Tell me if these situations sound familiar:
You’ve been training regularly, eating better and feeling good. You decide that you’d like to cut a few pounds for vacation. Three weeks of misery eating nothing but salads and water and you’re down to your goal weight, but a weekend of “cheat meals” and you’re suddenly heavier than when you started!
You’ve been successfully losing weight for months when you suddenly reach a plateau and the number on the scale won’t budge. You decide to cut more calories from your diet to keep the weight dropping but nothing changes. You do it again, telling yourself the hunger and fatigue is normal. But you feel worse and worse, and maybe even start to gain weight, what the hell?!
There are a couple of simple concepts that you need to remember that will help you achieve your long-term goals. First off, any weight you gained before you started your fitness journey did not come overnight; it was slowly accumulated over years, so don’t expect to get rid of it overnight either. The recommended weight loss rate that you can keep off is only ~1lb/week with a caloric deficit of no more than 10% (more on that in a second).
The next concept is that weight loss, especially fat loss, is NEVER linear. Looking at the graph below, while the individual’s weight does drop over the long term, almost every significant period of weight loss is immediately followed by a period of weight gain! This is normal and should be expected. Our bodies are constantly trying to maintain a state of “normal” called homeostasis. What that means is there are systems in place that resist rapid changes and the only way to overcome these is long-term change.
So how should we approach nutrition and weight loss with these things in mind? Your best bet is to start by establishing what your body needs for maintenance and make adjustments from there. If you have questions on the best ways to determine this talk to one of us coaches, there are various methods from tracking intakes and weight (simplest) to measurements of body composition or actual caloric expenditure (BodPod, DEXA, RMR being the most accurate). Once you have a plan, remember that 1 lb of fat is equivalent to approximately 3500 calories, so if you’re 10% deficit is 250 calories, it’ll take you 14 days to lose that pound. But don’t be tempted to cut too much to speed things up. Too large of a deficit puts the body into a panic mode that will cause you to burn less throughout the day, making fat loss even harder.
I hope this clarifies some things for you all but I’d like to leave you with some final factors that I think most people miss out on:
Hydration status effects your weight (which is why InBody isn’t always a great measurement tool). So as the whether changes, and you sweat more or less and the amount of water you drink changes, expect to see some fluctuation in your weight, it’s normal.
Just like you need rest/recovery days or weeks to adapt to your training, your body needs rest time from the stress of fat loss. So plan for periods of maintenance or even surplus to allow your body to adjust to its new weight and status.
This one is for the girls, I don’t need to tell you that your hormones fluctuate regularly and even if you are on BC, the relative levels of these hormones all play a role in your body weight from fluid retention, to feeling bloated, to food cravings, to just being too tired to train. And all of that is OK.
The goal of dieting for health is more than to lose lbs on the scale or reduce your body fat %, it’s also about living a long, happy life and if you’re constantly stressing out about one number, you will never be happy.