The problem with dieting isn’t losing it, even though this does present its challenges, the tougher part for most people is the time frame after they diet.
Like we have discussed in previous blogs, when you diet you will see a rise in hunger and cravings, as well as some other side effects from dieting for fat loss for an extended period of time (fixation on food, low energy levels, lower sex drive etc.). Not to mention over time you just lose motivation to stick to whatever you are doing.
The amount of time spend dieting and the magnitude of the weight loss will determine how bad these can get (which is why we stress a more sustainable approach to fat loss, instead of a crash diet).
This can get people in this endless cycle of:
Dieting hard for 6-12 weeks (or longer) –> Getting burnout then going from 100% on to 100%, which is accompanied by regaining lost weight, if not more —> Dieting hard again for another 6-12 (or longer).
And the process repeats itself over and over.
This might be the most common thing you see in the fitness and nutrition space.
In this article I will hit on some of those things, but I also want to expand upon how you can transition out of your fat loss diet to ensure you wont lose any of the progress you made during your fat loss diet.
This process will get ignored and skipped over by many, but you can make an argument that this part of the diet is the most important and actually the most challenging.
But just like everything else, it’s a skill, but an important one.
When is a maintenance diet needed?
A maintenance diet is needed after a building phase or a fat loss phase.
This will help to give your body a break from pushing it past where its comfortable (whether that be weight gain or weight loss), and it gives you time to practice eating/exercise to maintain the new weight.
For this blog though we are going to focus more on fat loss.
We also want to use a maintenance phase to get rid of the diet fatigue that comes along with dieting for fat loss. Things like:
- Low energy levels
- Lower training performance
- Lower sex drive
- Fixation on food.
Eating to lose weight is a stressor on the body, and just like with anything else we need to recover from that stress.
A good time frame to start a maintenance diet is about 8-12 weeks into a fat loss diet.
The longer you diet and the more weight you lose increases the need for a maintenance diet.
Here are some tips on how to transition out of your fat loss diet
Keep Tracking As You Were
A big mistake I see clients make once the are done dieting for fat loss is they will go from tracking everything to then not tracking anything.
This is a recipe for disaster.
Like we talked about earlier your hunger and cravings go up the longer you diet and the more weight you lose/the leaner you are.
So your body is naturally going to want to eat more, and its going to crave more calorie dense foods.
By not tracking you are ensuring that you will overeat.
Its important to continue tracking your food like you had been.
Ideally we would continue to track for atleast 2-3 weeks following the diet.
Keep your meal timing and meals per day the same for atleast the first 2-3 weeks following.
We also want to continue to be on the same meal structure you had been during your fat loss diet.
I recently had a client go through a fat loss phase and they had the same meals most of the time and they also ate at the same time everyday, as this helps with adherence because it takes a lot of the hard work out of dieting, since you don’t have to decide what to eat everyday. However, once they got done with the fat loss diet they changed everything up.
All these changes at once caused them to eventually not plan anything because it was just too much change at that time.
What is our natural instinct then? To not track and eat whatever. And again, if we just listen to our boy during this time its going to tell us to eat eat eat.
By keeping your meals mostly the same and your meal timing the same you can reduce how much willpower you have to use, which is probably fairly low after a fat loss diet.
Slowly Add More Carbs and Fats to Your Diet.
By keeping your meals and meal timing the same you can now add a little more food to each meal.
For example, if your lunch was 6oz chicken breast, asparagus, and a half cup of rice, then once you transition out of the fat loss diet you can just add another half cup of rice to the meal.
Another example could be this:
Fat loss: .75 cup of oats, half serving of peanut butter, half cup of skim milk, protein pwoder.
Transition out: 1 cup of oats, .75 serving of peanut butter, 1 cup 1% milk, protein powder.
As you can see here the meals are the same, but we are just increasing the portion sizes.
By doing this you are adding more food to your diet which will help lower the diet fatigue you built up during your fat loss diet. And again you also limit how much thought has to go into your meals.
Keep Junk Food Out For 2-3 weeks.
Another big mistake is that people think that since they are done with their fat loss diet that they can eat whatever, but this thought process is the one that gets people to regain weight.
The reason we want to keep junk food out is because you’re hungry and your body is craving these energy-dense foods. So what happens? You tend to overeat these foods. Not to mention they don’t really keep you full so the calories can rack up quickly.
Not to mention, these types of foods usually leave you wanting more and more.
In saying that, completely keeping junk food out isnt practical for most.
Some tips to help:
- Limit it to 1-2 meals per week.
- Slow down when you are eating.
- Pair it with veggies and protein.
- Drink a glass of water before the meal.
- Eat until satisfied, not stuffed.
After the initial 2-3 weeks of transitioning out of the fat loss diet you can start to incorporate more energy-dense foods.
Keep Up Your Activity Levels.
In previous blogs we talked about how as you lose more weight your NEAT levels will go down and this can make fat loss tougher over time.
One of the most common habits of long term weight loss maintainers is a high level of physical activity.
Taking both of these into consideration, its a good idea to keep your activity levels up following your fat loss diet.
Most people stop dieting and then they also dramatically cut back on their physical activity following a fat loss diet.
With online cleints we focus on step goals during their fat loss diet.
So if a client was doing 10k in steps at the end of their fat loss diet, they will continue to do that for atleast 2-3 weeks following.
Keep Lifting Weights
Following a fat loss diet it may be a good idea to cut back on the volume you were doing resistance training wise, but its important to continue to weight training atleast 2-3x per week.
If you can follow through on these for at least 2-4 weeks following your fat loss diet you will set yourself up for long term weight maintenance.
The trick is getting out of the mindset of being 100% on or 100% off. Or thinking that once you are done with the weight loss portion of your diet that it means its time to stop.
Just like dieting for fat loss is a skill, learning how to maintain it and transition out of a fa loss is also a skill that must be learned.
Once you transition out of the fat loss diet you can focus on much simpler eating habits and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
If you need more guidance on this process fill out the online coaching application here and lets get to work!