So You Lost The Weight, Now What?

We don’t have a weight loss problem in America…..We have a weight re-gain problem.

Most people are focused ONLY on losing weight at all costs. They fail to consider what occurs AFTER you reach your fat loss goals. This is the main issue with the diet culture.

Diets are notorious for having a start date, and an end date. You know that for the next eight weeks you will be eating only Paleo approved foods, but then after the diet you can go right back to eating the foods you really love, (if you are an Italian this would be pasta and gabagool) and you assume that all your fat loss progress will magically be retained, right?

Wrong.

In our culture we put so much emphasis on weight loss. No one is talking about the most important component, which is what happens after your diet!

I have yet to find a commercial weight loss program that discusses the science of sustainability and setting a client up for long term success. Most programs are focused on rapid weight loss by using very low calorie diets and extreme intensity workout protocols. This is the exact opposite of the protocols I recommend to my clients.

I have very detailed posts and videos about what happens to your body during a fat loss program, which I will link to here: Why Your Diet Is Making You Fat

To recap the points I explain in detail in that video, we know that your basal metabolic rate (the amount of calories it takes to keep you alive if you were to just breath in bed all day) slows down during fat loss.

Why?

Because you are built for survival, not to be lean and muscular. Your bodies survival mechanism adapts to lower calorie intakes when it starts losing it’s survival currency which is stored body fat. This is not a bad thing. This is how we have survived as a species since prehistoric times.

What other changes occur during fat loss?

We know that your hormone leptin (a fat burning hormone) decreases. This also causes you to feel more hungry throughout the day.

We know that the body produces less sex hormones (testosterone) as well as thyroid levels begin to decrease.

These slew of changes are collectively termed a very fancy word called adaptive thermogenesis, or metabolic adaptations.

Fun right?

Again, this is a good thing! This is what your body is supposed to do. If you were starving in the wilderness, going without food for a prolonged period of time, would you want your body to say “Hey, Sally I know you want to look good with abs as you starve in the wilderness, so I’ll speed up fat burning for you! Rock on sister.”

No, you wouldn’t.

How does this apply to you and your fat loss journey?

Here’s a great example you can apply into your own life:

Let’s say my client is Jen who comes to me at 155lbs, and want’s to get to the goal of 140lbs.

First, I would educate her that we want to focus more on how she looks and feels vs some arbitrary number. But for the sake of example let’s go with 140lbs as the end goal here.

Jen came to me and she was consuming on average 2,000 calories per days. She is only doing two days of cardio at 20 minutes each session. She works out with weights twice per week for an hour. Her weight has maintained itself for the last few months.

Fast-forward a few months and let’s say she achieves that goal.

Woot woot!

Way to go Jen, you bad ass!

In order to reach that goal, she had to increase her weekly cardio to 5 days per week at 45 minutes per session.

She also had to reduce her calories over time to 1200 per day.

None of that matters as Jen is pumped to hit the beach in that two piece bikini.

But now she wonders…

How the hell am I supposed to sustain this?

Can I only eat 1400 calories for the rest of my life? How the hell am I ever supposed to sip a margarita and eat chips and guac with my hot surf instructor at 1200 calories per day?

Should I just go back to eating 2000 calories per day?

My body won’t gain any fat back will it?

This is where most nutrition programs fail.

They do NOT educate a client what to do AFTER they achieve their fat loss results.

Let me break down exactly what I would do with the above situation with our friend Jen.

First off, we need to feel really good about achieving the goals you set out to accomplish.

Celebrate this!

Celebrate all your small victories along the way during your journey. I always hear clients say “I’ll feel better when I am down another 10 lbs.” No, feel better now. Celebrate your wins today, and fuel your long term success with a positive and inspired feeling within.

Jen is now 140lbs but is consuming 1200 kcals, 115g protein, 110g carbs, and 40g fat. (These aren’t necessarily the macros I would use.)

We need to help her create a sustainable level of intake, while not adding any unwanted body-fat back on.

Hello reverse diet! 

The first thing I would do would be to reduce some of that cardio. Let’s say I take her from 4 days at 45 minutes down to 2 days at 30 minutes.

I would also add in some carbohydrates and fats, especially on her workout days.

Let’s say I adjust her to 115/135/45 protein/carb/fat right off the bat. Even though this is a very moderate increase in calories, when you have been dieting for awhile, this is super helpful to have some extra macros daily.

The first question Jen will ask is: “Will I gain weight?”

While I don’t have a crystal ball to gaze into and see the future to make any promises, for the most part, my clients do not gain weight during a reverse diet following a successful fat loss protocol, if we go slow and listen to their body along the way. In fact, sometimes it actually promotes further fat loss. This could be attributed to in the increased calories helping support a healthy metabolism and hormone profile after a period of dieting.

So let’s say ten days goes by and Jen is feeling great, and her weight has maintained itself, and she is noticing she is still pretty hungry throughout the day.

Awesome! Bio-feedback tells me to keep increasing calories. Let’s add in 15g of carbs and 2g of fat to daily totals.

Rinse and repeat!

I continue to asses her weekly. Asking how she is feeling, how her performance is in the gym, how her hunger levels are, and make sure the scale isn’t moving in an unwanted direction. If all signs are positive we continue to slowly increase calories over time until we get her to a comfortable level of maintenance calories.

If the scales goes up one week, do we freak out and abandon ship?

Nope.

We just would hold there, and assess in a another weeks time. Most of the time this is just a transient thing, and the scale returns back to baseline within a week or two. I would argue that “one pound” of scale gain is well worth being able to eat more calories per day and maintain a lean and healthy physique. At the end of the day it’s about how you look and how you feel, not just some number on the scale.

The goal for long term maintenance is to be able to build your calories back up to a sustainable level, while maintaining your new level of body fat and conditioning.

This is SO different then everything you’ve ever been taught about fat loss isn’t it?

I love it!

Please use this information to not make the mistakes that most people make with fat loss. Most people start off by going on an unrealistic, overly restrictive protocol that they KNOW they can’t sustain in the long run. That’s why you MUST always ask yourself before beginning any nutrition program the following question: “Are these changes I am going to make with my nutrition something I can stick to for the rest of my life?”

If you hesitate to say yes, that’s not the approach for you.

Then, after you achieve your final goals, realize you aren’t done yet.

Once you achieve your end fat loss or aesthetic goals, you need to focus on maintenance mode by following the advice listed above.

Because losing weigh as fast as possible and then gaining it all back in six months isn’t your goal now is it?

Focus on LONG term sustainability vs rapid results.

If you have any questions about any of this send me a message at tonystephandietitian@gmail.com!

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