Afraid to get fat is keeping you fat

Fear of gaining fat!!! This might be the reason you can’t lose weight…..

“I want to lose weight.”

“I want to be healthier.”

“I want to drop my body fat.”

“I want to get stronger and leaner.”

“I want a 6 pack.”

“I don’t want lunch lady arms anymore.”

“I want to lose my love handles.”

“I want to feel better.”

“I want to tone up.”

“I want to be at the weight I was in my 20s.”


These are all things we hear daily from new and current clients. All of these things say the same thing…… I want to see the scale go down. Also they are saying I want to look a certain way. 99% of  our clients have a goal in mind of what they want the scale to be at. 50% of our clients have a mental goal of what they want to look like. The ones with the fastest success and highest success rate are the ones that have a visual image of what they want to look like.

Why is this??? There are a few reasons.

  • The visual goal is part of the mindset that helps to keep reaching for that goal and not give up.
  • The plan we give them is laid out to reach that goal and there is no time table just the end result. This helps staying on track when you might not have a perfect day or week.
  • Many clients when they don’t see the scale move they give up but what if the body fat dropped instead? They don’t care because the scale didn’t move, so they give up.
  • Many times the scale weight they have in mind might not be possible. Example a 45 man that wants to be 145 lbs like he was in high school. He might have more muscle, taller and more structural weight than when he was at the age. So getting that low might put him at a dangerous 4-6% body fat. And not even close to the visual of what they want to look like.
  • The number 1 reason clients don’t achieve their goal when it is a number on a scale only is….. you are so afraid of gaining fat you starve yourself and then give up.

Some simple basic lessons we teach all clients is are:

  • Eat to achieve a goal.
  • If you starve yourself you will not reach your goal and not burn fat.
  • If you over eat you will gain fat
  • Food is Fuel
  • What to eat, how much to eat and why.

Back to the number 1 reason many clients don’t see results. They are to afraid to see the scale go up. They are so afraid of seeing the scale move up they are ok with losing muscle and gaining fat to see the scale go down. You do this by starving yourself and it isn’t always what it sounds like. Starving yourself comes in many forms like not eating at all but mostly just under eating. Our bodies need fuel to function properly and without that fuel your body shuts down. (I have written other post about food is fuel and won’t go into further detail here) When you do this it stops your body from releasing fat burning hormones. Your body doesn’t burn fat from exercise or diet, it burns fat when your body sends hormones to signal to burn fat. This happens only when you eat properly. Exercise speeds up the process and gives you a much larger calorie window to burn fat properly.

The simple thing is if you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. The more you overeat, the more you’ll gain, and the more of that is going to be fat. The less you eat the more you starve and the more your body stores fat. So it’s like Goldielocks. One is to hot, one is to cold and one is just right. Find what is just right is what we teach our clients.

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We all have had those days or weekends that we eat way too much food, drink to much or combo of both and see the scale go up. Some people have the Fit on Friday and Fat on Monday because of this. We all have heard someone say, or maybe said ourselves, “I just look at a donut and gain 5 lbs.” When I hear these words, I cringe because I know this is someone that is starving themselves to see the scale go down. They are not worried about burning fat. This is the biggest problem with some people’s diets that we see today.

How much weight can you really gain in 1 day? 2 days?

How much of it is real fat gain?

When the scale goes up 4 pounds what is really happening?

If you go on a vacation and gain 4-10 pounds in 7 days, why did you lose it all the first week back? An even deeper questions if you did drop the weight back off that quick when getting back, why couldn’t you drop weight before you left for vacation? Understanding how your body works with food intake and hormone regulation is a huge part to long term success.

Understanding how your body works with fat loss, fat burning, weight gain and fat gain is very important. If you have a bad weekend, holidays, parties or just a night that you went to far into the ice cream. Understanding and learning what is actually happening to your body and the scale is so important when it comes to reaching your goals.

The great thing is that there have been tons of clinical studies on this and also we have had 1000’s of our own client results as well. You can find many medical studies on over feeding and effects on fat. One study fed people 50% more energy than they needed every day for two weeks. The average calorie surplus was 1400-1600 calories a day. Over 2 weeks that is surplus of 19,600 calories to 22,400 calories or 5.6 to 6.4 pounds total.

They were shocked over the results that came back that after two weeks they only gained 2.5-3.5 pounds of fat. Which is actually 3 pounds less of the total calorie intake. That works out to 1.25 to 1.75 pounds of fat per week or 0.2-.25 pounds per day.

Another study had people eat 40-50% more calories than their maintenance needs for 8 weeks. The average calorie surplus range was 1200-1500. In this study they gained 9 pounds of fat in 8 weeks. That works out to 1.1 pounds per week or 0.16 pounds per day. This is actually less than the first group, even though the calories were about the same surplus ranges, just a longer duration.

Let’s get back to the “I gain 5lbs if I even look at a donut”. Why can you gain 2-4 lbs after 1 night of eating pizza and ice cream? Did you really eat 14,000-20,000 calories in 1 meal? I very highly doubt it!! And why I am I back down that 2-4 pounds in a day or 2?

What is really happening? The biggest thing here is look at what you ate. We teach our clients that anytime you put something in your mouth there is a chemical reaction. The foods most people eat are loaded with sodium, carbs and sugar.

What does sodium do? Helps your body store water and eating large amounts can increase your water retention. A day or meal with high sodium can throw off your bodies balance and could add 1-3 lbs of water. Your body might take 1-3 days of normal activity and eating to come back to normal. Exercise and sweating with a more strict diet can reverse it faster.

Carbohydrate can also have a weight increase effect on the body.

Carbs are turned into glycogen and then stored in the liver or muscles and lastly fat cells.  Your body always tries to keep itself in balance so the chemical reaction with 1 gram of carbs causes 2-4 grams of water. So 200-500 extra gram of carbs can be 2-5 pounds of water to balance it out. (This can be even higher if you have been eating very low carbs for an extended period of time as well) Now you add in a high sugar aspect that can trigger a fast insulin response and inflammation and you have a perfect storm to see a fast increase in scale weight. Think if someone is really dehydrated and need medical help they give the person saline solution (aka salt water). If a fighter is getting ready for a fight and drops 15-20 lbs in 2-4 days to make weight they drink plenty of electrolytes to gain that weight back. Electrolytes is a fancy term for sodium, calcium and potassium water. The high intake of salt helps with hydration but to much sodium and your body needs more water to balance itself out.

So if you go out and eat pizza and chips tonight and it equaled 400 grams of carbs that could be a 2-3 lbs raise in the scale. Throw in all the sodium from the crust, cheese, meat, other toppings and chips and you could have another 2-4 pounds increase of water to balance that out. So that could be a total of 4-8+ pounds.

As we all know and have experienced, that  weight will come back down, but it can make you think you’ve gained more fat than you really have.

The same thing happened in both of the studies we just covered. After 2 weeks of overeating the subjects gained 7 pounds of scale weight, and after 8 weeks of overeating they gained 17 pounds. In both cases, though, only about half of that was body fat.

The total amount of weight in your intestinal track can also increase your body weight by a pound or two, but that tends to correct itself after a few days.

The bottom line is that if you eat 1,000 to 1,500 calories more than your maintenance needs in a single day, you may only gain around a fifth of a pound of body fat, even if your scale weight tells a different story.

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These studies all looked at over eating every day with 1,000 to 1,500 more calories than they needed per day for an extended period of time.

What if you do everything right for 6 days out of 7 but go on a huge 1 meal binge?

Like going out and eating a whole pizza, large blizzard and a box of girl scout cookies.

What kind of reaction can you expect after a huge binge?

So how much fat would gain if you ate your normal meals for the day and then a huge binge meal.

If you need 2000 calories to maintain your weight and ate 2000 calories from your healthy diet and then added 5000 with the binge.

That puts your daily surplus at 5,000 calories per day.

The studies above people gained around 0.2 pounds of fat per 1,000 calories they ate above their maintenance needs. So the binge being 5000 calories you would gain about a pound of fat. How many people actually eat 5000 calories surplus in a day???

That really isn’t that much body fat with a huge binge. Now this is not saying to go out and have a huge binge because it won’t affect me that much. The big problem with this is many time a huge binge causes many other side effects. Like starving yourself the next few days or having major sugar cravings that you then have small sugar snacks each day or just say forget the diet it is to hard and I have failed already.


Thanksgiving to New Years proves this every year with many clients. On the actual day of the holiday people will normally only gain .5-1 pound that day of over eating. So why do so many people but on 4-10 pounds during this time. They over eat on the holidays but also each day they are over eating holiday cookies, treats, decide it’s the holidays and not pay attention to tracking food intake and start with a new years resolution.


In both of the studies, the people should have gained about 0.75 pounds per day. Instead, they only gained about a fifth of a pound per day. Google the diets of many famous people and athletes, you will be shocked at how many calories some people eat and maintain a lean or normal to low body fat %.

Are these people super heros? Are they just blessed with better genes? Does their body not follow the laws of energy balance and thermogenics?

The answer is no but they aren’t afraid of getting fat. They eat to fuel their bodies and eat to get a desired result.

Now here’s the really scary part: have you heard of the Minnesota Starvation study?  It was done back in the 1940’s and a 1000+ page text was released in the 1950’s detailing results. The government conducted an experiment on the effects of starvation on 36 men who volunteered for the study as an alternative to military service.  All were in perfect psychological health with no disorders or food issues. They were given 50% of their daily calorie needs for six months. Over the course of those six months, the men became increasingly obsessed with food: they began to think and talk about food all time, hoard food, steal food and binge compulsively; they began to develop psychological problems like nervousness, social anxiety, disorders, and even psychosis, as well as physical symptoms like dizziness and headaches. Most of the men never fully recovered from this starvation period and struggled their whole lives with their weight, compulsive overeating, binge eating, and food issues. Also, their metabolisms decreased significantly. What this means is that your body’s natural reaction to starvation can actually cause a psychological eating disorder whether you are predisposed to one or not, increasing the likelihood that you will struggle with weight and food your entire life. The problems don’t stop there either! A high percentage of clients that start with us that have been doing this to themselves, we see an increase in joint pain, back pain, weakness, inflammation, fatigue, sleep issues, the inability to lose fat off their body and other health minor to major health issues. Do you want to do this to yourself??

Many of our clients that have the best success and long term success have a change in mindset that is so important, eat to fuel your body! Learning to understand the difference between scale weight loss and body fat loss are key to this. I have written another article about the diet lie you see in media today that in essence is the Minnesota starvation diet. You can read that here

If you can learn to eat the calories and nutrition your body needs for fuel you will see results. It starts with calories in calories out, energy in and energy out.

Here are some very well known people and there calorie intake….

Your goals and activity and bodies aren’t the same as these people but all 3 eat over 10,000 calories in a day and all 3 have very different body composition as well but none of them are over weight. The goal is to eat what you need for fuel and be in a calorie deficit but not one that is starving yourself.

If you have questions or need help please contact us!

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