For many people, fitness seems to be something that has a start and an end date, as if you just have to do the right things for your body just for a certain period of time and not for your whole life…
This is the reason why there are many trends like 90-days fat loss challenges, 30-day strong core challenges, etc.
The problem with these is that such trends are often not sustained by people participating in them. We have really tried with our two NutriChallenges to respond to that problem, by layering in levels of complexity and building healthy habits one week at a time.
In this article, we are going to break down the process of dieting and weight loss, how it affects the body, and what you should do once you reach your goals.
What Is Dieting?
A “diet” is a nutrition regimen, that puts your body into a “caloric deficit” – hypocaloric.
This simply means you are eating less food than your body needs to maintain its weight.When you are in a caloric deficit, your body starts burning fat to compensate for that deficit in energy. (1)
And while for you this may mean looking better and feeling good about yourself, for the body it can be perceived as controlled starvation.
During a period of time eating in a caloric deficit, your body recognizes that there isn’t sufficient energy.
To deal with this problem, the body slows down all of its processes to ultimately preserve energy. (2)
It does this by reducing Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) and muscle mass. The NEAT is everything else you do in a day apart from exercise. Your body will make you sit more and move less to reduce your calorie expenditure.
The longer you are on a caloric deficit, the slower your metabolism gets and what was once your caloric deficit, eventually turns into maintenance calories. Having a strategy to counter this can be productive longer term:
Taking diet breaks every 6 weeks or so of dieting can be used as a tool to mitigate the decreases of your metabolic rate. These are periods of eating at maintenance, where no significant changes in weight are observed.
These can be:
- Eating in excess (within reason) once a week,
- Eating at maintenance for a week before reducing calories again,
- Or purposefully cycling your calorie intake daily during the week.
Your Post-Diet Approach
Now, as you just learned, throughout your diet, your metabolism slows down and you lose weight.
At one point, you will reach the desired body shape… And then what?
Well, the short answer is – Keep doing what you were doing to get you there!
That is, being active, eating good food, recovering well, and staying hydrated.
Nevertheless, due to the fact that your metabolism is slower at the end of your diet, there are things you have to do, in order to avoid sudden weight gain.
Most people who lose a lot of weight, gain all of it and some more back in TWICE AS LESS TIME as it took them to lose it.
This is because people think of losing weight as a process with a start and end date.
And the truth is that it really isn’t. Weight loss is about a shift in habits, which is sustained over the long term and made into part of your self-care routine.
How To Keep The Weight Off
Here are our best tips to keep the weight off after losing it:
Slowly increase your calories
By slowly upping your food intake, you will signal the body that it is safe, has energy, and can speed up its processes.
If you give the body too much energy (food) too suddenly, you will gain fat again.
On the other hand, however, if you increase food gradually and keep activity high, your metabolism will skyrocket!
Gradually increase training intensity
During a period of weight loss, your training intensity and effort output are slightly lower, due to the deficit in energy.
After you have reached your desired shape, however, you can transition into adding more food to your daily nutrition plan but also increasing training intensity.
Monitor, adjust & stay consistent
Keeping good track of your nutrition and workouts after your diet is over is essential if you want to keep the weight off.
Quite simply, your main goal is to avoid spikes in weight gain – Just like you avoid weight loss spikes during fat loss periods.
Adjustments should be made 250 calories at a time for two weeks, then reassess!
Use a fitness tracking app
Keep track of your calories and macros occasionally to make sure you are not ‘falling off the rails’. We find that MyFitnessPal is excellent for this. Tracking workouts and your performance improvements is great with beyondthewhiteboard.
Stay with the basics
Always stay with the basics: Eat lean protein, vegetables, seeds and nuts with some fruit, little starch and no sugar.
Weight loss is a gradual process, to which the body responds by slowing down its metabolic processes, especially if the diet is extreme and below your BMR.
As you diet down and exit the diet, you are in a state where your metabolism is slower and if you go back to eating the way you were you are going to gain all the weight back and more.
This is why you have to be smart and do a reverse diet, where you gradually increase your caloric intake and training intensity while keeping track of your progress and adjusting the plan every two weeks if needed.
In doing all of this, you maximize your chances for long term health by creating a new set of behavioral patterns & habits.