MYST 160 Words Have Power

This episode is not really about a specific weight-loss technique, but more of a philosophical discussion of some of the attitudes that surround the people who are on this journey (and those who should be on this journey but are not.)

I think I need to cover something that has been bothering me (and others on LoseIt.)

Words. Actually, not just any words. Adjectives.

Adjectives are, according to the dictionary: a word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages and typically serving as a modifier of a noun to denote a quality of the thing named, to indicate its quantity or extent, or to specify a thing as distinct from something else. (I will be giving the definitions for a few more words later in this episode.) An adjective modifies another noun.

Okay, so what adjectives do we commonly see in our weight-loss journey?

  • Obese. (I’ve actually seen one person say “the ‘o’ word” instead of obese. Seriously.)
  • Chubby.
  • Plump.
  • Rotund.
  • Portly.
  • Big-boned. (More on this phrase in a little bit.)
  • Large-framed.
  • Fluffy.
  • Pudgy.
  • BBW

And all those words are are used in place of one other word. Who among you cringes every time you look in a mirror?  When you cringe, do you think to yourself “I’m so fat.” (It’s okay. We are all adults. We can–and will–use the “f” word here.)

Go to any weight loss site and use the word “fat” in any way other than “I only eat low-fat chicken breasts”. Go on. I dare you. If you refer to yourself or someone else as “fat”, you will get a storm of angry comments, telling you that you have a bad self-esteem or are being mean and derisive to others.

Words Have Attitudes

Why do we say that using the word “fat” shows a “bad self-esteem” or demonstrates being “mean”? It’s because the word “fat” has been applied to us in the past. And we hated it. Why do we give that word more power than it deserves? It is a simple descriptor. And some people react badly to other words, such as obese. However, few people react to “chubby” or “portly”, and many people rationalize their body size with the phrase “big bones” and they have no problem with it.

(The phrase “big bones” will probably be a future episode, because when a person has both a BMI and body fat percentage greater than 30, it has nothing to do with their bones. But again, that’s a future episode.)

Why do we give all those words so much more power than words like:

  • Tall. Short. Squat. Lanky.
  • Tanned. Pale. Freckled. Pimply.
  • Happy. Sad. Angry. Manic. Depressed.
  • Old. Young. Middle aged. Juvenile.
  • Blonde. Brunette. Ginger.
  • Sexy. Homely. Plain. Pretty.
  • Rural. Suburban. Inner city.
  • Wealthy. Impoverished. Middle class.
  • Democratic. Republican. Independent.
  • Conservative. Liberal. (Okay, these last eight have a lot of power and meaning, too.)

Here is why. (I know this because I’ve heard people say it.) People see someone who is overweight, and they frequently will automatically infer that other characteristics are also present, characteristics that have nothing to do with weight. What characteristics am I talking about? How many times have you heard someone say about an overweight person—particularly one that they don’t know—“He must be lazy to get so fat” or “She must be ignorant—that’s why she is so big.”

Have YOU ever thought or said things similar? I’ll be honest. I have. I won’t deny it. When I see a very large person riding a cart through the grocery store, and they are filling their cart with less than healthy foods, I do judge them. I know—it’s not right. But as a person who is working so damn hard to drop my weight, measuring and logging everything, it annoys me to see people who give the appearance of being oblivious to the situation. Do I know their total situation? Not at all. But that doesn’t stop that small and petty part of me inside from thinking those thoughts.

Really, how does being fat make a person dumb or lazy? It doesn’t, but that is why we hate those words. Those words carry added meaning. And we KNOW what other people think. We know those added meanings. Because we have them ourselves.

Let’s change the situation.

Imagine a person sees someone with a different skin color, nationality, sexual orientation or language. What would we say if that person said, “There’s another dumb one.” Or “She’s too lazy.” Or “They are evil.”

What adjective would describe that person? Bigot? Racist? About the nicest adjective is “Prejudiced.” But another would be small-minded. Another would be wrong.

And yet, we have those same attitudes toward those who are obese. Even worse, we have the same attitude toward ourselves when we look in a mirror. We use every possible term to describe ourselves except fat. We give that word power over us.

Now let’s bring up another argument about the word “fat”. I’ve seen people on LoseIt and elsewhere absolutely preach that “fat” is a thing, not a descriptor. One of the arguments I hear is “We ARE NOT fat.. Instead, we HAVE fat. It’s the same as saying we HAVE fingernails, but we ARE NOT fingernails”. And while the fingernail statement is true, it’s a specious argument (per the dictionary, a specious argument is one that is  superficially plausible, but actually wrong). Why is it wrong?

“Fingernail” is ONLY a noun. It is not a verb. It is not a adjective.

In the dictionary, fat is a noun (a natural oily substance occurring in animal bodies, especially when deposited as a layer under the skin or around certain organs) and an adjective (of a person or animal having a large amount of excess flesh) and even an archaic verb (to make or become fat.)

By trying to deny the word fat (and similar words) we are giving it far more power than it deserves. This actually demonstrates that we ourselves (here I am speaking for many people who are overweight) are bigoted against ourselves. We act as if we deny the word, the definition will not apply to us. Another word for that is “denial”.

What’s the answer?

I honestly don’t know. But I remember as a child growing up in the 60’s it was common to use a term for African-Americans that is rarely uttered in public now. And there is a verb, based on a word that means “to make slow”, which was used as a noun to describe people with developmental delays. That word is rarely used now. And I don’t think people continue to tell jokes about people with Polish ancestry. It’s been a long time since I heard one–although that may have only been a North Central Wisconsin regionalism. I’m sure in other parts of the country, there were other ethnic groups who were the target of bad jokes. (And there probably still are.)

Maybe over time, we (again, speaking as a person who is still in the Obese category) will stop taking offence at the word “fat” when used as an adjective. For that to happen, I think we need to do two things simultaneously. The first is to get over the word. The word itself is never going to go away. I think we need to deal with it. Replacing it with different words doesn’t change the fact that we need to lose weight.

But more importantly, we all need to understand that being overweight is a complicated condition, one that integrates mental, emotional and physical health disorders. I don’t think too many comedians are making fun of diabetics, cancer patients, or the blind. Let’s ignore the baggage with the words fat and obese, and focus on the real problem. We need to point out the prejudice towards the obese when we see it, and make it clear that obesity should be treated like any medical condition. It’s something that’s real, and devastating, and treatable, but not something on which to base a joke.

Let’s stop tolerating that.


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Common Zero


MYST 159: Three Ways to Fail

Okay, time for the ugly truth.

Most people who start a weight loss program do not succeed. And those who do reach their goal weight regain eventually regain most or all the weight they’ve lost. So with that in mind, let’s give you three guaranteed methods to find failure in your weight loss journey.

I mean, if most of my listeners will eventually fail, let’s get it done quickly!

If you enjoy this, excellent! But it is not the key to success.

Three Definite Methods to Fail on Your Weight Loss Journey

1. Rely on exercise alone to force the weight loss.

If you need to lose weight, you probably were not really into exercise much, and you really enjoyed eating. Is that a fair description? Well, while exercise has many very positive health benefits, you really cannot rely on it alone to get you to your goal weight. I talk about this in greater detail in MYST 84, but the bottom line is that weight loss happens in the kitchen. Fitness happens in the gym. You cannot out-exercise bad eating habits.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t exercise. On the contrary, I want everyone to increase their activity level, and how you choose to do that is your choice. But I am saying that if you don’t get your eating under control, and if you don’t have a reasonable calorie budget, the exercise is only going to cause frustration when you do not make the progress that you expect. You will eventually quit.


This is a great activity, but it alone won’t help you succeed.

2. Set a hard “due date” for success, especially if that due date is connected to a wedding, vacation, graduation or any other life event.

If you absolutely need to lose 50 pounds before your wedding, anniversary, birthday, vacation–whatever the special event–and you are closer than 52 weeks away, you are setting yourself up for a disaster. Most people cannot lose faster than 1 pound per week. It’s faster in the very beginning and much slower at the end, but overall, it’s 1 pound a week. If your event if 16 weeks away, you can realistically expect to lose 15-16 pounds. That’s it. Setting a 50 pound goal for an event that is happening sooner than 52 weeks is going to greatly increase your stress, because you simply can’t consistently lose as fast as you want. And stress will slow,  stop or reverse weight loss. I talk about anxiety and weight loss in MYST 102  and general stress and it’s effect on weight loss in MYST 138. 

If you need to lose weight for a big event, count the number of weeks, set your rate for 1 pound per week, and your goal is the number of weeks before the event. Will that be as much as you want to lose? Probably not. But it is a more achievable goal. And successfully losing that amount is better than trying for an unrealistic goal, and failing to achieve any loss at all.

3. Follow a diet. Any diet.

I don’t care what “diet” you choose, if it is not the way you intend to eat for the rest of your life, you are choosing a temporary eating plan, and any successes you experience will also be temporary. Any weight that you’ve lose will return (quickly) when you return to eating “normal” food.

This is especially true for any diet found in a book, on a magazine cover, or talked about on a television show.
Those “diets” are created and published for only one reason. It is not designed to help you lose weight, but rather to entice you to buy the magazine, book or supplement.

And if the diet in question is found in a book or magazine and the author is either a celebrity, or the guest or host of a television show, and they are talking about the diet, you will have more success simply flushing your money down the toilet.

But maybe the diet is not in a book or magazine. Are there any other clues that it is a waste of time an money? Yes, and here are the clues:

  • It requires that you buy “special weight loss foods” from a friend/relative/coworker.
  • That friend or co-worker wants to show you how you can make money by selling the product.
  • If any of these words (or anything similar) are found on the label or description of the product or plan: “Cleanse”, “Detox”, “Metabolism Jumpstart” or “Metabolism Booster”

  These will not help you succeed!

Okay, let’s make one thing clear. While I am serious about everything I said, I am confident that most or all of your have chosen a good method of weight loss. I am also confident that you will lose weight, reach your goal and stay at goal. You come back to this show each week because you are committed.

But this information is for you to share with others who may not be as experienced as you. I hope you are able to help your friends find success. (And tell them about this show!)

Photo via UnSplash by Maarten van den Heuvel (Runner), Scott Webb (Weights) and FreeStocks (Supplements)


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over

work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Common Zero

MYST 158: Evolution

Quick quiz:

You are starving–literally. Which food do you choose:


Photo via by silviarita

Our brains are hardwired to prefer the taste of sweet and salt, and fat (which is now being suggested as the sixth taste–sweet, salt, sour, bitter and umami.)

If you go back to evolutionary history, our bodies craved one thing over all others: calories

Calories meant survival. And way back in those days, lack of food was not because the local c-store was closed. Famines killed. Our bodies became built to store calories (as fat) to prevent future famine-related deaths. Those with the bodies better-suited to store fat were able to pass those genes on to future generations. Those with “skinny genes” (sorry–a bad pun) died early and were unable to pass on defective genes.

We are evolutionarily designed to get fat.

The problem is that in most of the developed world, famines are no longer an issue and we really don’t need to be searching for extra calories to store as fat.

So how does that connect to ice cream and pizza?

A half-cup of Ben and Jerry’s Choc Chip Cookie Dough ice cream has 270 calories. Now, our cave-dude likely had no access to ice cream, so let’s think about something that he could get: animal fat. Which of those three foods would be the fastest to give him the daily calories (let’s assume 2500 calories a day):

Lima beans cooked: 11.5 cups
Kale, raw: 74.5 cups
Honey: 2.4 cups
Animal fat: 1.3 cups

Animal fat and honey (or anything very sweet) packs a lot of calories in each bite. When you needed to hunt, gather, and fight for every bite, you wanted it to count. Our bodies are built over the millions of year to crave and love sweets and fats. (We also love salts, because salt would make our bodies hold water to stay hydrated during the long hunts. Because back then, the only Camelbaks found were actually on camels.)

To lose weight, we need to force our bodies to do the very thing that allowed us to survive. That’s why it is so darn hard to lose weight and even harder to keep it off. We are not fighting our own personal natures. We are fighting against nature.


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over

work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Comm

MYST 157: Weight Loss is Wrong

First things first:

Calories In/ Calories Out (CI/CO) works and it works for everyone. It’s just that there are two problems with assuming that CI/CO is the be-all and end-all of weight loss.

  1. Measuring metabolic rate is much more complex than any calculator on the internet.
  2. There are other factors that affect weight loss and fat burning (which are very different and will be talked about later.)

What some people just don’t get is that it is all CI/CO. I don’t care if you believe that you are that special someone who has a metabolism that is half of the rest of the world. Your weight is still ruled by CI/CO (you just need much less CI, because you have such a low CO.) Or it might be that you use steroids or other enhancers in your quest for muscle-building. CI/CO is still the rule (except, in this case, your CO is so high that you need more CI.)

In both situations, CI/CO is what rules your weight loss potential. But the average online metabolism calculator will likely give you a calorie budget that is wildly inaccurate, which means you will not lose weight as you think you will. It’s the equation that is faulty, not CI/CO.

Photo via by DCortexPhotography

And it is not the type of calories that you consume.

I don’t know how many calories you burn on a daily average, but let’s assume you burn 3250 calories a day. If you ate 5000 calories of meat (just meat, you pick the animal) you will gain weight. The excess 1750 calories of meat will cause a ½ pound (approximate) gain of fat.

If you ate 5000 calories of veggies and fruit, you’d gain approximately the same ½ pound of fat.

If you ate 5000 calories of table sugar (6.5 cups), you’d still gain approximately the same ½ pound of fat.

Photo via by SkyAngel

I’ve never seen any proof that suggests otherwise. Yes, my religion is science. Show me the data—peer-reviewed, double-blinded, control groups, and a large population tested—and I’ll believe it. Tell me your gym coach told you so, and I’ll smile politely.

But there is another factor that clouds the issue. People here talk about CI/CO and weight gain/loss when it would be much more accurate to equate CI/CO with FAT gain/loss.

Weight changes can be fat, but more commonly—and especially with large and rapid changes—that weight is mostly water. Water retention and expulsion is different from CI/CO. When you consider water weight, that brings in many other factors—and everyone out there who thinks that they are completely uncontrolled by CI/CO might be completely controlled by those factors.

  1. Natural hormones fluctuations in bothmen and women. Hormone changes greatly influence water retention.
  2. Stress levels (which also alter the hormone levels)
  3. High (or low) sodium diets
  4. Alcohol (This affects the liver, which pulls in water to dilute and break down the alcohol.)
  5. Medications
  6. Health conditions, especially any that involve the heart, kidneys or liver
  7. Allergies, especially sensitivity to carbohydrates.

All of those factors change a person’s hydration status, which is another way of saying it changes their weight. More water within the tissues means more weight. But none of those change a person’s fat stores, which is what people really want to reduce.

Let’s talk briefly about carbs. It is not that carbs necessarily make you gain more fat stores, but they can make you gain weight. This is why some people say that when they stop eating carbs they are able to lose weight faster. Carb metabolism requires extra water in the biochemical process.

When you consume carbohydrates, your body converts them to glycogen, which is then stored in the muscles for energy. For every gram of glycogen stored, you gain approximately 2.7 grams of water (that is about ½ teaspoon). This water retention occurs because your kidneys hold on to sodium in response to carbohydrate consumption. Your body reacts to the higher sodium levels by storing more water to keep the sodium-blood concentration at a healthy level. Eat fewer carbs and your body excretes the extra water. But that is a WEIGHT loss, not a FAT loss, and that is where people are confused.

It’s relatively easy to drop a lot of weight fast. Eat mostly protein and fat which require less water to break down. This explains why those members of what I call the keto-cult experience rapid weight loss. Their body is dumping extra water that is no longer needed. That makes the scale move, but it is not necessarily fat loss. There are other methods to reduce the body’s water level. Both wrestlers and boxers will take specific actions to dump weight a couple days before the meet. They will drop 10-15 pounds in less than 2 days so that when they weigh in, they are in a lower weight class (and yet have all the muscle of the larger weight class.) Then after they weigh in, they try to rehydrate.


Let’s look at marathon runners. They are the exact opposite. What do marathoners do the night before the race? They gorge on pasta the night before the race. Pasta = carbs = more water retention for metabolism (and the sauce will be sodium-heavy, too), which will increase their running endurance. During the race, their body will use up all the stored water as the muscles work hard, and their skin sweats to keep them as cool as possible.

If people could change their mindset from “I’m going to lose weight” to “I’m going to lose fat” then maybe—slowly—the idea of CI/CO would be more accepted as the reality. But even if people have that way of thinking, most do not have the proper method of measuring fat content. Those scales that measure fat are grossly inaccurate, as they are dependent upon the correct hydration status. If a person is even a little dehydrated (as they are in the morning, when their body weight is the lowest) the sensors notice poor electrical conduction and determine the person has a high body fat percentage (fat is a poor electrical conductor.) If they get on the scale at night, when they are fully hydrated from eating and drinking all day, the scale will sense good electrical conduction, and therefore a lower body fat percentage. But the scale will also show a huge increase in weight (overall weight, not increased fat stores) and no one wants to see a number like that. If you really want to determine body fat, you can purchase calipers to measure fat stores (but that takes training and practice.)


Body Fat Caliper

Note: Image Above is found on Amazon here. The image belongs to PURENJOY, and I do not receive any compensation for sharing this link (it is not an affiliate link.)


So, what is the bottom line?

Stop worrying about weight. Focus on fat reduction through the proper consumption of food. I don’t care what you eat—carbs, protein or fats—but I do care about how much you eat. Experiment with your calorie budget. Pick a budget that you think will work for you, and eat it for a month. If you lost the weight you predicted, you are set. If you lost too much, or not enough, now you have evidence that your budget needs to go up or down. But that evidence only applies to you, and it is still a demonstration and CI/CO.

It is all CI/CO.


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over

work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Commons Zero.