How many people do you know that have really lost weight? I know of a few: mostly people who have just gotten divorced or dumped, or some of those people on The Biggest Loser. But everyday people like us? Not many.
You already know this. You’ve known for years that you can’t lose weight or follow mainstream diet and exercise programs. It’s your thyroid, right? Or genetics. Stress? The devil?
It’s probably none of those things, but medical science has recently shown us (thanks to the gastric bypass era) that hunger hormones increase during the first few weeks of traditional diet and exercise programs. The old-fashioned combination of abrupt food restriction and exercise assault on the body flips us into survival mode and results in hellfire signals from our brain to quit it all.
No one ever failed a fitness schedule or diet because they ran out of workout options or low calorie recipes. People succumb to the body’s strategic, orchestrated response to what the brain thinks is a life threatening external stressor. Hormones called ghrelin, leptin, GLP-1, and others break your spirit during that first week or two – usually while you’re shopping for rice cakes on the way to fitness boot camp.
Expert trainers and fitness gurus also know this. They drone on about “no pain, no gain” and their superhero powers of discipline, dedication, and endurance. They profess how they overcome obstacles that crush the weak and are rewarded with beauty, slim bodies, and nice teeth. Really? Do those yoga pants women you see walking and laughing all the time look like they are in pain? Of course not. At some point they got over the hump, and now it’s fun.
Here is the good news. There is a point beyond which the brain gets on board, and stops sending out hormone mediated signals to eat everything in sight and quit exercising 3 days into a diet (these are the smiley, beautiful people that make you want to scream). What’s more, the concept of neuroplasticity allows us to navigate around that barrier that has been stopping us from really losing weight or getting in shape all these years – and join the folks on the other side.
So yes, it is possible to really lose weight. But not by trying to bull rush through with our heads down. You can overcome this motivation sap one of three ways: 1) gastric bypass surgery, 2) bariatric artery embolization, 3) or intentional transformation.
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5. Barrett, L.F. and W.K. Simmons, Interoceptive predictions in the brain. Nat Rev Neurosci, 2015. 16(7): p. 419-29.