A lot of times we jump the gun on things in life.
Like buying a new car when the old car that is paid off works just fine. Then realizing there is that $400 car payment and after a few months you are second guessing your decision.
Or that job you took because of the money, but didn’t realize the stress that would come with it.
Or that relationship you got into that….I won’t go there.
Well, people also jump in to weight loss at times when they simply aren’t ready to lose weight. There are two times when you should NOT be “trying” to lose weight, because more likely than not you will end up frustrated, beaten down mentally and maybe even gain weight because the timing wasn’t right!
Circumstance #1: Life is in the way.
The timing of your personal life, social life, relationship status, current job etc all should be taken in to account before you embark on a weight loss journey. If you are in a new relationship with someone you really enjoy spending time with and that person doesn’t have any interest in your gym sessions, meal prep and macros what are you probably going to end up doing? Well, if you really like this significant other you are going to make sacrifices for the sake of impressing (or not pissing off) this person. This means you might slip back in to old habits of eating out too much, skipping the gym for a happy hour, not sleeping as much as your body needs. All things that are just part of a new relationship…I have been there. There is nothing wrong with those things as long as you do one thing. You must tell yourself this is NOT the BEST time to lose weight. You might have all the right intentions, but you only have time for so much stuff in your 24 hour day and prioritizing the other person in a new relationship is a ‘must’ if you want it to continue. I am not saying losing weight when starting a new relationship is impossible…but you can’t deny you have done all the things I just described above.
If you get a new job and you must (or feel obligated) to stay late and work OT you might miss gym time. This can take weeks or months some times and before you know it you have lost some progress. Trying to force yourself in to a calorie deficit or strict new diet plan when you already have enough new stress on your plate is asking for disaster.
I get push back on this….ALL THE TIME. Clients always say “nooo I will be fine, give me the low calories!” Or, “the strict plan will help me stay accountable.” Well, time and time and time again those low calorie plans that worked so well when their “life wasn’t in the way” don’t work when stress is elevated, there is a new significant other around or a family member just died.
In these circumstances I would argue you are NOT ready to lose weight. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, because if there is one quote you always remind yourself of it is this:
“You can’t learn to lose weight until you can learn how to maintain weight.”
Please…I am literally begging you to listen to this advice because I see too many people, try and fail at this. When your stress levels are up, focus on maintaining where you are at RIGHT NOW. The timing MUST be right in your life to make sacrifices and if the timing is wrong and you still try, you are going to end up worse off. Maintaining weight is always looked at as a waste of time, but if you can’t maintain your current weight, fitness level or health how can you ever improve it??
Circumstance #2: You are not eating enough right now
I get two types of weight loss clients who walk in the door to work with me.
Client A is the standard American over eater. Someone who would admit to eating too much at dinner, having ice cream every night and over indulging on the weekends. This type of client is easy for me to work with from a mindset standpoint. Most people know if you eat less food you will lose weight. So, when I have this client drop his or her calories or start watching portions it logically makes sense to them. We are on the same page! Yay.
Client B is the also the standard American who has been on a “diet” for months or years with little to no results to show for it. Someone who has probably tried every diet from South Beach to Atkins yet still wants or needs to lose 20-75lbs. Often times this client is an under eater instead of an over eater. This client usually has lost weight in the past by slashing calories below 1000 per day, or taking out all carbs or not eating any fruit. Anything that is overly restrictive and gives short term results is usually something this client has tried. This is becoming more and more common with the growth of the “diet” industry. The big thing I want to focus on here though is, when this client comes to me eating much less food than their body needs to be eating to maintain their current weight. I am going to throw some numbers at you now…because I think they help this all make sense a little better.
Here are two examples to look at:
- Client A is a 29 year old male who comes in weighing 275lbs, a BF% of 33% and eating on average 3000 calories per day. With this age, weight and BF% he should be eating around 2600-2800 calories to MAINTAIN his weight (lets assume he is pretty sedentary). Since he is eating 3000 calories per day, this explains why he has gained 10lbs over the past 3 months. Eat more food = gain weight. Science! So, I have Client A start a 500 calorie deficit on 6 days per week (with one day of cheat meal) so he is now eating 2100 calories on 6 days per week. This client, in most cases, will begin to lose scale weight and body fat. Why? Because he was already eating enough food to lose weight. He had not been eating much less than his maintenance calories (the healthy amount of calories needed to maintain his weight) so I could drop his calories right away to spark weight loss. He is READY to lose weight from a physiological perspective because he was not a chronic under eater.
- Client B is also a 29 year old male who comes in weighing 275lbs, a BF% of 33% and eating on average ONLY 1500 calories per day. Again, with the same age, weight, BF% and activity level (sedentary) this client should also be eating 2600-2800 calories to MAINTAIN his weight of 275lbs. Why is he maintaining weight eating 1500 calories per day while Client A can eat over 1000 calories more?? Well, you see, your body adapts to whatever you have it do. His body has adapted to these 1500 calorie days and as much as he tries to keep losing weight eating this amount of food, he simply won’t…YET. He has probably been on this “lower” calorie diet for some time (weeks or months) and he probably saw some weight loss initially, but it stopped. His body adapted to the lower calories and dropping them any lower would simply be too painful. He is NOT ready to lose weight because if I had him jump his calories back to 2100 like Client A he might actually gain weight! No good. Remember, more calories in your body = weight gain. Less calories in your body = weight loss. BUT, you can’t always stay at low calories because your body will adapt and weight loss will stall.
So, we figured out what to do with Client A to spark weight loss…drop his calories..for a few weeks.
But, what do we do with Client B who is just NOT physiologically ready to lose weight? Remember, you can’t just say “I am starting a diet” and will yourself to lose weight. The body doesn’t work that way. Science always rules supreme and in the case of Client B he needs to be patient. I will have him reverse diet or add 100-150 calories back in to his day each week until his body is used to consuming the HEALTHY amount of calories he needs to MAINTAIN his weight. This means I will build him back to 2600-2800 calories before dropping his calories to 2100 to spark weight loss. Science!
OK, this was probably very confusing. In short, if you are an under eater or restrictive eater you are not ready for weight loss. You must…absolutely MUST…slowly start eating more food before you can lose weight. There is simply no way around it…science says so and there are enough anecdotal case studies out there to prove this. This type of client is always much more of a challenge (in a good way!) for me because requires a re-wiring of your brain and how you think about weight. Eating more food doesn’t lead to weight loss, but eating more food can PRIME YOUR BODY FOR WEIGHT LOSS. This is a tough concept to get down if you have been a restrictive eater for years. This takes time and patience and a mindset shift..
But, what doesn’t take time, patience and a mindset shift?
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