Breaking the Weight Loss/Regain Cycle
A couple of months ago I did a nutrition seminar and used this diagram to address a common cycle associated with weight loss/regain. I was stuck in for years until my body literally collapsed on me, and its way too common especially amongst women. Obviously this is a complex process but I have kept it pretty simple, and it goes a little like this;
1: Excited for new fitness goals, you begin a new program
Everyone who trains is familiar with that buzz of energy you get from new fitness goals, and when you have your new program in your hot little hands. Practically anyone can generate the energy required to perform even the most ridiculous training/nutrition regimes, if the desire to achieve the end result is strong enough.
2: The program is flawed
Most often this is because you are either not eating enough, or you are overtraining for your level of conditioning (or both). I have seen programs that give beginners double sessions, diets with no carbs, ridiculously low calories, poor nutrient/food variety, and given this industry is extremely unregulated its pretty much an ‘anything goes’ situation in some cases. There are also some very well-known online programs that involve massive training loads and very low calories, and are labeled as a ‘lifestyle’. This is fine for short periods of time, but in the long run it can catch up with you
3: Exhaustion and cravings creep in, and hormones start to be disrupted (along with other physiological changes)
Once your body is depleted, like for instance you don’t have enough energy stores in the muscle to continue the training load, or your calories are so low that your body is suffering from starvation, then you will start to crave junk food. Your can find yourself absolutely OBSESSED with food. This can happen at the tail-end of competition prep, but it definitely shouldn’t be happening with long-term lifestyle transformation goals. When this occurs, it’s a sure-fire sign that your body is laying down some foundations for fat-gain. This is simply biology
4: You have a physical or emotional breakdown
This is the part where you have held off food cravings for as long as you can, but suddenly its like you’re possessed and you hit up the supermarket, eating everything in sight. I have done this in the past so I am not judging! This can happen if your body is too depleted. You may find your workouts starting to suffer, your sleep disrupted, or you might start crying for no reason. These are all sure signs that you are trapped in this cycle
5: You end up bingeing, quit the program, and feel like a failure
Based on the occurrences above, you feel like a failure. Most women have an ingrained tendency to blame themselves for falling of the program. This is especially bad if you have done it time and time again. It is normal, and it is not your fault, it is your physiology fighting for its health and it will always win in the end if you try and fight against it. Most often before you gain the motivation to start a new program, you have more body-fat to lose than when you started the previous one.
So, how do you break his cycle? Here are a few suggestions…
Be realistic: About what to expect, what your goals are, what is possible for you, where you are at physically. If you aren’t naturally lean then you can’t expect to change that in a short period of time. If you have never eaten healthy food then you cant expect to eat perfectly overnight. If you have never been active then you cannot take on an advanced training program. This could almost replace number two as realistic expectations can throw anyone off, even if they are on a perfectly designed plan. So, sort your expectations out before you start
Hire a coach, but do your research: Speak to others who have worked with them (whom you trust). Doesn’t matter if you go with a Dietician, a PT, a Health Coach or whatever, all that matters is that you ask them questions; what is their long-term plan for you? What do they suggest is realistic for you? If you are competing, then what is the plan after you have stepped on stage? If you are looking for long-term changes then is this a program you will be able to sustain? Are you being treated as an individual, or receiving the same plan as everyone else? Make sure the professional you choose to work with is interested in your health, especially if you know nothing about it yourself. Any good/experienced health professional knows what is healthy and what is not.
Understand that the ‘go hard or go home’ approach may not be for you: You can get great results by training 5 days a week and eating lots of carbs. Your calories don’t need to be non-existent to achieve a dramatic result. But you need to be patient. Training like a machine when you are not one, will only lead to disaster. Take your time, and listen to your body.
Listen to your body: If your goal is long term result maintenance, then you need to listen to your body to see if what you are doing is healthy. If you’re struggling with fatigue and cravings, and this is overshadowing the results you are getting, and if your mood is fluctuating more than normal, if you can’t sleep properly, then you need to address this before you continue
Take a long-term approach: Weight loss and body transformation is a SLOW process, it needs to be maintainable, healthy, and a lifestyle change in order for the results to stick long-term. Weight loss industries make incredible amounts of money off our desire to achieve things overnight. The only thing you can do to take your power back is understand that there are no quick fixes. So, make it a lifestyle, and one that you enjoy. THIS IS A MUST
Check your idols: A lot of the athletes that my clients look up do (as do I) are not ‘natural’. There is nothing wrong with this, and lets be honest, they are pretty inspirational to any gym-goer. Just keep in mind that athletes who take additional supplements will often not suffer the same consequences of high training loads, and they will gain muscle faster. Just keep this in mind and don’t let comparison get you down.
Hope that helps!
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