If you’re familiar with my posts you probably have heard me say that fat loss is NOT something that should be going on for extended periods of time.
The truth is, being in a calorie deficit (which is needed for fat loss), is actually STRESSFUL for the body in most circumstances. The body doesn’t really want to give up fat – to our bodies fat = safety and survival, so in order to actually GET our bodies to lose fat we are literally telling our bodies to go into a system override.
This is why when I work with clients, we talk about what is realistic in a 3 month time frame (12 weeks is a solid amount of time to pursue fat loss and also to get some pretty kick ass results). This 12 week time frame is what I (and many others in the industry) would call a “fat loss cycle”.
Now before we get into specifics – I know you’re probably wondering – can fat loss go on for a longer period of time? And in short, I believe that yes you can pursue fat loss for a longer period of time IF you are going about in a SMART and SAFE way and you are also taking week long breaks (eating maintenance calories) here and there.
Most women I work with are self proclaimed “chronic dieters” (heck I used to be one myself!!!). It’s almost as if they have been in a chronic calorie deficit or trying to lose weight for most of their life. Most of the time this occurs because the dieting industry has made us believe that we just need to “choose a program” to follow and use that to lose weight – what they don’t teach us is how to pick something sustainable that will actually stick long term. Thus, the dieter chooses a program like Jenny Craig, loses the weight, goes back to eating as they normally did and then goes back on Jenny Craig.
This happens for a lot of reasons, ie. having an all/nothing mentality, using a program that isn’t sustainable and perpetuating an all/nothing mentality etc etc.
I’m getting off track here 😉 !!! What I have hoped I’ve explained is HOW chronic dieting can happen and how it tends to happen for a LOT of people.
But let’s say you’ve sworn off mainstream diet plans, you are going to create a safe calorie deficit and you are focused on eating mostly nutrient dense foods.
Now what do you do? Well, you probably start meal planning, tracking your food and getting your workouts in.
But here’s the thing – without having a set end date – this is where things can go awry. Without knowing when this dieting thing “ends” you can either set yourself up for the same yo yo cycle you’ve encountered before OR you could just continue to diet down until you get super thin and/or develop hormone imbalance (been there done that).
By giving yourself a period of time in which you will pursue fat loss, you allow yourself (mentally and physically) to have a set end point – a light at the end of the tunnel.
There are two approaches I generally take with clients who are ready to pursue fat loss as a goal (and when I don’t feel as though they need to work on building their metabolism aka do a reverse diet).
Approach 1: A good place to start with this as mentioned earlier – can be about 12 weeks. 12 weeks is a solid amount of time to get significant results, but not to the point where you might be compromising your long term health. I would recommend this approach if you are ready to commit and be consistent and also if you want to REALLY go after results.
Approach 2: Up to 6 months. This approach takes a little bit longer, and if you wanted to approach fat loss in this way – I recommend taking week long breaks here and there (where you eat maintenance calories or more for 1 week).
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of how you can approach fat loss – you could also do something in between – and of course it will depend on your bio-individuality :). BUT approaching fat loss with the intention of having a solid starting and ending point will be KEY to not letting it turn into a “chronic diet”.
After a fat loss cycle, I recommend taking some time to do something called a Reverse Diet. A Reverse Diet is essentially where you slowly increase calories up to maintenance calories (you can get this by googling TDEE calculator and input your new weight once you’ve hit your goal). You could even try to go a little bit beyond maintenance calories and see how your body responds. Either way – it;s important to know that when you are in a calorie deficit (eating less than you burn), your metabolism WILL down regulate. Therefore, it’s VERY important to bring your metabolism back up to a more solid place – but in a way that minimizes fat gain – and a Reverse Diet can be great for this!.