The fitness industry has absolutely exploded in the last 20 years. Sometimes it seems like everyone is “on a diet.” You can’t even turn on the TV or stand in line at the grocery store without seeing "six-pack abs", "tight butts", "lean bodies", and other promises of "health".
Yet somehow, body fat percentages have been on the rise. Why is it that more dieting, more working out, and more information has led to more weight gain?
Your “Metabolic Bank Account”
Let's think of your metabolism as a bank account. The basic principles are the same. You make deposits, withdrawals, put things on credit and if you aren't careful - you'll go into overdraft.
- Balanced, Regular Meals
- Physical Activity
- Plenty of Sleep
Think of these basic activities as your “salary.” When you make these daily deposits, you’re ensuring that your metabolic bank account is in good standing.
- Skipping Meals
- Junk Food
- Late Nights
Just like your actual bank account, it’s perfectly fine to make withdrawals for the sake of living a life you actually enjoy. These withdrawals are a normal part of life. After all, if you didn't make withdrawals, how would you live?
Weight loss is also a withdrawal from your metabolic bank account. It has the potential to temporarily slow down your metabolism if you attempt to lose too much, too quickly.
Put it On Credit
Rapid weight loss is the metabolic equivalent of buying something you cannot afford using a credit card. Chances are, you know someone (maybe it's you) who has lost weight, only to gain it back plus interest.
This happens when the withdrawals do not match up with the deposits, putting your metabolic bank account into overdraft without you even realizing it. For many this manifests as a "plateau", causing them to become frustrated and give up, or start making even larger withdrawals. The result can be extremely damaging to your mental health and relationship with food. Falling into a pattern of losing and gaining can leave you in worse health than you started in.
If you’ve ever seen the cover of a fitness magazine, you’ve seen claims like "Lose 20 Pounds in 20 Days!", and "The Miracle Diet for Fast Weight Loss!" They sell an image of very lean people with defined muscles as the look of “health.” But they don’t tell you that the cost of obtaining that physique comes with huge metabolic consequences.
The diet industry profits from your insecurities. They paint a desirable but unrealistic picture, then offer solutions that might work in the short-term, but aren't sustainable over time. Then they profit again when you come back for round two (or round three, four, five, six or seven). They make us believe that we should all be motivated to be very lean and have six-pack abs.
But the truth is, that the image of “health and fitness” we see on magazine covers isn’t realistic. For the average person, it isn't achievable. And it certainly is not what health really looks like.
Decide What Happy & Healthy Looks Like to You and Find Balance
Instead of constantly jumping on the next diet, take some time to decide what you want your life to look like. Then, you can build your overall diet to match that. Does your ideal life include drinking wine, eating chocolate, and enjoying popcorn at the movies? If it does, you must learn to incorporate balance.
Balance is actually something we have to learn. Instead of going on a crash diet focused on deprivation, learn how to fit healthy choices into the life you want to live starting right now. You can eat a healthy dinner with a glass of wine and some chocolate for dessert. You can go to the gym in the morning and go out for ice cream in the evening. You can eat kale salad and you can eat birthday cake. Your body will find it's happy, healthy weight naturally. Sustained weight loss comes when you stop thinking about it. Focus on making healthy choices for yourself and trust that the outcome will be positive.
You can find balance. You never have to feel deprived. You can accept yourself as you are right now, no matter what your weight is. Decide to live a healthier life, physically, mentally, and spiritually, regardless of whether or not you lose weight. Decide that health is not a number on your scale, or your jeans, but a state of mind. Loving and respecting yourself leads to making healthier choices. Healthier choices lead to a better quality of life, more energy, a better outlook, and maybe weight loss if your body thinks it needs that for optimal health.
Always remember that your body is the least interesting thing about you. The most defined abs in the world do not make you a better person, friend, or parent.
Let's shift our focus away from the scale and onto the things that really matter like being kind, enjoying life, living our purpose, building our mental strength and sharing all the amazing love we have to give.