten-free products. Yet they rarely lose weight, and many are gaining! This may even describe you, a person doing alllll the healthy things, but not seeing the scale move the way you want it to. This is because a healthy diet does not automatically equate to weight loss.
Many ladies assume that as long as they eat clean, healthy, or organic, that calories don't count. The reality is that you may see beneficial health improvements from an extremely healthy diet, but not see physique changes. This is because gaining or losing of fat and muscle require either a surplus or deficit of calories:
If you are trying to lose weight and are eating an excess of calories, even if those are the most amazing healthy organic calories, they're still going to cause weight gain. If you are eating maintenance level calories of the most nutritious foods on the planet, you are still eating maintenance level and will stay the way you are. If you're eating less food, you will probably see the scale go down or some weight shredded off, even if it's “junk” food.
If you want to be healthy and lose fat, you need to eat healthy at a calorie deficit. If you're going to gain muscle and be healthy,
you will have to increase those same healthy calories, to put yourself in a caloric surplus. If you're someone who is on the fence – you want to lose a little bit of fat but eating super healthy foods isn't all that important to you – good news! you still can lose weight and not be eating 100% healthy, clean and organic.
That's why it's essential to know both ends of the spectrum. The reality is, it doesn't matter how healthy you are if you're eating too many calories, and it doesn't matter how unhealthy you are if you're eating fewer calories. You will probably still lose some weight, whether or not that is a healthy weight that you're losing.
So if you can find a healthy medium where you're doing both, that will be the best-case scenario mainly because you are tailoring it to yourself. You can be “kind of” healthy, hitting your macronutrient level by eating a sufficient amount of treats, even if those things are what somebody else might consider junk food.
As long as you're hitting the amount of protein and fiber your body needs and hitting the calorie level for your specific goal, then you can still see progress. This should give you both hope and a reality check!
Getting “Fit” vs Getting Lean
The second thing that I would say to consider when we're thinking about being healthy is that being fit is not the same as being leaner or thinner. As I said in the first point, someone can be unhealthy and underweight. So assuming that because someone is skinnier than you means they are healthy is just not the case.
If you are taking excellent care of your health and body, working out consistently, eating healthy foods like whole grains, vegetables, and high protein, you are a healthy person even if your weight does not reflect that. On the contrary, some people are not exercising, not eating the healthy foods, getting insufficient protein, and not correctly fueling their body; even if they are underweight, that does not mean that they're healthy. Knowing this allows us to have the freedom on our journey to do what it is that we set out to do.
How does this relate to your goals?
Well, if fat loss is your goal, understand that exercises that are “heart-healthy,” high endurance, or make you feel good may not actually be related to your goal of a physique change.
Your endurance may improve, but endurance and fat loss are not the same. Having a “healthy” heart does not automatically equal a smaller body size. So if you're attempting to lose some fat, you may need to adapt the style of exercising accordingly. This means specifically executing fat loss behaviors, such as hitting a certain amount of protein, eating a certain amount of calories, doing some strength training workouts (your best friend when you're trying to lose fat because it helps you hold on to muscle mass and keep your metabolism nice and high), and sometimes – limiting cardio for periods of time.
Sure…If you're only looking to be healthy, then that means you can do whatever exercise makes you feel good. Get your heart pumping and get those endorphins…
Just remember, endorphins don't cause weight loss.
So..what do you really want?
When you start to see fit/lean and healthy/weight loss as separate entities, you can begin creating the goals that you want, knowing what to expect from the actions that you're taking. If you're looking to lean out, then it's about understanding what the basics of fat loss entail and making sure that those are incorporated, regardless of your health goals.
You can have a health goal, and you can have a fat loss goal. Just make sure that the actions and expectations align. That means you should not be upset when you eat healthily, exercise a lot, and see physique changes. Don't say, “I just want to be healthy again,” when you mean “I just want to be the size that I was.”
Remember that your journey has different seasons, and each phase brings something new.
When you are in a muscle-building phase, you are looking to build muscle. You're not necessarily looking for fat loss.
When you're in a fat loss phase, you're not looking to build muscle. You're looking to lose fat and hopefully hold on to some of the muscles that you had.
There's also the Chill phase when you're not looking for anything. You're not paying attention to what you eat. It's a time to relax, be more intuitive, and have some mental freedom from tracking food all.the.time. BUT…that means you're not expecting fat loss. You're not expecting muscle gain. You're not expecting anything. You're just taking life as it comes because your focus is on mental clarity, relaxation, and not having to log everything.
It may seem nitpick-y to spell the differences of these phases out, but when you're working your butt off to get results, it helps to make sure that you are getting the terminology right to express what you are looking for.
The terminology you uses indicates where your mindset is, and can be a huge indicator of why you're not seeing the progress you want. So don't be afraid to sit with the question “what do I REALLY want” and answer it unapologetically – even if it's “unpopular.” I get it, we live in a society right now where either side of the fence can be looked at as horrible. One community is shouting, “Love yourself the way that you are, don't ever try and change anything.” But then another community is telling you to change everything about yourself because “You suck, you're fat. You don't belong in this society.” The person who wants to enjoy life and not be concerned over their weight is shamed for being “unhealthy”, while someone else who wants change how they look is made to feel bad about it.
I see so many ladies don't want to admit their actual goals, for fear of being excommunicated from the self-love community, or health-shamed.
Find your happy medium! What are your standards of beauty? Own it, even if it's unpopular with another crowd. You're going to be 100% unhappy if you're in one camp shouting “Rah, rah!” when what you REALLY want is the results of another camp.
If you want to lose fat, there is no shame in that. If you are pleased where you are and want to be healthy, there is no shame in that.
If you want both, then be honest with yourself and do what it takes to make the two of those things align in a way that works for you.