An Unexpected Talk on the Secrets of Weight Loss

Read a chat Rise Lean founder, Leslie Chen, had on the secrets of weight loss with her hairdresser.

(Real, Easy, Sustainable)

I was getting a haircut at a downtown salon today. My stylist Shyann, after knowing my profession, blasted out a question:

“What’s really the secret of losing weight sustainably?!” 

We both laughed for a second, then I saw her eager, curious, and expecting face.

“Is that a rhetorical question or do you really want to know?” I asked. 

“I absolutely want to know!”

The Secrets of Weight Loss

“Well, let me tell ya…” I took a long gaze at the city skyline out of the ceiling-to-floor window in her studio. And in my mind, I was quickly scouring through the expansive, multi-dimensional knowledge I’ve accumulated throughout years about this topic — all the personal experiences I’ve had in my years of coaching, the client stories, the fundamentals of physiology, the transformative mental shifts… hoping to give her the skinny of the story in a fun, penetrating manner. 

“I’d say, the first thing is to have your body do it for you, instead of you taking the heavy lifting via some sort of hard work because no hard work can compensate for a body that works against you.” 

“What do you mean?” Shyann was surely confused. I knew she would be. Most people would because it’s the biggest blindspot that most are missing – therefore they never really solve the problem. To 80% of my clients, simply knowing this and acting upon it has brought them immediate results in unexpected ways. 

So I kept explaining: 

“Well, have you ever’s your body that’s the problem? Not the food, not the diet, not the workouts.”

She paused on her scissors. 

“If you’ve been carrying a lot of extra fat, eating wrong, and doing depriving diets for years, a big chance is that your body has come to a new equilibrium, which holds on to its current status quo — or its current patterns — by default. Whatever you’ve unknowingly trained it to do has become second nature. And these include, for example, preserving energy vs. spending it because you’ve been starving yourself, not feeling satisfied, releasing ‘craving hormones,’ keeping you exhausted, making you love junk food, and upsetting your digestive system which makes you feel bloated.

“That’s really a zoom-out view of what a ‘problematic’ body could mean. The bottomline is: if you are trying to solve the problem (which is the body) with the problem, not a solution, you can’t go anywhere, right?”

I could see Shyann was truly absorbing it. She was trying hard to multitask between giving me a nice angled trim and taking every word in. “I hear you…so you are saying in order to be successful, I need to make my body a solution, not a problem that’s working in the opposite direction. Right?” 

“Exactly. Your body is like a self-driving vehicle. It runs its own system, and it has the ability to function fully without you doing anything. That’s why you can be alive and around without being attentive to your breathing. The auto-driving system of a car is very similar to the autonomous nervous system of your body which controls all the basic daily functions of it, such as metabolism. The only thing is: now its GPS is set to a direction that’s different from where you want it to go. Does this analogy make sense?” 

“Yes, yes! And I can see why I haven’t been successful at all at weight loss. I know I can lose weight, but the lost weight always comes back. Now I know that’s because I haven’t changed the ‘GPS’ as you just described. My body is still commanded to maintain itself so it sort of ‘pulled the lost weight back’ as it feels like?”

“You can try losing weight 50 times. But if you don’t change the underlying patterns it runs on, you’ll get the same results once and once again.” I followed. 

“Are you saying…when I think I love junk food, it’s not me but my body makes me want it?”  Shyann took another pause on her scissors. 

“Being used to it doesn’t necessarily mean loving it. But if you really feel the urge, a lot of time it’s the body pushing for it with its chemistry power — like a hormone released at that instant. Chemistry triggers impulses. 99% of my clients who used to find it too difficult to love healthy foods in the past have started to realize these foods are much more delicious after the underlying patterns of their bodies are ‘fixed.’ To put it simply, their taste buds have transformed, so they naturally want healthy foods without needing to use any discipline or reasoning.

bowl of healthy food - the secrets of weight loss

“Also, most of my clients find they don’t need to rely on calorie counting anymore because they no longer overeat. This is because their bodies, now fully aligned internally, won’t make them overeat anymore. Their satisfaction signal has become a lot clearer, so clear and prominent that they can’t miss or disobey it. And if they’ve ever been addicted to sugar, they may find that addiction quickly disappearing because again, the body is no longer primed to trigger a number of things that trigger sugar thoughts.” 

I was a little thirsty, so I took a sip of the strawberry and lemon water, which is such a delight. 

Shyann’s mind was in full receptive mode now, and she was inspired to ask more great questions: 

“Sometimes I sabotage my own results by my mental chatter. For example, I have what I call the ‘all-or-nothing’ mindset, and if I screw up on a ‘clean day,’ I may just go to the other extreme without feeling in control. Then a few weeks later I find the lost 10 pounds are back. How do I prevent that from happening?” 

“You have to stop your mind from messing with you, and there are surely things you can do in that direction.

“But first of all, the most common reason for your mind to mess with you, based on what you’ve just told me, is that you are depriving yourself. That’s why you have a clear differentiation of ‘clean days’ and ‘cheat days.’ And if you’ve eaten something against the rules on a ‘clean day,’ you feel bad. There are too many rules and too much deprivation. Under deprivation, you become stressed, anxious, and sometimes even obsessed with food. These negative feelings combine and spiral up. And with them, you will always judge yourself and judge food, and it’ll only be a matter of time for you to lose control.

“It’s completely different when you are losing weight in a way that’s intuitive, organic, and stress-free because, as mentioned earlier, your body is driving the outcomes for you. Since you are comfortable and not depriving yourself in any way, you are at your norm, and maintaining it is also your perfect norm.

Woman eating dessert

“That one thing alone is going to provide you a polar, different, mental, and emotional journey. But even with that, those who tend to get self-critical do need an extra key lever that I’m going to tell you now. 

“The biggest thing is setting boundaries. This is the second top reason people fall for the same old trick. But the first is utilizing ways to lose weight that are not meant to be sustainable.”

Shyann interjected, ”by ‘setting boundaries,’ do you mean having clear do’s and don’ts on what to eat and what not to eat?”

“Not at all.” I corrected it. 

“Let’s look at it this way: if a friend of yours brings you a great experience 80% of the time, and for about 20% of the time he may bring you some troubles, would you discredit him as a bad relationship?”

“Of course not, he’s still a very good friend then!” exclaimed Shyann. 

“So if you’ve been eating very well 80% of the year, and not so well 20% of it, would you consider yourself a failed eater?” 

“Not at all.” Shyann shook her head. 

“The problem is: the majority of us don’t realize that. Just like when you feel bad because you’ve eaten some chocolates on what is supposed to be a clean day, you get really sucked into the emotions of guilt and anxiety. You lose sight of the big picture, which is that you may have done really well the majority of the time.

“And if you, instead of setting rules on what you can or cannot eat on what day, pre-set a boundary that says ‘for 20% of the year, I allow myself to deviate my plan for best practice’ and just live a healthy, balanced life over 80% of the year, you’ll be gold in your physical and mental health and weight. Even if you sucked at that 20%. And if you think about it, a year has 365 days, and 20% of it is 70 days. That should cover all of the holidays, leaves, vacations, special occasions, right? So it still gives you A LOT OF wiggle room.

“The BIGGEST problem to most people is being overly focused, emotional, and self-critical on the 20%, and letting the negativities they get from the 20% contaminate the other 80%. That’s how they always feel defeated.

“But if you’ve set a boundary and expectation of, say, 80-20 ahead of time, when an instance like that happens, you’d know you are still staying in control, right? So the upcoming sentiment and decisions become completely different.“

“You are talking about pre-setting a boundary so that when I indulge, as long as it’s within the 20% or those 70 days, I will feel fine!”  Shyann’s eyes sparkled. 

“Not only you will feel fine, but also you will be fine. If you can stay in balance for 80% of the year, your weight and health will both be in great shape.” I confirmed. “So it’s all about planning for a boundary. Without a plan, everything feels like an accident which makes you feel unprepared and stressed out. With a plan, the ‘accidents’ just become a part of the plan  and make you feel even more in control.

Healthy Charcuterie

“That’s essentially how people who don’t seem to care about the nitty gritties like daily calorie intake stay perfectly on top of their health. It’s because either consciously or unconsciously, they have a boundary already set and always know they are in control throughout the year or month, not the day. And when you just focus on the 80%, the 20% becomes entirely irrelevant.”


I dropped my head down to sip the strawberry and lemon water and let Shyann sit in her new awakening for as long as she wanted to.

“But I do have a question about that! Is it 80-20 everyone should go for?” 

“No. There’s no one formula for all. Strive for a good balance between health and flexibility. That’s your job to figure out what the balance is for you. You shouldn’t feel deprived. And you should also feel good about the abundance of healthy balances you are living.” 

My haircut was coming close to an end. I asked Shyann to pass me a small mirror so that I could see a reflection of the back. 

“Before you go, I do have one more question for you!” Shyann blurted it out with her fingers crossed. 

I nodded. 

“What about things like habit building, food, meal prepping, calories, moderation, and reading food labels? And what about exercising? You haven’t mentioned any of those.”

“I am not saying these things aren’t important. But when your body is working FOR you 24/7, it burns calories and directs you to want the right food at the right time and with the right amount. Most of what you’ve mentioned are solved just like that.

“As to exercising in the sense of intensive cardio or strength workouts — I don’t discourage people to do it. I do think there’s long-term benefits that come with it including making you feel great. But if you just want to lose 50 pounds, that’s a secondary thing. After all, none of my clients did hardcore exercises when they lost weight reliably.” 

As I finished my last word, my haircut was done. Shyann completed a very nice cut for me — timeless, classy, and with a sparkle of unpredictability and exhilaration shown as a nice angle on the side leading to beautifully layered back. It perfectly fit my character, and it also fit the new aviator jacket I was wearing. 

“We’ve really given each other our best, haven’t we?” I said. “Yeah, I love the synchronicity of it!” I smiled at her, took one last sip of the strawberry and lemon water, then walked out of the salon feeling refreshed and radiant. 

Leslie Chen shares the secrets of weight loss and helps you learn how to stop emotional eating. Chat with Leslie 1:1 here.

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