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.
Kayli is a certified personal trainer and online coach that specializes in fitness, wellness, nutrition, mindset, mobility and everything in between.