Weight: Is It Simply a Matter of Will Power?

Weight: Is It Simply a Matter of Will Power?

Is weight simply a matter of willpower? You might think so, given the number of dieters who add on exercise, subtract food, and expect excess fat to melt away. But it does not always happen that way. Older athletes notice the fat that creeps on year after year seems harder to lose. And others who have slimmed down complain how easily they regain lost body fat.

The Endocrine Society ( took a close look at why we can too easily accumulate excess body fat, as well as why it’s so easy for dieters to regain lost fat. (1) They describe fat-gain as a disorder of the body’s energy balance system, not just a passive accumulation of excess calories. They highlight many factors other than food and exercise that influence body fatness, including genetics, the environment, and evolution. Continue Reading

The dreaded weight-loss plateau…

The dreaded weight-loss plateau…

Nancy, I’ve lost 40 pounds and I want to lose another 10 pounds — but I have hit a plateau. I’m so frustrated… what should I do???

Yes, weight plateaus are indeed frustrating for dieters who can’t quite get to their desired weight. Those last five to ten pounds can be tough to shed. Yet, research suggests people do not hit a plateau due to metabolic issues (1). Rather, they find it hard to sustain a lower and lower calorie intake. That is, your body is now lighter than when you started dieting and it requires fewer calories. The lighter you are, the less you get to eat. That is not much fun, is it?

If you are battling a weight-loss plateau, these suggestions might be helpful:

—Assess if you really do have more fat to lose. Maybe what you see as “fat” is actually “flesh” (with empty fat cells)? This is particularly true for reduced obese people who have lost 100 pounds or so and they have a lot of skin flapping around their mid-section.

—Pay attention to how much you are actually eating. Baby carrots might be a healthy snack for dieters, but carrots are not “free.” If you eat the whole 16-ounce bag of carrots, you are eating 175 calories. Yes, even “healthy foods” have calories that add up and need to be counted…

— Perhaps you have become a “sedentary athlete.” That is, after you have fervently exercised for an hour each morning, do you then sit for the rest of the day? One hour of exercise does not compensate for a day dominated by sedentary behavior. Maybe an exercise tracker or a step counter could inspire you to move more during the entire day?

–Perhaps you could start lifting weights (if you do not already do so) to build muscle. Muscle is an active tissue that burns more calories than does body fat. During weight loss, you lose muscle. The less muscle you have, the less food you can eat. By lifting weights to curb further loss of muscle—as well as rebuild the muscle you lost while dieting, you will not only become stronger, but will also boost your calorie burn.


For more help with weight management, read the chapter on “How to Lose Weight and Have Energy to Exercise” in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

Once you have lost weight, how do you keep it off?

Once you have lost weight, how do you keep it off?

Although losing weight may seem like a hard job, the harder part, actually, is keeping it off – or so I am told by many successful dieters. Research indicates about half of weight lost is regained within a year, and most individuals return to their baseline weight within 3 to 5 years. Clearly, dieting is not a “quick fix.” Continue Reading

Quick Weight Quiz for Athletes

True or False: If you want to lose weight, you need to go on a diet.

False: Diets do not work. If diets did work, then everyone who has ever been on a diet would be lean. Not the case. Rather than going on a diet, try to make just a few basic changes, such as 1) choose fewer processed snacks in wrappers and instead enjoy more fruit (fresh or dried) and nuts, and 2) get more sleep. Lack of sleep can contribute to not only weight gain but also reduced performance.

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