Diet and exercise — the two words that can make us shudder into demotivation and our brains spiral down into a “hell no.” And there’s no shortage of trends out there that support them: keto, Mediterranean, DASH, high-intensity training, low-impact exercise, and the list goes on and on.
But is there any truth about weight loss that should be highlighted?
The short answer is yes. With adult obesity in the United States at 41.9%, weight loss is a focus on an episode of The Mindvalley Podcast with renowned fitness expert Jillian Michaels. She weighs in on what’s wrong with the way people lose weight today.
The thing is, though, it’s not solely about eating right or working out more. Instead, it’s about understanding why weight loss can be difficult for you and how to find the method(s) that works best for your body.
3 Common Myths About Weight Loss
Dispelling myths about weight loss can help break the cycle of weight fluctuations. It can also create a culture that encourages people to do their due diligence and research how to eat and exercise for their bodies.
Jillian covers some big misconceptions about weight loss in a video on her YouTube channel, which you can tune into. But here are three handpicked ones to highlight.
Myth 1: Fat makes you fat
Fat often gets a bad rap. For a long time, it was believed that fat causes weight gain.
“You would think ‘oh, fat makes me fat,’ so you buy low-fat food,” says the fitness expert. “But that’s not true. There are many healthy fats out there.”
While saturated and trans fat can contribute to a number of health issues, healthy fats can actually help. These unsaturated fats, according to the Cleveland Clinic, are of two types: monosaturated fat (like avocados, nuts, and seeds) and polyunsaturated fat (like flaxseed, walnuts, and fatty fish).
There are plenty of benefits that come with consuming these healthy fats and they include:
- Lowering your risk of heart disease or stroke,
- Raising the good cholesterol and lowering the bad,
- Maintaining the health of your cells and brain,
- Enhancing the absorption of vitamins, like A, D, E, and K,
- Fighting inflammation, and
- Reducing your risk of premature death.
So when it comes down to it, make sure you’re eating healthy fats in your meals.
Myth 2: You can lose weight without exercise
It’s all about the calories you take in and the ones you burn. So if you want to lose weight, you need to burn off more calories than you take in. Makes sense, right?
But can you do it sans a fitness regimen? You can, according to Jillian, but it’s glacial.
“You can jump on this diet and that diet and this diet and you’ll be discouraged because the results will be very slow,” she explains. “Unless you’re incorporating exercise.”
Simply put, exercise allows you to burn more calories than dieting alone. And so, hiring a personal trainer might be something to consider.
Myth 3: Hot workouts burn more calories than cold workouts
It may seem logical that exercising in heat equals weight loss. Sure, it burns calories, but is it the most effective way? Jillian doesn’t seem to think so.
“If we’re talking about efficiency and fat metabolism, they’re far less effective,” she explains. There are studies that suggest so as well.
One in particular, as reported in an article on ABC News, looked into long-term cold exposure in mice. The results of the research found that lower temperatures stress the problematic white fat cells. The cells then develop more mitochondria and eventually become beige cells, which burn energy to produce heat when the body’s temperature drops (much like the brown cells).
While hot workouts do burn calories, it seems that cold workouts burn more.
Diet vs. Exercise
The goal of losing weight is synonymous with dieting and exercising at the same time. While there’s truth in that, the question remains should one take precedence over the other? According to Jillian, the answer is “yes,” but depending on the situation.
To lose weight
“If you are trying to lose weight, you must exercise,” Jillian emphasizes. And to do so, weight loss is 80% exercise and 20% diet. What this means is that you need to burn more calories than you’re taking in — this is called an “energy deficit.”
For example, let’s say you’re a 5’1” female looking to get in shape at 40, whose active lifestyle is considered light, you burn around 1,600 calories per day without working out. If you eat at least 1,200 calories per day, then you’ll have an energy deficit of 400 calories. Multiply that by seven (for the number of days in a week) and you get 2,800.
Keep in mind that one pound (approximately 0.45 kilograms) is roughly equivalent to 3,500 calories, based on an individual’s body weight, height, age, gender, and average level of activity. So 2,800 calories don’t even shed one pound per week.
To maintain your weight
Now, if you’re working on maintaining your weight, then it’s the opposite. Jillian explains that the ratio is 20% exercise and 80% diet. It’s based on this idea: you won’t gain weight if you’re not overeating (with or without exercising).
Let’s look at the same example above with the 40-year-old female whose metabolic rate is 1,600 calories a day. If she’s consuming 1,600 calories per day without exercising, her weight will remain the same because the same number of calories going in is the same number of calories being burned.
Understandably, it can get a little much at times — all this diet vs. exercise. The truth about weight loss is that it’s different for everyone and what’s most important is finding what works best for you.
How to Lose Weight Effectively: 6 Pro Tips From Mindvalley Experts
There are numerous effective strategies for losing weight, like reading food labels, drinking plenty of water, being more active, or even hiring a holistic health coach. Those are fantastic advice.
However, what do the expert guests and trainers at Mindvalley say? Here are a few tips from them that may help:
1. Change your relationship with food
The thing with most diet fads is that it works when a person is following them. Once they get off of it, however, there’s the likelihood of weight coming back on.
In fact, one study showed that 40% of its participants gained weight three years after participating in a commercial weight loss program. The culprit? Sedentary lifestyle.
This has nothing to do with biochemistry, physiology, exercise, calories, food quality, or exercise as Jillian explains in the interview. Instead, it has everything to do with the psychology of it. Just like an addiction.
“When somebody is obese,” she says, “this is not a person who just likes pizza, right? We engage in habits that potentially become self-destructive because, at one time or another, these habits provided us with something very significant.” For example, bonding with our families over a meal or using food to avoid feeling low self-worth.
Whatever the reason, changing your relationship with food can be a step towards losing weight.
Jillian Michaels’ tip: “Eating less, using common sense with your food choices, and moving more works. … However, the issues that drive somebody to eat more are not resolved, so when that individual is confronted with something challenging or they go back into the same environment, they can regress and go back to those old behaviors.”
Get more insights on the truth about weight loss from Jillian:
2. Practice food freedom
What we might’ve been taught to be healthy may not be healthy at all.
Take cereals, for instance. The food industry has us believing that a bowl of cornflakes doused in sugar and flooded with milk is the breakfast of champs. But break it down and all we’re really getting is a temporary glucose spike.
So how can we combat this? How can we equip ourselves with the knowledge to change how we connect with the things we eat and drink?
Food freedom, according to Eric Edmeades, founder of WILDFIT® and trainer of Mindvalley’s Quest with the same name. It’s stepping away from the “diet” mentality and eating intuitively instead. He says, “Freedom is not eating whatever you want whenever you want but also not eating what you don’t want when you don’t want. “
Eric Edmeades’ tip: “The message here is it’s time for you to to take a look and say really ‘who is responsible for my health?’ and the answer to that is you.”
Discover more about food freedom with Eric:
3. Make intermittent fasting a habit
One way to lose weight is simply by changing when you eat, according to Ronan Diego, head of health and fitness at Mindvalley. This is what intermittent fasting is all about — and science is showing that it’s effective.
A 2018 study by the University of Surrey took two groups of people — one was put on a traditional diet, and the other continued eating what they normally eat but had breakfast a little later than usual and dinner a little earlier. They found that after 12 weeks, “body weight and energy intake decreased in the [second group].”
It’s important to note, though, that intermittent fasting for women is a bit different than for men. There are a few things to keep in mind, especially hormonally. So for women, it’s essential to find balance, decide on a feeding window, and eliminate unwanted stressors.
Ronan Diego’s tip: “If you want to give intermittent fasting a try, here’s an overview: start by 12 hours. You don’t need to go all the way to 16 [hours] because it’s not only a physiological change but it’s also a habit change. So take it slow and improve it, increase it more or less one to two hours every one to two weeks.”
Learn more about intermittent fasting with Ronan:
4. Get enough sleep
Several studies have shown a link between sleep deprivation and obesity. For example, a 2014 study published in BMC Public Health analyzed the association between the two in the U.S. adult population between 1977 and 2009. It found that “inadequate sleep was associated with overweight and obesity for each available year.”
According to Dr. Michael Breus, a.k.a. the Sleep Doctor, when you start losing sleep, several things start to happen in your body:
- Cortisol levels elevate,
- Appetite increases,
- Metabolism slows down,
- Hunger increases, and
- Cravings start to happen.
“Sleep is a natural weight manager,” says Dr. Breus in his The Mastery of Sleep Quest on Mindvalley. So one truth about weight loss is to make sure you know how to get more deep sleep.
Dr. Michael Breus’ tip: “Evaluate the relationship between your sleep and your hunger levels. Really start to think about that. Do you notice an increase in cravings on the days when you sleep less? If you do, make sure that you write it down.”
Find out some sleep hacks with Dr. Breus:
5. Exercise before (or after) you eat
“If you exercise before you eat, you’ll actually enhance your body’s ability to be able to maintain a normal blood glucose response after you eat,” says Ben Greenfield, biohacker and trainer of Mindvalley’s The Longevity Blueprint Quest. And how long would you need to do it for? Thirty seconds, he adds.
What’s more, taking a walk after a meal can also bolster weight loss. A 2011 study published in the International Journal of General Medicine examined the effects of a brisk walk right after a meal. Their results found that it “leads to more weight loss than does walking for 30 minutes beginning one hour after a meal has been consumed.”
Ben Greenfield’s tip: “The idea is, for me, when I know I’m going to be eating a large meal or eating a lot of carbohydrates or having dinner or really having any meal at all, I’ll just go out of my way to drop and do some push-ups.”
Understand more about the concept with Ben:
6. Maintain a regular fitness routine
“Our bodies are designed to move,” says Ronan Diego, who’s also the trainer of Mindvalley’s 10X Quest. So now, back to this idea: losing weight is 80% exercise and 20% diet. It’s only fitting to make exercise part of your daily habits.
But what if you just don’t have the time? Any health coaching program will tell you the same thing: find ways to stay active and make it a habit.
Taking a phone call? Walk while you talk. Live in a walk-up? Take the stairs. Have a desk job? Take moments to stand while you work.
The truth about weight loss is to make it a habit to keep moving and stay active. And when you’re able to do so, you can level up to 10X, Mindvalley’s fitness program that activates your muscles’ adaptive response, transforming your body to be fitter and stronger.
Ronan Diego’s tip: “The effort that I made is to build the habits. … That’s where you put your effort. And then, you outsource your success to them.”
Get inspired by Ronan’s healthy habits:
Your Greatness Knows No Limits
The truth about weight loss is not merely to help you look good, but it’s to help you feel good as well. When you feel strong physically, you feel stronger in other facets of your life.
You can absolutely try the next exercise or diet trend. However, if you want guidance from experts who’ve created programs based on scientific research, you can find them at Mindvalley. From finding food freedom with Eric Edmeades to learning how to biohack your body with Ben Greenfield to getting fitter and stronger with Ronan Diego.
What’s more, you can level up your own expertise by becoming a Certified 10X Coach. You’ll learn how to:
- Facilitate impactful health and fitness transformations
- Upgrade your skillset or grow your business
- Make a more positive impact through your work and abilities
Forget that “new you” motto. Instead, be the better, fitter, and stronger you.