Have you ever gone to your doctor asking about ways to lose weight, and the first thing they tell you is that they have a “magic” pill that will help you lose weight fast? All you have to do is take this pill and eat 1,200 calories a day.
Does this sound familiar to you?
Unfortunately, this seems to be common practice. Did you know that on average, U.S. medical schools only offer on average 2.8 hours of instruction on obesity, nutrition and physical activity counseling.
That sure doesn’t seem like much time dedicated to nutrition to me, but then again, this isn’t normally why we see our family doctors. They are great at many other things but sustainable fat loss isn’t one of them.
I have been training and coaching for almost 5 years now and I have had many clients seek my help after having gone through extreme dieting and pills prescribed by their doctor. They dropped a lot of weight fast, but then gained it all back and then some after stopping the pills!
For 99% of people, 1,200 calories is way too little to be consuming. Our bodies need that much energy intake just for basic needs, things like breathing and to operate our internal organs. Our bodies are extremely capable of adapting though. This is what has kept us alive for so long. We have survived countless famines throughout history. We used to be hunters/gatherers and only ate when we made a kill or forged and found food. There would be a feast followed by many days of not eating while searching for more food. How did we survive??? We survived because of our bodies ability to adapt. Our metabolisms would “learn” how to run off lower calories and would “slow” down our metabolisms. Meaning we could survive off less food and when we did find food again it would store it as body fat in case of emergencies when there would be no food.
Nowadays we rarely have a problem finding food, in fact, we have the complete opposite problem. You can find something to eat on every street corner! We are constantly tempted.
Okay, back to why eating 1,200 calories is “wrecking” your metabolism. As described above, our bodies don’t understand that you want to look better in the mirror or drop a couple pant sizes. Your body only knows it isn't receiving enough nutrition to survive long term. So it does its job and lowers your metabolism to keep you alive! I’d say a thanks is in order haha. So rather quickly after eating only 1,200 calories you will notice you are no longer losing weight like you were in the beginning. At first it just slows, then weight loss all together stops. You’ll notice other signs too: constant hunger, cravings, moodiness, poor sleep, skin issues, and women can lose their cycle. This is our body's way of saying, “Hey! I need some nutrition, damn it!”
So most of us cave. We go back to eating just like we were before and gain every single pound back. We have to find something sustainable to lose weight, because we will have to continue it to keep that weight off.
Enough of the negative. Now, let me share some ways I help my clients lose body fat and keep it off!
First, we want to do as little as possible to elicit the most amount of change. Stay with me here. I want my clients to keep eating as much as possible during their fat loss phase.
During the first week, we will figure out what their maintenance calories are (what they need to eat to stay at their current weight.) Once we find this number, we will lower their intake by just 250-500 calories max. You will start to see fat loss from this amount. A sustainable fat loss rate is around 1-2 pounds per week. If you are losing more than 2 pounds per week you are not eating enough to keep your metabolism in a healthy place. After a few weeks, their calories may need to be lowered again to keep seeing results but this is why we start high so we have room to make adjustments along the way.
Next, I will have them incorporate resistance training 1-2 days per week. Resistance training is proven to build and preserve muscle on our bodies. The more muscle we have on our bodies, the more calories our bodies will burn at rest. It will keep our metabolism “higher.” Plus, I believe you may find yourself to look more aesthetically pleasing with the added muscle.
Last, and definitely not the least. . . We program in periodization. This simply means we don’t want to stay in this fat loss phase for longer than 8-24 weeks depending on their size and how much fat they want/need to lose. There needs to be times where you go back to eating at maintenance again or even in a surplus to get your body back to a healthier place. Yes, you may put a few pounds back on but if done properly, it won't be much.
If you try to rush the process and stay in a fat loss phase for a long amount of time you will end up “slowing” down your metabolism and end up gaining all the weight you just lost and sometimes more!
If you still have weight to lose, you can always go back into a fat loss phase after spending some time in a maintenance phase.
The key takeaways here are:
I hope this helps you in your fat loss journey and if you would like even more guidance, I have a few spots opening up soon in my online coaching.
Shoot me a DM and let’s talk about what you are struggling with the most right now and see if I can help.
Since becoming a coach/trainer so many people have confessed their deepest and darkest struggles with me.
I feel extremely blessed knowing people feel comfortable enough to be honest & open with me about their current hardships with weight, self-confidence, anxiety, etc. because by doing so it has allowed me to help them reach far beyond their initial goals.
Because of this I would like to share one of my own past struggles that still comes back to haunt me today.
At 10 years old, I suffered from my first eating disorder. It all started when I had fallen ill with strep throat and my throat became very irritated and swollen. I remember that morning clear as day. I was getting ready to take a bath and was finishing my blueberry Pop-Tart on the side of the bathtub before getting in. Being a hyperactive kid, even while sick, I was rushing to finish my Pop-Tart when I began to choke.
Terror set in immediately! I couldn’t breathe. I began to panic, jumping up from the side of the tub not knowing what to do. Thankfully my Grandmother was close by in the hallway and saw the look of terror and my hands at my throat and she knew immediately what was happening. My frail, 75 year old grandmother rushed over to me and saved my life. I wouldn’t be here today if she had not been there.
Little did she or I know that this would be the catalyst to my eating disorder. From that day, I went close to 8 months without swallowing a single bite of solid food. Even the mere thought of attempting to swallow food would send me into a panic.
Being 10 years old, a shy child, and a poor communicator, I struggled to get my parents to understand what I was going through.
My mother blamed herself. I could see the look of sadness daily in my father’s eyes as my body began to waste away.
For a short time, I was still allowed to go to school. I had to see our counselor at 10am daily to talk to him and drink a meal replacement shake. Next was lunch, where I would have to sit on a stool isolated from everyone to choke down another shake. This was due to me bribing kids with a candy bar my grandmother always packed to “accidentally” spill my shake at lunch so didn’t have to drink it. My grandmother thought I would eat the bar if I let it melt in my mouth, which I never did. These shakes would take me so long to drink I would never get time to go outside to play. Think about being 10 years old and how much recess meant to you?!
As the months went on, I started to become weaker and weaker. My mood started to diminish and I had very little energy to do anything. I could no longer go to school most days. I spent most of my days under a big homemade quilt with my best friend Ricco (my border collie).
Every two weeks, my parents and I would make the drive up to Menninger’s Mental Health Hospital in Topeka, KS to see a psychiatric specialist to try and figure out what was going on with me. They had already run all the physical tests, things like scopes and barium x-rays to make sure nothing physically was wrong with me. I swear I was radioactive that year from all the tests and x-rays I completed. From what I can remember of these sessions, they included lots of crying and arguing from my parents with me repeating the same thing I always did, “ I’m afraid to eat”, “No, I don’t think I’m fat”, “Yes I want to eat”. Let’s just say these visits didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.
Fast forward to about month seven. The only thing I was able to consume were liquid shakes, Carnation Instant Breakfast shakes, to be specific. To this day I have not and will never drink another one of those. These were not giving me the fuel or nutrition I needed to survive. I was about 5,5” in 5th grade and was now weighing in around 65 pounds. The doctors finally told my parents that soon, as soon as two weeks possibly, my body would begin to shut down. Their only option would be to admit me into a recovery program in Topeka where I would be monitored 24/7 and if they couldn’t get me to eat, I would then have a feeding tube inserted.
The thought of trying to eat terrified me, but the thought of being taken away from my home and family terrified me even more. I was a complete disaster days before I was to be admitted, crying and trying to talk them out of taking me.
My grandmother came to my rescue yet again. She talked my parents into letting her try something and if it worked they would hold off on admitting me into the hospital. My grandmother knew me better than anyone and knew how to get my attention. She explained very calmly, in a voice only a grandmother can have, that I only had two options from here. She told me in order for me to get better I would either have to be admitted into that hospital alone, with only the hospital staff around me, hooked up to different machines in order to keep me alive or I could trust her and attempt to eat and swallow just 1 little macaroni noodle with her right behind me just in case something happened. She told me she saved me once and she would do it again. She promised she wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me and if I did this and then continued to add things little by little each day I wouldn’t have to go to the scary hospital.
She convinced me, I opted to try to get that tiny noodle down. I remember my hand shaking as I lifted it to my mouth asking her if she was ready, just in case. I chewed, and chewed, and chewed, and then finally swallowed. The action felt so foreign to me. It had been so long since I had chewed anything. But I did it! I had finally gotten it down, no problem at all. Which I’m sure came as no surprise to my grandmother. I turned around to see a smile of pure joy on her face and as soon as the shock of actually swallowing something went away, I was just as happy!
I slowly started to add different foods back into my diet again and continued to grow stronger and healthier day by day. By the time the next school year rolled around, it was almost like nothing had happened.
To this day though I am extremely careful when eating and if you ever dine with me, I am always the last person finished. I eat very slowly, making sure to chew my food a set number of times. After experiencing everything I did though, I think I can handle a little OCD. Haha.
I know my eating disorder is quite a unique one but I do hope I can help others feel safer sharing their own struggles. You will never receive judgement from me, we all have different hardships that we have had to overcome and that makes us who we are today.
I know I am a stronger woman today because of this and of course from the quick actions of my beloved grandmother.
If you need someone to listen to your story, I can be that person for you. I would be blessed to be part of your journey.
Kayli is a certified personal trainer and online coach that specializes in fitness, wellness, nutrition, mindset, mobility and everything in between.