Have you heard any of these?
As long as you’re eating healthy you can eat as much as you want.
Vegetables are trying to kill you. Don’t eat them!
Fruit is evil! Don’t eat it because of the sugar!
Humans aren’t designed to eat animal products.
Humans aren’t designed to eat plants.
Cutting out all junk food is necessary to lose weight.
Weigh Loss Advice That Might Actually Be Worse
But I’m not talking about any of this advice.
I actually want to talk about some weight loss advice that could be considered even more controversial because it actually sounds like it should be true. But I’m going to tell you why I don’t think it is.
“Just listen to your body”
Doesn’t it seem like that should be true?
Your body wants to survive it’s telling you just what it needs at the right time I’m going to tell you why I think it’s terrible advice for the average person who’s looking to lose weight and why it likely won’t be effective for you but I am going to touch on specific situations and certain people where I think it really is good advice.
“I’m a bit tired. I kind of feel like re-watching the last season of Cobra Kai. I feel like that’s what my body is telling me to do.”
Now it seems really ridiculous when I say it that way.
You’re not always going to prefer lying on the couch and watching Netflix but can’t you see how the advice to just listen to your body could be dangerous and perhaps keep you from reaching your weight loss goals.
How Your Body Could Be Giving You Bad Weight Loss Advice
I can’t even count the number of times when I was feeling a bit tired or a bit sore and I didn’t really feel like working out.
If I always listen to my body I could very well end up just being on the couch. Now it depends on how you interpret that information that you’re tired in your mind.
What if I felt tired and I interpreted that as oh that probably means I need to do a workout to liven myself up that would be great that’s generally what I try to do.
But I’ve been a fitness professional for over 20 years and for the most part I enjoy working out I enjoy weight training I enjoy a lot of outdoor activities. I enjoy moving my body. That’s pretty much much why I created an entire life around it. That doesn’t mean that everyone is going to have that same association.
I know because I’ve done it many times before that if I work out when I feel tired I will generally feel better but not always there are times when I can really sense that yeah I’m exhausted I really just need to sit here and do nothing.
How You Can Misinterpret Your Body’s Cues
The problem is for the average person who is overweight and trying to lose weight those cues are not accurate. They may feel very sluggish.
Any time I work with somebody who has lost a lot of weight, let’s say 60 70 or 80 pounds, what they talk about most when they are leaner is how much energy they have now that they’re lighter.
So it’s very difficult for someone who is 80 pounds overweight to listen to their body when it’s pretty much just telling them to sit around.
Sometimes it feels just really hard to move when you’re carrying all that extra weight. So you have to force yourself. Or you have to get someone to help you to do that initially at least in order to develop the right habit.
Telling someone who’s in that position to just listen to your body is not going to be helpful. In order to make a change and lose weight we have to overcome the habits that we’ve built up over time. Because you don’t get change without making a change.
“I’m not really in the mood to eat this. I’m just gonna have some ice cream instead. That’s what my body is telling me.”
Now when we talk about food it almost seems even more clear a lot of people argue that someone who’s overweight is actually listening to their body.
Fat Cells Want To Stay Around
There is emerging evidence that fat cells are sending out messages in order to sustain themselves. So you may be feeling hungry because you’re already overweight and your body wants to maintain itself in that current state.
A lot of people when they start dieting they try to get into a calorie deficit and they start to feel hungry. It’s almost inevitable during a dieting process.
In some cases it’s reconnecting with hunger and appetite and actually recognizing the proper cues someone who has been overweight for a long time is generally not in touch with those true cues even for people at a healthy weight.
The Psychology Of Weight Loss
Let’s not forget that a lot of weight loss is psychological.
Anyone ever feel like eating when they’re stressed, tired, bored or upset.
Nearly everyone has experienced the desire to eat for reasons other than hunger.
So listening to our body in that moment led us to eating unnecessarily or eating too much. And are you telling me that if you walk into a bakery and smell some delicious bread that you’re not going to want that bread? Or if you go to a restaurant and smell some pizza isn’t your body going to tell you that you want that pizza?
You’ll probably want to eat it really it’s because you don’t know where those messages are coming from is it your brain telling you that this particular food is going to make you feel better it’s going to make you feel comforted that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the right thing for your body so telling someone to listen to their body can result in a misinterpretation of those cues.
Learning To Recognize Hunger Cues Is Good Weigh Loss Advice
Now don’t get me wrong being successful with weight loss doesn’t mean that you’re overlooking those cues and desires.
In fact I think it’s important for you to be more aware of them so that you can work around them and still get into a calorie deficit. So still enjoying certain things but also not overdoing certain things.
Appetite And Weight Loss
Many people who are overweight may have excessive appetites. A really important part of weight loss is learning to manage your appetite.
I certainly don’t advocate anybody starving themselves or going for long periods without food. It’s just about getting into enough of a calorie deficit to produce weight loss.
Exercise And Appetite
Exercise can have an impact on appetite as well. Some people find a reduction of appetite with exercise, while others can have quite an increase.
If you’re constantly giving in to that appetite and eating more then you’re not going to be able to reach your weight loss goals.
Sleep And Appetite
Not getting enough sleep means that your body is producing more ghrelin, which is the hormone that causes you to feel more hungry. And you’re producing less leptin, which is the hormone that makes you feel satisfied and full. It regulates your appetite.
Overcoming Excessive Hunger
In some ways we have to overcome the natural inclinations of the body in order to lose body fat.
Because your body is not interested in how hot you’re going to look at the beach. Our body is interested in survival. Making sure we don’t starve to death.
Excess body fat doesn’t do your body any good long term. It can increase your risk of cardiovascular issues high blood pressure and diabetes. But your body will often make the short-term decision that’s easier: conservation of energy.
And excess body fat is the way that your body is storing excess energy. In case you have a time where you don’t have any food so you can use those body stores to keep you alive.
For most people in this modern world that is not an issue. Food is readily available and you can easily have more than you really need.
Learning To Recognize True Hunger Cues Is Good Weight Loss Advice
Most people can’t tell if it’s our body truly craving something or it’s just our brain wanting some comfort.
When “Listen To Your Body”
Here’s where I think the advice to listen to your body could be helpful.
And that is with respect to injuries. Iff you feel a little ache and you just push through it, which is what a lot of people do (particularly when they’re younger). As you get older this advice becomes more and more important.
Injuries take longer to heal and if you don’t pay attention and take breaks when you need to then things can get worse if you feel like something is slightly wrong with your body definitely visit a doctor get it checked out so if something does seem to be a little bit off. It’s best to adjust your training and do some sort of rehab in order to correct it.
It’s Helpful To Listen To Your Body At Any Age
Now this is actually a good advice if you’re in your 20s as well as an athlete in my 20s. If I had listened to my body more and taken a break when I probably should have taken a break, then I probably would have got less sick. I probably would have had fewer injuries.
So even though it becomes absolutely essential once you you hit your 40s, in your 20s it’s probably good advice too.
Listen to your body. Pay attention to any injuries. It’s really not that great a strategy to just suck it up and push through when it comes to joint pains or an actual injury that you’ve had. Sure muscle stress and that sort of thing is fine but listening to your body when it comes to small injuries can mean that you prevent yourself from creating a bigger injury.