Hey, here’s a question for you:
What’s the biggest predictor of diet failure and weight regain?
Is it starvation mode? Or your hormones? Or your thyroid? Or carbz? Or fat loss fairies that creep into your bed at night to unravel all your hard work?
No, the answer is much simpler than that:
No matter how you set about creating an energy deficit to lose body fat – whether that be low-carb, high-carb, intermittent fasting, or surviving on kale and spinach shakes – your ability to sustain your new body fat percentage or scale weight over the long-term is predicted by your adeptness at sticking to that particular way of eating.
People initially select weight loss methods they can’t stick to – who knew kale and spinach shakes wouldn’t quite cut it? – which means they end up failing. They subsequently blame it on the approach, not that they simply couldn’t stick to the rules of their diet.
So, how can we fashion a new bulletproof way of eating that means we can stick to a diet for longer than a few weeks?
How can we set up a new ‘diet’ that means we lose body fat and keep it off?
Let’s start at the beginning:
Calories In Calories Out Is A Fluctuating Model
People think they can simply cut calories once, continue dropping weight for as long as they wish, and they’ll end up with abs and thigh gaps and floating unicorns feeding them Krispy Kreme doughnuts all day.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that. The body – yes, even yours – has several sneaky adaptations in place that will curtail that initial caloric deficit you created.
Things like hunger and subconscious overeating will increase and satiety and satisfaction will decrease when you reduce your calorie intake.
Similarly, cutting your energy intake will lead to a decrease in your non-exercise activity (like fidgeting), a decrease in your metabolic rate, and a decrease in the number of calories you burn through exercise.
Meaning, weight loss eventually slows, people get frustrated and start throwing their scales around, old habits start to creep back in, and as that initial caloric deficit is no longer evident, that initial diet starts to fall by the wayside.
It has nothing to do with their initial weight loss tactic – or the body playing tricks on you by telling you to hold onto fat – but simply their adherence has started to falter.
It is the neglect of those initial weight loss behaviours – cutting carbs, fasting, eliminating chocolate, for example – that will predict a return to initial scale weight or body fat percentage.
There’s Always An Exponential Loss Of Dietary Adherence
Here’s a complicated looking graph:
Don’t worry, I’m going to break it down for you:
Person A – that could be you – starts a new diet. It could be anything: the carnivore diet, intermittent fasting, or the celery juice diet.
Their ‘Energy Expenditure (EE)’ initially decreases from a 2600-calorie weight maintenance, creating a caloric deficit leading to weight loss. Hooray.
As we now know, however, the body has those adaptations in place which means things like hunger and ‘Appetite’ will subsequently increase over time to make allowance for that initial weight loss. Boo.
Of course, at the beginning of the diet people can get away without having to strain too hard as their ‘Energy Intake (EI)’ (the amount of food they’re eating) is easy to sustain, weight is dropping off, and things are new and exciting.
Over time, of course, adherence starts to waver and Energy Intake starts to creep back up.
The gap between their Deficit and Energy Expenditure starts to get smaller, until BAM, they’re no longer in a deficit – maybe even a surplus – meaning the inevitable weight loss plateau appears.
Despite Person A feeling like they’re still giving it their all, their motivation, willpower, and effort are all having to work even harder to sustain that new diet and subsequent weight loss.
Additionally, they may still even believe they’re in a deficit but haven’t accounted for those old habits creeping in, nor the fact that their new Energy Expenditure has decreased.
It’s this exponential loss of dietary adherence which not only causes weight loss plateaus, and sometimes weight regain, but means people cannot stick to their diet for longer than a few months, sometimes shorter.
So, Why Does Adherence Falter As Time Passes?
A Reliance On Willpower
How many people do you know who attempt a new diet by striving to white-knuckle their way through trying to lose a few pounds?
They insist they’re going to only eat superfood salads for lunch and dinner, hit the gym six times a week, and valiantly avoid drinking on nights out.
How long does that last? Not very long is the answer.
Willpower and motivation are fleeting emotions that tend to last a few weeks, or even days, before quickly petering out into disheartenment.
The longer you solely rely on these parameters of self-control, the further you abscond from your normal lifestyle.
The more you have to concentrate on enduring the ordeals of the new ‘diet’ you’ve undertaken, the greater chance you have of dietary fatigue and subsequently adherence.
Basically, willpowering the weight off sucks.
A Reliance On Deprivation
Most fat loss journeys’ first step is to cut out all the ‘bad’ foods. No more crisps, chocolate, cake, and junk food.
Whenever you restrict something, however, it ends up being all you can think about. You know, everywhere you go, people’s heads start mysteriously transmuting into cookie-shaped treats that you suddenly want to devour.
Not only do people become extremely cranky when they fashion self-imposed constraints but they find themselves having to constantly challenge their wavering resolve.
The second that seemingly resolute self-control is broken – which eventually it will – so do the floodgates.
The crisps you’ve been so diligently avoiding for six weeks soon find their way back to your mouth, and before you know it, you’ve scoffed down four bags in five minutes and ruined all the hard work you’ve put in since day one.
Just like willpower, deprivation sucks.
An Unwillingness To Adapt
We know that there’s a whole host of adaptations your body will launch the longer you attempt to lose weight. Because hey, who said your body wanted to lose weight in the first place?
Those pesky physiological and psychological alterations mean your diet, training, and mindset are never going to stay the same.
Except people expect them to.
Still, six or twelve months later, they want to continue with how they started their weight loss journey and, when progress isn’t continuing the way it used to, adherence starts to stutter.
The initial rules, guidelines, and processes they started with aren’t providing the same results, and as they keep banging away using those same means, their discipline wobbles.
Just like work, relationships, and life, constantly modifying and reconciling your method is the only way forward.
Reaching A Specific Goal
Who’d have thought reaching a specific goal would be the final nail in the coffin to dieting success?
People set themselves initial hopes and aspirations, whether that be losing 10kg in a few months or dropping a dress size or two before the summer.
When that goal has been attained, however, the foot comes off the gas.
The diet doesn’t matter anymore because hey, they’ve reached their goal so who cares?
Of course, re-introducing foods they’d initially carved out of their diet, reducing the amount of exercise they were initially doing, and generally ‘taking it easier’ all leads to reduced rates of adherence.
While goals can be beneficial, they can also be dangerous. Just because you set yourself one, doesn’t’ mean your newfound approach to eating should stop once you hit that target.
It’s clear to see that, just like our bodies tire the more frequently and harder we train, our minds and discipline tire the more frequently and harder we diet.
Instead of physical fatigue, we’re left with dietary fatigue.
These reasons – willpower, deprivation, failing to adapt etc. – all lead to weakened attempts at losing weight which is the ultimate reason people fail when it comes to dieting.
The higher the fatigue, the greater the chance of non-adherence.
How Can You Stick To Your Diet For Longer Than Two Weeks?
We know that fixing the adherence problem is the secret key to unlocking your fat loss forever. So how can we do that?
The word ‘diet’ automatically instils visions of starvation, struggle, despair, and plates of the green stuff as people toil away trying to get those scales to budge.
This never works.
Whichever method you adopt to either shed a few pounds or drop some body fat should inspire enjoyment in the process.
Waking up each day dreading your meals, or the time at which you have to eat, or how much you have to eat, means diets typically last as long as a fleeting English summer.
Trying to be ‘healthy’, but hating every second of the journey because that’s what’s supposed to happen, is actually provoking you to be unhealthy in the long run.
Eating should be a pleasurable experience – whether dieting or not – and so aiming to focus on meals, foods, and routines that create joy, not anguish, should be essential for any new method of eating.
Allowing yourself a pleasant amount of foods you enjoy having, as well as the foods you know you should be having, will reduce that risk of dietary fatigue.
Some methods of eating create rules around times of the day you can eat, specific foods you can or can’t have, or the type of knife and fork you can use to consume your meals.
If you’ve been told you can’t have breakfast but wake up feeling ravenous and subsequently nauseous every morning, your chances of succeeding will subsequently plummet.
Similarly, if you’ve been told you absolutely definitely can’t must not have carbs, but sometimes all you want is a steaming big bowl of pasta with a side of garlic bread and more garlic bread, adherence is going to last as long as a walk on hot coals.
Fitting your diet and time spent in the gym around what you can manage in the long-term, and not just for the first few weeks of your journey, will ensure you will be able to adhere to your new lifestyle.
That diet that worked for Sharon from the office that one time won’t necessarily work for you, because we all have different pasts, personalities, perceptions, and preferences.
Hopping onto the latest diet bandwagon only for it to go tits-up at the first hurdle is one of the major reasons why people always give up. They haven’t thought about whether this particular diet they’re about to embark on works for them.
Most diets implement a ‘linear’ method of dropping calories to lose body fat. This could be ‘flat-loading’ – keeping calories the same week on week over a prolonged period – or ‘step-loading’ – dropping calories every two or three weeks.
While these have benefits and can be a viable tactic, they may fashion adherence problems later down the line.
By constantly dropping calories, or being stuck in a perpetual state of dieting, not only will progress start to stall but motivation, hunger, and devotion will all start to waiver.
By implementing a ‘non-linear’ approach to fat loss, however, people may now be able to see things through over a longer period and subsequently reach the holy grail of abs rather than inevitable failure.
This approach means calorie intake can be manipulated in a non-linear fashion, meaning calories can be increased and decreased depending on factors such as motivation, lifestyle, time of the year, week, or day, and feelings of adherence.
Things like intermittent dieting periods and diet breaks can be introduced to ensure that people don’t feel like they’re ‘dieting’ the whole time and can enjoy the process more.
A diet break is a planned and purposeful break from dieting, lasting anywhere from a day up to two weeks.
They typically involve bring calorie intake back up to maintenance and give people a physiological and psychological reprieve.
They’re not coined ‘cheat days’ or ‘weeks’ but are simply in place to loosen the counting restrictions dieting places on people.
Flexible Dieting Schedule
A flexible dieting schedule will manipulate calorie intake on a daily, weekly, or even monthly schedule. Again, this allows for a physiological and psychological reprieve from the hardships of constant dieting.
A flexible daily schedule may allow you calories saved later on the in the day if that’s when increased hunger strikes or you’re going out for birthday drinks.
A flexible weekly schedule may allow for increased calories during stressful periods of work or for example, if female, during the time of the month.
And a flexible monthly schedule may allow for periods of harder dieting during quieter months of the year or some respite during a holiday.
This flexible and intermittent schedule allows for constant monitoring depending on the demands place on your body and life throughout a dieting phase.
People have been programmed by the media and #blessed Instagram models that weight loss happens at the click of a finger.
That a few days of no chocolate or sweets will see the fat melt off and those abs start to ooze through your ever-expanding stomach.
People want fat loss to be twice what it is.
You lost a pound last week? You want two. You lost two inches from your waist last month? You want four. You dropped a dress size since you last went shopping? You want another.
When these unrealistic accomplishments don’t happen.
you resort to extreme dieting and exercise measures to try even harder. You quickly find yourself in a perpetual cycle of trying harder and ultimately failing because you’re clouded by your expectations.
It’s time to realign your expectations with your goals and understand that fat loss takes time, you’ll probably never reach a point where you’re completely happy, you’ll experience plateaus along the way, and not everyone fits the same ‘model’ of weight loss.
The better set you are from the beginning, the better chance you have of losing body fat and keeping it off.
Results drive motivation. Motivation drives adherence.
Providing yourself with a different perspective on ‘results’ may, however, be the answer.
Success isn’t always about weight loss or dropping a dress size. And the better you can get at accepting that perfecting habits, improving consistency, and keeping the weight off equates to results, the more likely you are to keep going.
Manipulating the periods of your journey – whether that be with dieting, maintenance, or simply improving habits, will allow you to keep going when things get tough.
Reframing your mindset toward success will ensure you’re able to stick at your diet for longer.
This Article Was Too Long And I Didn’t Read It; Can You Summarise It Please
No matter how you set about creating an energy deficit to lose body fat, your ability to sustain your new body fat percentage or scale weight over the long-term is predicted by your adeptness at sticking to that particular way of eating.
It’s an exponential loss of dietary adherence which not only causes weight loss plateaus, and sometimes weight regain, but means people cannot stick to their diet for longer than a few months, sometimes shorter.
Why Does Adherence Falter As Time Passes?
A Reliance On Willpower – The more you have to concentrate on enduring the ordeals of the new ‘diet’ you’ve undertaken, the greater chance you have of dietary fatigue and subsequently adherence.
A Reliance On Deprivation – Not only do people become extremely cranky when they fashion self-imposed constraints but they find themselves having to constantly challenge their wavering resolve.
An Unwillingness To Adapt – Just like work, relationships, and life, constantly modifying and reconciling is the only way forward.
Reaching A Specific Goal – While goals can be beneficial, they can also be dangerous. Just because you set yourself one, doesn’t’ mean your newfound approach to eating should stop once you hit that target.
It’s clear to see that, just like our bodies tire the more frequently and harder we train, our minds and discipline tire the more frequently and harder we diet. Instead of physical fatigue, we’re left with dietary fatigue.
How Can We Improve Dietary Adherence?
Enjoyment – Eating should be a pleasurable experience – whether dieting or not – and so aiming to focus on meals, foods, and routines that create joy, not anguish, should be essential for any new method of eating.
Schedule/Preferences – Fitting your diet and time spent in the gym around what you can manage in the long-term, and not just for the first few weeks of your journey, will ensure you will be able to adhere to your new lifestyle.
Nutritional Periodisation – By implementing a ‘non-linear’ approach to fat loss, however, this may allow people to see things through over a longer period and subsequently reach the holy grail rather than inevitable failure.
Improve Expectations – It’s time to realign your expectations with your goals and understand that fat loss takes time, you’ll probably never reach a point where you’re completely happy, you’ll experience plateaus along the way, and not everyone fits the same ‘model’ of weight loss.
Results – Success isn’t always about weight loss or dropping a dress size. And the better you can get at accepting that perfecting habits, improving consistency, and keeping the weight off equates to results, the more likely you are to keep going.
How To Win At Fat Loss
Download my FREE eBook on How To Win At Fat Loss and you’ll learn…
- Why everyone usually fails when it comes to trying to shed body fat
- Why you should be lifting weights
- Why calories are so important
- Why weighing yourself is a no-no
- Why mastering nutritional habits are the key to success
All so you can…
- Finally stop failing and start winning at fat loss
- Finally shed inches, drop dress sizes, and actually see a change for once
- Finally transform your body and mind so you’re not constantly battling those dieting demons
- Finally figure out how to lose the fat, keep it off, and flaunt the figure you’ve always dreamt of displaying