A FITNESS BLOGGER ENDED HER DIET??
Before you get yourself all in a twist, let me explain something to you lovely folks: a DIET and a LIFESTYLE are not the same thing!!
I’m sharing this with you because there’s a misconception that a diet lasts forever.
You’re doing it wrong if you’re not miserable and complaining and constantly kvetching about how you wish you could have something but you’re “not allowed”. They’re designed to make you hate life and take away everything you ever loved (cue the mopey face and tears).
Diets can be hard.
Diets can be full of unpleasant things like hunger. (Or hanger.)
But diets are NOT permanent!
Dieting is an art form – and as a figure competitor, the way I used to diet before I learned about nutrition is drastically different from the way I approach dieting now. And now that I’ve started coaching people and hear story after story of failed diets, I thought I’d write up a list of my top three dieting takeaways to help YOU finally succeed with your next diet.
1.There is a starting point and an ending point for all diets.
First, let me clarify by what I mean when I say “diet”: it’s lowering your calorie intake to promote weight loss.
There’s a sweet spot for dieting – to avoid burnout and prevent mental fatigue but still see results, it’s best to run a diet for 8-12 weeks.
Having specific start and end dates helps for several reasons:
You’re less tempted to cheat.
You can easily adjust if and when you hit a plateau – if it happens early in the diet you can make small tweaks to keep losing weight, and if it happens later you can make larger adjustments to get to your final goal.
You can plan it around your life easier – if your summer is full of weddings and family events, you can either diet before or after to make it easier to stick to it. The whole point is to be successful, not to make you a party pooper who goes around crying and slapping cake out of people’s hands when they offer it to you.
2. Start with the least reduction you can do while still seeing progress.
This is the most counter intuitive - but most important - point.
Think back to your last diet.
Did you jump all in, eat way less, work out way more, and then quit because your life was miserable? You probably restricted too much food too soon. Don’t feel bad. It’s super common and completely fixable!
Because your body likes to stay alive, it adapts to lower caloric intake as the diet progresses and the weight loss stalls (hello, plateau!). In order to keep losing weight, you need to either reduce your calories or increase exercise to keep up the deficit.
What this means is that you want some “reserves” built in so that when you plateau, you have room to take away more calories.
Here’s an analogy: if you’re hiking in the desert on a hot summer day, is it smarter to bring along a 20 ounce water bottle, or a hydration system that holds 150 ounces?
If you choose the puny bottle you probably will have to turn back quickly or cut your hike short.
The same principle applies to your diet – you want to start out eating the most you can while still losing weight. This makes it vastly more sustainable because you aren’t reducing your food so much that your body rebels and tells you you really, REALLY want that Chipotle burrito (and pint of Ben & Jerry’s). Once your body gets used to it and plateaus, THEN you can cut back a bit more to get the scale moving again.
3. Have a plan in place when you end your diet.
Think again to your last diet.
What did you do when it ended?
Did you go crazy with fun food that you hadn’t eaten in weeks?
Did you stuff yourself silly because you “deserved it”?
Did you regain whatever you lost after a few weeks and felt like you failed?
If you answered yes you are in good company. But there’s a better way to end your diet so you keep that weight from creeping back.
When you lose weight, your body craves high-calorie food because it wants you to regain the weight you just lost because it thinks you’re starving and wants you to gain the weight back. So it’s only natural to want to eat more, and eat burgers and fries and ice cream.
If you know this is coming in advance – and it will come, believe me! – you can develop a plan to avoid it as much as possible. Here’s what I do when my diet ends to keep the weight off:
I increase my calories by about 500 per day to stop weight loss. Of those 500 calories, I allow some of them to be “fun” foods I didn’t eat while I was dieting - like ice cream, Oreo’s, and barbecue.
I allow myself a weekly cheat meal (MEAL – not day, not weekend) so I can get some cravings out of the way without worrying what it will do to my waistline. If I allow cheat meals any more frequently than that I know that I want to cheat even more - I learned this one the hard way.
I allow myself a 2-3 pound range to stay between. That way I know if I’m over I should tighten back up for a few days – no big deal. For example, I have a target to stay around 157 pounds. That means that my weight can range anywhere between 156 and 159 pounds. This fluctuation is because your body tends to hold water for several reasons, like hormones, sleep, stress, and, of course, what kinds of food you eat. Check out this post I wrote recently to see what a water weight gain looks like. Allowing for this fluctuation lets you see that the 3-4 pounds you gain after a night slamming pizza isn’t all fat, it’s mostly food volume and water. (Of course you don’t want to have those nights too often but just like one healthy meal a week won’t make you svelte, one less healthy meal a week won’t make you fat.)
Nutrition, food, and diets are incredibly personal subjects. And it’s even harder with so many different articles and studies and contradictory advice coming out every day.
This isn’t about changing your entire life to make your food work for you.
This is about realizing that when it comes down to it, it’s more effective to make small changes that lead to lasting results than do crash diet after crash diet that makes you feel like a hamster in a wheel of frustration.
Because when we make small changes to eat better, we treat ourselves better. We carry ourselves with more confidence when we are comfortable in our skin – and that comfort comes from knowing that we care enough about ourselves to make changes that propel us towards a better, healthier life.
All it boils down to is the drive to keep moving and improving, one small but firm change at a time.
Did this make you re-think your approach to dieting? Write your biggest takeaway below and how you’ll implement it into your routine this week.
And stop on by The Inertia Project to learn even more about how to make fitness fit into your life for good.