Do you know what the main reason most diets fail is? – The inability to keep the weight off!
Check this out: the weight regain statistics according to the American Psychological Assossiation:
70% of people fail to maintain their weight in the first year
85% in the second and
95% in the third!
This is shocking! It means that 95% of us going on a diet will gain all the weight back in under 3 years. And that’s not all. There’s new evidence that with rapid weight loss and weight regain cycles or yo-yo, we gain more fat cells than we had in the first place. Which means our comfortable body weight increases every time we yo-yo. Essentially we get fatter and fatter every time we yo-yo. This explains the hardships of losing weight after seemingly ‘trying everything under the sun’.
More on that in this article.
Here’s one thing we can conclude from the above: we don’t face a weight loss problem, we face a weight maintenance problem. Now how do we go about that?
Think back to the last time you finished a diet, what did you do, say to yourself? Something along the lines of ‘ah I’m so glad it’s over, now I can finally eat pizza and doughnuts’ or ‘Yay! I reached my ideal body weight, let’s celebrate’ or ‘Oh I worked so hard, I deserve a break!’
This is a classic response after a diet, I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all been there. There are psychological and physiological processes involved in this, mostly to do with the diet being very restrictive and therefore unsustainable, but that’s beyond the scope of this article. If you want to know more, check it out here.
So what’s the best strategy for after the diet? I’m glad you asked! You won’t wanna hear it, but it’s another diet.
The main thing that happens in your body when you lose weight is your metabolism slows down (check out the reasons for it below; it’s not what you think!)
A more in-depth discussion on what happens when you lose weight you can find in this article.
Your metabolism slows down! Why? Because:
you’ve lost weight so you’ve become a smaller person and therefore require less calories, therefore your BMR will decrease;
depending on your diet, you might also move less because of lack of energy, therefore your NEAT will decrease;
your body becomes efficient at utilising the scarce calories it’s getting, this is caused by certain physiological mechanisms involved in metabolic adaptation.
Your main goal when you come off a diet is to maintain the most weight lost while increasing your metabolism by as much as possible. Think about it, your body’s processes have slowed down over the course of the diet, going back to eating the way you used to straightaway, will only result in one thing – gaining all the weight back. Now that doesn’t mean you’ll never be off diet; quite the opposite, the diet after the diet is a careful approach to increasing your metabolism while gaining the least amount of fat possible.
To do that, you need a more delicate approach than stuffing your face. And here’s the breakdown of it:
Have a plan (the plan must include the following 2 conditions)
Maintain/Increase exercise intensity(maintain the intensity of exercise you had during the diet, if you haven’t exercised, now it’s time to start)
Maintain/Reverse diet – I’m going to expand on that.
Before you finish your diet, make a solid plan for what you’ll be doing when it’s finished. This plan should include: exercise and a maintenance or reverse diet. Let me explain..
Number 1. Maintain your current level of exercise – this is so important! Exercise burns calories, boosts the metabolism and it has been shown to reduce your body’s set weight point (your body has a comfortable weight it likes sitting at, this is usually not the weight we’re happy with, exercise has been shown to decrease that!)
Number 2. Know your calories! – This is crucial!
Here’s an example of what you can do: Know what your current calorie intake is when you’re on your diet. When you’re off the diet, start increasing that by 100-200 kcals a day and monitor your weight, it will initially go up, but give it a week and it should calibrate to the same or slightly higher, then bring the calories up by another 100 kcal, keep monitoring your weight and so keep doing that until you’ve gained 1-2 pounds. Don’t panic! This process is meant to add some weight on, but it won’t be nearly as much as you’d add doing your usual yo-yo. Bear with me.
At this point you have reached your maintenance calories. It’s going to be a pretty low maintenance for you at this point, so we’re going to work on increasing that.
Note: During this process it’s crucial to increase the intensity of your resistance workouts; if you haven’t started lifting weights yet, this is the time to start.
Number 3. Keep your protein high. As I’ve discussed in my previous article, your meals should be planned around protein. When your calories are low and you’re increasing the instensity of your exercise that’s especially important! Aim for at least 0.8g/lb of body weight. The rest should be split among fats and carbs, it’s up to you how you do that, as long as you don’t exceed the calories in your plan.
Note: If you’re happy with the maintenance calories you’ve reached and are certain you can maintain this lifestyle for years, then stop here, you don’t need to do anything else. If you’re finding them too low to enjoy life, then read on.
Number 4. Track diligently as long as it takes. This has to be the hardest step and it’s definetly not for everyone. You need to ask yourself how much weight are you willing to gain back in order to increase your metabolism? How long are you willing to be disciplined and meticulous with your diet? Are you able to stay away from all temptation? Is it worth it?
If you absolutely refuse to gain anymore weight, you’ll be tracking your workouts and foods diligently, keeping the protein high and increasing the calories by 60-100 a week! Yes, it’s crazy small, but if you want to stay as lean as possible while increasing your metabolism, that’s your best bet. And it accumulates: 100 kcals a week, becomes 1000 kcals in 10 weeks, that’s 140 kcals a day extra. It’s a painfully slow process and now it’s clear to see why there’s not many of us walking around with a 6-pack and why the diets fail so badly.
If you’re willing to put some weight on, you can reverse more aggressively – 200+kcals a week. Keep monitoring your weight, to make sure you’re on track.
Like I said, it’s not for everyone, especially not for people with a history of eating disorders.
Next time I’ll talk about a more manageable approach to weight maintenance! Stay tuned 😉
Low calorie diets have a failure rate of 95% in under 3 years
Weight maintenance is a more pressing issue than the weight loss is
Weight loss slows your metabolism down, therefore eating the same amount of food you used to as soon as you stop dieting, will cause weight regain
Your main goal when coming off a diet is to maintain the weight lost while increasing your metabolism
To achieve that you need to: track your calories, keep your protein intake high, increase exercise intensity (start lifting weights), reverse diet, by increasing the calories weekly by as little as 100 kcals a week!