It’s possible you’ve seen or said something like this yourself…
Something I hear from people all the time is some variation of “my habits are great…but I’m still not losing any weight”.
Implied in this statement is that one’s behavior isn’t what is preventing them from losing weight and that therefore, some mystery reason must be in the way.
But here’s the problem with this line of thinking…
It assumes that one’s habits are either “good” or “bad”. The logic states that one either has goal supportive habits that should be resulting in desired weight loss or one has goal antagonistic habits that result in weight gain or stagnation. And further, if one’s habits are goal supportive but outcomes are not going the way they want, then it’s time to look for another culprit.
“Thyroid?! Genetics?! What in the hell is going on here?!?!”
The attention then often turns to “maybe it’s my thyroid!” or “maybe I’m hopeless because of my genetics”. First things first, hypothyroidism and different genetic factors absolutely do play a role in making weight loss harder. That’s the reality – it’s going to take more work. Luckily hypothyroidism has treatments though, genetics not so much.
In regards to hypothyroidism, the vast majority of people who struggle with their weight do not have an issue with their metabolic rate. So the odds that weight management being your only symptom due to hypothyroidism is pretty slim. Certainly if you have reasons to believe you have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor. On that note, if thyroid levels are managed via medication, then the playing field so-to-speak has been leveled out and you essentially have a “normal” metabolism.
Now with genetics on the other hand, you probably aren’t going to get a medication that completely alters your genetic code (I hope). It’s absolutely true that genetics plays a role in determining how easy weight loss is and what weight might be realistic. But most likely, pointing the finger at your genes is a distraction from the real problem.
So What is REALLY The Problem?
If your body isn’t simply hell bent on keeping you from reaching a healthy weight, then what is preventing your good habits from resulting in weight loss?
The real issue is that a person won’t just have goal supportive habits or alternatively goal interfering habits. The fact is that everybody has a mixture of the two. Some habits make you more likely to lose weight, while others make you more likely to gain weight.
The number and the magnitude of the habits on each side dictate what direction your weight is going.
What do I mean by magnitude? Let’s keep this really simple and just look at two habits right now and pretend these are the only two that matter. “Tracy” has a goal interfering habit of not getting enough sleep and a goal supportive habit of eating until she’s satisfied but not stuffed.
In this case, one “bad” habit vs one “good” habit for weight management. However, while she is not getting enough sleep, she’s only getting 10 minutes too little sleep every night. On the other hand, she’s stopping before she’s stuffed 19 out of 21 meals per week.
With our hypothetical where we’re pretending that these are the only two habits that matter, I would bet big money that Tracy is losing weight. Not only is the magnitude of how much she’s kicking ass with her satiety awareness greater than the magnitude of how much she’s behind in her sleep, but the habit she’s nailing has a greater potential for facilitating weight loss in the first place (assuming her sleep is at least decent). So we have two levels of magnitude there, essentially (consistency and potency).
But in regards to number of habits, that list would truly be massive. And this is probably the component that throws people off, because we typically are only aware of a small handful of intentionally practiced goal supportive behaviors. It’s not simply that if you eat veggies, fruit, and walk daily that the keys to the weight loss kingdom will be granted. It depends on all the other habits you have. Certainly those habits can make a big difference, but if you have a long list of habits that are antagonistic to weight loss, you might not see the immediate payoff of those awesome habits.
“Well shit…does that mean I need to do EVERYTHING perfectly or I’m screwed?”
Nope, not at all! You just need to have enough goal-supportive habits with enough magnitude to stack the deck in favor of weight loss.
If your weight isn’t going the direction you want, you either need to increase consistency with a goal-supportive habit or add a new one.
And if weight is going in the direction and at speed you want, why fix what isn’t broken? Now, as you lose weight and as a result burn fewer calories each day, you will likely need to change things up. But if what you’re doing now is working, then it’s working and who cares about the goal-interfering habits?
Your weight loss will often be at different speeds and plateaus are inevitable. If you’re weight stable, you need to increase the number or magnitude of habits that will support weight loss. Keep building until you pick up the speed that you want. If you want to speed things back up when they slow down, repeat the process. Displace goal-interfering habits with goal-supportive habits and maximize your consistency with those.
You don’t need to do everything perfectly. And likewise, you’re not doing everything wrong. You probably know some people who seem to stay lean effortlessly despite not exercising and/or eating a poor diet, and while genetics does play a role, the real takeaway there is that everyone has some “good” habits and everyone has some “bad” habits. What matters is how much weight is tipping the scale, no pun intended, on either side.