Below is an excerpt from my book “The Diet That Works!” It’s a chapter I wrote to help people understand why they might be having trouble making the progress they want. It talks about what you need to do to still be successful even if your body doesn’t seem to be cooperating.
Model: April McCoy Van Hoose
Photographer: Josh Van Hoose
The Earth Is Not Flat!
It is sometimes difficult to accept a new idea or concept. As humans we are creatures of habit and develop various patterns and comfort zones. We watch the same things, go to the same places, wear the same style of cloths, listen to the same songs, sit in the same seats, eat the same foods, etc. as if we are trying to have some type of control over our lives. So when we hear something that is new to us we are often a bit slow to accept it.
Although much of the information I am presenting here is far from new, it may very well be new to a lot of readers simply because it is not what is currently being taught. With respect to weight loss, what we hear quite often is information referring to either trying to burn more calories or consume fewer calories, and if you have any type of weight management issues, that is where your answer lies. The problem is that this is an overly simplistic way to view weight loss and it operates on the assumption that the person in question is simply taking in too many calories and is not active enough. Sometimes this is true but very often it is not. In the many cases when this is not the issue, motivated and well intentioned people find themselves eating less and less and exercising more and more and experiencing great frustration as the success they seek to achieve never takes place. Once sufficiently frustrated, some people are almost wiling to try anything. Unfortunately many of them have been taken advantage of and led down the wrong path.
In all my seminars, personal training sessions, nutritional consultations and writings, the most difficult thing I’ve had to do has not been helping someone achieve success, it has been getting them to believe in and try the approach that I am advocating. We have been so conditioned to think, feel, and believe a certain way that it is hard for new ideas (even though they’re really not that new) to be accepted and embraced. I have literally felt in some of the places where I presented seminars as if I was trying to convince people that the earth was not flat. They had a certain mentality that was supported by their peers and their fitness environment and even by the media. Add to this the number of times many of them had been promised, “This is the new, best, solve-all-your problems, answer-to-your-prayers diet!” and it’s not hard to understand why they had their guards up.
What they couldn’t see however is that the absolute easiest thing for me to do would have been to tell them something that they already believed and had heard. It would have given me instant credibility in their eyes and I would have received nothing but support. “Of course it’s flat, we already knew that, but at least you know what you’re talking about,” I can almost hear them say. For me to come in and tell them something a little different must have meant that I had a good reason. And I did, I wanted to tell them the truth. I wanted to give them the best information possible that I felt would help them the most. I wanted to tell them how the body really worked, why many of them had not achieved success from the things they were doing and what the people who had been highly successful did as a matter of standard practice. I gave them what really worked, even if it may have been contrary to what they currently believed or were putting into practice.
I had girls/women who were taking 10-12-14-plus, 1-1 ½ hour long cardio classes a week on two-three meals a day. Many of them were stuck and not progressing. I told them that they needed to cut back on their cardio, up their meal frequency, increase their protein intake and add some weight training to their program to build and maintain muscle. I tried my best to teach them a better way. Although some listened, many more didn’t. In my effort to teach I learned quite a bit. I discovered that it is not just enough to have better or even the best information. You have to be able to feed it to people in a way they would be willing to consume it so to speak. I couldn’t just tell people what to do, I also had to help them understand why. For some, even this wasn’t enough. I actually had to prove it to them. I brought in people I had worked with previously and people who followed the principles I was advocating for them to see and question and learn from and become inspired by. I found that it was a lot easier reaching new people through already successful ones. Nothing gets other women’s attention quite like a sensational looking 40-year-old mother of two teenagers in a two-piece swimsuit, practicing her posing for her first figure competition. Being able to deliver the information through others became a way for me to reach more people.
Once getting people to try this “new” way became easier, I discovered that I still had one more big obstacle. While some people can make a few changes and immediately see positive results, for others it takes a while longer for good things to happen. In fact, for women who’ve been exercising extremely hard with a lot of cardio, little or no weight training, and an insufficient protein intake, their metabolisms could be shut down to such a degree that it will take weeks before they will start seeing the progress they want. In fact, for many of these women, because they have lost so much muscle tissue they will actually gain weight before their body is ready to start losing it again. Although the reasons for this are quite understandable, you can imaging how tough it is for them (and me) when they start on this “new” diet program and start gaining weight! All the doubts that I had worked so hard to erase came immediately back. It was compounded by the fact that by the time many of these women came to me for help they were almost desperate for progress. “I’ve tried everything!” was a common statement I heard. It had gotten to the point for some of them where they had attached a lot of their self esteem and sense of worth to their physical condition. They didn’t dare miss one of those 10-12 classes a week. They couldn’t imagine taking a break from their diet. They weighed themselves every single day, sometimes several times a day and their moods and emotions were attached to the raising or lowering of the numbers on the scale. It was starting to get unhealthy for some of them. That is not what fitness should be about.
Ironically the body has a way of letting us know this. If we are doing things incorrectly, either by working too hard or not hard enough, it will stop progressing the way it should. Just as a great number of people have not achieved their fitness goals due to a lack of commitment and effort, there is also a number of people who have not achieved success because of too great a commitment and too much effort. Remember, the body can only change and progress so fast and it prioritizes survival not appearance. If there is anything I have learned and can pass on it this: The body is in charge!
If you happen to fall into the category of someone who has basically been trying too hard and have put your system into survival mode, it is very possible that you will gain some body weight when you first employ the principles I am advocating. You have probably lost a certain amount of muscle due to all the cardio and lack of adequate protein. Once you increase your protein intake and implement resistance training you will gain it back (as well as experience an increased metabolic rate). If your carb intake has been too low your muscle glycogen stores have been depleted. When you start consuming carbs again your muscles will store some of them, and since 1 part carbohydrates stores 3 parts water that will add a bit to the scale. Also, many over-trainers are simply a bit dehydrated much of the time and their body will rebound from this by temporarily storing more water than normal once they first began to take in an adequate amount of fluids.
All of the overtraining and under-nourishing has put your body in such a caloric deficit for so long that it has created an idea condition for it to super compensate. In other words your body “feels’ and “thinks” that you are in danger and will now try to protect against any further shortages by holding onto and storing whatever it has and whatever it is given. As un-ideal as this may seem, this is actually a good thing in that it is the first step in healing your metabolism. Your body is now getting proper nourishment and can begin to come out of survival mode. How long will this last and how much will you gain? It really depends on how severe the damage is and how long it has been going on. The longer you have put yourself through extreme diet and training approaches the longer it will take for your body to understand that it is no longer in danger and can safely start to work properly without risk of further assault.
The reason I am addressing this is that I want you to understand how critical it is to give yourself the amount of time necessary to start making progress. I have worked with women who became frustrated after only a few weeks of not seeing results (and possibly being 5-6 pounds heavier) and resorted back to their previous ways of doing things. Those women lost the 5-6 pounds they gained and then became stuck again (as they were originally) 15-20 pounds from where they really wanted to be. Others who were more patient eventually noticed (usually after 2-3 more weeks) that they were finally starting to change and at that point all limits were removed and they went on to reach their goals (and beyond!). The key ingredient is patience. Not all people will get an initial weight gain. For the ones who do the gaining will soon stop and as their metabolism begin to pick up their body will start getting leaner and lighter. This information I am giving you will work for you if you let it. Don’t let 3-4 weeks of your body adjusting to change cause you to become frustrated to the point where you stop doing things they way that you should and rob yourself of 3-4 months (and possibly years) of good progress. Believe in the process and stay on course to your destination. You won’t fall off the edge of the earth, I promise you.