I came across this question recently in an online fitness forum and was bemused to see some of the responses given. Weight loss is a hot topic and with so many opinions out there on how best to shift those extra pounds - it surely could be a very confusing and frustrating endeavour.
One particular response was a firm
"don't waste your time lifting weights if you want to burn fat - do more cardio!"
This was a ridiculous answer in my view, especially since the person asking the question had provided details of their current training plan which already included a daily 60min high-intensity cardio session. Training this hard and not shedding flab means something is amiss in the weight loss process. My experience tells me straight away that doing more cardio is not the obvious solution.
There is such a thing as too much exercise which can become a chronic-stressor on your body. As your cortisol production steadily continues to rise so does your insulin resistance. At this stage your ability to metabolise your glycogen stores is likely to become impaired and result in fat accumulation.
But, it's never as simple as that
For a good read on this subject in an easy to understand format see this article - 9 More Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight
Know your BMI
We should all know by now that reaching an 'ideal' body mass requires attention to more than only exercise. It is also not as simple as watching what you eat although this is a key factor. Firstly you need to know where you sit on the Body Mass Index scale.
Many people claim the BMI is a complete waste of time due to individual differences. Okay, if you are a pro-bodybuilder and weight 25% heavier than your 'normal' weight due to the extra muscle you are packing - sure, the BMI may indicate you are obese when clearly you are not. If you are an athlete of any sort you should know how to compensate for your BMI reading, if you need to consider your BMI at all.
If you don't know your BMI here is a quick and easy way to calculate it using this useful resource from the BBC - Calculate Your BMI
Be lean! The greatest impacting health recommendation
Bringing our bodies back into a health weight range requires an overall balance of numerous lifestyle factors such as;
- mixing up our exercise with both cardio and strength training
- understanding what food types are the real culprits for fat storage and how to avoid them
- Becoming aware of some old food myths that have distorted our view on healthy eating
- Listening and adapting to our own bodies (we're all different)
- keeping our stress levels as low as possible
Reaching and maintaining a lean body is proposed to have the greatest impact for positive health improvement. Read this recent article for further details about this - Healthy Ireland
Thinking outside the box
If you are experiencing an ongoing battle with yourself in trying to lose some weight, assuming you are relatively disciplined and prepared to put in some effort, then from my own experience I would recommend a little thinking 'outside the box'.
We have all adopted certain beliefs about health and fitness over the years which shape our attitude and actions. Try to recognise, as objectively as possible, what preconceived perceptions you hold regarding exercise and body composition.
Do you 'believe' that the only way to achieve a lean body is to
sweat your socks off in a gym everyday?
Or maybe you think you have to live on nothing but celery and dry crackers for a month.
I couldn't cover every potential limiting belief here but my aim is to encourage you to recognise your own and then allow yourself some space to challenge them. Mull over the notions you have recognised, ponder where they came from and how they influence your behaviour.
The next step is to get online and research the topics related to your held beliefs. Try be as specific as you can. Don't seek out only validating information to prove you were right all along - intentionally 'google' opposing views.
Challenge your own thinking
Just over a year ago now I did exactly this. I stumbled upon the 'paleo' or affectionately known as 'the caveman' eating way. I intentionally avoid using the word 'diet' here for good reason. A 'diet' sounds too temporary for me and too restrictive, something that you almost expect to never maintain indefinitely from the start. So what's the point, really.
See here for a catchy INFOGRAPHIC - The Guide To Paleo
Paleo might not be for everyone (but I could believe it would suit almost anyone) and besides I'm not the evangelical type to try and convince others to learn what I have learned. We must all find our own way. I'm not suggesting you go primal but I am encouraging you to consider you may need to adjust your way of thinking about your own health.
A superb website called Marksdailyapple.com is where a chap called Mark Sisson writes extensively on health and fitness. The content is of course focussed around the paleo, or primal as he calls it, way of eating. But I would not let that discourage you if you hold a preconceived notion on all things 'paleo'. There are countless nuggets of wisdom in his archive pages across extensive articles and study references.
His website and views challenged so many of my own held beliefs for health and fitness. I must state that I considered myself very knowledgable and super disciplined in taking responsibility for my own health. Yet I felt as though I was on a diet my whole life yet constantly struggling with certain 'side-effects' and never quite reaching my fitness goals.
It took me some time to adjust to his way of thinking but I gave it a go. Initially I committed to a single month trial, then extended that to three months, then a year, and now it's simply my way of living and certainly not a diet. I stray now and then towards foods I know don't serve me well, mainly due to social situations where I value respect and convenience for my host rather than impose my individual requirement. The 80/20 rule serves me perfectly - 80% of the time I am in full control of what I consume and so embrace this responsibility, the other 20% I accept I may need to play along with whatever goes (within reason)
So, back to the question you're probably asking yourself
Am I Exercising Enough To Lose Weight?
You tell me! - after you do a little thinking and challenge your own status quo.