I want to put a scenario out there, and you tell me if this has ever been you!!! You do a weight loss program or challenge, you eat really well for 8-12 weeks and lose a stack of weight, and then the program finishes and you feel amazing! But a few weeks afterwards the weight creeps back on because you have started eating with your family again, grabbing little extras here and there and enjoying life. And then this spirals until you hit a higher scale number, start to feel bad about yourself and go on another weight loss program.
A continuous cycle of yo-yo dieting and never really feeling in control!
Or, the other situation that we find ourselves in that sucks, is the one where you are always stressing about your weight and are consistently on a diet, looking at foods as good and bad, saying no to yummy things and feeling deprived all the time. You are consistently watching what you eat and you feel like you never get a break from dieting but you also never really see the results that you want to see! Does this sound like you?
Well - I’m here to give you a different perspective on your weight loss efforts.
Now I have done this chat before - way back at the start of the year. But I think this is a very timely reminder - especially for those of you who have just come off the Winter Challenge, too.
Something I want you to note is that weight loss is not linear. It doesn’t generally happen in a straight line. It can, but it doesn’t as a general rule. Hands up if you have ever felt disappointed with the weight on the scale because it went up one week, or did not move one week, when you thought you should be losing every single week? You expect that if you eat well and move more, your weight will consistently decrease, and when it does go up you start asking yourself what you did wrong! You analyse everything you ate or did that week to justify it.
STOP THAT RIGHT NOW. The scale does not give you the full picture so stop doing that.
Weight loss is not linear (as in… consistently heading in the same direction) because of the following reasons:
Scale weight is different to body fat weight. The scales will show water weight (thanks to hormone changes, carb loading and sometimes absolute randomness) whereas you are still likely to be losing body fat even when the scale goes up one week.
Your body begins to adapt to your new normal, and eventually makes it harder to lose weight if you consistently do the same thing. It gets used to whatever you throw at it so you have to change it up every now and then.
Your progress can be linear and heading down towards your goal, but the weight on the scale might not be showing that.
Linear results are not sustainable forever. You can't live in a calorie deficit for your entire life. Listen to that again. You can’t live in a calorie deficit for your entire life!
I want you to start to think of your weight loss in terms of cycles. You are either in a SHRED cycle (losing body fat) or a MAINTENANCE cycle (maintaining your weight). If you are keen on bodybuilding and building muscle - we have a third cycle to do that - but I won't talk about that tonight. If you are keen to know more about the bodybuilding side of things - jump over and check out our GO! Summer Body program and join that group - we talk lots about how to build muscle in the BUILD phase.
During the SHRED cycle is when you go hard. You work really hard for a short period of time 8-10 weeks MAXIMUM. You increase movement/steps, you increase QUALITY food and you decrease calories. It IS that simple. You do not want to go more than 10 weeks, ideally, because your body starts to recognise your new pattern and it adjusts. In my experience both personally and as a coach - 12 or more weeks is too long - even 10 weeks can be too long for some people to go hard. It becomes mentally draining - you feel like you're missing out on social events, food, wine - whatever it is. 8 weeks is a perfect amount of time to go hard, see good results and stay motivated. If you want to go down to 6 weeks you can - but I would then ask - how badly do you really want results?
But in that SHRED phase you give it your all. You go hard and lose as much body fat as you can. Ideally - if you have it to lose - you would aim for 4-6KGS of weight loss in an 8 week program - IF YOU HAVE GOT IT TO LOSE!
BUT - while you are in the shred phase you also need to understand healthy habits, WHY you are losing weight - and not just because you move more and eat less. Simply doing this will get you results in the shred but it will NOT maintain your results afterwards.
Are you still with me?
When you are not in shred mode, you are in the maintenance phase. Maintenance is exactly as it sounds - maintaining your weight. Maintaining your NEW weight (as much as possible). During this phase you will eat more calories than you did in the shred, but not enough to put body fat back on and undo your good work. You want to eat at your maintenance level of calories - the number of calories your body needs to stay the same (not grow, not lose).
This phase is also the time you can let loose a little bit, enjoy wine, chocolate and not say no to yummy foods all the time, while still maintaining a good balance of regular exercise. BUT where this goes wrong for so many people is that they simply splurge on foods they had restricted during the SHRED phase. Or they still have the mentality that they can only lose weight while eating strictly healthy foods and nothing yummy. That's not the case.
Remember how I mentioned that while you were in a shred phase that you need to take note of the new habits you are forming? Things like drinking more water, getting daily exercise, making better food choices!! Those things need to go with you into the maintenance phase - you can't put them aside and forget them. They have to be the basis of your life now - if you want to maintain your loss. And especially if you are going to want to lose more weight again.
So a maintenance phase should last for at least 2 weeks - up to 4 weeks if you have a lot of weight to lose. Then - you get back into another 8 week SHRED, go all in and lose as much as you can, then you go into maintenance again - and try and maintain your new weight.
Now often - during the maintenance phase - you might increase by a kilo or two because you are relaxing a little and not saying no to everything. THIS IS FINE! THIS IS NORMAL! You want this - you need these 3-4 weeks to really live and enjoy food and enjoy life.
The idea is that you keep cycling through SHRED and MAINTENANCE phases like this until you reach your goal weight. Then I recommend you go a little under your goal weight if you can, just for a buffer - and then you stay on maintenance forever. But by now - you have ingrained all of those wonderful habits of walking more, eating better foods, drinking more water, getting more sleep and de-stressing so your maintenance should be relatively easy. And if you are doing a weight loss program that doesn't encourage you to look at your habits like these - please reach out to us. Healthy habits are the foundations to a healthy weight management program. If it isn’t incorporated into your weight loss program you are leaving valuable weight loss efforts on the table. Don't do that.
Will you never gain weight again? Of course not! There’s christmas, there’s birthdays, there’s stressful periods in life and we are going to put weight back on. This can be minimised, though, by continuing regular exercise (even if it is not as excessive as it was on the shred phase) and generally eating well 80% of the time. But when the weight gain does happen - you know what you need to do - go back on an 8 week program and lose, then maintain.
Maintenance phase is the best because as long as you have all of those habits in place - particularly eating good quality food most of the time, you can eat whatever you want to - you will find you won't want to gorge as much anyway because you are truly in a place of looking after your body.
Ok - have I lost you or are you with me? Let me know in the comments below!
Put simply - don't expect consistent loss results week in week out. It doesn't happen.
The most successful weight loss happens in cycles so that you can maintain it for longer periods of time - so you know you are going to get a break after 8 weeks, a rest mentally.
As I say to my clients and to the beautiful people in the 8 week challenges - it's only 8 weeks.
Now some of you might be asking how many times a year do you do the SHRED phase? That depends on how much weight you have to lose. You can do 4-5 shred phases in a year if you have a fair bit to lose (like 25kg or more). And each time you do it you will find it easier to do, and you will find more foods that you love to eat that are healthy and fuelling your body.
I also want to ask you this question. If someone has 50KG to lose - how long should it take them?
Most people say a year - 1KG a week for 52 weeks. Well I'm sorry to burst your bubble but it is unlikely to happen. I mean it can, but it is unlikely
In my experience - with shred cycling and a solid, long term fat loss of 0.5kg a week - it would be best to expect that someone would lose 25-35KG in one year, with persistence, consistency, dedication and good, strong habits around food, activity and health. If you have got less than that to lose - you could do it in less cycles. If you have more - allow for the time to do so safely and in a way that allows you to live happily and not consistently on a diet.
Remember - you didn't put 50kG on in one year so stop expecting it to come off in one year!! Yes - you should lose weight a lot quicker than you put it on - but stop expecting hardcore results! In reality - half a kilo a week is the average weight loss standard.
Alright ladies - tell me in the comments below - what is your biggest takeaway from this chat?
When I learned about this stuff - I was like mind blown - I don’t need to be in a bloody calorie deficit for my entire life just to maintain a weight I want to be at. I only need to get there, get to that weight, and then maintain. And to be honest - maintaining is easy, if you get out of the mindset that it means never having fluctuations on the scales. Your body WILL go up a bit in maintenance phase, and then down a bit. And it will likely do this for a little while until your body, your metabolism, finds what we call its new settling point, the point at which it is comfortable to sit without too much effort to maintain. It might actually be a little higher than the weight you think you want, and that’s ok. As long as you are healthy, physically active and eating nutritious food at least 80% of the time.