Female Fat Loss: Five Reasons Why It's So Hard (and Why You Can't Seem to Master It)
This week, I received an email from one of our new friends on Instagram named Katie. She joined the Fat Loss Foodies' email list and, as so many of our subscribers often do, she wrote us back almost instantly!
Katie's email asked me one of - if not THE most - popular questions we get from women:
"Why is fat loss SO hard? Why can't I seem to master it?"
First off, if you feel like Katie does, welcome to the club!
Body change IS hard, and that's part of the reason so many people give up.
If you want to change your body, what do you do?
You eat less and exercise more. At least that's what almost everyone in the fitness & diet industry tells you to do. Burn more calories than you take in and you'll lose weight. Maybe. At least initially.
But then what?
If you're like most women, after a few days or weeks following a diet, you run out of steam. Your energy tanks and you lose motivation. You get really hungry. You really want a cupcake. You get frustrated by the lack of movement on the scale. You see your friends going out for drinks and eating whatever they want. Meanwhile, you're eating a kale salad with lemon water and it friggin' sucks. (Yay #healthyliving #fitspo #cleaneating!)
You feel like you're KILLING yourself and for what? You're not even sure if it's working, or if you're doing it right.
Mistake #1 is starting a diet program to lose weight, because there is no diet program that exists FOR YOU unless you write it yourself.
Every woman, every body is different, and thinking that a cookie cutter nutrition plan from the internet or a magazine will give you sustainable body change is like hoping you'll become a 5'10" blue-eyed blonde when you were born a 5'5" brown-eyed brunette.
It ain't happenin'...
Playing The Wrong Game
Most women who are trying to lose weight are playing the diet game. They're focused on "eating less and moving more" and weighing themselves to see if the number on the scale is going down.
But fat loss doesn't work that way. It requires a caloric deficit AND hormonal balance. For fat loss, you can't just eat less. You have to eat more of the right things more often and in doing so, you create a balanced hormonal environment where your appetite and cravings are in check. Once your hormones like insulin, leptin, and ghrelin are in check, you will take in fewer calories without even trying.
Balance the hormones first, and the calories take care of themselves.
Playing the diet game may be the biggest reason women fail at body change, but I don't believe it's not the only reason.
Here's what I know based on my experience working with hundreds of female fat loss clients over the past 4-5 years: fat loss is hard, for a lot of reasons.
1. You're a human being living in a modern world.
Human bodies were created for survival. They are really good at storing fat and conserving energy. If there is ever a famine (God forbid), you will be really glad for extra body fat because that's what your body will use for fuel when food is not readily available.
But we aren't in a famine are we? At least most of us here in America aren't.
No, our problem is that we can now acquire food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with very little effort, and then we spend 8+ hours a day sitting on our ever-expanding backsides staring into computer screens or smart phones.
Cheap, poor quality food + sedentary lifestyle = fat gain.
2. Fat loss is slightly harder Because you're a female.
As a woman, your body REALLY likes to store fat, especially in your butt, hips, and thighs. Female hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone prime the female body for pregnancy every month whether you're having a baby or not. These reproductive hormones impact how your body looks, feels, and performs - and they also make it slightly harder to burn fat. The excess fat stored around the butt, hips, and thighs is different and more stubborn than fat stored elsewhere on the female body [Source].
Think about how your body is wired: for survival and for continuation of the human race. In research and examples from history where groups of men and women were exposed to harsh conditions and starvation, women out-live the men [Source].
When compared to men, women do not require as high of a caloric intake and also store more body fat, which delays the effects of the body breaking down due to stress, starvation, and overwork. It is precisely these biologic conditions that make us better at survival that make us worse at getting leaner.
While you may not like that little bit of extra body fat, Mother Nature put it there for a reason: to protect you, to keep you alive, and to help make more humans. Cut yourself some slack, and then do you everything you can to convince your body that it is not in any danger.
3. Fat Loss is Hard Because Food is EVERYWHERE.
Here in America, most of the "food" that is readily available isn't actually food. It's highly-processed food-like substances filled with preservatives, chemicals, and fillers - and it is delicious.
And don't judge us, okay? We love kale and salmon just as much as the next fitness pros with a blog, but you cannot deny that McDonald's fries, Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, Doritos, Cronuts*, and Shake Shack burgers are un-friggin'-believably delicious.
*we have never tried the elusive Cronut, but it is a hybrid baked good combining a croissant and a donut and we hear they are amazing.
To make matters worse, most of these franken-foods are designed to make you eat more and crave more. The food manufacturers make them that way. They are part of "a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive." [Source]
In spite of the fact that modern society offers tempting foods and drinks at every step around every corner, all the weight loss gurus tell us to use our willpower and say no. We're supposed to "just say no" to Cronuts and eat clean all the time forever, they say.
Yeah - good luck with that. When given the choice between an egg white omelet stuffed with veggies and Cronuts, most people will choose Cronuts every. single. time.
(Ugh. See? You have to choose eggs instead of baked goods. We told you this is hard...)
4. Fat loss is Hard to Master Because It Is a Long, Slow Process - And You Want Results NOW!
Fat loss doesn't care that you're getting married in six weeks or that you want your pre-baby body back before your baby can walk. It has it's own timeline and it will take it's own sweet time. There are some tricks you can employ to speed up the process a little, but mostly it boils down to consistency with the big stuff (food, training, sleep, recovery) over a long period of time.
Months. Years, even.
Fat loss is not a sprint. It's an ultra-marathon.
First, you must supply your body with enough calories from the right kinds of food to balance the hormones. This will balance hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin so you aren't hungry and craving junk food all the time. You won't have chronically elevated levels of insulin from taking in too many calories (especially from sweet, carb-heavy foods). You keep the stress hormone cortisol in check by getting enough sleep, doing efficient exercise, and incorporating restorative activities like walking and yoga.
When you're living a fat loss lifestyle, you feel - dare I say it?? - GOOD.
All of this creates a caloric deficit that you can maintain almost effortlessly over a long period of time. Slowly, your body starts dipping into fat stores for fuel because you've stopped supplying it with loads of excess calories, especially from sugar (carbohydrates.) You do re-feeds (treat meals, reward meals, etc.) every week to reset your hunger hormones and convince your body it's safe, and then you just keep going...
Not 21 days. Not 6 weeks. Not 12 weeks.
5. Fat Loss Is Hard To Master Because There Are People Hell-Bent on Keeping You Confused and In the Dark
Fat loss is hard enough when you have all the information, but we live in the age of the Internet. Literally *anyone* can start an Instagram account and call themselves a nutrition coach without any certifications or qualifications.
Unfortunately, most of the fitness and nutrition industry is an unregulated, free-for-all.
Most of the people you've received nutrition information from your whole life have an agenda: to sell diet books and programs, to sell packaged foods, to sell prescriptions, to sell unregulated shakes and supplements, to prop up certain segments of the food industry, etc.
The truth is this:
Everything you need for fat loss is at the grocery store or Farmer's Market. Yes, that's our sexy top-secret secret.
But no one is going to get rich off selling you more broccoli, sweet potatoes, salmon, apples, berries, oats, etc. At least not as rich as they'd get off selling you their pills, shakes or books.
That's why it's in everyone's best financial interest to convince you it can't possibly be that easy. There must be something special, some secret, some voodoo trickery you just don't know about yet. If only you knew THEIR secret ("It's carb cycling! It's tracking macros! It's intermittent fasting! It's this special suplement!", you could lose fat and keep it off.
There is no secret. You have to find what works for you and do it! There are experts out there who can guide you through that process. Before you work with anyone - in person or online - be sure they are certified, degreed and/or qualified to train you in what you're hiring them for! There are a LOT of excellent, reputable trainers and coaches working online now, but there are also people calling themselves "coaches" because they are working for a company that sells shakes and workout videos.
Whether you hire someone to help you or not, at the end of the day, you have to TAKE ACTION.
Many women stay in the "information gathering" stage but never act on any one protocol long enough to know whether or not it's is working for them. They read articles, they consult experts and bloggers and friends, but they miss one crucial step:
Fat loss is like anything else you want in life: You have to work at it consistently over a long period of time. You can collect opinions and information for years and have all the answers, but they're meaningless if you don't apply them consistently and find out what actually works for you and what you can live with. No one can do this step for you.
Now, if you're feeling a little down after reading this post, we've got you covered! Come back and read the follow-up post on FatLossFoodies.com! In it, I'll be sharing solutions! You'll get some of my easiest, most basic tips and advice to get you on the path towards living a Fat Loss Foodie lifestyle.
If you want to be notified when part 2 is published AND receive free female fat loss recipes, nutrition and training content via email, be sure you're on the Fat Loss Foodies email list!
How to Maintain and Beat Weight Loss Resistance - MetabolicEffect.com
The Female Fat Loss Formula - MetabolicEffect.com