Dieting for fat loss requires a calorie deficit. Which means you are burning more calories than you are taking in. You can do this through more movement, eating fewer calories, or a combination of both.
Studies show that a combination of both is the best way to lose body fat.
Exercise by itself is OK, but where the real progress is through your nutrition.
It’s also easier and more time-efficient to do it this way. It takes a lot more time to do the amount of cardio you need to do, where eating just 250 fewer calories per day is simple and doesnt require much time commitment.
Anyways, if you want more information on how to get in a calorie deficit read this blog HERE.
Now, this calories deficit I talk about is a stressor to the body.
The more extreme the calorie deficit is, the more stressful it is on the body.
This is why with online clients we only work in 8-16ish week phases for fat loss.
It just isn’t sustainable long-term, and this is where people get themselves into trouble.
It also gets them out of the mindset of always trying to lose weight, which can be a stressor as well.
One of my main goals with online clients is showing them that always trying to lose weight probably isn’t the best mentally and physically.
Read more about nutrition periodization HERE.
In saying all of this, there are times when losing body fat is warranted, but I also want to show you the times where it may not make the most sense and you would instead be better off focusing on maintenance or building (if you dont know what those are read the periodization blog).
Let’s dive into 6 questions you need to ask yourself before starting your next fat loss diet.
Question 1 Stress levels
As I mentioned earlier, a calorie deficit is a stressor on your body.
So if you are already highly stressed, this is only going to add another one to the list.
We tend to think of training stress and everyday stress as separate, but the body doesnt know the difference.
If you have a stressful time at work or are changing jobs, getting married, getting divorced, newborns, busy time at school, then this probably isn’t the best time for you to run a fat loss phase.
All of this stress will make sticking to the calorie deficit very challenging.
Not to mention, when we are stressed our body’s food preferences change towards calorie-dense and highly palatable foods. Too many of these and you can kiss that calorie deficit goodbye.
Oh and the longer you diet the more diet fatigue you incur.
Being in a highly stressed state also doesnt put your body in the best position to lose body fat, AND it probably hurts muscle growth and maintenance of your current muscle mass.
Lastly, being in a stressed state is going to make adherence a challenge, when you are stressed you are more likely to give in to temptations and trust me there will be AND you will be hungrier.
Question 2 Recent diet history
If you have already lost a lot of weight in the last few months, doing another fat loss phase probably isn’t for you.
As we have already talked about a calorie deficit is a stressor, and it takes time to recover from that.
If you are constantly in a calorie deficit you will be fighting an uphill battle. (read HERE on how hunger and cravings increase as you diet).
If a client comes to us and they have recently lost a lot of weight, we start them at maintenance to get them out of a calorie deficit for a period of time.
One other note on this, people can lose weight, but they have trouble maintaining that weight loss. A common thing I see is people spend too much time trying to lose weight without taking a break.
If you have been in a deficit for over 16 weeks and/or have lost 10-15% of your body weight, you need to take a break from fat loss dieting.
You can always pick it up again soon.
Question 3 Events coming up
If you have exams coming up, or a ton of family parties, or a vacation in the next 3 weeks, then doing a fat loss diet probably isn’t for you at this time.
It’s just going to make adherence much tougher than it needs to be.
This is highly individual, but for most people, dieting through these things is a nightmare and it usually ends in them falling off the wagon for longer than they want.
A big part of all of this is how confident a client is in themselves, if they are set up to fail, this is going to hurt their confidence and their ability to be able to stick to their goals now and in the future.
Again there is nothing wrong with waiting until these pass and instead just focusing on building some muscle during this time, which the cool thing here is that it will make fat loss easier in the future.
Question 4 Recent training
If you have been training like a mad person or doing endless amounts of cardio or high-intensity training, then doing a fat loss phase might not be best for you right now.
Training is another stressor, and the more intense it is, the more stress it adds.
Too many people think they can train themselves into fat loss, and it really just doesnt work that way.
If you are also stressed from other things in life this is really a recipe for disaster.
Instead, focus on lowering the intensity to lower overall stress levels, and do more weight training to build muscle.
Question 5 Dieting skill
If you have gone on many crash diets in the past where you see the weight come off quick and then come back on plus more, or you have an all or nothing mindset towards food and fitness then another fat loss diet probably isn’t for you.
Instead, you need to focus on these behaviors and habits first.
The mental side of fat loss is HUGE and cannot be taken lightly. If you struggle with these things improving your relationship with food/fitness is priority number one, but also just building better nutrition habits.
In this case, if someone came to us with these signs, we would really dial in the habit side of nutrition.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again with the same results.
This is what most people do.
Lose 20 lbs, gain 25 back, diet again lose 20lbs, gain 25 back, and the cycle goes on and on.
They spend all that time restricting themselves to only be in a worse position.
All because you wot focus on the mental side of things or because you are all or nothing.
Question 6 Sleep
Lastly, if you get terrible sleep or you are going to have time where you know sleep will be terrible (newborn, new job, etc.) then doing a fat loss phase during this time isn’t the best for you.
You would be much better off focusing on good habits, and making the best out of your situation, and then when this time passes you can look into a fat loss diet.
Not to mention poor sleep can cause you to lose lean body mass when there is weight loss. This will make your body composition worse.
Lack of sleep also leads to an increase in caloric intake. Probably through increased snacking, but either way poor sleep is likely to lead to higher levels of hunger and cravings, which isn’t great for fat loss.
Too many people think that since they aren’t doing fat loss that it gives them the excuse to F off and do whatever. This isn’t the case, sometimes maintaining is the best thing you can do.
If one of these is off, you can really work on fixing it and still go into a calorie deficit, however, the more things that you start to check off here, the more likely you need to take a maintenance phase or a building phase before getting into another fat loss diet.
If you need more guidance and accountability around your training/nutrition fill out the link HERE and let’s get to work.