Did you ever have the experience of knowing something, without reading the answer or having it told to you? One of these strong intuitive experiences came to me while I was interviewing a woman named Tori who had taken off 115 pounds over 18 months. As the host of the MyThinLifestyle radio show, I regularly invited guests who had lost 100 pounds or more to tell all about getting skinny. Tori was a smart, articulate, upbeat woman in her late 30s who was inspired to take off another 40 pounds before her wedding later in the year.
Tori explained that her eating regime was the basic low-fat, low-calorie, semi-starvation diet that almost everyone buys into. As for physical activity, “I walk an hour a day,” she said, “and during the week I go to the gym and either take a class or work out on the machines for another hour.” This was the moment in our conversation that I started thinking Tori wouldn’t be able to keep up with such high intensity effort. Of course, I kept my opinion to myself. After all, who am I to rain on Tori’s parade or to offer help that isn’t asked for?
Predictably, the minute Tori got the guy to marry her, her weight started creeping back up and the last I heard, it’s been on an upward spiral ever since with no signs of stopping. So many of us can relate to Tori’s story because her experience with weight loss is so common. It’s exasperating to finally get the weight off and then not be able to keep it off. Why does this happen? The secret no one else will tell you is that high intensity weight loss practices have a boomerang effect, meaning that the weight you take off always comes back to you, and then some. High intensity, which is forcing yourself to push too hard for too long, is an unnatural condition that cannot be sustained.
Intensity works for humans the same way that fertilizer works for plants. You need intensity to get a result, and you need fertilizer to make a plant grow. But intensity and fertilizer are both tricky because too little and too much produce a contrary result, the result you don’t want. So, for example, if you don’t give your plants any fertilizer, they won’t grow. The plants get spindly, they don’t bloom, and they die. Likewise, if you don’t put enough intensity into your weight loss effort, nothing much is going to happen and your interest dies out.
On the other hand, when you give your plants too much fertilizer, they don’t grow very well either. The plants burn, grow too fast, and die. Likewise, when you put too much intensity into your weight loss efforts, you risk burning out and burning up. Who can live with a low-fat/low-calorie diet forever? Who really has the time to exercise two hours a day? See what I mean? Getting a moderate amount of fertilizer is important, and so is getting a moderate amount of intensity.
However, very few people really buy into the concept that too much effort, too much intensity can work against you. After all, we live in America, where effort is revered and rewarded. If you work hard, you’ll improve your life. And if you work the hardest, you’ll win a prize. This is really and truly what we think, and TV shows like Biggest Loser glamorize and reward high intensity weight loss performance. It’s inspiring to see everyday people make amazing physical transformations. The downside is that such shows reinforce the lie that you have to suffer and kill yourself to lose weight or change your body.