The Surprising Factors Slowing Your Fat Loss | Mark Fisher Fitness

The Surprising Factors Slowing Your Fat Loss

At MFF, we always strive to make things as simple as possible but not any simpler.

On the path to health and hotness, many folks go wrong by making things far more complicated than they need to be. When you’re looking to get leaner and burn body fat there are four major actions that yield results for most people:

  1. Work out (with an emphasis on strength training)
  2. Eat healthful food, but not too much (with an emphasis on protein, veggies, and healthy fats)
  3. Drink lots of water
  4. Get sufficient sleep

And for many folks, that’s as specific as they need to begin seeing results.

However, this level of simplicity will not work for everyone. They might find themselves stalling and in need of more specific tactics. When the above strategies aren’t specific enough to lead to greater physique glory, we can start to quantify a bit more.

Level Up

Level Up
The next level of strategy starts with a few basic questions:

  • Exactly how much exercise are you doing?
  • What is the breakdown of exercise modalities you use in a given week (running, weight training, sexy dance parties, etc.)?
  • Exactly how many calories are you consuming and does that make sense for your goals, activity level, and body size?
  • How many grams of protein are you getting in a day?

For the majority of folks, once we’ve broken stuff down to this degree, 90% of the time we’re gonna see the body progressing in the right direction.

But for some folks, things STILL don’t seem to be moving.  So what’s going wrong here?

In our experience, there are three big examples of often surprising confounders for fat loss.  And they all have to do with stress.

Trying to lose fat without managing stressors is like “driving with the parking brake on!”

This is kind of phallic, right?

1. Exercise Stress

We all know exercising can be a useful tool for fat loss. While we endlessly repeat our mantra that “you can’t out-train your diet,” there’s no arguing the right type and amount of training can lead to burning more calories while trying to get leaner. And of course, training is super important for maintaining muscle while burning body fat.

(After all, our goal is “fat loss,” not “weight loss.” Unless you like the potato sack on bones look!)

Unfortunately, some folks have so much movement dysfunction, their bodies get stressed out from high intensity training. This is often counter-intuitive; after all, in the moment, we certainly FEEL like we’re working hard! And by all accounts, you are probably working your ass off. Good for you!

However, if you don’t move well, it’s definitely possible this is a less than ideal stressor on your body. Ideally, movement should be created mainly by using muscles. But for some folks who either don’t know how to move properly or who are very tight, movement is often created inefficiently. These folks tend to rely on stability from non-muscles, things like tendons, ligaments, and bones.

It makes sense that this is gonna cause your body to be a bit stressed, and this could slow down fat loss. If nothing else, suboptimal movement can lead to injury and pain, which will not only suck in general, but will definitely negatively affect your fitness endeavors.

Rather than addressing the movement issue, which requires pulling back on the volume and the heart-pounding intensity of exercise, all too often folks hit the gas pedal.

Hitting the gas pedal while you have the parking brake on is generally not the best idea!

To make sure you’re moving well enough to train with high intensity, we recommend working with the best coaches possible, but at the least getting cleared for high intensity movement by completing a Functional Movement Screen.

2. Allergy Stress

Many folks in society at large have become ferociously anti-gluten. And while I think, all in all, cutting out gluten probably isn’t the worst choice folks can make, I want to be very clear that research suggests plenty of folks are FINE to consume gluten and have no negative side effects.

However, there are indeed folks who have very real issues digesting gluten. Or dairy. Or soy. In addition to allergies, many folks have an undiagnosed autoimmune disease that’s being inflamed by their dietary choices. When someone has an autoimmune disease their immune system goes after normal bodily substances and/or tissues. No fun!

So you could be eating the right amount of food and making “healthy” food choices, but still unknowingly driving with the parking brake on.

Your body is struggling to assimilate the foods you’re feeding it, but understandably, it’s stressing the fuck out. To see if something is up, you can certainly give an elimination diet a try. Cut out the possibly offending food item and see if you feel better or if fat loss resumes.

If you can’t get any headway here on your own, I highly recommend going to a good endocrinologist and seeing what’s going on. These doctors can find out what’s going on with your hormones and help you find the right path to achieve optimal health and hotness. This might seem like a pain in the butt, but in the long run, it’ll save you a lot more grief than spinning your wheels!

3. Life Stress

One of my very favorite books is called Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. In this book, Stanford biology professor Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky explains the stress response.

The short version is that the stress response is fucking AWESOME if you’re about to run away from a lion. That burst of energy will save your ass! However, when you feel the same stress response about an impending tax audit that is months in the future and requires no immediate physical action, it’s no longer as helpful.

It turns out your body doesn’t really know the difference between a physical or mental/emotional threat.

Although we talk about life stress management at MFF, I believe it is one of the most under-addressed elements in fitness. Not only will having better skills coping with life stress lead to more fat loss, it’s also a direct route to our final end goal for anything we do in life.

We’ll be happier!

If you’re always feeling stressed, or you hate your job, or you have a lot of unresolved emotions in your life, this is going to affect your fat loss journey. Trying to add MORE stress by dieting and training your ass off is like… well… driving with the parking brake on.

If you know your life stress is out of hand, it’s worth your time to address it directly. We’re a huge fan of the life coaching process to address just this very thing.

Take That Brake Off, Gurl!

If you’re working your ass off and following a reasonable plan for fat loss, you DESERVE to get results.

As a final point, remember that fat loss is often unsuccessful because folks aren’t eating the appropriate amount of food for their body to burn fat.  Too much, you’ll stay the same weight. Too little, you’ll start to freak your body out. In other words… make sure you’re driving before you blame the parking brake for lack of movement.

Although there is a little bit of debate in the industry at large whether calories matter for fat loss, any reasonable person will concede they DO. So whenever anyone says calories don’t matter and you can eat 5,000 calories of fat and still lose weight… it’s usually on a sales copy page for a product of some kind.

That said… hormones DO matter. Your body isn’t a closed system.  No reasonable person is saying all calories are created equal. And it is entirely fair to say your hormonal response (particularly stress) can indeed have a profound effect on what happens to those calories once they’re in your body.

If you know you’re doing every thing right, one of the above stressors may be thwarting you.

So how about it? Do you think stress may be affecting your fat loss? Have you noticed stress affecting your fitness goals? Leave a comment and let me know about your experiences!

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Mark Fisher, Ninja Master
Mark Fisher is the co-owner and Ninja Master of Mark Fisher Fitness, one of the most successful gyms in the history of the fitness industry. Within its first five years, MFF grew from a single personal trainer to a staff of over 35, more than 800 members, and two studios in Manhattan, earning it a spot on the prestigious Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies in America. Mark also likes cursing, musical theater, and writing in third person. For more awkward self-talk, visit

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