When making lifestyle changes it can be easy to adopt an all or nothing attitude. While it may seem like a good idea, it actually may be harmful to your overall weight loss progress.

Going all out may work for a little bit but doing a complete overhaul rarely works in the long run. Why? Because it’s too difficult to change multiple habits at once. Instead, focus on one habit at a time, look at the big picture, and remember that success is not a straight line.
Start Slow And Be Consistent

If you’re just starting to workout or coming back after a long break, pace yourself. Doing four moderate 30-minute workouts a week is better than one hour long intense workout that leaves you so sore you can’t workout for the rest of the week.  Remember that it’s normal to be sore when you first start but if you keep doing it consistently you should get less and less sore each time. For more on post-workout soreness read this.

Go At Your Own Pace
When it comes to your workouts remember that we all have ups and downs and your best can change depending on a lot of factors such as: how much sleep you got, stress, hormones, your diet, and how you’re feeling mentally and emotionally. Sometimes your best might be twenty minutes of stretching rather than an hour of lifting. That’s okay. It’s better to pace yourself and work at your level for that day than to either push through and wind up having to take time off or skipping your workout all together and then missing even more workouts because you’ve already “screwed up”.


Be Realistic – You Can’t Lose 10lbs in One Week
While there are plenty of products and diets that will claim you can lose 10lbs. in one week it just isn’t true. While you may lose 10lbs. on the scale by the end of the week, the majority of that weight is water.
While that may work great if your goal is to look slimmer on one specific day, don’t expect the results to last.
I can understand why quick weight loss is appealing, especially if you’ve been struggling for a while. However, achieving long-lasting weight loss takes time; you didn’t gain the weight in a week. If you want to be able to maintain results you need to keep your metabolism as high as possible while still seeing results. That means preserving your muscle, lifting more, and moving more.
A Bigger Calorie Deficit Does Not Equal Greater Results
If you’re trying to lose weight it may seem like cutting your calories drastically will equal faster weight loss results but before you go slashing your calories keep in mind that there are certain factors that determine how many calories you burn throughout the day:
  1. Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) – how many calories you burn throughout the day without doing anything.
  2. How many calories you burn through exercise
  3. How many calories you burn by eating – Yep, you burn calories when you eat. It’s small but it still counts.
  4. Your body fat – The more muscle you have the more calories it takes to maintain.
  5. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) – a fancy way of saying how many calories you burn doing non-exercise related activities. Everything from cooking to fidgeting.
So How Does A Calorie Deficit Impact The Above Factors?
Your body is smart. It’s wired to keep you alive. When you cut calories your body assumes that it’s because food is scarce, not because you’re trying to fit into those new skinny jeans. Your body responds by increasing hunger hormones and decreasing NEAT. The greater the deficit, the greater these are affected.
Since muscle takes more energy than fat your body is going to be far more willing to give up muscle, especially if it thinks you’re starving (not the same thing as “starvation mode” that isn’t actually a thing).
You’ll also burn fewer calories through eating and because you’re not eating as much you’ll  most likely have less energy for your workouts leading to fewer calories being burned in the gym.
So How Do You Offset The Effects?
  1. Create a smaller deficit – by keeping calories closer to maintenance it will be easier for your body to adapt to the changes and not cause you to feel hungry all the time.
  2. By not drastically cutting calories you’ll have more energy for your workouts leading to a greater calorie burn from exercise plus you’ll burn more calories from eating.
  3. Lift heavy – By lifting weights you’ll help to preserve your muscle which will help keep your metabolism up.
  4. Eat protein – High protein diets have been shown to help minimize muscle loss during fat loss phases.
  5. While NEAT will still be impacted it won’t be as great as with a larger deficit.
By keeping your deficit small you’ll be able to have more energy, lose more body fat (rather than muscle or water weight), and you’ll be more likely to stick with it because you’re not hangry all the time. It also allows for more wiggle room. If you start your diet at 1800 calories and plateau after six weeks, you can easily drop your calories, but if you’re starting at 1200 it’s going to be a lot harder to cut calories when you plateau.
Understand That Setbacks And Missteps Are Part Of The Journey

While it can be easy to beat ourselves up for overindulging or skipping a workout, it’s important to remember that this is part of the journey and that these “slip ups” are often helpful with weight loss. I know, you’re probably thinking I’m crazy right about now, but bear with me. Think about the last time you went on vacation and had a little too much to eat and drink and skipped all of your workouts. When you got home from vacation were you itching to get to the gym and go grocery shopping for some veggies and fruits? Sometimes taking a break from our routine helps us remember why we have our weight loss goals and makes us more excited to get back into the swing of things. It’s a mental break and it helps us stay on track.

Now that’s completely different from bingeing every night or skipping all your workouts for weeks at a time. So it’s important to use these times to check-in and reflect. Why did you overindulge? Did it provide you with the break you needed or was it a way of not dealing with some other emotion? If you find yourself self-sabotaging or bingeing all the time it might be a good idea to find a professional to talk to or at the very least re-evaluate your current goals.

Remember to look at the big picture. Your day to day or week to week may be full of ups and downs, but if the overall trend is in the right direction you’re doing just fine. If you’re interested in reading more about the benefits of overindulging read this article from Precision Nutrition.

%d bloggers like this: