The way many of us have come to perceive our bodies has us chronically dieting, and in turn, has resulted in a sluggish metabolism. I know my negative perception of my own body began when I was just 12 years old. I stopped wanting to swim (my first love) because I was self-conscious about what I looked like in a swimsuit. I can’t say for sure how it happened, but I suspect it was because of the comments I was constantly told about my body. Comments like, “you’re so skinny”, and “you need to eat more” were mostly said in innocence but they shined a light on my body that I wasn’t comfortable with. And as my body began to change, I became hyper-focused on it.
Seemingly innocent comments, images of “idealistic” beauty standards, and how caretakers modeled their own weight and bodies, have so many of us spending months upon months, and often years upon years…. dieting. We cut a crazy amount of calories, and do cardio for hours because we believe we’ll burn even more calories. We stop socializing the way we used to for fear of being led to eat something we no longer allow ourselves to as we strive to look a certain way.
There comes a point where you have to be open and honest with the fact that what you're doing isn’t working. In fact, you may have lost weight, only to gain it back… and then some. And worst of all, friendships, work, and life are all negatively affected. Food becomes all you can think about ... “don’t eat too much”, “don’t eat the wrong thing”, “I need to earn that piece of cake later”, “Great. Now I have to do an extra 30 minutes of cardio since I had that bread with dinner.”
What most of us never knew during all these diets is that the more often you diet, the more often you restrict yourself, and the less you eat… you’re teaching your body that you only need that to survive. If you’ve been surviving off of 1200 calories, then your body will do whatever it can to be most efficient at those 1200 calories. In other words, your metabolism adapts or “slows”.
The same goes for exercise. If you run avidly five days a week, you‘re essentially teaching your body that it needs those five daily runs in order to maintain your weight. While you may have seen progress when you first started, your body learns what it is that’s happening and becomes more efficient and therefore, needs even fewer calories to run the same distance.
This is why it’s so crucial to STOP dieting and take the time to teach your body how to eat MORE, including a higher number of calories per day as well as a wide variety of foods within all food groups. Taking the time to do this will prime your body to be able to lose fat efficiently and I daresay, easily.
So before you attempt yet another diet, here are a few things to check to see if both your mind and body are ready to get results that actually last.
01: Strong Metabolism
Once you spend some time nourishing your metabolism and it’s thriving, it’ll be ready to respond to any changes you start implementing. To know if you have a strong metabolism, you should be able to eat a good amount of food for your body, eat frequently throughout the day, and have been doing so consistently for a while. Any negative symptoms you were experiencing during your dieting phases like brain fog and a dysregulated appetite should largely be gone. You should have stable moods, be getting quality sleep, and feel able to really push yourself during your workouts. For some, it may only take a few weeks to get to this point. For others, it could take a few months.
02: Healthy Relationship with Food
You know you’re ready to go into a fat loss phase if you feel comfortable eating out in public, going to social events with your friends regardless of what food might be there, and you can even enjoy “bad” food without fear of gaining weight. When food is no longer consuming your mind, you know you’re doing something right. This may be the hardest piece of the puzzle to get in place because you really do have to put in the work to transform your relationship with food. But I promise you, it’s so worth it.
03: Plan to Get Started
Take the time to figure out what your new targets are based on your current weight and metrics. It’s best if you track your food accurately and consistently for a couple of weeks to know exactly what your maintenance calories are and deduct around 10 to 15 percent to get an accurate calorie deficit number to start with. Otherwise, you can use a tool like our macro calculator; however, it’s just that, a tool and it isn’t always going to be spot on. Once you know your starting point, you’re another step closer to being ready to begin your new diet.
04: Plan to Get OUT of a Calorie Deficit
This may be the biggest mistake people make when they go on a diet… they have no plan to STOP dieting. We all know (albeit having learned the hard way) that it’s not sustainable to eat low calorie forever. Diets are meant to be temporary. You should be spending the majority of your year eating at maintenance or in a surplus and not dieting. In order to keep your results, it’s crucial to have a plan to bring yourself back up to a maintenance phase one way or another. And don't forget to reassess your new maintenance calories as they're likely different after a fat loss phase since a smaller body doesn't need as many calories to fuel it.
Even when you know exactly what to do, sometimes you just need support. That may mean asking a loved one to be there for you when you need them. It could mean seeking out a specialized psychologist or therapist to help you get past more ingrained disordered eating habits. Or it could mean working with one of our highly trained and successful coaches to help you reach your goals. Having someone to work with you is proven to have better and considerably longer-lasting results than trying to do it all on your own. Regardless of how you choose to get your support, be sure you have something in place before you begin your fat loss phase.
Oftentimes, our habits have been so ingrained that they become a comfort to us which makes it even harder for us to let them go. I know all too well that it's much easier to try another quick fix or crash diet than it is to spend a few weeks or months teaching your body to eat more, train less, and break thought patterns that have become so familiar. But what's a few weeks or even months when you can enjoy food, and not have to panic about whether you'll gain weight? I say it's worth it.