Why You Can’t Diet Every Time You’re Uncomfortable

How often have you said the following statements to yourself:

“If I could just tighten up a little bit, I’d feel better.”

“I’m getting pretty uncomfortable, I’d really like to diet and just drop a few pounds.” 

“The last time I dieted just wasn’t the right time, that’s why it didn’t work. I can do it now!”

If you’re being honest with yourself, you’ve probably said these a handful of times, if not many times. This is one of the most common requests from clients, especially when they’re first getting starting. And it makes sense. Most clients sign up with us for nutrition coaching because they’ve tried multiple diets without success and are looking to finally change their habits, health, and physique for good.

But it’s not that easy, because dieting is not that straightforward. Every time you diet, you’re inducing (normal, yet frustrating) metabolic adaptations and hormonal shifts, creating a strain on your relationship with food and making it harder on your body to maintain the new weight and body fat you’ve hit. To make it worse, the way that most people approach ‘dieting’ is downright horrific. They don’t give their bodies enough time out of a caloric deficit to make any nominal progress forward and they also haphazardly cut calories, but don’t stick with it long enough to actually see changes.

So, what’s the best approach? Keep reading and I’ll detail what we do for our clients to set them up for success with their diet and life afterward. 

Let’s dive into what adaptations happen when you enter a calorie deficit.

–Your sex hormones, thyroid, and leptin (satiety hormone) decrease.

-Your cortisol and ghrelin (hunger hormone) increase.

-You may experience sleep disruptions, especially if you’re very lean.

-Less calories and less sleep means worse performance in the gym and lowered recovery status.

-Worse training performance and a calorie deficit set you up to lose muscle mass, which will only amplify metabolic adaptations.

-Less muscle mass means when you do get leaner, you’ll likely not even have the physique you were hoping to uncover.

-You may experience mood disruptions as well as a strained relationship with food.

Is anyone interested in dieting after reading that list?!

The adaptations can seem to defeat and give you the “why should I even try?” feels. But, my point of sharing those is not to deter anyone from dieting; it’s to deter people from dieting when it’s not the right time.

Well, then when is the right time to diet if it sounds so awful?

The adaptations listed above are normal and expected. Your body was not designed to care about abs or quad/hamstring separation. It was designed for survival so you bet your ass these adaptations were put in place for a reason. You can’t get away from them and really, we should thank our bodies for looking out for us. Yay, we’re not going to die right away with less food! But, this doesn’t make your journey towards the physique you’ve always wanted any easier that’s for sure.

Because of these adaptations, we simply need to be smart with how and when we approach calorie deficits.

A good rule of thumb is to spend at least as much time outside of a deficit as you spent in one in order to correct these adaptations.

Notice how I said at least because often times it’s longer. This is the bare minimum! An example would be if someone dieted for 6 months, then it would likely take them 6 months to get back to baseline. This is where it gets nuanced. Is baseline enough or do we need to go farther? The answer is we often have to push father. Here are two common client examples:

If we’re working with a competitive physique athlete, a 6-month diet for them means very low levels of body fat to get on stage. This client might be recovered in 6 months (they might also not be… but that’s where coaching and individual recommendations come into play) but recovered doesn’t mean improved. For a physique athlete, the goal should always be to improve from the last time you stepped on stage, and for most clients, that means more muscle mass. More muscle mass means more time to eat and training hard after you’ve recovered. Just recovering isn’t enough! If someone has enough muscle for their division and they’re recovered (both physically and mentally) then you can give them the green light to start prep. This does happen, but it’s usually the exception and not the rule.

If we’re working with a client who has a long history of chronic yo-yo dieting, this timeline will look a lot different. For this particular client, spending time correcting the dietary patterns and black and white mindset that cripples them from making sustainable changes is the most important part of this process. Some clients quickly make changes in this area with the right coaching cues and program modifications. But for many clients, this is the longest part of the process. There is no rushing it and engaging in yet another diet is not the answer.

That’s what I mean when I say “uncomfortable” – the uncomfortable work you have to do to challenge your old habits and to stop the cycle of dieting every time things get hard.

Now, this does not mean myself or any Team LoCoFit coaches are anti-diet. We’re far from it! We support our client’s physique goals and their desire to change their bodies, along with the obvious benefits of being within a healthy body weight range. But, dieting is hard and hard on your body so it needs to be done with the right focus, effective coaching methods, and at the appropriate time.

Most people don’t engage in a diet to look or feel worse; so don’t set yourself up for that failure. Take the adequate amount of time out of a calorie deficit to improve your metabolism, balance your hormones, build more muscle mass, and dial in the right habits and mindset around food. Then, when it’s time to diet you’ll actually get out the work that you’re putting in.

Stop the yo-yo dieting cycle that’s getting you nowhere fast. If you’re ready to make a change, click below and we’ll help you reach the goals you’ve been wanting to work towards.

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