I’ve never met a woman who is completely satisfied with her body. Even those ladies that get leaner than most and look fantastic have something they don’t like about their bodies. They’d always like to lose just a bit more weight.
You’re probably one of those ladies. That’s why you are reading this blog post. You are trying to find that edge – something that will help you lose that last bit of weight and finally have that ideal body you dream about.
Unfortunately it’s a lot harder than you think.
I’d love to give you a solution but over the years I’ve learned that many women, if not most, aren’t willing to put in the work to get themselves to that point. Even if you are willing, your body is going to fight you back so strongly that you probably won’t win. And, if you do win, it will be short lived because your body tends to return to it’s normal set point.
In this article I’m going to explain what’s going on and why losing that last bit of weight is so difficult. We’ll look at the mental barriers but also what’s happening physiologically, including how your body weight set point works against your efforts.
What You Are Up Against
The first thing you have to realize is what you are up against. After a certain point, your body will fight your efforts to get any leaner. This is because of something known as a “set point” which I’ll explain shortly.
I’m not talking about plateaus in this blog post – although it can sound the same when we start talking about set points. I can almost always help new clients break plateaus. Rather, I’m talking to those women who have been doing everything “right” for a long time and, while they are leaner than most, they’d prefer to be just a little bit leaner.
When you hit that point, everything in your regime needs to be tightened up.
As you’ll learn in this blog post, your priorities are going to have to change. You’ll have to care more about getting leaner than you care about having a social life that involves drinking, eating whatever your want and only going to the gym if you feel like it.
Your Set Point & Metabolic Adaptations
Most women know what their set point is – that place they always seem to stick.
Your body has a set weight and body fat range that it likes to maintain and that’s the reason you get stuck or quickly rebound to a certain weight. To get beyond this point takes a lot of effort and goes against your biology.
As soon as you drop below this point, your body kicks in with metabolic adaptations that work to bring your weight back up. The more severe your efforts become to lose weight and the longer you try to lose weight, the stronger these adaptations become.
These adaptations are too complex to go into great detail in this article but to summarize they include:
- Decreased energy expenditure (you burn less calories)
- Increased cues for energy intake (you feel hungrier, less satisfied and have more cravings)
- Increased metabolic efficiency (your body gets better at doing it’s work with less calories)
- Certain hormones essential for fat burning decrease (for example thyroid and growth hormones) while cortisol increases
- Shut down of metabolic costly activities like reproduction, immunity and protein synthesis (muscle building)
Your set point works similar to a thermostat. Much like a thermostat in a house regulates temperature, your body monitors fat levels and weight and makes adjustments to keep you at a certain level. Unfortunately, this complex system defends against weight loss more than weight gain which is why it’s easier to maintain a new fatter set point than a leaner one.
When you fight to get below your set point, you are fighting your biology and your genetic disposition to be a certain weight.
Interestingly, your set point is also why some women can more easily achieve and maintain a lower body fat and still be healthy, while some run into problems like amenorrhea and bone loss.
You might be thinking that you have more fat than when you were younger so has your body’s set point changed? Yes, it’s possible for set points to change throughout our lives.
For example, when I was in my early 20s my set point was 120lbs/54kg. When I started lifting weights my primary goal was weight gain, and eventually my new set point became about 140lbs/63-64kg. A few years ago, I decided I was too thick and muscular and decided to drop and maintain my weight at 134lbs/60-61kg. After a few years of maintaining this weight, it has become my new set point.
The longer you “settle” into a new weight, the more likely it will be that it becomes your new set point. You have to be willing to maintain a new weight for a long time and it requires strict tracking and monitoring. So it is entirely possible to change your set point, but as someone who has done it, I can say it takes more consistency and commitment than most women are willing to put in.
Your Mental Barriers
To overcome the physiological obstacles to losing that last bit of weight, you will need your mind 100 percent in the game. I’m not trying to be discouraging or condescending when I say this but:
Most women don’t want to be lean as bad as they want their current lifestyle. To win against your set point and metabolic adaptations, you need to dial in your diet and lifestyle beyond a point that most women are willing to go.
Most women can get themselves fairly close to their “ideal” weight without huge alterations to their lifestyle. However to lose that last bit of fat and achieve that head turning sort of leanness, you have to be able to say no to a lot of things.
First of all, you are going to have to tighten up your diet more than you realize. There’s no more wiggle room for treats. Those super lean people you see on Instagram eating cheat meals? While they may have a cheat meal, it will be highly controlled and factored into their entire week. They LOVE their cheat meal but, to them, how they look is more important than what they eat so they aren’t controlled by food.
They also probably don’t drink much – if at all. They’d rather smash their workout on Sunday morning than have Saturday night drinks. They also prioritize their training and recovery more than the average gym goer ever will.
If you are someone who is constantly trying to lose that last bit of weight ask yourself:
- Will you count calories everyday, even on holidays, special occasions and weekends?
- Will you weigh all the food you eat?
- Will you do some sort of training most days?
- Will you invest in a personal trainer and/or nutritionist?
- Will you say no to a piece of cake at someone’s birthday?
- Will you say no to drinking on the weekend and at work/special events?
- Will you tell your family/friends/co-workers you aren’t going to eat dessert while everyone else is eating it (and pressuring you to eat it and/or making comments about how you “have to enjoy life”)?
- Will you prepare food for road trips?
- Will you make sure you don’t gain weight when you go on vacation?
- Will you be willing to speak up so that you can go to a restaurant with healthy options when eating out with friends or family?
- Will you stick to your plan when your kids get sick/work gets busy/you feel stressed out?
Women with the best bodies can commit to all these things without much mental anguish or feeling like they are missing out – because they care more about how they look (or their health) than their social life or fitting in with others. Their priorities are different than yours.
I’m not saying their priorities are better – I just want you to realize that unless you want to make some drastic changes, at some point you are going to have to decide you are happy enough with your body.
Feeling Happy With Your Body
At some point you are going to have to realize that you are good enough and start having some fun with your training. If you are constantly battling to lose weight, you’ll give up eventually because there’s nothing positive in it for you. Over the years, the most successful women are those that start to really love weight training and the process of building new muscle. They might not ever achieve that “ideal weight” they had when they started but that’s because they realize they can have an amazing, strong body regardless of what the scale says.
The other thing you always need to remember is that muscles weighs something too. So when you lose fat but replace it with muscle, the scale may not change as much as you think. When I started training I would have never thought that being 8kg/16 pounds heavier was a good thing. But I look so much better than I did when I was slim with no muscle.
If you’ve started to see lots of muscle development and have been getting compliments from everyone but you still think you have a bit of weight to lose according to the scale – you need to adjust your expectations. Likely you’ve got some sort of attachment to a certain number for no logical reason.
More muscle means increased metabolism, aging well and looking strong and athletic. In fact, if you gain more muscle, you are going to look leaner than most women. But you might weigh more than your skinnier friend. Not because you are fatter – but because you are more muscular. And that’s really cool.
Remember – it’s about body composition – not weight loss.
If you’ve gained muscle, feel healthy and energetic and you look better than before – who cares about the number on the scale?
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