Losing Weight Is Hard so Here's Some Good News - Not Every Day Has to Be a Diet Day!
Dieting isn’t easy but most of us can drop a few pounds once we set our minds to it and put a little effort in. However, the real struggle lies in knowing how to keep the weight off long-term. This blog has been written to help you do just that.
We don’t have a weight loss problem, we have a weight loss maintenance problem.
Some weight gain is inevitable post-diet but there's nothing more frustrating than being unable to fit into your favourite jeans just a few months after putting in so much hard work. Fortunately, there are ways to minimise the amount that goes back on so you continue to make progress long after your initial success.
One of the best methods to help maintain a body you're happy with is to structure your diet to include short periods when you're not dieting. This article will teach you how to implement these ‘’diet breaks’’ into your life so that not every day has to be a diet day!
We'll look at:
• The All Too Familiar Pattern - The 2 common methods people use to lose weight and why they usually fail
• All Diets Work - Why they work and what it takes for a diet to be deemed truly successful
• A Long-Term Strategy - How a phasic approach to dieting can help you get better results that will last
• Weekly Planning - How you can implement this long-term approach on a week by week basis
• Day to Day - Drilling down further, we'll look at 4 different ways to plan your intake to suit your daily schedule
The information here can massively help you in terms of achieving the weight loss you desire. I hope you find it useful. Please do me a huge favour by sharing it with your friends and family so they can finally get some results that last.
Let's get started!
The All Too Familiar Pattern
Weight loss goals are usually set with an upcoming event in mind such as a holiday, birthday, or wedding. If you’ve ever dieted you’ll know that feeling at the beginning when you’re super motivated and can’t wait to get going. You mark the date on your calendar and nothing's going to stop you!
It's likely you approached it in one of the following ways:
1. Hell for Leather
You choose an extreme and/or restrictive diet method over a short period of time, maybe a few weeks or even just days. Examples being juice diets, detox drinks, Herbalife, meal replacements shakes, Atkins, low carb, cabbage or soup diets etc. You get decent results but feel extremely hungry throughout and the weight goes back on just as fast as you lose it.
2. Steady Eddie
This method provides a little more leeway and you tackle the diet over the course of a few months. You get close to your target weight but the process leaves you so bored and tired of dieting you’re unable to keep it up and you soon revert back to your old eating habits. This is known as diet fatigue.
While both of these methods can produce results at the start, over time they are hard to stick to.
Progress can falter once your initial enthusiasm is lost which leads to frustration and you may feel like giving up completely.
Have you ever told yourself that nothing will work for you? That you can't lose weight because, somehow, your body is different?
This is not uncommon and it can be stressful, but please be assured that you 100% can get results! You just need to know how mainstream diets work and what you need to do in order to make yours a success.
All Diets Work
Most diets on the market promise amazing results quickly and, if you stick to them rigidly, they will work. They do so by severely restricting your caloric intake over a relatively short period of time. When your motivation is high any plan will work for a few weeks. Which is why most diets can claim to be effective.
However, the ''before'' and ''after'' periods of a diet only tell part of the story. What often gets overlooked is when the diet ends. This is really where a diet should be deemed successful or not but very little attention is paid to this post-diet stage.
It's during this ''after-after'' period that many of us hit a plateau. Frequently, this is when weight rebound occurs and before we know it, we're right back at square one. We blame the diet and look for an alternative method but the result is always the same. Which is hardly surprising.
If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got!
This frustrating cycle can last a lifetime for some people. If you've been going round in circles with your diet year after year then ask yourself - is it time for a different approach?
Zooming Out - A Long-Term Strategy
Rather than opt for the mainstream 6, 8, or 12-week diet plans you see advertised everywhere I want you to consider taking a different view of how a diet should work. We're going to extend the length of your diet to last over a period of several months, or even a year.
Stay with me!
If you're about to switch off because the thought of a 6-12 month diet fills you with dread, please don't! This method allows for the diet to be broken down into smaller, more manageable phases which consist of ''easy'' and ''hard'' dieting phases.
Bear in mind that you didn't get out of shape in a few weeks so don't expect to get back in shape in the same amount of time.
Below is an explanation of how to structure a ''phasic'' diet plan. The number of weeks is just an example, you can adjust them to suit your lifestyle and preferences.
The Phase Diet
(Please note the calorie amounts used in the graphics throughout this article are for example purposes. Yours may differ depending on various factors. Please check with your coach)
Phase 1 – We’re fired up and ready to go so it’s an all-out effort for 6-12 weeks. This is a harsh dieting period where your calories are low but you'll see rapid weight loss
Phase 2 – This is when diet fatigue begins to kick-in and where many people get frustrated with the whole process. But not you! For the next 2-4 weeks, you get to take your foot off the pedal for a little respite. You raise calories so you're in a smaller calorie deficit, or you may even go to your maintenance calorie level.
This phase gives you a break from dieting without it hindering your progress. It’s also an opportunity to assess what does and doesn't work for and to build and develop better habits.
Phase 3- After your diet break you go back into a larger calorie deficit for another 6-8 weeks. This might be in the lead up to a holiday, for example. As you begin to get to grips with this whole dieting malarkey you may want to go a step further and start a new exercise programme, increase your steps, or begin to track your protein intake.
The Holiday Period – Congratulations! You stuck to the plan, put the work in, and hit your target weight. You look and feel fantastic in time for your break. Go and enjoy yourself for a week or 2 and don't stress about food or calories.
Phase 4 - The post-holiday transition. If you’re still happy with your weight then you're a lucky so and so! You just need to keep your calories at maintenance level. If, like most people, you’d like to shed a few post-holiday pounds then adjust your calories down and put yourself in a slight calorie deficit for the next 4 weeks. This will ease you back into things after your break. You don't need to be too restrictive here unless you want.
This approach can work for anyone. Rather than exhausting yourself by going ''all out'' for 3 months leading up to your holiday you extend the length of the diet so you can break it up into more manageable chunks This allows you to push hard, take a breather, then go hard again.
Don't view a diet as something you do for 6, 8, or 12 weeks. A good diet is one you can implement years from now. It's a way of life, not a temporary fix. If you change the way you think then you'll change your results.
This method can be used all year round. As mentioned, the number of weeks is an example. You can incorporate this around busy periods of your life as you please.
A Summary of Long Term/Phasic Dieting
Helps with Adherence - Rather than an exhausting 3 month ''all out'' dieting period you get to break it up into more manageable chunks. Anywhere from 4-12 weeks at a time.
Breaks the Diet into Phases- The number of weeks I’ve used is just an example, you can adjust this to fit around busy periods of travel, holidays, work, or home life, however, you please.
Reduces Diet Fatigue – Raising calories back up to maintenance levels gives you break from dieting and helps to raise your motivation levels.
More Food - This doesn't really need an explanation. Dieting sucks so the chance to eat more during the maintenance phases is not only enjoyable but it puts you in the right frame of mind so you can smash the next phase of your diet.
Helps to Develop Good Habits - During the easier phases, you can assess how far you have come and what you have learnt. It gives you a chance to reinforce those new habits.
It Provides Structure - Just telling yourself that you're ''going on a diet'' is not going to work. A long-term plan with a flexible structure will help to increase your adherence to the diet.
Breaking it Down - Weekly Planning
Time for the nitty-gritty! Now we'll break down the long-term approach above and show you how to apply it on a week by week basis.
Your daily calorie intake may change based on your lifestyle, preferences, work, and social commitments. This is known as non-linear dieting, or simply, not having the same number of calories on each day of the week.
Your daily intake will be governed by your total weekly allowance. Many of us prefer to consume more on the weekends when we spend time with family or friends so it makes sense to reduce our intake from Mon-Fri. This gives you a ‘surplus’ to play with while still remaining within your weekly allowance.
Here are 2 popular ways to structure your diet to give you a bit more flexibility.
The 5:2 Diet
With The 5:2 Diet, the week is divided into 5 days of normal eating and 2 days with a greatly reduced calorie intake. Psychologically, this can be easier for some people as it only feels ''hard'' for 2 days out of 7.
It doesn't matter which days of the week you restrict your calories. You can adjust this week by week to suit your schedule. I have used Tuesday & Friday as an example as you may find it easier to do during the working week and it allows for more freedom on the weekends.
If you do try out the 5:2 diet I highly recommend your lower calorie days coincide with rest days from the gym or when your activity levels are lower than normal.
You could develop this even further and make every other day a low-calorie day. This is known as Alternate Day Fasting (ADF). The pros being, the more fast days there are, the less rigid you need to be with your diet on the normal days. However, the ADF approach is very inflexible and pretty extreme so it's hard for most people to stick to long-term.
Higher Calorie Weekends
Let's face it, most of us consume more calories on the weekend. We don't always account for that quick beer or cocktail, the pizza while out shopping, or that 3 am kebab and chips. This can be severely detrimental to our weight loss goals as it's all too easy to reverse a good week of diet and exercise in just 24 hours.
However, if you know you're going to be ''out on the town'' you can structure your diet to account for this so you don't reverse all of your hard work. It requires a bit of effort from Monday to Friday but you benefit from being able to ease off on your diet on Saturday and Sunday.
You may only need one higher calorie day per weekend. If that's the case, you can allocate the remaining calories to your weekdays to make them more manageable. Again, this is interchangeable. You can plan each week as it comes.
The key here is to always have an eye on your weekly calorie allowance. Providing you don't exceed that amount you are guaranteed to lose weight each week. That's science!
Day to Day
There are numerous ways to manipulate your daily calorie allowance. If you are someone who gets peckish often then dividing your intake evenly over the day will work best for you. But there are others options.
The 4 examples below illustrate how you can structure your day to make the process of dieting feel easier and to help you stick with it long-term.
As with everything in this article you have the freedom to mix and match depending on your schedule. If you are busy in the morning you may not feel like eating. That is totally fine. There is no truth in the ''breakfast is the most important meal of the day'' mantra.
Consuming more calories during the latter part of the day, or ''late loading'', may help you stick to your diet. Adherence is key to success so test the different approaches and see which works best for you.
A Further Word on Meal Frequency
Until recently it was believed that eating little and often would keep our metabolism fired up and was therefore beneficial for fat loss. This isn’t true.
Weight loss comes down to one formula: Calories In versus Calories Out.
The number of meals you have on any given day has no bearing on this. Eating little and often can prevent some people from overeating or binging but it’s really down to personal preference. If you want to eat 4-6 times a day, then do so. You may like a traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That's cool too.
You may prefer to skip breakfast completely and have 2 larger meals later in the day. In the fitness world, this is known as Intermittent Fasting. If you'd like more information on this please check out my 'Beginners Guide to Intermittent Fasting' article here.
Dieting over a prolonged period is tough. Your willpower and early enthusiasm will quickly erode so it helps to have some kind of structure in place to combat this.
The short, medium and long-term methods outlined in this article can help you move towards your goals while allowing breaks from your diet without it stalling your progress.
Be mindful that, despite what you may hear or read about, there is no one diet that is superior to another. The ''best'' diet is the one you can stick to.
As with anything that's fitness and diet-related it's about finding out what works best for you. Test the methods outlined here and refine them until you find an approach you enjoy and can adhere to long enough for fat loss to occur.
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