DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE BEEN “DIETING” FOR YEARS, YET LOOK AND WEIGH THE SAME (IF NOT MORE) THAT WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED? DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE EATING LESS AND LESS, YET GAINING MORE AND MORE?
YOU’RE NOT ALONE. OVER 100 MILLION PEOPLE DIET EACH YEAR. BUT WHAT MAY BE MORE ALARMING IS THAT MANY OF THESE SAME PEOPLE REPORT DIETING FOUR OR FIVE TIMES PER YEAR!
STOP DIETING. GIVE YOUR MIND AND BODY THE BREAK IT NEEDS TO FINALLY MAKE THE PROGRESS YOU DESIRE!

Note: The following story is not based on one single person. Laura is not a real-life example. This story is a combination of the many dieting histories I’ve heard working with more than 700 people 1:1 combined into one lengthy narrative aimed at painting the picture of how common and easy it is to get into a pattern of on and off dieting as if you’re stuck on never-ending rollercoaster of up and down weight fluctuations.

Laura has tried countless diets the past few years. There was the low-carb approach she used to get summer ready, the restrictive 30-day approach she took later that year to fit into her bridesmaid’s dress, and that brief stint with keto, too. For whatever reason, there always seems to be an event or occasion that she is dieting for.

Each time she embarked on a new diet, though, it seemed like the number of pounds she was trying to lose had grown. Initially, it was only a few pounds to make sure she wore her bikini better than ever. Yet this year, her goal was 15 pounds to get ready for a family vacation.

Despite years of “dieting,” how can it be that she not only wants to still lose weight but that now she suddenly has more weight to lose than before?

Allow me to explain…

THE FIRST DROP AND CLIMB OF THE ROLLERCOASTER RIDE

Two summers ago, Laura wanted to drop a few pounds to feel more confident in her bikini. She had multiple vacations planned with friends and family, and given she was a 25-year old single woman, she wanted to look her best in case “Mr. Right” happened to be there, too. To help her achieve her goal, Laura cut back on alcohol, forgot about fast food, and exercised regularly. To her delight, she lost the weight she desired in six short weeks and ended up having a wonderful vacation.

Throughout the countless summer trips and vacations, Laura’s healthy eating and exercise habits quickly faded. By the end of the summer, she weighed a few pounds more than her pre-summer weight and was only making it to the gym once or twice per week.

Laura struggled to find any semblance of consistency during the Fall and Winter months. The cold and crappy weather were often major deterrents from dragging her butt to the gym after work and there appeared to be some holiday or celebration treat at the office each week.

Who says no to double fudge brownies?

And peanut butter cookies?

And homemade cheesecake?

Not I. And unfortunately, not Laura, either.

Catching up with her best friends while home for the Holidays, Laura was asked to be the maid of honor in her best friend’s wedding. She was beyond ecstatic! The Wedding was in late May, which meant Laura had five months to get her butt back in shape so that she could look her best in that bridesmaid’s dress.

When Laura returned home she renewed her gym membership for the year and started devising a plan to meal prep and eat healthily. Unfortunately, life happened. Laura took on more responsibility at work and ended up working 10 more hours per week as a result. Getting to the gym at 5:30 pm was tough enough, but trying to go at 7:30 pm after a 10-hour work day proved to be too much. By late February, she hadn’t made any true change to her eating and exercise habits. And the scale showed that.

One night in early March, she sat on the couch wrapped in her favorite blanket eating a bowl of easy mac. The doorbell rang and a package had arrived for her. It was a special “thank you” gift from her best friend thanking her for being her maid of honor. This brought Laura immense joy, but also made her realize that the wedding was less than three months away. She literally feared what she’d look like had she needed to wear a dress anytime soon.

Finally, the kick in the pants she needed had arrived.

March through May, Laura spent a large majority of her mornings on the treadmill. She frequently ditched dinner with friends in favor of chicken and broccoli at home and not once did she give in to an office treat. By the time the wedding rolled around, she was pleased with how she looked. But the way she felt, well, let’s just say that most days Laura was hungry, irritable, and tired. Sure, the weight came off, but whether it was worth it is only a question she can answer. Her approach to fitting into that bridesmaid’s dress was far from sustainable.

UP AND DOWN, UP AND DOWN

Fast forward 18 months, and Laura was involved in an ongoing struggle with her weight and the scale. She’d been dieting on and off for nearly three years now and had hit her highest weight to date. With an upcoming family vacation planned to the Caribbean, Laura was determined to ditch the weight once and for all. Unfortunately, she again resorted to extreme methods to accomplish this goal. She cut carbohydrates, ramped up her morning cardio, and said “no, thank you” to social events.

Surprising everyone, including herself, Laura stuck to her pre-Caribbean diet for three months and as vacation time neared, she looked the best she had in years. Of course, this came at the expense of less social time with friends, regular dates with the stair master machine, and eating chicken and broccoli every day, but nonetheless, she was looking good and the scale confirmed it.

Two weeks before the trip, though, she was not quite where she wanted to be and movement on the scale had become stagnant. To “finish strong” Laura made one last adjustment – bye-bye carbs– and made fasted cardio a part of her daily routine.

A REPEATED WRONG TURN – THE LOOP DE DIET

As soon as Laura set foot on the white beaches of the Caribbean islands, it was as if she’d forgotten everything she’d learned and practiced regarding portion control and consistent exercise. She was guzzling calories by the minute in the form of frozen cocktails, ordering portions fit for a family, and capitalizing on the all you can eat meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She had deprived herself of any enjoyment related to food the past few months and the thought of exercise made her feel fatigued instantly.

Once Laura returned home from her vacation, she was anxious about stepping on the scale. She knew she’d let loose a bit too much while away and feared to see the “damage” she’d done. Despite losing 15 pounds prior to her vacation, the number displayed early the next morning left her right at her pre-diet weight.

“How could this be?” she exclaimed to herself in disbelief.

Laura’s body had grown accustomed to significantly fewer calories during her rollercoaster history of dieting. Combined with a prolonged period with excessive calories – over the course of 10 days, not one day or one meal – it makes sense that her body felt overwhelmed with so many calories and stored a large majority.

After a 24-hour period of emotional eating, Laura mustered up the courage to pull herself together and made a commitment to herself to get back to her pre-vacation weight. She immediately jumped back onto her end of diet nutrition plan.

Within two weeks, however, her weight loss stalled. Though she had been following her nutrition plan 100 percent and training hard, she had only made a small dent in the weight she gained over vacation. Assuming the only options she had were to further reduce calories and increase exercise, that’s exactly what she did.

This would prove to be her biggest downfall yet…

EXPLAINING THE ROLLERCOASTER RIDE

Your body views dieting as a stress.

That’s because eating fewer calories than you need pushes your body outside of its comfort zone, also known as your body fat set point – the range of body fat percentage (or weight) that your body feels most comfortable at. To get back into its comfort zone, your body triggers several adaptations to influence you away from your dieting behaviors and back to its comfort zone.

Say hello to your two new friends: hunger and fatigue.

To rid the calorie deficit you’ve created by eating less and exercising more, your body prioritizes energy conservation and alters the balance of appetite hormones to favor a state of hunger.

Diet-Induced Adaptations

  • Decreased resting metabolic rate
  • Decreased thermic effect of food
  • Decreased exercise and non-exercise activity thermogenesis
  • Decreased thyroid hormone (T3) production
  • Decreased leptin

The longer you diet, or, the harsher the measures you take – think very-low- calories and excessive exercise – the more pronounced these adaptations become. So, after a long diet, your body is now accustomed to eating very few calories. Should you decide to abruptly break your diet – as Laura did many times – rather than gradually increasing calories (and decreasing exercise) as part of a maintenance phase – your body becomes overwhelmed. Given that the deficit you exposed it to for so long was a form of stress, your body protects itself against future stress by storing all excess calories it can get its hands on when available.

The past few years, Laura’s calorie intake alternated between highs and low, but her metabolism was never able to keep up with the speed of change. This led to quick storage of body fat and an immediate rise on the scale when she first broke from her unsustainable approaches, followed by a battle trying to go back down.

Can you relate?

GET OFF THE ROLLERCOASTER

Laura’s rollercoaster dieting history could’ve been avoided by several strategies:

  • She could have taken a must sustainable approach to weight loss…
  • She could’ve transitioned out of her diet in a more conservative manner…
  • She could’ve taken a longer break between diets…
  • She could’ve relied on other indicators of progress besides the scale, such as her energy, exercise performance, body composition changes, and well-being…

Easier said than done, I know.

Do you, too, feel like you’re constantly dieting, but going nowhere?

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Stop Dieting- Seriously. Stop! Get off the vicious rollercoaster and take charge of your health.
  2. Cut back on weigh-in frequency- The scale is only one piece of the progress puzzle. At this time, it’s not your main focus (nor should it ever be, but that’s a story for a different day). Instead, start paying attention to your energy (and attitude) inside and outside the gym.
  3. Increase your calories by 10 percent- If you’re accustomed to eating 1,200 calories per day, add an additional 120 to your day. I’ll be up front with you—yes, that number on the scale may creep up initially, but if you stay the course, it will revert back to your end of diet norm in due time as your metabolism begins to ramp back up.
  4. Stay patient and consistent- As you increase calories, you’ll note that you begin feeling more energetic, and your gym performance begins to improve as well. Your next step is to yet again, increase calories. Yes, this may make you anxious, but it will further fuel the positive changes you desire.

Think about it: adding more calories will help to further jumpstart your slowed metabolism, support healthy hormone levels (think thyroid hormone and appetite hormones), as well as provide you with more energy to tackle the day and your workouts. The latter will allow you to train harder, and maybe finally put on that muscle mass you’ve been chasing all these years.

  1. Hire an Expert Coach- You’ll benefit immensely from the second pair of eyes while going through this process. Making the transition from focusing solely on the scale to the scale being a nearly non-existent component of your progress is difficult to wrap your mind around. But it’s necessary. Having the support and encouragement you need while outside of your comfort zone will prevent you from making rash decisions to cut calories or add exercise, and ultimately will place you in a position where you’re eating significantly more food, performing better than ever, yet weight nearly the same as when you ended your diet. It’s pretty sweet what the body is capable of when you fuel it appropriately and patiently.

A few months ago, I put filmed six Facebook Live videos (be sure to “Like” me on Facebook!) detailing expectations and strategies to successfully transition from a dieting phase to a maintenance phase. I highly encourage you to watch these videos:

  1. The #1 Mistake People Make After A Diet
  2. Understanding and Expecting Change After A Diet
  3. Why Is My Weight Increasing [After A Diet]?
  4. Setting New Goals After A Diet
  5. How And When To Incorporate Free Meals After A Diet
  6. How Long Should I Stay On Maintenance After A Diet?

Enjoy! And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to message me on Facebook or to send me an email to paul@paulsaltercoaching.com