Your Body Is Smarter Than You

body body image coaching fitness motivation nutrition Sep 23, 2020

Ever considered the possibility of subconscious self-sabotage?

It’s an unusual phrase I know, I mean… it doesn’t necessarily even make sense, does it?

How can someone self-sabotage their goals subconsciously?


You would think self-sabotage would need to be a conscious decision right?

How wrong you are…     

You see when we try and diet for fat loss, the decisions we make on a minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour and day-to-day basis, well… some are conscious decisions and other subconscious.

It is those subconscious decisions, the ones we need to understand but fail to recognise, that are what may cause you to fail in your quest to achieve the leanest physique you have ever created.

As we diet, calorie restriction will indefinitely increase depending on the phase of the diet you are in and similarly, we often try and match this with a simultaneous increase in calorie expenditure.

We eat less, yet at the same time, we ask/force our bodies to do more work in order to burn more calories…

We focus on strength progression in the gym

We focus on calories burned or effort put into our cardio

We focus on every minute detail of our diets

In practice, we attempt to control calorie input to the finest detail while also controlling calorie output.

But do we do the best job we can?

Often we don’t… you see, there is this thing called NEAT.

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

In lay terms, this is the amount of thermogenic caloric expenditure we achieve through day-to-day tasks and the movement required to achieve these.

In essence, NEAT is the energy we burn doing any kind of movement that is not specific exercise.

So why is NEAT important?

As we diet and restrict calories further, internally there is an entire clockwork of machinery testing and re-regulating your system in order to ensure it remains healthy…. In order to make sure you stay alive.

One of those mechanisms, albeit only one of many, is to force calorie expenditure DOWN

Yup, that’s right…

While you’re trying to force calorie expenditure up, while also reducing caloric input, your body is trying to beat you in this particular race by reducing the calories you burn.

Of the many things the body does, two primary defence mechanisms it utilises to achieve this are:

1. Increased caloric burn efficiency

Your body begins to burn less calories when completing the same physical tasks… It becomes more efficient.

For example, your 4km an hour leisurely walk on the treadmill you do every day will burn less and less calories the more frequent you do it, assuming it is done in the same manner.

2. Decreased subconscious movement

Signalling mechanisms sent to the brain that regulate your motivation to move are altered and force a subconscious reduction in NEAT.

In some instances, it has been suggested, that individual variation in the reduction of NEAT in those attempting to lose body fat, could be in the region of between 200-500kcal per day.


Yes, I’m yelling at you…


Because almost EVERY athlete I deal with during a contest prep reaches a phase in their prep where their NEAT drops and the calories we are pulling out of their diet become null and void.

Think about that for just a second…

I wish that wasn’t the truth, but unfortunately, it is.

The calories we are removing become null and void because the 5-10% reduction we take out in food, is matched by a 5-10% reduction in NEAT and essentially we end up with ZERO fat loss.

This is a BIG problem!

In fact, it is single handily one of the BIGGEST problems most athletes will face in their prep. There will come a point in time where food is being removed, exercise is being increased and NOTHING happens.

It is at this time that you need to remember this article…

So let’s discuss how to fix it.

Below are my top 3 tips on how to beat subconscious self-sabotage:

1. Train for progression in the gym

a.     Increase set volume

b.     Increase strength/intensity

c.      Increase rep volume

If you are not measuring your training performance in the gym during your prep, you simply are not putting in 100%.  Now, that may sound harsh to some, but the reality is, that if you want to have the best prep, everything should be measured.

By forcing a measurable progression in the gym you will both maintain more muscle but you will also prevent caloric expenditure efficiency from occurring due to the change in stimulus.

2. Change your mode of cardio every 2 weeks

a.     Measure caloric output, not minutes of walking

b.     Use a combination of HIIT and LISS in a manner that allows you to burn the calories you need, without impacting your performance in the gym.          

Get rid of the monotonous treadmill walking every day. By doing the same mode of cardio day in day out, you are quite literally forcing yourself to spend MORE and MORE time on the treadmill to achieve the SAME calorie burn.

DO NOT…. I repeat…. DO NOT complete your cardio using the same mode day in day out.

Note: a street walk is not the same as using the treadmill, provided the terrain changes frequently as this will maintain a variable stimulus.


3. Move more and stay active

a.     Use a stand-up desk at work instead of sitting down

b.     Carry a shopping basket instead of walking with the trolley

c.      Park further away from your destinations

d.     Limit couch time and remain active

e.     Walk the dog more frequently (this isn’t cardio unless it's continuous)

This one is the hardest to achieve as it takes a conscious approach to beat a subconscious defence mechanism, but it will be your best piece of weaponry in your entire prep if you can maintain a high output from NEAT.

Do not undervalue movement as your best method for fat loss!

They seem simple right?

Especially number 1 and 2, but number 3 in my opinion, is the most important aspect of them all.

If you are athlete-minded you will always strive to be stronger in the gym and similarly, your cardio requirements will be met, but tip #3 is what a lot of people fail to even recognise they are failing at.


Your body is smarter than you and it will make you do less when you want it to do more.

If you want fat loss to keep moving, you better keep moving too!

Diet Smart. Not Hard.

Coach Dean.