I began writing about health and fitness after healing from a chronic disease. One of the strange things about having chronic fatigue syndrome is that your body acts and behaves like that of someone much older.
At age 22 I got to understand what it’s like to have brain fog, no energy, and poor tolerance of stress including exercise. Learning to heal involved focusing on lots of factors most people overlook when it comes to their health.
I am not over 50, nor have I ever had many issues with weight; Still, the things I learned for combating chronic disease are very helpful for weight loss.
You see, weight retention is often a symptom of the same roots that can cause chronic disease. Whether you just have some stubborn belly fat or are actively fighting major obesity, there are factors at play that go beyond calories and exercise.
I’ve used the techniques here with clients and friends to great success. By using off-the-beaten-path techniques, you too can make real progress. In essence, this article is about how to lose stubborn weight when “eat less, train more,” just doesn’t cut it.
The Inflammation Link
One of the most important yet overlooked factors in weight-gain is inflammation. Everyone wants to talk about food and exercise, hormones, and glycemic variability, but the role of chronic inflammation is HUGE.
When your body becomes chronically inflamed, this wreaks havoc on your biology. Chronic inflammation is well correlated with almost every major chronic disease, including diabetes and obesity (as well as cancer, heart disease, and neurological diseases like Parkinson’s.)
How does chronic inflammation happen? Genetic factors, diet, toxin exposure, stress levels, and many other factors can lead to a state of chronic inflammation.
Without knowledge of the role inflammation plays, some of the following sections might seem misplaced in a weight-loss guide. Most weight-loss guides don’t help anyone lose weight though, because they don’t go deep enough into the underlying causes of stubborn weight retention.
The first driver of chronic inflammation we’ll talk about is the role of chronic stress.
In all realms of health and fitness, the role of mental health is still undervalued.
Wait, seriously Keenan? I feel like I can’t walk two steps up the versa-climber without hearing a “mind over matter” quote, or listening to another “stress kills more people than smoking” statistic.
Sure, we talk about stress all the time, but the problem is the conversation doesn’t typically go beyond that. Actually looking at stress as a biological factor, like diet or exercise, is paramount in improving your health.
Chronic stress can promote obesity in a few ways. For one thing, it can result in chronic inflammation via the over-production of certain neurotransmitters.
As excitatory neurotransmitters such as glutamate activate your limbic system, you can get caught in a “fight-or-flight” mode. If this goes on for too long, your immune system can begin working too hard and treating even healthy foods and supplements like they are harmful. Pretty soon, the things you eat, drink, and breathe are causing a pronounced and consistent inflammatory response.
Another way stress creates inflammation is via the CDR, or Cell Danger Response. CDR refers to metabolic changes at the cellular level when we face danger or threat. If the CDR response becomes abnormally active, due to being in a constant state of fight-or-flight, it can result in dysfunction and inflammation that ultimately contribute to both weight problems and general chronic disease.
What Can You Do?
These kinds of problems are common in type-A, hard-charging individuals. However, in modern society, I’d say we are all asked to behave like we are type-A for long periods of time.
How can you combat and reverse this stress?
If you have chronic inflammation because of chronic stress, it will not go away until you address the stress. Those love handles may not go away until you leave a not-so-loving relationship.
To me this is exciting! An opportunity to improve my mind and get healthier? Sign me up! However, I also know this is some of the hardest work we can do. Facing what is inside us is scary, but the rewards of intentional self-improvement far exceed weight loss.
I think too many people start with the body and avoid working on the mind. Always consider the fact that your mind might be the biggest reason you are having problems with your body. Here are a few techniques for removing chronic stress from your life:
Meditation sounds cliche nowadays but there’s a reason it has become popular. If you’ve never practiced just being mindful, you’re in for a welcome surprise.
Simple meditation practices were and still are one of the most powerful changes I’ve made in my life. Just breathing with my eyes closed every morning is still a hugely stress-relieving practice and I try to meditate daily.
To use box breathing as a meditation, simply inhale for 4 seconds, hold the top of the breath (without straining) for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold the bottom of the breath for 4 seconds.
There are 4 sides to the breath just like there are 4 sides to a box. Now, to make this into a meditation, simply close your eyes and box breathe for 5 minutes straight. During this time try not to dwell-on or filter your thoughts. Simply observe them.
Many people make the mistake of thinking meditation is about eliminating all thoughts from your mind, and while you can certainly have this subjective experience, the effort of “trying” will only sabotage the process.
Instead, meditation is about observing your thoughts as they pass through. If you notice smells, just notice them. If you notice thoughts, just notice them. One of the best ways I heard it described is to listen to your thoughts as though they were noise, just like the little noises in the world outside your head.
Don’t “try” to interpret them. Don’t “try” not to. Just listen, hear, observe, and be in the moment.
Another way you can meditate is to use counting to form an anchor point for your thoughts. I usually count my breaths in order to track how long I have been meditating. With box breathing, I will do a 5 count box breath pattern (5 count inhale, hold, exhale, and hold.) 15 cycles is 5 minutes.
Counting like this can provide a structure to anchor your thoughts in your mind. By lightly focusing on your counting, you can more easily clear your mind of other thoughts. I believe this is the purpose of transcendental meditation, which has practitioners chant a “mantra” in their head throughout the meditation.
HRV Resonance/Coherence Training
Heart-rate variability (HRV) is a measurement of your nervous system function. The 10,000-foot overview is that it measures your body’s ability to switch between sympathetic “fight-or-flight” dominance and parasympathetic “rest-and-digest” behavior.
Higher HRV scores are correlated with better function of your autonomic nervous system, and there are proven methods for increasing your HRV scores.
One of the most powerful is something known as resonance breathing. Resonance breathing trains you to find your personal breathing cadence that results in your highest HRV scores, which lowers stress and improves autonomic nervous system function.
Resonance breathing training requires a device to read your HRV and prompt you when to inhale and exhale. My personal favorite devices are the emWave2 by The Heartmath Institute or the Lief Therapeutics wearable.
Heartmath’s Emwave can be used to practice improving your HRV for up to 20 minutes, whereas the Lief wearable prompts you throughout the day when your HRV begins to decline due to stress.
These devices are a little pricey, but resonance breathing is one of the most well-backed methods for reducing stress and improving nervous system function.
If you don’t want to purchase a device, 6 breaths per minute is the average frequency to achieve resonance and improve HRV. Everyone’s rate is different, but you can aim at this pace if you want to try it without gear.
In general, it is advised to inhale with your nose and exhale either through the nose or mouth. Inhaling through the nose allows greater expansion of the lungs, filters particles from the air, and creates mitochondria enhancing NO2 from the cells in your nostrils.
EMDR Trauma Therapy
Got trauma? Don’t worry, me too. Though at first, I didn’t see it that way, my experiences with chronic disease left an imprint.
Among other things, I had chronic fatigue syndrome for close to two years. This whole experience started in a dry sauna post-workout. I’d done sauna sessions hundreds of times before, and workouts thousands of times. Despite the fact that Panic Attacks were my first and most intense symptom, I saw my issues as purely biological; I completely wrote off the mental side of it.
Well, now I believe that trauma is trauma, and if you experience something that massively reduces your ability to function, your subconscious doesn’t care if it makes sense.
This is where EMDR comes in. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing. By having a patient follow a dot on-screen, EMDR therapy imitates the eye movements of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
Why does that matter? REM sleep is when your mind processes the experiences of the day and categorizes them into your memory.
Many believe that traumatic experiences are not fully processed, possibly so that the discomfort and fear from the trauma keeps you from putting yourself in those situations again.
The problem is that traumatic experiences are not forever, and you probably aren’t in danger anymore. EMDR allows you to reprocess and finally categorize these memories as being no-longer harmful.
There’s some impressive evidence supporting EMDR (it’s one of the leading therapies for PTSD) but I’m just here to talk about my own experience. During my first session, I felt an intense physical buzzing sensation and the feeling that a heavy weight had been unclamped from my chest and shoulders.
Over the next week, my anxiety dropped to such a magnitude that I realized I hadn’t felt truly relaxed in years. This all happened a year after I “healed” from chronic fatigue syndrome.
EMDR is a great therapy for many people, but some might do better to try other methods. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and simple talk therapy are all-powerful.
Whatever you do, make sure you have a good therapist. Therapists are just people, after all, and a bad therapist can do more damage than good. Thankfully, there are many good ones.
Regardless of how much meditation, therapy, and breathing you do, you may have lifestyle factors that need to be changed or removed before you can eliminate chronic stress.
I believe strongly in the idea of choosing to see the world as beautiful in order to become content and happy. With that said, there’s only so much you can do in the face of a toxic relationship, a tyrannical boss, or a career-path you find unfulfilling or ethically wrong.
How can you change these things? I believe the first step is to get really honest with yourself about what you want out of life; Then take the first step to make it happen.
Imperfect circumstances can be better shouldered in the service of your true dream or purpose. I worked for years in the not-so-glamorous restaurant industry. I dealt with bad customers, worse managers, and low pay. Still, I truly enjoyed every minute of it, because even though my job sucked, it gave me resources to pursue my true dream of entrepreneurship.
For every hour spent cleaning tables or dealing with complaints, I matched it with an hour reading books or planning a business. Might sound like a lot of work, but now I write for some of the most influential people in the health and fitness industry, and I have no debt.
Many of my friends just graduated from college and are just starting careers. All but the luckiest will need to work for 5 to 10 years before they can even begin to pay off their college debt.
In the meantime, they will only have 2 weeks a year of vacation time, adhere to a strict 9 to 5 schedule, and choose the city they live in based on the work available instead of their personal passions. Some of these people are avid backpackers and climbers who spent whole summers of their college days vagabonding across the pacific northwest or making daring excursions down through Mexico.
A good number of these people are happy, but I know plenty who are scared and doubtful.
If you are in a bad relationship, on a career path you don’t like, or feel otherwise unfulfilled in your life, now is the time to plan out what you really want and to get to work on it.
If you are over fifty, or even in your seventies or eighties, then that’s all the more reason to pursue what you find meaningful. When you’re young, it’s time to get on track because you have everything to lose. If you’re old, then it’s time because you don’t have much to lose.
Lastly, I want to let you know I haven’t forgotten this article is about weight-loss. I know things just got rather philosophical, but really, your stress levels (and by-extension inflammation levels) are directly tied to the level of fulfillment in your life. Sure, we can practice gratitude no matter our lifestyle, but this is no substitute for active pursuit of meaning.
Your health, and probably your weight, will be better following your deeper callings than sticking to what feels safe but unfulfilling.
Watch Out For Vegetable Oils
Most people have some awareness that weight-loss is not as simple as your calorie intake. Many nutritionists, trainers, and members of the general population are aware that a high sugar diet can lead to insulin resistance and make it harder to lose weight.
While too much sugar can definitely make weight-loss more difficult, this is still only one piece of the puzzle.
Much more sinister is the role of rancid and oxidized oils in our food. Since the 1900s, unstable vegetable oils have become a major piece of our diet.
Before Crisco, your ancestors probably used lard or butter in the majority of their cooking.
Then in the 1940s, Ancel Keys began promoting his diet-heart hypothesis, a belief that saturated fat contributed to a scary new condition called heart-disease. Yep, at the time, heart attacks were so rare that heart disease was considered “new.” What a world.
When it comes to saturated fats, we can dig our heels on each side of the proverbial line-in-the-sand, but regardless, the oils that have replaced them are certainly no picnic.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, also known as PUFAs, are highly unstable fats that make up a large portion of the fat content of most vegetable oils. These oils are used in everything from cooking to food preservation, and this wouldn’t be a problem except that PUFAs are very easily oxidized by light, heat, or air exposure.
Once oxidized, these oils cause inflammation by exposing our bodies to unstable molecules called Reactive Oxygen Species, also known as Free Radicals. Everyone talks about the danger of sugar, but in a metabolically healthy person, sugar is often simply metabolized without causing inflammation. Oxidized oils though? These things always cause damage even in the fittest of foodies.
To avoid PUFAs, You’ll want to avoid pre-packaged foods and restaurants when possible. Even high star restaurants typically use low-quality cooking oil that causes inflammation.
What’s an alternative? I don’t believe that saturated fat is bad for our health, so I mainly use grass-fed butter, ghee, and coconut oil, but there are also vegetable oils that are lower in PUFAs. Some good ones are avocado oil, macadamia oil, or quality extra virgin olive oil.
Canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, peanut oil, and a long list of others are best avoided.
With all of that said, some PUFAs can be good for our health. Beyond the oxidation problem, PUFAs also cause inflammation because we consume more Omega-6 fatty acids than we should.
While lowering PUFA consumption overall, it is best to prioritize foods higher in Omega-3 PUFAs instead of Omega-6. One of the most popular sources is fish. Omega-3 PUFAs are still susceptible to oxidation through light, heat, or air exposure, so it’s best to go with a quality source and avoid overcooking.
Personally, I like salmon roe for my omega-3. Roe (fish eggs) contains high amounts of Omega-3s with lower heavy metal content and lower risk of being oxidized than a fish oil supplement. Caviar can be a little pricey, but you only need a half teaspoon or so a day.
Optimize Blood Sugar With Your Diet
Elevated blood sugar leads to insulin resistance, and eventually diabetes. Even if you are not diabetic, consistently elevated blood sugar is a sign of worse metabolic health. This can manifest in the form of body fat.
The first and most obvious culprit of elevated blood sugar is your diet. The foods you eat can make the difference between optimal glucose metabolism and pre-diabetic dysfunction.
If you haven’t already, eliminating processed sugar completely is a hugely potent method for shedding stubborn weight. This means any foods with added sugar, starting with sodas and other drinks, and going as far as eliminating many so-called “healthy” protein bars.
I suggest most people aim at a whole-foods diet where very little of your food is pre-packaged or processed. This will cut out processed sugar, many rancid oils, and chemical additives.
Beyond that, low-carb diets and ketogenic diets go even further with preventing glucose spikes.
If you try a ketogenic diet, follow protocols to base your diet in whole foods. I also avoid dairy (with the exception of grass-fed ghee or butter,) and grains, particularly wheat. Many people have food sensitivities to dairy and wheat that cause increased blood sugar and inflammation when they eat these foods.
To perform a ketogenic diet, simply get less than 5% of your daily calories from carbohydrates while getting more than 70% of your calories from fats. If you try keto, you may notice some difficulty performing high-intensity workouts like Crossfit. Many people find it easier to maintain keto when doing cardio or strength training, as opposed to high-intensity interval training.
To do keto and HIIT, I recommend eating up to 200g of carbs at night. In someone who is both active and keto-adapted, these carbs will refill your muscle glycogen stores but you’ll be back in ketosis by morning from your overnight fast. You’ll have to play with it a little. If you aren’t highly active or are new to keto, this addition of carbs can make it difficult to enter ketosis at all during the day.
Not convinced about keto? No prob. Simply going low-carb can help stabilize blood sugar.
Keto and low-carb diets are huge topics in their own right, but there are some amazing resources out there by top health coaches and gurus. For keto, one of the best resources is Mark Sisson’s Keto Reset Diet.
Another amazing book I think everyone should read is Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Chef. To truly conquer nutrition means, at some point, learning to cook. It is just not cost-effective or practical to get whole foods nutrition from premade meals alone unless you’re rich.
Well, The Four Hour Chef is not only the best book for going from zero to hero quickly with your cooking abilities, but most of the recipes are compliant with Tim Ferriss’ slow-carb diet, which was designed to cut out the most common inflammation-causing foods as well as lower your carb intake so you can improve insulin sensitivity.
There are still some pitfalls here and there, namely the use of certain sauces and oils that can be higher in PUFAs (grapeseed oil, primarily) but it’s an incredible book that can give you a huge level of kitchen awareness in a short time.
Movement, Then Exercise
Exercise may be what most people think of when it comes to weight-loss. Chubby? You obviously don’t do enough push-ups, right?
Wrong. For the rare bird, this works, but for most of us, diet and other lifestyle factors play a bigger role.
In fact, I believe the way you move throughout the day is more important than any workout. This section will focus on the power of movement, and how you can optimize your daily routine and office space for fat-burning.
In the modern era, many people work while sitting down. Heck, as a writer, I can count many days with butt-on-chair for 6 hours or more.
Unfortunately, sitting has been connected with all sorts of health issues. Research by NASA has discovered that the stagnation of sitting for long periods has significant negative health effects that are not improved by daily exercise.
One of these health effects, as you can imagine, is an increased risk of obesity.
If you stay in the same position for long periods of time, your blood pressure becomes worse, muscle atrophy takes place and your risk of other health issues increases.
NASA researched this topic extensively trying to find solutions for the effects of zero-gravity on the health of astronauts. One thing they discovered is that, while exercise alone didn’t help combat stagnation, regular movement did.
Simply standing up every 15 to 20 minutes, even if you sit right back down, is enough to fully combat the health effects of sitting.
Stand As Much As Possible
Standing up every 15 to 20 minutes while sitting is a good practice for anybody, but we can tie it directly to blood sugar regulation. One study found that standing, instead of sitting, for 3 hours following lunch reduced blood sugar spikes by 43%, and another study found that switching throughout the day reduced blood sugar spikes by 11%.
I also believe that sitting on the floor, instead of using a chair, is also a great practice. Sitting on the floor promotes better mobility and you’re more likely to get up and move around than if you are cheeks deep in a comfy loveseat.
The Varidesk is a great tool for both standing work or floor sitting work. Just get one of their adjustable desks and place it on the floor or on your own work desk.
Go For A Walk After A Meal
While standing after a meal is good, walking is even better. This study found that walking immediately after a meal was effective at lowering blood glucose. This effect was stronger than if participants simply walked at a random time during the day, and was most effective at reducing blood sugar after dinner.
If you can, go for a 15 to 30-minute walk after each meal. If you don’t have time, dinner is the most effective.
And Now, Finally, Exercise
The reason I put exercise last in this article is that I truly believe it is the most over-emphasized. Yes, exercise is great, for tons of reasons, but the way we stuff it down people’s throats isn’t any more helpful than the stress or bad food many of us still stuff down our own throat.
Stress, diet, and general movement are all huge components of this problem that don’t get enough attention, while exercise is treated like the holy grail of all issues with body image.
While I do believe exercise is absolutely necessary, most people rely on too few types of exercise, overtrain, or don’t train at times of the day when it will be most effective.
In one of my most popular articles, Fit Over Fifty, I discussed a strength training program designed to build muscle training a mere 15 minutes a week.
That program is also the base workout I recommend for fat-loss.. Building muscle helps improve your body’s ability to burn fat, and strength training is known for its ability to improve blood sugar.
Fit Over Fifty Strength Workout, Once A Week
You can read about this workout and the other benefits of it over at https://members.thereadystate.com/blogs/fit-over-fifty-how-to-build-muscle-at-any-age/
In short, though, this workout involves 5 basic exercises performed as slowly as possible. I promote bodyweight or free-weight exercises such as push-ups or bench press, but you can also use machines.
The 5 Exercises Are:
- Weighted Row
- Chest Press
- Lat Pulldown/Pullup
- Shoulder Press
- Leg Press/Squat
Basically each exercise covers a large muscle group, starting with your back, then chest, then lats, then shoulders, and finally, legs. You can pick your own moves as long as they fit these categories.
Reps are performed at a slow pace with the aim to do 90 seconds to 2 minutes of work. When you finish one set, you move onto the next exercise. The total time of this workout ranges from 10 to 15 minutes.
I know, it doesn’t sound too hard, but this training style is very effective for building strength and can leave you feeling surprisingly spent. By moving slowly, you use more of your slow-twitch muscle fibers than you’d normally access, meaning greater overall muscle recruitment. Basically, it uses everything you’ve got.
I found this program in the book Body By Science, by Dr. Doug McGuff and John Little. Many top athletes, myself included, have been able to improve our strength using only this workout, with no other training throughout the week.
However, this training style is actually targeted at non-athletes, who don’t already have a base. By using super slow movements, you can avoid injury while making steady gains.
If you do nothing else for exercise, do this. These 15 minutes will help you improve your functional fitness and increase your levels of fat-burning muscle tissue. Want to do more? No problem.
A Place For Cardio
Once upon a time, cardio was the unchallenged king for exercise-based fat loss. Biologically speaking, aerobic training involves using oxygen to burn fat for fuel. People put 2 and 2 together and began to believe that cardio was the best and possibly the only type of exercise that could effectively burn fat.
Since then the king has been usurped (with HIIT training now wearing the crown.) While it is true that during aerobic training you burn more fat than other kinds of exercise, there are fewer benefits after your workout ends.
Hormone changes from anaerobic training, such as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT,) result in fat burning for days after a session, and muscle gained from strength training also burns fat.
So what does this mean? Should we just kick cardio to the curb? Not necessarily. Though cardio is not the only way, or even possibly the best way, to burn fat, it still offers benefits.
For one thing, cardio has unique benefits for the heart that cannot be had from weightlifting or HIIT training alone. Furthermore, cardio seems to pair better with fasting and ketogenic diets for many people, where these things can make weightlifting and HIIT much harder.
This is why I recommend fasted cardio before breakfast. Exercising before breakfast has been shown to boost fat-burning for the entire day, even if you eat a large meal.
A Place For High-Intensity Interval Training
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is great for fat loss as long as you do not overdo it. This training primarily involves anaerobic work and results in positive hormonal changes that promote fat loss for days after a workout.
If your goal is fat loss, doing one or two HIIT workouts a week is a great way to pursue your goal.
This workout should be short, less than 30 minutes (and even as low as 5 minutes) and it should be hard. HIIT training is about reaching the highest intensity exercise levels so you can maximally activate your anaerobic energy system.
Sprints, high-intensity intervals on a machine, short Crossfit WODs, or anything performed at high speed and intensity for short periods will suffice.
The key is to work hard for a short period, let’s say a minute to 2 minutes, and then rest for 90 seconds.
Hop on an assault bike and go as hard and fast as you can for 90 seconds to a minute, then get off the bike for a full 90 seconds of rest. Repeat for 4 rounds. If you are quite fit, you can increase up to 8 rounds, but you want to focus more on your intensity than the length of your workout.
Pick a machine or an exercise based on your own limitations. Generally, sprints will be the hardest on your body while machines like the assault bike or rowing machine will be the easiest. If you have complex injuries or imbalances, even these can aggravate. This is why it is especially important to warm up properly and mobilize regularly.
If you can’t find any form of HIIT training that feels safe for you, no worries, strength training like we mentioned earlier is still effective and can help you repair injuries.
If you can swing a kettlebell or use a rower then definitely do so. HIIT is a truly amazing tool for fat loss.
Again, I recommend no more than 2 HIIT training sessions a week. These workouts help with fat loss by improving hormones and resulting in fat loss for days after your workout. However, they are also very easy to overtrain. HIIT workouts should be done the least often of any kind of training if you are not tracking recovery or you are not a high level athlete.
Now, hold on a second Keenan. I hear you saying not to do HIIT more than twice a week, only do cardio as a light way of training in a fasted state, and that I should only strength train for 15 minutes a week.
But I’ve been doing Crossfit 5 times a week for 3 years, what gives?
Whether you like to run marathons or smash WODs, you can definitely do more training than I suggest here. However, if you have stubborn weight to lose, it might be because of your training volume, not despite it.
We all have different genetics and capabilities, but all of us are well capable of overtraining. Too many HIIT workouts can burn out our hormones, chronic cardio can damage our heart and reduce your muscle mass, and strength training can cause injuries and mobility restrictions.
If you are training often, Instead try doing the minimum effective dose of each of these training styles, and see what happens. If you want to go harder with any one style of training, make sure to take at least one week off for every 4 to 6 weeks of training.
One way you can directly track overtraining is by using a device that reads heart rate variability (HRV.) These devices, such as the Oura Ring or WHOOP wristband, measure your nervous system recovery level.
HRV scores that are steadily declining mean you should take a break. Furthermore, HRV values that are jumping around a lot from day to day can also mean dysfunction.
You definitely don’t need this tool to avoid overtraining, but it can help you get the most bang-for-your-buck. By always knowing how your body is truly handling its workload, you can see when it’s best to train hard or take it easy.
Another big way to stave off overtraining is to optimize your recovery. Using The Ready State’s mobility programs can help, and may also promote faster fat loss by stimulating lymph fluid and improving blood flow.
On Randomness & Doing The Training You Don’t Like
The first time I had my genetics tested, I was surprised to find that the genetic test predicted what kind of exercise I am likely to be good at and prefer.
What didn’t surprise me was what that exercise was. I scored in the top 7th percentile for genetics mirroring elite power athletes. Looking at my athletic background, I fit the bill perfectly. My best sports were martial arts, Crossfit, sprint swimming, and water polo, where-as cross country was brutally hard and rock climbing, while I was pretty good, still gassed me out fast.
It’s easy enough to believe we train the way we do because we read online that it’s the best; The reality is, we probably train the way we do because we have a talent for it.
So I challenge you to stop and do the exact opposite.
If you love CrossFit, switch to cardio for a month, like you were training for a 5k or a marathon.
If you love running, start learning Olympic weightlifting.
I bet you’ll see the results you have never had before. Why? Well, because you’ve never trained this way before. You see, though we have genetic talents that predispose us to certain kinds of training, other styles of training offer results that cannot be had from others.
Training your aerobic energy system, for example, offers unique benefits for oxygen utilization and heart function that cannot be gained from other training. Cardio is the most effective way to do this.
Furthermore, if we train the same way for a long time, our body will become efficient and we will plateau. The body’s goal is to use as little resources as possible to achieve the same result. When you do a new kind of training, often we see results quickly as our body adapts to a new stressor. Then we spend years trying to shave a few seconds off our Grace time.
My point is this: change is in-and-of-itself effective for improved results from your training. Regardless of the scientific evidence backing HIIT training, or your genetic propensity for weightlifting, at some point, the best thing you can do is something you’ve never done.
This goes for styles of training, frequency, and even time of day.
So, if you feel stuck in a plateau, start randomizing your training. Train at different times during the day. Do styles you are bad at. Switch things up.
Personally, I try to make a major change to my training at least once a month.
When it comes to weight-loss, the first thing anyone tells you is to eat less and exercise more. This is fine for the genetically gifted, young, and metabolically healthy, but for most people, belly fat is a bit more stubborn.
As we age, we are more likely to have trouble dealing with things like obesity, but even at a young age, excess or weird body fat can be a sign of physical and metabolic issues. These problems usually go beyond your gym routine and have roots in everything from diet to personal relationships.
Chronic inflammation is greatly overlooked, and chronic stress can be a major driver of chronic inflammation. A hard-charging lifestyle, poor relationships, or an unfulfilling career path are all factors that can contribute to weight retention.
When it comes to food, sugar is vilified, but unstable vegetable oils are overlooked. In a healthy individual, sugar can be metabolized with no ill effects, but oxidized oils always cause damage and inflammation.
Finally, we have movement and exercise. How you move throughout the day is just as important as how you exercise. Sitting all day is linked to several negative health outcomes, including obesity, whereas standing and walking can help control blood sugar.
As far as exercise goes? Strength training, cardio, and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) all have their place, but varying your routine and avoiding overtraining should always be considered.
The last thing I want to say is that in many cases, a deeper condition can make weight loss difficult. If you feel like you’ve tried everything in this guide and others, you may want to look deeper. Consider working with a doctor or functional medicine practitioner to check for things like hypothyroidism, poor cortisol production, and health, low testosterone, or gut health issues.
Other big factors we didn’t address here are sleep quality, toxin exposure (air and water quality), and cold therapy. Addressing each of these can have a huge impact on weight loss, and other articles here at The Ready State delve deeper on these topics.
Thank you for reading and I hope this article helps you further improve your Ready State!