Let me paint the picture for you.
You start a new diet, probably the latest fad. Keto or Slimming world or the celery juice craze, and guess what, initially you get results.
I mean, the scales start to go down (mostly water), and you seem happy.
This might continue for a few weeks, and then it it all stops.
Even worse the weight starts to creep back on!
So why does this happen? Is it bad genetics or your hormones or is there actually a more practical reason as to why your results are disappearing?
Let's have a closer look and also figure out how we can actually follow a plan that works.
So when we look at diets for fat loss in particular, for the most part, we tend to see some results in the short term.
We see the scales going down, we’re generally feeling better about ourselves with more energy and enthusiasm. And this can last for days, weeks, even months for a lot of us.
But slowly, as time goes by, the results start to slow, our energy starts to deteriorate. All of a sudden we’re tired and lacking any will to train and before we know it, we’ve giving up.
So let's break down firstly why we have success with diets.
Well, its fairly simple. All diets have one key principle they are looking to achieve and that is to reduce your caloric intake.
Weight loss at a very basic level is all about consuming less energy than your body typically burns, that leads to weight loss.
Now different diets do this in different ways.
For example, Keto diets which tend to revolve around foods high in fat automatically cut out almost all processed foods we would generally eat as they are mostly higher in carbohydrate.
This unintentionally creates a deficit for most people as the majority of people who struggle with their weight over consume on processed foods.
If we take a look at the paleo diet, it works in a similar fashion. Eating a diet of only whole foods is a sure fire way to reduce your caloric intake.
Take a look at any juicing diet or any diet for that matter, it revolves around restricting energy intake, which leads to weight loss.
Now as time goes on there’s a few things that start to happen.
Firstly, our adherence to a diet starts to slip. All of a sudden our 100% compliance turns to 90%, then 80% and before we know it, we’re well off where we need to be.
Now the reason this happens is because the diet doesn’t really fit with our current eating habits. For example, a keto diet may be easy to follow when spirits are high, but as soon as that motivation leaves us, it turns into a bit of a chore trying to follow such a diet with foods that don’t typically fit in with our normal eating behaviour.
The same goes for something like Intermittent fasting. While motivation is high, we have no problem skipping breakfast or lunch, but as soon as motivation goes, it seams much harder to turn down that breakfast out with friends.
The next problem we face with diets is for the most part, the calorie restriction is extreme, meaning we’ve gone from consuming 2500 calories a day to 1000.
The obvious problem with this, is once again, when motivation disappear, the hunger pains are too hard to ignore.
Once again we revert back to over consuming because following the strict restriction is just too hard.
If that isn’t enough, with lack of calories comes lack of energy. So if it wasn’t hard enough to fight the hunger pains, we’re also burning the candle at the other end by upping our exercise frequency.
As motivation dissipates, we find ourselves tired and lacking the energy to continue to exercise at such a high intensity, especially given the fact that we’ve probably gone from doing little to no exercise to attempting some form of training 5 days a week.
With low energy also come less movement, so although we may be exercising, because we are generally so exhausted, our NEAT levels reduce dramatically.
NEAT is the activity we do outside of exercise like walking around the house or any other movement that’s not exercise specific.
If all that’s not hard enough, we cut out our one relaxing activity which is having a few beers or glasses of wine. This can often increase levels of stress and make it even harder to follow the diet.
So as you can start to see, it's no wonder why we struggle to sustain such a tough diet.
So if dieting is not the way to long term success, then what is?
Well, based on what we’ve just identified doesn’t work with dieting, we can use that info to create a plan that does.
So first of all we mentioned that most diets work because they create a calorie deficit in some way or another, but often the deficit is to harsh, say 1000-1500 calories below you deficit.
So the first thing we could do is to find our average daily maintenance number, which is simply the amount of energy our body needs to maintain its current weight, and then look to stick to a plan that only brings that number down by 200-400 calories a day which will give us a much better shot at maintaining that deficit long term.
If you want to find out your daily maintenance numbers, here's a link to a calculator.
Next we identified that we tend to struggle with sticking to diets because they tend to have us eating in a way that is completely different to our current eating habits.
So to change this, what I recommend is to try and stick to what you would generally eat to start with, and just make a few subtle changes to portions to line up with your calorie deficit number, and try and switch one or two processed foods with whole foods.
This will be a much easier transition to follow as you’re not completely re-vamping the way you eat or the foods you eat.
For a full list on the types of foods you should be eating to improve health and drop body fat, here's a free printout.
Just these two steps alone will be enough to have you moving towards your goals.
It will also be a small enough change to not impact your energy levels allowing you to continue to exercise or incorporate any in if you haven’t been doing any, and keep your NEAT levels up without feeling lethargic.
Now, as you slowly become accustomed to the calorie deficit and a few new whole foods in your diet, you can continue to swap out any processed foods for more whole foods.
Keep in mind that as your weight drops, your calorie intake goal will need to be altered accordingly.
I hope that’s given you a little more clarity around perhaps why you’ve struggled to maintain a diet in the past and how you can now attack those health and fitness goals in a very different manner.
Let me know how you’ve gone with dieting in the past and if in fact you have had long term success with a particular diet. Touch base over on instagram @primalproject