At any one time there are 600 million people worldwide who would regard themselves as being “on a diet”. The positive news is that a large proportion of these will lose weight! Yet unfortunately, very few individuals maintain this weight loss, with the majority of them returning to their original weight within a couple of years.
As we know, weight loss is achieved by a calorie deficit (i.e. intaking less calories then you expend in a day). A huge influencing factor of this is of course what you eat. So we can be pretty certain that if you lose weight with a dietary change, and then put it back on, you’ve probably stopped following that change. So why does this happen? And how should you approach a long-term “diet”?
How long does weight loss take?
It’s advised that when you change your diet to start losing weight, you should not further than a 20% decrease in calories below what you need to maintain your weight. This is for a lot of reasons, such as holding on to muscle mass and reducing metabolic slowdown from the physical side, as well as making it easier to stick to from the psychological angle (I will do an article in the future discussing if no more than 20% is good advice, so make sure to Like my Facebook page to ensure you don’t miss it!).
So let’s run the numbers for a typical individual. Let’s say Frank wants to lose 3 stones. It’s commonly accepted that 1 pound of body fat needs a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose (although this has repeatedly been shown as inaccurate, it is accurate enough to allow us to understand this point).
So to lose 3 stone Frank would need a total calorie deficit of 147,000 calories. If he is a typical male, needing 2,500 calories per day to maintain his weight, then a 20% deficit would allow him to be down by 500 calories per day. And so to lose the 4 stone he desires would take Frank 294 days, or just under 10 months.
This is waaaay longer than the majority of us would want to wait. And so, we typically hit calorie deficits of a lot more than 20% to speed up the process. This can definitely be argued as a good strategy (seriously, Like my Facebook page to learn why in the future. To be fair you may as well give my Youtube channel a subscription whilst you’re at it =] ). But unfortunately, this “like a bat out of hell!!” approach is also a large contributing factor to why we revert back to our old eating habits.
What’s the problem with big calorie deficits?
So if 30%, 40%, 50% or even 60% deficits can cause weight loss so well, what’s the issue? Well, we could consider how difficult it is to actually stick to such a large deficit. There are multiple physical and psychological reasons why doing so would be difficult (again keep an eye on my social media for some advice on this in the future. I might put this one on my Body Vision Facebook page, so make sure you Like that here and the Youtube channel here).
But today we aren’t looking at diets and weight loss, but rather diets and weight loss maintenance. So where’s the issue here?
Well, it comes down to the strategies you have available. Changing what and how you eat is a highly strategic endeavour. You need to learn how to cook different items and how to structure your day to allow you to follow the diet. Having no strategy is unfortunately what got you into the position of needing weight loss in the first place…
So when you use a very restrictive calorie diet, once you reach your goal weight, you feel satisfied. Like you’ve crossed a finish line. You’ve done it! Yet the underlying issue is that your diet begins to revert back to the only other strategy you have strongly established. The one that caused you to gain weight in the first place.
This never happens immediately. I’m not saying you reach your goal weight and go straight back to nailing chocolate cake! But over time, usually six months to a year, you’ll find yourself creeping back into your old habits.
So what’s the solution?
To overcome this problem is a question of strategy! You had an approach to lose weight, be it a Weight Watchers plan, a specific way of eating (maybe intermittent fasting) or by cutting certain things out of your diet. And that allowed you to drop the pounds! Now we need a new strategy, that isn’t focused on dropping weight, but on not putting weight on.
So how should you go about this? Well firstly, it has to be enjoyable! You will see this repeated over and over again in Body Development Centre and Body Vision’s sites, articles, services and videos. But it’s because, for permanent change, it is the key key factor!
A key part of enjoyment is a feeling of autonomy. A sense that you get to choose what you want to do. This relates to not only feeling controlled by others but feeling personally restricted by rules you have given yourself.
Therefore, you have to create guidelines to follow, instead of restrictive rules. I’ve given a few examples below to help you see the difference.
Rule: I cannot eat chocolate.
Guideline: I’ll have chocolate once or twice a week.
Rule: I can’t eat before 10am or after 6pm.
Guideline: I’ll eat only when I’m sure I am hungry.
Rule: I can only drink smoothies for breakfast and lunch.
Guideline: I’ll have smoothies for meals in the week, but I’ll probably do something more interesting at the weekend.
As you can see, often guidelines could be argued to be rules. They are usually more flexible, but they still are argued as creating barriers to choice. So what’s the real difference between them? Language! How you state things is incredibly important! If you tell yourself “I can’t” or “I’m not allowed” then you will feel restricted. Yet if you change the language to “I choose to” or “I’ve decided” then you begin to feel like you have the autonomy, and you have decided on this path.
There are a set of Do’s and Don’ts around diet, popularized by Michael Pollan in his book In Defense Of Food which are a great place to start your weight maintenance guidelines. I’ll be releasing a video outlining them in a couple of days, but hopefully, I’ll have remembered to also link it here. It will of course also be posted on Body Development Centre’s Facebook and Youtube channel.
Of course, if you have any follow-up questions, then feel free to drop me a comment or a message. And if you’d like to book me as your personal trainer then good news! As always I am available for face to face sessions at my studio in Leicester (obviously not until this lockdown finishes). But if you aren’t based in Leicestershire, or even if you are but it would be easier for you to not come over to Groby, then you can now access my full personal training services online! So just drop me a message, and I’ll happily sign you up!
And for those who cannot afford to work with me, don’t fret! Not only will I be providing free information on the Body Development Centre social media channels, but I also create even more content on the Body Vision Facebook and Youtube pages. So there is a wealth of advice with a focus on sustained and enjoyable weight loss available to you.
Finally, if you’re looking for a sweet hairdo to go with your rocking body, then check out my wife’s Instagram page, Here Come The Blondes! She’s also available on Facebook! Like it to get loads of awesome content soon!
Until next time though, take care, and have a great day!