Trying to change your bodyweight is tough.
There are so many things that can pull you away from reaching your goal weight.
But a lot of times people think its because of genetics or things like metabolic adaptation.
Or you think there is a certain diet protocol (keto, carnivore, paleo etc.) out there that is better for fat loss.
However, research shows that so long as a diet gets you into a calorie deficit, it will work. Read HERE for more information on what a calorie deficit is.
But there is one thing you must have for it to work.
And that is adherence to what you are doing.
Lapses in adherence to your diet, predicts early weight loss plateaus.
Not your genetics or metabolic adaptation.
Now, this doesnt mean adhering to your diet is and will be easy.
It’s actually far from that.
Why is adherence a challenge?
In a recent review on Weighttology, James Krieger mentions three things that can make adherence challenging.
- Physiological reasons
- Pschological reasons
- Environmental reasons.
Lets start with the physiological reasons.
There is a desire to overeat when losing weight.
According to James Kreiger there is a biological drive to increase calories by 100 for every 2.2lbs of weight loss and this drive to eat persists up to 2 years.
I have also written in the past about the more weight ou lose and the longer you diet your hunger and cravings sky rocket. Read that HERE.
When you are constantly hungry it will make adherence much more challenging.
This can be especially tough if its your first time dieting or you have trouble managing hunger.
Some people just dont handle it as well as others and are more likely to give in.
Our bodies are extremely adapatable and they dont like change.
The good news is it does it both ways.
This means if you eat low calorie, over time your body will adapt to that. It will find ways to lower how much energy you burn throughout the day. Read HERE for more info on how the body does this.
What once was your calorie deficit, may not be now.
This is why we dont have clients stay in a fat loss phase for long periods of time.
On the other end, if you increase your calories to gain weight, your body will adapt to this by finding ways to increase how much energy it burns throughout the day.
One thing I will say, in general, our bodies are much better at protecting us from weight loss than weight gain (hence the current obesity problem). However, this is highly genetic.
But just because it is adapted to what you’re doing, doesnt mean it stays that way.
If you are someone who has gone low calorie and feel like you have “ruined” your metabolism, then you may need to start to increase calories for a period of time.
The trick is to not add too much too soon though. Basically, just dont say “f it” and eat anything and everything.
Some other things you can do to help this:
- Build more muscle.
- Increase protein (if it’s low).
- Improve sleep and stress management.
Lastly, the most important thing you can do is to work in phases for fat loss. You must get away from this never-ending fat loss cycle.
With most clients, we spend about 8-12 weeks in a fat loss phase.
These are things like:
- Eating habits that are ingrained. Many people have always eaten the way they have and thats what has gotten them here, so making these changes can be very challenging. Especially if its what you have done your whole life.
Some eating habits that are not conducive to maintaining and losing weight:
- Eating too quickly
- Cleaning your plate
- Eating distracted
- Complexity of food choices. There are just so many options out there and it can be confusing. Eat this, dont eat that, this is better for you than that etc.
- How you handle deprivation. As we mentioned earlier, some people are better at handling things when they are hungry, some not so much. How you handle those situations can make adherence easier or tougher.
- Social situations. How do you handle situations when you are out and about? If you usually follow the crowd adherence is going to be tough.
- Stress. How do you handle your stress? Do you usually eat when stressed? Do you let every little thing bother you? When we are stressed our food prefrefences switch to more calorie dense foods. Making adherence tough.
- Mindset. How do you handle set backs? Are you all or nothing? All of these can make adherence challenging.
Lastly we have environmental. The environment we live plays a massive role in if you can are more likely to stick to your diet or not.
And the environment we live is not conducive to weight management.
There are an abundance of calorie dense foods everywhere. You are constantly bombarded with marketing for food. Not to mention these calorie dense foods are easily accessible.
You can move 2 feet and have thousands of calories. This was never the case when we evolved.
As you can see all three of these things can make adherence to the diet extremely challenging.
Awareness is key, but thats only part of the issue. The other part is finding ways to work around it.
The good news is that there are things we can do to increase our chances of adhering to a diet.
How to improve dietary adherence?
1. Smaller calorie deficits.
In order to lose weight you must be in a calorie deficit. You can do this through many different diet protocols. But in order to lose weight you have to be in a calorie deficit.
You can be a in a small calorie deficit and this will cause you to lose weight a bit slower.
Or you can be in a larger calorie deficit and this can speed up the process.
Larger calorie deficits can help with buy-in because you see more weight loss out of the gate.
But of course with every gimme, there is a gotcha.
The downside is that it comes with a large increase in hunger and a decrease in mood/energy.
Because of this, it makes adherence a challenge.
Again, if you cant stick with it, it doesnt matter what you do or dont do.
With online clients we have them aim for a moderate weight loss per week.
Aim for a loss of .5 to .75 of bodyweight per week.
Read HERE on how to make adjustments during a fat loss phase.
2. Increase food volume to help you feel fuller
If hunger increases with weight loss and hunger makes adherence tougher, then we must find ways to lower hunger.
I always tell this to clients and people to looking weight, while we can lower hunger, if you want to lose body fat you must be ok with some hunger.
How to increase food volume?
- Higher protein.
- Higher fiber.
- Low energy density (think of foods that have low-calorie amounts for the amount of food.)
- Moderate food palatability (too much tasty food will cause you to crave more).
- Reduce variety. Think about when you go to a buffet, you are able to eat a lot because ther eis a ton of variety.
- Use calorie free/low fat options. These can help you get more food, but fewer calories.
If you want more help on how to increase food volume, read this blog HERE.
3. Increase physical activity
Lower physical activity seems to cause appetite dysregulation and when you are less active you burn less calories overall.
An example of appetite dysregulation would be if you eat 100 calories now, you will NOT compensate for that later. But if you are active you are much better at compensating in later meals. Meaning you will probably eat 100 fewer calories somewhere along the line.
I also think that by staying more active thats less time you are tempted to eat while you are bored.
For online clients we have them track physical activity through steps. 6-10k seems to be best for most.
4. Increase barriers for trigger foods
As we know our environment plays a massive role in our eating habits and adherence.
Because of this we need to increase the barriers for trigger foods or tasty foods.
- Keep foods out of sight, even healthy foods. This can lead to mindless snacking.
- Have more foods that you need to prepare, rather than foods you can just heat up or eat from the bag.
- Keep tempting foods out of the house.
- Weigh out portion sizes for tempting foods.
- Stay away from food at social events.
TLDR: You need to make it tougher to eat.
Part of the reason you eat the food is because its easy and convenient.
5. Have a plan
Not having a plan will increase your chances of not adhering to your diet tenfold.
Those who have a plan and know why and what they are doing are more likely to succeed.
- Have a plan for how long the diet will be. Dont just always be dieting for fat loss. Have a plan for how long the diet will be, and what youre going to do after the diet.
- Have a general plan for each day. If you wing it each day and you are hungry, you will give in to tempting options. You dont have to have every little bit of your meals planned out, but have a general plan. Maybe its just how many meals you will eat for the day, or maybe its just your protein for the day.
- Have a plan for social situations. Maybe you see what the restaurant serves ahead of time and choose your option then. Maybe you plan your meals leading up to the event. But have some sort of plan for how you will manage these events.
Read HERE on how to enjoy a night out.
6. Focus on flexible restraint, not rigid restaurant
Flexible restraint means you make choices that get you closer to your goal, but you aren’t so rigid that you can never go off the plan. You can indulge from time to time but its all intentional.
Think of rigid restraint as “all or nothing” thinking. It also can mean you have good foods and bad foods. You have foods you can or cant have.
This mindset makes adherence tougher.
Deprivation can also make adherence tougher so telling yourself you cant have something only make this process tougher.
Again you need to have some restraint, but focus more on a flexible restraint mindset.
7. Track and self monitoring
You dont have to track your calories, but you should be tracking and monitoring certain markers.
For online clients we have them track their:
- Activity levels
You should track whatever markers are important to you. For some clients we track more than this, but for others this is all we need.
Its important to get into some sort of routine with your diet to improve adherence.
This can be:
- having a certain amount of meals per day
- having go to meals
- following a plan
- tracking calories/macros.
Getting some structure and routine is key to adherence.
9. See what your trouble spots are.
It’s also important you see where you struggle the most so you can prepare.
- Are there certain times you seem to fall off? (morning, afternoon, evening)
- Are there places/situations you seem to fall off? (work, home, social situations)
- How do you manage times when you are less motivated?
This is why I tell clients that even though you may not be seeing the results you want yet, if you are getting this information its going to help you now and in the future.
Reframing setbacks, you see what I did there??
But you cant get this information if you dont try and stick with what you are doing.
Chances are it isnt the diet you are doing, but its youe adherence to the diet that is the problem.
Just remember that adherence isnt easy and ths is why people struggle with weight loss and weight gain.
Be patient and try out some of these and watch your adherence improve and because of that your results improve.
If you need more guidance and structure around your fitness or nutrition fill out the link HERE and lets get to work!