Yes, that photo is me. The photo on the left is my before photo where I was ‘skinny-fat’. I looked fine in clothes, but was not happy with my body. I was in a vicious cycle of restricting calories and over exercising, and not really getting any where fast other than exhaustion!
Fast forward to the photo on the right where I eat between 5-6 meals a day, have a healthy relationship with my training and rarely feel hungry. I finally feel confident and happy in my own skin. The reason I am showing you this? I have been there and know how it feels to be on a low calorie diet and see no results!
This is the one big mistake I see over and over again is clients who believe in order to lose fat we must eat less and less. There are a number of problems with this:
1. You will reach a plateau where your body stops losing fat no matter how much exercise you do or how little food you eat
2. You will burn out and simply not be able to maintain the calorie deficit you are in which will lead to:
– Putting back on any lost weight
– Or (shock horror) gain even more weight back: the classic yo-yo dieter
3. You will feel constantly lethargic and not on top of your game. You might hit afternoon slumps or get headaches and dizzy all the time. Who wants to spend their life like that just in pursuit of an ‘ideal’ body?!
But wait, it doesn’t have to be this way! Now before you go and order a take away pizza we need to understand why this is the case.
Our bodies are very intelligent and are constantly evolving to their environment. For example, we put on muscle when we lift weights as our bodies adapt to the stimulus we place on it. So while you might get short terms effects from cutting calories, your results will ultimately plateau.
Storing Food as Fat
In our primal days when we had to hunt for our food, if there was a scarcity of food our bodies would protect us by ensuring the majority of food we ate was stored as fat. Meaning, if it was a week before our next meal our bodies were well equipped to cope and could live off the fat we had stored. Fast forward to current day and clearly it won’t be a week before we eat, but our bodies still go through the same mentality. If we starve ourselves of food it will protect itself by storing the calories as fat.
So then if we starve ourselves Monday to Friday and then binge at the weekend, or starve ourselves during the day and then binge at night, the food we eat will not be used as fuel but stored in the places our bodies believe we need it for future energy, like our stomachs, legs and thighs.
Secondly our metabolism slows down because it doesn’t know where the next round of calories are coming from. Put simply, this will mean you may be eating the same quantity and quality of food but because your metabolism has slowed-down, your body simply can’t process the food at the same rate and will again store it as fat.
Decreasing Muscle Mass
If you have read my previous articles you will know how important muscle is for fat loss. In a prolonged calorie deficit not only will gaining muscle will be almost impossible, but the first place your body will seek energy from is your muscles as it can be spared more readily. So not only will you not be able to gain muscle you will also decrease the muscle mass you already have.
Makes Sense Right?
But how do you get yourself out of this calorie deprivation?
It has to be a gradual process for sure. If you suddenly increase your calories your body will not be well equipped to deal with the additional energy (due to down regulated hormones and metabolism) and more than likely you will increase your body fat, at least in the short term.
As with all things worthwhile the key is to go slowly. With all my clients the first thing I do is get them to their ‘baseline’. This is their Basel Metabolic Rate, so the amount calories you would burn if you were to do nothing but resting for 24 hours. For some people this may take 2 weeks, for other 2 months or longer.
Try these 4 simple rules to start:
– Start by eating three meals a day, breakfast lunch and dinner
– Make sure each meal contains a protein (meat ideally) and lots of green leafy vegetables
– Reintroduce carbs post training and have a fat with your other meals
– Stay away from processed foods which will spike blood sugar levels and instead choose whole foods
Once I have my clients regularly hitting these markers I will look to increase their meals to 5 a day, while of course ensuring sleep, stress and training to are on point too.
Over time you will find that by eating high quality foods more regularly throughout the day, you will be less tempted to reach for the sugary treats or binge in the evening or weekends. You will also start to have more energy, have more mental clarity and eventually your body will start to lose fat.
The key is to take it slowly, be patient and the results will come. It may sound cliché’ but there is no easy fix so trust the process and the rest will follow.
If you are ready to eat more, look and feel better contact us today.