Let’s be real.
The “more is better” approach doesn’t always work. Especially when it comes to dieting. (Think crash diets & fad diets)
I come across numerous people who’ve been chronically undereating since a very long time and are still struggling to lose some weight off their bellies. Shifting from trends to trends without actually moving forward. And these are people who I love – friends & family. And there’s no denying about the fact that I want to see them living a healthy life and making progress towards their goals. But, that needs a little systematized approach.
The overall concept of fat loss is quite simple, however there are some factors that need to be considered for the program to work optimally.
Let’s dive right in.
Behind the Scenes
Think about this – You reduce your calorie intake to lose weight, whether by tracking calories, doing keto, exercising, etc. You experience some initial weight loss which encourages you, and you double down on your effort. You increase your workouts, and decrease your calories further hoping to see even better results. This works for a while. But, soon enough, you hit a plateau. Which makes you cut even more calories. This time though, it’s not working. Next thing you know, the diet becomes unsustainable & you give up.
Sounds familiar? Here’s what happened. When you’re dieting, your body downregulates certain hormonal & metabolic functions. Our metabolisms adapt and the body starts to conserve energy making it tougher to lose weight & easier to gain weight after a point.
Think of it as your body’s survival mechanism. During chronic dieting phases, your body is doing it’s best to preserve energy (which is stored in the form of fat in our bodies) to survive. Hence it becomes tough to lose fat after a point when previously you could do it easily. And as soon as we give it a little extra energy (in the form of a binge or an intense caloric surplus), it stores almost all/most of it as an attempt to store for future needs (Just in case it doesn’t get energy any further).
This is your body trying it’s best to survive. This is how we’ve evolved over time & our bodies are really good at it. But, there’s a solution to this.
The primary problem here lies in the intensity & the length of the calorie deficit.
For Ex : Instead of cutting calories gradually, maybe you just jumped right off to sub 1500 calories zone making it difficult to cut further calories as you metabolically adjust & plateau.
Or, you might have been dieting for more than 16 – 20 weeks & you might not know about how to reverse gradually to maintenance to hang on to those initial results and give your body a break for the hormones to get back to their initial levels.
Signs you’ve been dieting too hard & need a maintenance phase
- You constantly feel fatigued & sluggish in your workouts & are not able to recover properly.
- You’ve hit a plateau in your progress that you can’t break even after trying caloric adjustments & workout adjustments.
- You’ve been experiencing mood swings & feeling mentally foggy.
- You’ve been dieting since forever jumping from one trend to another without ever giving your body a break.
- You’re constantly thinking about food & not able to get your mind off it.
If this feels like you, it would be wise to give your body some time to recover & get your hormonal & metabolism back to normal levels. Eating at maintenance calories will not lead to any weight gain if you’re worried about that.
What it would do instead is prepare your mind and body for a subsequent dieting phase for it to work optimally all the while maintaining you at your current weight. (You might gain a few pounds initially but that might be due to water weight which usually happens if you’re coming out of a low carb diet or a keto diet).
This way, you can shred a few pounds, stay at maintenance for a while, and again go for a dieting phase & shred a few more pounds. This way, it’ll be much easier & efficient to reach your goals.
Remember, it’s a long term thing & patience and periodization to your approach will be critical to your success.