When Exercise Can Make Us Gain Weight

It’s easy to think that all exercise is good for us—that all exercise is equal and that it affects us all the same way. The reality is this simply isn’t so. Not all exercise affects everyone the same way. And it’s not to say that there are necessarily bad exercises out there either. What it comes down to is a matter of a bad choice of exercise relative to the tolerance and ability of the person. Exercise is supposed to be a “eaustress” (or good stress), that causes the body to come up with solutions to better handle that stress in the future, thus making positive changes in the body that fit within our desire for change (strength gains, body fat loss, muscle gains, stronger heart, sports performance, etc.). However, if the body already has a low tolerance to stress because of a muscular imbalance it might be easy for the stress of exercise to be a “distress” (or bad stress) to the body and nervous system. Because an imbalance usually indicates joint instability somewhere, when exercise over-challenges this stability it can cause the body to be put in a protective state, which can result in things like excess cortisol production. This happens by way of the HPA Axis, which is the stimulation of the Hypothalamus, the Pituitary Gland and then the Adrenal Cortex. It’s the Adrenal Cortex that then releases cortisol, which is responsible for converting raw energy storage in the liver into usable blood sugar. Too much cortisol in the system increases the amount of blood sugar that can be used immediately (not to mention, you don’t want to use this for energy—you want to use fat storage for energy when trying to lose body fat) and this leads to storage of body fat while reducing the function of the immune system—all things that are opposite effects of what exercise is usually supposed to produce. So working out with muscle tightness, aches and pains—all things that are the symptom of muscle imbalances and joint instability—can trigger the body to store more fat, thus nullifying, if not reversing, the positive effects exercise was supposed to produce.

This is why we spend time with each client evaluating their mechanical system before they start a program here. It allows us to identify and treat those imbalances so the body is better suited to handle a wide variety of stress—that coming from a wide variety of exercise. If anything, we have a better grasp as to what we can and can’t do with the body.

Consider that if you have ever had to work really hard to lose weight their might be other stress factors at play here that are causing your body to want to work against itself. In previous posts I talked about how an improper focus can cause this same stress scenario. It can happen from any over-stress environment whether it is mechanical/physical, mental/emotional, or chemical/nutritional. Knowing how to listen to your body (how it moves and how it responds to all foods) and how you feel when you think (listening to your emotional feedback—thinking negative thoughts are your indicator of you working against yourself) will help you find areas that may be working against you in the long run.

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Do your actions match your focus?

In my recent posts I’ve talked about how our dominant focus leads us to making our dominant choices in action when it comes to changing our body. For example, if you think about the fat you want to get rid of (lose weight) you are programming your body to want to be fat by virtue of the fact you are focused on the very thing you want to eliminate—the image you hold in your mind is one of the body you don’t want. Eating unhealthy, being lazy, and making excuses not to exercise are all perfect activities for someone who is following a program to keep or gain weight. Exercise and eating healthy is perfect for someone who is thinking about being lean and healthy. Trying to exercise while thinking about being fat causes a conflict of programming and battle that is only won by the programming that dominates—meaning, if you exercise more than you think fat than you might make some changes. However, those changes won’t last because your focus will usually remain on trying to keep the fat off rather than trying to maintain a healthy and lean body. The dominant programming will always win out! See the photos below and match the top two pictures of a woman’s body with the pictures of actions below that you think fit the body.



You probably matched the picture of the woman on the top left (a few extra pounds) with the woman on the bottom left (sitting on couch eating chocolate) and the woman on the top right with the bottom right. Well, this is how our subconscious brain works too. If your dominant focus is of trying to get rid of the fat you don’t want, you are ultimate going to be leading yourself to take actions that fit that image. Putting the picture of someone doing exercise with someone who is out of shape does not match. You may think this is something a person who wants to lose weight should do but that’s not enough to affect the subconscious programming of being fat. In order to be successful at changing your body you must have some idea where you would end up if you were successful and let that be your focus and your guide. What does a lean and healthy person think and do? Mentally become the person you want to be before you get there and the actions you need to take to get there will be the next logical step rather than being something you need to force yourself to do.

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How to set proper goals for losing weight

In my last post I talked about how our focus plays a huge part in the outcome of our goals. Trying to lose or get rid of fat (or lose weight) is a common goal that has a great chance to fail because the focus is on the very thing you want to get rid of. By focusing on the thing you don’t want you give your subconscious brain a picture to follow but it’s not where you want to end it. It’s where you want to get away from. So to make it a bit easier to move forward one must know where they would be if they were successful at losing weight or getting rid of fat.

The first question you can ask is how much weight you want to lose or how much fat you want to rid yourself of. Let’s say it’s 15 pounds of fat you want to get rid of. Know that this is still negative but it helps to be more specific when we shift to the positive side. Next you would ask where would you be if you lost 15 pounds? You might say something like 15 pounds lighter but try to be more specific. What would you look like? What would you feel like? How would your clothes fit? The goal here is to try and figure out the end result of your goal without including anything about where you are.

Saying something like “I will have less rolls on my hips” or “I won’t be so jiggly” is still problem-focused. Thinking about how you stomach will feel flatter or thinner is a good step in the right direction. However, understand that any time you use an “er” at the end of a word or use “more” in front of a word you are generally still involving the problem. For example, let’s say from losing 15 pounds you come up with being leaner or even 15 pounds leaner. The question is, leaner than what? Unless you consider yourself lean already you want to be leaner because you fatter now? What does leaner look and feel like?

It’s good to go general like this at first but once you get general you can move on to being more specific. Again, how will you know if you were successful? How will you know when you have arrived at your goal? What are you going to feel like and look like at the point you reach this specific goal? To continue using the same example you might say your stomach will be smooth and flat (not smoother and more flat). You might say your jeans will be loose—enough to fit 2 fingers in the waist band. You might say you will move with ease and feel flexible enough to touch your toes. You might say your face will be thin….your arms firm….your thighs defined. You should be getting the idea by now.

Start with what you don’t want, it’s what got you moving. Then figure out exactly what it is you don’t want and then find the opposite of that by going general at first. If don’t want those extra 15 pounds then you want to be 15 pounds leaner. Then figure out more specifics. What does 15 pounds leaner look like and feel like. Know where it is you want to end up. As you figure this out, write it down. You are 10x’s more likely to succeed at your goal by writing it down. This helps to anchor it in your mind and be more committed to it. The more time you spend thinking about the end goal the more powerful it will be in helping to program your subconscious. Adding emotion to this will take this one step further. In my next post I will discuss understanding the emotional payoff behind your desire to change your body and health. Knowing WHY you want something will help go from being just motivated to change to being inspired. And nothing can stop an inspired person who doing something with purpose—especially when it highlights a core value.

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How setting the wrong goal can make you fat

Something to consider when creating a goal to lose weight: the focus of your goal is more important than what you say you want. Most people who come into our studio often start with wanting to lose weight—meaning they want to get rid of the thing they don’t like (i.e. their love handles, flabby stomach, etc.). This is normal as it usually takes a strong dislike of something in order for the desire of change to happen. Not to mention, it has to be a big enough problem to create the willingness to pay hundreds of dollars a month to rectify this problem. However, one must understand that your brain thinks in pictures and concepts, not words. Losing weight often comes with the focus on getting rid of the fat, not getting lean, which are two totally different images. If I was to say the word “elephant” you more than likely saw the picture of an elephant in your mind, not the word “elephant.” If I said NOT to think about an elephant, you would still think about an elephant (in order to NOT think about it you have to first know what you are not going to think about).

Also understand that when you focus on something enough (consider how often you look right at the very thing you don’t like when you look at yourself in the mirror) your brain then is wired to find matches of that. For example, someone once told me that we see, hear or read the word “monkey” every day. I found that very interesting so it made a large impact in my mind. By virtue of it being a large point of focus in mind any time “monkey” showed up in my experience I took immediate notice. I have no clue how many times prior to hearing this that “monkey” appeared but now that it was in my awareness my brain filtered it out and it was now in my conscious awareness. This is done through the subconscious part of your brain.

So consider if your goal is to get rid of thing you don’t want (fat, flab, etc.) you ultimately have to focus on the thing you don’t want and that then becomes the very thing your subconscious will then try to find a match for. You can also think of your subconscious like your personal secretary whose sole job is to make your life easier by finding and bringing you things that you ask it to. But remember, you’re asking in the form of pictures, not words. Your brain doesn’t hear the words “don’t want” or “get rid of.” It takes its commands like someone who doesn’t understand language.

Imagine you have a secretary who does not speak the language you speak. Let’s say you want your secretary to get help you get rid of your love handles. So in order to help your secretary know what you wanted to do you showed her a picture of your love handles. You may tell her you want to get rid of those but because she doesn’t understand your language, she only goes by the picture (the picture of your love handles). So now she is doing everything she can to help you manage the picture you showed her. She brings you foods that would be a match to having love handles. She would line up activities that would be a match to having love handles. All the while you are trying to do things that you have learned are the actions to get rid of love handles—like exercise, dieting, etc. But because your secretary is in the background trying to help you run your life by lining you up with things that matched the command you gave it, you are in conflict. You are working against each other.

You can also liken it to a travel agent. If you simply told a travel agent you don’t want to be “here” anymore they wouldn’t know where to send you. However, if you knew you wanted to somewhere warm you would be heading in a more specific direction. If you could tell him that you want warm with palm trees as opposed to cacti then you would help narrow down locations. If you then told him you wanted to stay in the Caribbean as opposed to the Mediterranean you would be even more specific. You get the point. The more you know where you want to go and make that your dominant focus the more every part of you will be working toward success rather than the elimination of the problem.

In the next post I will offer some things to consider when setting your goals and some mental exercises you can do to help program your subconscious so it works in line with what you really want.

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