Many of you were following along on the videos I shared in my Instagram stories as I completed a 7-day water fast last week. That’s right, for 7 full days I had nothing but water, black coffee and some pink himalyan sea salt.
I got so many questions and I thought I’d take some time here on the blog and in the podcast to share answers to the most common questions, most especially: is extended fasting healthy?
The big picture point to remember is this: it’s the way you EAT that will drive your health and results, not the way you FAST. So while fasting might be a great option for you to detox or challenge yourself, it’s not the ONLY approach and it’s certainly not for EVERYONE. If you aren’t consistently eating well, work on that first. If you struggle with disordered eating patterns, DON’T FAST! You’ve got to use common sense, friends. If fasting represents an “all or nothing” mindset, know thyself. Don’t delve deeper into a pattern that doesn’t work for you.
Can we agree to be adult and responsible about the approaches we try? Crash dieting doesn’t work. Binge and restrict isn’t a pattern to reinforce. You use your head.
Focus on taking impeccable care of yourself. Okay?
There’s no option to listen to this blog because I cover all the important stuff in the video below and in episode 469 of the podcast. In this video preview and the complete podcast episode I cover:
Does your body go into starvation mode when you fast?
Is extended fasting healthy?
Why 7 days? Can I go for more or less time?
Does fasting damage your metabolism?
Does bone broth or butter coffee break your fast?
Why do you consume salt on your fast? What kind? How do you consume it? How much?
How do you handle moments when you’re really hungry?
How do you feel on an extended fast?
Why should you fast?
Who shouldn’t fast?
Can you workout when fasting?
You can check out the video below but make sure you listen to episode 469 of the podcast for more details! If you have additional questions after the video & podcast, leave them in the comments and I’ll be sure to do a follow up! I’ll be doing a follow up episode (episode 471) on some of the common misunderstandings that surround breaking down protein versus losing lean muscle mass (they aren’t the same thing).
For more resources on fasting, check out the following:
In today’s episode we’re talking about 7 ways to break weight loss plateaus. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling like your hard work isn’t reflected by your body or the scale. Fortunately, these 7 strategies make a huge difference. With the experience of the many plateaus I hit during my weight loss and watching my coaching clients ebb and flow, there are a few simple strategies that can take you from stuck to success. For more tips on fat loss, motivation, workouts and more, make sure you’re on the free VIP email list!
Don’t measure the quality of your choices based on what you used to choose prior to your initial weight loss. Those choices got you where you are but won’t necessarily get you where you’re going.
Recognize your own inconsistency. Look at days from a perspective of win/lose/draw – you need more “winning” days than losing or neutral. Consistently make good choices. The little concessions add up.
Track your progress! It will be 10x harder to break a weight loss plateau if you aren’t consistently tracking. Tracking helps in 2 powerful ways:
Mindfulness & accountability. This anchors your conscious and your subconscious mind to the goals you’re trying to achieve
Information. You can identify what hormones are out of balance and look back on the kinds of choices you were making when you were getting results.
Respond intelligently to hunger. True hunger is your body letting you know you need fuel. Many people hit plateaus by responding to hunger with a sense of urgency. Remember that hunger is a signal that your body needs fuel. At that signal, you have two potential responses:
Allow your body to tap into your fuel reserves (body fat) to meet it’s fuel needs
Provide fuel by eating
Move more! This doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym or engaging in structured workouts but it does mean getting up off your butt. Most of us spend 80% of our day sitting or lying down. Get up. Get moving.
Practice stress management. Stress impairs weight loss and contributes to weight gain. Try deep breathing, prayer, meditation or yoga. Practice perspective and realize that the little things aren’t worth getting worked up about.
Prioritize sleep. Even if you can’t increase the quantity of your sleep, take steps to improve the quality. Here’s an entire episode I did on strategies to improve your sleep quality.
Ugh, what is the best exercise for weight loss? Talk about a loaded question with a million answers. When people are thinking about weight loss or wanting to reshape their bodies, exercise gets a WHOLE lot of attention. Seriously. There have got to be HUNDREDS of news headlines every freaking day claiming that this, that or the other exercise is the holy grail of weight loss.
Let’s just get real for a second, ok? Exercise is not, has never been and will never be the holy grail of weight loss. Remember that 80/20 principle we talked about? 80% or more of your success and results will come from what you put in your mouth. Your nutrition choices, and how they facilitate fat loss and hormone balance, are the primary determinants of your progress. Period end of discussion.
With that said, exercise is absolutely part of a healthy lifestyle and can certainly accelerate your weight loss results. Just keep in mind that you CANNOT out exercise a crappy diet. You just can’t. And you’ll be pretty miserable trying so don’t even bother. (Been there, done that.) If you don’t have your diet right, no amount of time on the treadmill is going to get you where you want to go.
When I first decided I needed to get serious and transform my health (and weight) once and for all, I weighed over 300 pounds. I felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of changes I needed to make. I knew that if I tried to do everything all at once I’d get frustrated, feel like a failure, lose hope and probably never reach my goals. I began to focus on cleaning up my diet and didn’t want to have to worry about “gym time”. So I didn’t. No guilt, no pressure, I just identified the biggest rock (food) and invested my energy there.
I did, however, buy a treadmill. I wasn’t ready (or willing) to jog or even walk briskly. The thought of it stressed me out and I didn’t want to take on anything I wasn’t SURE I could do. I put the treadmill in front of the TV and many evenings, while watching a TV show, I’d walk very, very slowly. I didn’t break a sweat. I didn’t want to. I just wanted to move a little bit more. Sometimes I’d walk for 5 minutes. Other times I’d walk for an hour. I did that consistently until I had lost my first 50 pounds.
By the time I had lost 50 pounds I was feeling pretty comfortable and at ease with my new way of eating. It felt effortless. It wasn’t a strain. I wasn’t obsessing over food or white-knuckling it through my days to avoid a binge. I felt in control. Everything was good. I was ready to take on more and I decided I wanted it to be working out.
I joined a gym and hired a trainer. I worked out with him 2-3 days each week for 30 minutes per session. So we’re talking 60-90 minutes PER WEEK. I would characterize those workouts as cardio/resistance. We definitely lifted weights but nothing all too heavy. We focused on high intensity workouts that included resistance but also included LOTS of movement so my heart rate was always elevated. The goal was to not stop moving, maintain my muscle mass and burn fat. We definitely weren’t focused on building strength at that time.
I have to say that those workouts helped me fall in love with fitness again. I had once really loved it but let’s just say “we lost that lovin’ feeling” for a while!! It came back! I started doing some additional workouts on my own. My confidence started to grow. I bought a few kettlebells and a few times a week I would do swings and goblet squats in my home office. I actually even brought one of the kettlebells to work and I’d often take a break in between meetings to knock out 20-50 swings! I was really loving it.
By this point I had probably lost about 100 lbs and my weight loss was beginning to slow. I was seeing sagging skin in my arms and belly and wasn’t too happy about it. I talked to a number of experts, did a lot of research and made the decision to switch personal trainers. I started training 3 mornings each week (30 minutes each session) and we really focused on full-body strength movements. I’m talking squats, deadlifts, etc. I knew I needed to get stronger and build a better foundation so I could have a strong core and avoid looking like a huge sack of skin. On the days I didn’t workout with my trainer I would do high intensity cardio workouts. Uphill sprints, burpees, jump rope – you name it. It was hard but it was good. I was training 6 days a week and continuing to make progress.
I wasn’t surprised when I hit my next plateau. I was pissed but I wasn’t surprised. That was just about 2 months ago. I am closer than ever to my goal weight and my body just isn’t quite as responsive. I’ve lost a ton of weight in a fairly short period of time and understandably, my body has adapted. I made the decision to change trainers AND change gyms. Instead of a traditional personal trainer, I now work with a strength coach three times each week. We work on form, speed and strength. We focus on large muscle groups, lifting HEAVY weight and truly finding my inner athlete. Three days a week I’m working strength with Blaze and the other three days I’ve switched it up: 2 days I do longer duration cardio workouts. I used to avoid traditional cardio – those types of workouts weren’t good for me at the beginning but now my body is really responding to them. That is an important point to make: what works for you will likely change throughout your weight loss. That’s ok. That is normal. Your body will adapt, you’ll gain strength and endurance and you’ll need to switch things up. Don’t get frustrated by plateaus – embrace the opportunity to work on a new area of your fitness and wellness.
Here’s what I have found is most important when it comes to pinpointing the best exercise for weight loss:
The exercise you actually do trumps the exercise you think you should do but always avoid. Seriously. If you hate running, don’t run. If you love Zumba – go Zumba your ass off!! Sure, there will always be good/better/best when it comes to effectiveness but no one will argue that the most effective workout is the one you’ll actually do. And you know which one you’ll make time for? The one you love. Listen to your body. For several months I over trained. I pushed myself too hard and I hurt my knees in the process. Unfortunately, I’m still paying the stupid tax on that. The pain flares up every now and then. I want to push through it. I hate being injured. But I don’t push. I back off and always, always, always avoid aggravating the injury. There’s always an alternative. Chill out. Don’t take yourself out of the game by being stubborn.
Expect plateaus. You cannot do the same thing indefinitely and expect to get the same results. Your body will adapt and your results will slow. Don’t get frustrated, just roll with it and use it as an opportunity to try something new. Lift heavy things. LIFT HEAVY THINGS. I’m serious!!! LIFT HEAVY THINGS!!!! I don’t care how old you are or where you are in your fitness journey – LIFT HEAVY THINGS!!!!
I want to end this little ditty the same way I started it. The most IMPORTANT thing you can do for your weight loss an health goals is clean up your diet. You don’t need to take on the world all at once. If that is where you need to improve, focus on improving that. Put your energy there. Take your time. Practice, practice, practice. You don’t need to take on exercise if you aren’t ready. You will serve yourself (and your health) by mastering your nutrition and adopting healthy, moderate nutrition changes. Add the fitness component only when you’re ready and don’t be afraid to go slow.
There is very little more frustrating than hitting a weight loss plateau. The food choices and exercise that had been getting you great results for months all of a sudden aren’t getting you anywhere. Your weight isn’t moving, your inches aren’t changing, your clothes fit the same but you’re working as hard as ever! What the heck?!
Weight loss plateaus are very common and you should expect them, but that certainly doesn’t make them any easier to deal with!
Your body is built to seek balance. More often than not your body will be fighting against everything you do to lose weight. It’s going to work hard to adapt to the changes you make and you’ll find your body is less responsive over time. Sad, but true.
The easiest way to tackle plateaus is to create your weight loss plan in such a way that you always have another play in your book to keep your body guessing and reduce the chances that you’ll hit a plateau to begin with.
Think of your weight loss efforts as a continuum. On the far left you have reverse progress, or eating, exercising and living in a way that moves youawayfrom your weight loss goals. Of course we want to avoid that.
A little further down the path is the minimum amount of changes required to see results. Maybe this is 3 workouts each week and eating clean 70% of the time. You continue down that continuum until the max point – eating clean 100% of the time and working out at your maximum amount of time and effort.
Sometimes we make the mistake of starting out guns blazing close to the far right of this spectrum. I am SOOOOO guilty of this! As our body adapts (and it always does), we aren’t left with much wiggle room to kick things into a higher gear. You put yourself in position where your only options are eat less or exercise more. That’s a bad place to be as both are likely to increase your hunger and decrease your energy. Not to mention that fact that you’ll probably be 100% miserable and unable to maintain that kind of program.
I made the mistake early on in my weight loss. About 6 months in I got super strict with my eating and workouts. I basically limited my intake to lean proteins and green vegetables. While that’s great for fat loss it certainly wasn’t the minimum effective dose and when my body adapted, I had very few options other than to endure several months of frustration. I had to take time off, settle for not making any progress and wait until my body was ready for me to try again. NOT FUN! (But totally my own fault!)
The best approach is to identify your minimum effective changes and gradually increase your intensity as your body adapts. Start making small, incremental changes and monitoring your progress. When you find something that works, keep doing it! Resist the urge to add more, eat less or up your intensity. Seriously. I know how tempting it is but that approach is very likely to backfire. Stay consistent with that small change for as long as you’re making progress towards your goals. When your progress slows or stops, add another small change that boosts your rate of progress again. Keep practicing it, keep monitoring your results, and continue to avoid the urge to go “all in” right out of the gate!