The Real Reason Why You're Not Lean

Doesn’t it always seem like you just can’t lose those last 5-10 pounds?

Well, you’re not alone. Try as you might, those last 5-10 pounds are coming off. This might not be the first time you’ve encountered this hurdle, either. You’ve probably had phases where your fitness and nutrition are both on point, but when it comes to this magic number you have in mind, you just can’t quite get there.

In a New Years Resolutions survey, only 9.2% of people felt like they were successful in achieving their goals. As fitness coaches this wasn’t surprising to us, and Dan offered up some thoughtful reasons as to why so many people feel unfulfilled in their fitness.

Those same points apply to nutrition as well. For decades, the fitness industry has presented its audience with a particular aesthetic appearance that it deems acceptable and desirable. For many of us casual observers, it seems as if health and fitness can be best defined by what you find at vitamin and supplement shops.  These same images that adorn magazines, protein bars, cardboard cutouts, and supplement containers are almost always associated with a service, product, subscription, or some combination of each. “If you want to look like THIS, you need to buy, take, or do THIS,” they say.

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People have even gone so far as to promote themselves as “doctors” or “medical professionals,” when they really have no legitimate claim to those titles (or the Iron Throne, but that’s probably a discussion for another day). All the same however, they seem to be getting away with promoting supplements and diets in spite of a clear lack of legitimate scientific evidence backing their lofty claims. For example, things like green coffee bean extract and the alkaline diet don’t exactly live up to their purported benefits.

I will never criticize individuals or groups who have an honest and vested interest in providing help to others, but who may be passing along harmless, nebulous advice by mistake. There are a multitude of diets and training methods that can improve body composition; the best fitness and nutrition coaches are simply better at making the right decisions for their clients. The solution is never “one-size-fits-all.” The issue however, is with the intentional instruction of extremely unsafe methods (the Sleeping Beauty Diet, juice cleanses, etc) endorsed by “medical professionals’…aka frauds.

Recent data shows that Americans spend upwards of $60 Million annually in attempts to lose weight or improve their body composition.  If you’re dedicating your time, money, and efforts into new strategies, it’s important to understand the trade-offs of achieving your goals. Despite what the fitness industry may portray, slamming the gas pedal on 21-day fixes and 90-day programs until you inevitably run out of fuel and crash isn’t the only resolution to your goals.

Generally speaking, the more you want to improve your body–to build muscle and lose fat–the harder it will be, and the longer you’ll have to fight for it. It’s just the simple truth. The real reason why you’re not lean is this: to sustain that level, it would require an unsustainable amount of time and effort.

As with many areas of health and fitness, the general adaptation syndrome also applies to the process of achieving your desired body composition goals. If you want to make changes to your body, you’ll need to make changes to your lifestyle. The greater the degree of demand, the greater the degree of adaptation.  The areas of lifestyle that you decide to change, and the degree to which you commit to those changes is your choice.

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General Adaptation Syndrome, in chart form.

If you’ve made a conscious decision to change your body composition, it’s important to start with a true measurement of your current state. That’s why we recommend that you find out what your resting metabolic rate is. A measurement of your specific resting metabolic rate through clinical-grade indirect calorimetry provides a precise caloric breakdown of your metabolism to eliminate the variation inherent to prediction equations. It’s basicially the first step to taking the guesswork out of nutrition. Completing an RMR test gets you one step closer to designing a program to succeed in the often overwhelming weight-loss pursuit.

It is also important to establish clarity as to where you fall on the commitment spectrum. You need to understand the expected return on any investment to make a sensible decision.

In the absence of medical conditions, the most fundamental scientific principle when it comes to fat loss is maintaining a caloric deficit. Therefore, it’s no surprise that some of the most common difficulties in achieving one’s goal of a desired body fat percentage or weight are directly related to the shift in caloric equilibrium. Below, I’ve laid out a few of the most common struggles when attempting to achieve a desired body fat percentage.

  1.  Underestimation of Calories

You’re underestimated how many calories you’re consuming.  Various studies have shown that people often have a gross underestimation of calories in relation to portion size, forgetfulness, and poor tracking methods.  Even with the best intentions, you may be carelessly logging incorrect data and underestimating what that lunch was really worth.

  1. Fad Diets

Quite often, these diets are extreme and rely on strict caloric limitations or excessive protocol to achieve the fastest “results” in limited amount of time. Most people are looking for a quick fix. A magical shortcut so they can avoid the interference with everyday life decisions. These diets build a non-transferable skill and never focus on the true components of a healthy lifestyle; balanced nutrition and training.

  1.  Neglecting Adaptation

As explained above, when a body is placed under stress, it adapts. For the average male who is 28% body fat, the initial fat loss adaptation can be completed with a few relatively small, easily implemented strategies. Examples include replacing calorie dense beverages with water, or controlling appetite to resist a second helping of dinner. Like a trainee who just started a regimen in the weightroom, progress and strength gains comes very easily at first, but it will take years to get to an elite level on par with say, powerlifters or weightlifters.

Frankly, changes in physique and body composition are the same way. The strategies that work for an average person are effective for making initial progress. To get down to less than 12%  for males and less than 20% for females, the dedication and attention to detail dramatically increases. As your body adapts and your physique improves, your regimen has to adapt as well.

Remember that fitness celebrities and Instagram influencers have spent thousands of hours honing their craft, and even then, they still need professional-quality photo shoots and filming sessions to look as good as they do. While you may never achieve the physique of a photo-shopped magazine cover or Instagram post, understanding and overcoming these common flaws will set a foundation for practical fat loss goals.

So for those of us who can’t devote the majority of our time and effort to nutrition, what’s the next step to get to the next level, to finally lose those 5-10 pounds (or more importantly, to look good in the mirror)? What can take you over the last hurdle?

Well, why not pass that time and effort, which you can’t devote, to someone else, who can give you objective feedback on your nutrition pursuits?

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For one, knowing your RMR with clinical-grade precision gives you better insight into what exactly you need from a caloric standpoint, whether they be to lose weight or gain muscle. Be sure to find out more about our metabolic lab and sign up to find out what your unique metabolic fingerprint is here: Metabolic Testing at Halevy Life.

Once we know your RMR, we can then provide tailored nutrition advice based on that information to help you finish off those pesky pounds!

by Joe Ferraro

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