When you're stuck EVEN when you're tracking EVERYTHINGshare on: facebook | twitter | google+ | reddit
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I've got a podcast now!
You can now listen to this article instead of read (or watch). Soon you'll be able to listen using iTunes or your favorite podcast player. For now I'll be reading the articles but eventually I'll be interviewing folks in the weight loss, fitness, minimalism, and self-improvement communities. But if you just like to read (or watch), I'll still be writing and/or doing a video each week!
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Now to this week's article:
You've been reading up on everything about proper dieting.
You know that if your priority is to lose fat, your efforts are better spent decreasing the amount of food you eat and that in order to do that you need to know exactly how much food you're eating now.
And you know you accomplish that by tracking everything you put in your mouth with accuracy and honesty.
Eating less requires that you have a point of reference. You won't succeed if you are just thinking that you are eating less – you have to know it!
But what if you know that already, and you truly are tracking everything, but you're still stuck?
Here are four things to consider and take action on if you have found yourself in this situation.
1. Have trust and A LOT of patience.
It's human nature to want results fast but when it comes to weight loss, it's not always a linear process. History tells us we can hold a calorie deficit and our body will use stored fat for energy, but the timeline isn't so clear.
Factors like increased stress and the ups and downs of water weight gain and loss related to things like salt in food and exercise intensity all affect the numbers on the scale and how you look in the mirror.
For those reasons, it's really important to have a lot of patience for this process. I've heard of folks holding an exact calorie deficit for over a month before the weight loss became apparent, so be willing to give yourself at least 2-4 weeks at the same calorie level before considering a change.
2. Pay attention to stress.
I mentioned stress in the last point but I want to highlight it again because it's possible the very reason you've found this article is from stress. Stress can be useful in that it motivated you to do some research, but in the context of dieting it can have an effect on the way your body uses energy (and thus how it sheds fat).
Be willing to consider if you're putting too much pressure on yourself to lose weight. Have some acceptance for the process and believe that it will work in time with your consistency.
3. Take a damn break.
Not just any break, but a diet break.
It's possible you've never heard of a diet break before. They aren't sexy to talk about and since everyone wants a magic pill, wants something to do, taking a break doesn't make the headlines.
How could taking a break help you lose weight?
If you get to the point of an actual stall (or even if you haven't stalled) it's a very good idea to take a diet break for a couple reasons.
The first reason is a psychological break. You've been using a ton of willpower to stay in a calorie deficit. It adds up and can start to wreak havoc on you. Never taking a break is what lead me to have some of the biggest food binges of my life!
The second reason has to do with adaptation. As you lose weight and get lighter, your body adapts to use less energy. This is where that scary (but mostly overcooked) idea of "starvation mode" came from. Your body will adapt, and by taking a break, you can slow that process down.
So, how do you take a break?
EAT EVERYTHING IN SIGHT!!!
First, you'll want to take a break every 8-12 weeks of dieting.
When you get to that point, you'll plan to take either a 1 or 2 week break based on your needs. To properly take a break, my suggestion is to stop tracking entirely. Don't weigh yourself, avoid looking in the mirror or thinking about weight loss at all.
This is a time of rest for your calorie-tracking-brain. It's been over-worked! Forget about the scale, and focus on your friends, family and hobbies.
As for eating, this is not a time to go crazy and binge eat pizza, but instead, attempt to eat a little more than you have been up to this point. Consider eating around the same, but when you get that extra pang of hunger, go ahead and eat a bit more until you're satisfied.
Be warned, you will probably gain a bit of weight, but you won't be setting yourself back much, and you'll be able to lose the weight gained in a short period of time. And it'll be worth it.
4. Only after the first three – consider adjusting calories by 5%.
After you've exhausted the earlier considerations you'll have to actually make a change to your energy balance.
There are two ways to do this, of course: moving more or eating less, but as we have discussed elsewhere on MinFit, it's always favorable to modify how much you eat rather than adding exercise.
Taking away is much easier than adding, and since we want to optimize for adherence, we will do what is easiest. Eating a tiny bit less one day is a lot easier to maintain than requiring yourself to go on a 30-minute run every day.
I wouldn't discourage you from adding more exercise, of course. If you really want to do more, then by all means, go for it, but in my experience, the added stress of a workout requirement can lead to an easier blow up.
Cool, so at this point you're ready to reduce calories (eat less).
Your body has simply gotten to the point where it can operate on less food, so it's time to reduce in order to keep the fat coming off.
Heres the deal, it's quite easy, just reduce your current daily amount by 5%. So if you're eating 1800 calories today, a 5% reduction would put you at 1710. I might round it off to make it easier and just say 1700.
We do 5% because we want to make the smallest adjustment possible to leave yourself plenty of room for future adjustments.
Ok, so let's say you're now at 1700, what next?
Well, the process basically starts over. After some time, the scale will begin moving again, towards your weight loss goal. You shouldn't need to change anything else at this point, but in the rare case that you hit another stall and exhaust the same series of tests (lots of patience, honesty, rigidity, and diet break every 8-12 weeks) simply make another 5% reduction.
Good luck, and hey, if you still have questions please feel free to reach out on twitter @makingloops. You can also sign up for my newsletter below if you haven't already and reply directly to me over email.