The Fat Loss Dilemma: Quick and Harsh or Slow and Steady?

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by Rod Navajas

Imagine if we had a magic formula that would lead to the same outcome in half of the time…Now imagine that this outcome is weight loss or more precisely fat loss…Amazing, right?! Very few people would not be interested in this magic formula – if any! 

Unfortunately, when it comes to fat loss, magic is nowhere to be found! In fact, it takes a lot of effort and in most instances, a lot of time too. Some will give up before they have achieved meaningful results. Others will try too hard and plateau too soon. Could have they done anything differently? Possibly. 

Regardless if we are speaking about the enjoyment of fitting into a pair of old jeans or the excitement of eating at your favorite restaurant, the brain will behave somewhat similarly. These pleasure feelings will leave you wanting more. A rewarding system, mediated by a neurotransmitter called Dopamine, will kick into gear. This is the same system involved with addictive behaviors. Makes sense, right? You feel good, and you want to feel good again. Simple! 

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.”

—George Bernard Shaw

Successful fat loss stories are usually filled with the excitement of progression and the nurture of patience. For most of us unfortunately, what triggers our rewarding system when it comes down to food, are mostly calorie-abundant, nutrient-poor and protein-deficient foods. Basically, the biggest fat loss enemy. This desire to eat these foods, goes beyond our physiological needs for energy. Its pleasure driven and can result in failure for most trying to shed some Kg’s. 

Homeostatic x Hedonic Control of Food Intake

Fundamentally, our desire to consume food comes from 2 different systems: the homeostatic and hedonic pathways (Fig 1). The homeostatic pathway is concerned with energy balance. It’s what’s going to increase your hunger levels after the start of a more intense training program or perhaps a gigantic hiking day after days of rest. All of the sudden your energy needs have increased which will prompt your brain to increase hunger levels leading you to consume more food. The homeostatic pathway is tightly in sync with how much energy you spend on a day to day.

The hedonic pathway is our food-reward system. It’s concerned with food consumption beyond energy needs. It’s the consumption of food for pleasure. It’s that face you pull when you have the first mouthful of your favorite dish. These 2 systems work in harmony to influence food consumption. 

Fig1 – Homeostatic x Hedonic Hunger

That’s why very-Low calorie diets or extremely-restrictive diets tend to result in failure. Although you may experience the excitement of rapid weight change, the progression tends to stall just as quickly leaving you frustrated and defeated. In most cases, you will end up where you started if not worse. In the end, how many can sustain a plan where you are feeling hungry all the time while at the same time avoiding all foods you love? Miserable, right?!

A much more feasible approach would include periods on more intense work, interspaced with periods of diet breaks. This is the approach we emphasize at Fitness Lab Wellness. Our 5-Week Challenge provides an opportunity to members to increase their activity levels while taking control of their diets. By following a plan that is neither restrictive nor very low in calories, members have the opportunity to introduce methods and habits that will lead to a positive outcome long-term. Modifying old behaviours and solidifying new ones, is the biggest weapon in this fat loss battle.

Learning the different aspects that influence weight regulation and understanding the mechanisms that are hijacking your progression is essential. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach and the more individualised the solutions to the problems are, the higher the success rate is. Regardless, getting started is always the first step! 

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