I have two pictures I keep in mind that help me understand fitness and weight loss.
The first one is of a car. A car is basically a fuel burning machine. You take your car to the gas station and fill up the tank with fuel. When you press the gas pedal, a healthy mix of gasoline and air make the engine run properly. Now imagine your car has an emergency storage tank. This is fuel that can be used to run the engine just like the regular gas. But this stored fuel can only be accessed under very specific conditions.
Normally, the only way the stored fuel would be accessed is if the regular gas tank was empty. The switch would be flipped, which would allow the engine to continue to run. However, in this car, there is a way to access and burn the stored fuel, without running out of gas first. You have to drive the car at a very specific speed.
This is how fat loss works. We have readily available fuel, and then we have our stored fuel. The last thing we want to do is wait until we’ve depleted all the available fuel before the body switches to stored fuel (fat). The confusion seems to be in how to access fat for fuel right away. How do we flip that switch? The only way is to work out in the target heart rate zone.
Whenever anyone comes to me frustrated about their weight, the first question I ask them is how much time they are spending in their target heart rate zone, and if they have a heart rate monitor to measure it. It is easy to get fooled into thinking that walking the dog, yard work, and all the other activities of our daily life are enough. Remember, the car must be driven at a very specific speed to burn the stored fuel. It’s the way we’re made.
The second picture is a row of light switches on the wall. These represent my metabolism. There are a lot of different switches. It isn’t one giant button that says metabolism. It is aerobic, anaerobic, insulin system, endocrine system, digestive system, hydration, rest and recovery, anti-inflammation response, muscle mass, base metabolic rate, resting heart rate, sleep, VO2max, and lots of other systems that are required to keep the body running like the fuel burning machine that it is.
Our job is to keep as many of those switches set to ON as possible. Most of them need set daily. Take a walk, switch on fat burn. Lift weights, switch on muscle building. Eat lots of plant strong whole foods, switch on lots of healthy systems. Get a good night sleep, switches on. Drink plenty of water, switches on.
Conversely, eat a diet high in unhealthy sugar, fats and salt, switches off. The systems start to break down. Don’t get enough vegetables and fruits, switches off. Don’t get enough healthy carbs, switches off. Dehydration, switches off. Lack of sleep, rest, or recovery, switches off. No daily walk in the zone, switches off. No strength training, switches off.
If a lifestyle is filled with mostly these choices, essential systems break down. Once a switch is broken, it is very difficult to repair. Quite often, the medical community will only help you medicate the symptoms, not do the hard work required to get that system operating efficiently again. Anyone with diabetes or thyroid issues knows this already.
You are a fuel burning machine. If you aren’t burning fuel like you want to, then you have to get your fuel mix in order (in the kitchen!), and spend lots of time in the zone (on the trail or in the gym) so you can burn it properly.
If your metabolism is not burning through fuel the way you want it to, fix it. Get those switches flipping ON. That is your responsibility. There is not a lot here that can be blamed on age, menopause or genetics. If you find yourself going there, send some love to the disempowered part of you, then take your power back. This is your body. It is home to your very special soul. Taking care of yourself is absolutely within your capability. Now that you know what to do, it’s time to do it.
Get moving. This world needs you at your best.