Everybody thinks they know what to expect when starting a diet, yet people still are relatively unaware what truly is ahead of them. To prepare you a little better, I’ve compiled a few points that I deem important to keep in mind. Not to scare you off, but to prepare you for the bumpy road ahead. Because in preparation lies the key to success!
When it comes to changing our bodies, be it weight loss or muscle gain, we tend to have overblown expectations for how and how fast it should happen. Especially our idea of what weight loss actually looks like and how it happens is heavily influenced by things like commercials, success stories and “client testimonials”all selling unbelievable results with little investment.
This creates a certain expectation and sets a standard: fat loss is easy, even fun and incredibly fast. As it is (seemingly) so easy and so many people have had great success, why should it be difficult for you? And if it is difficult for you, what is wrong with you? Something clearly is broken, has to be fixed and guess what, there surely is some magical quick fix that you can buy for this problem (no you can’t).
But for most people, fat loss isn’t especially fast or easy, and serious work has to be done. To prepare you for what is actually, probably, going to happen to you, read on.
Remove time-focused goals
Many people start their fat loss journey with a time-focused goal like losing x kg in y weeks to look good in their favourite bikini or fit in an old pair of jeans. Goals like this are called external motivators and can be helpful for most of us, especially when we need something to jump start our efforts. Those external motivators should be something that we use to push us to take the first step, but in the long them change to something with more substance, for example a healthy sustainable life style.
The reality is, we can’t control what the scale is going to do on a daily basis. The scale fluctuates like crazy, largely due to changes in fluids. We can get an idea of the trends and where those trends are heading, and that’s why looking at weekly averages is a better idea than obsessing over single scale readings. Predicting what numbers will show up and when they will show up is impossible and for most people unnecessary, unless you are starting in a weight-class sport. Most chase a certain look that they think will be attained at a certain body weight.
On top of that, it’s important to remember that the data is pretty clear on the fact that an acceptable rate of sustainable weight loss for most people looks like 1-2lbs/week, on average. This may be higher for very obese individuals, or when radically switching diet and lifestyle, but usually after a few weeks, things slow down. In fact it may slow down even more, especially for smaller people or people who don’t have that much fat to lose.
In addition, if you are a newbie and are trying to lose fat not only by dieting but also by using resistance training (something I advice you to do, as it has A LOT of benefits), you may also go through body recomposition: you build muscles and lose fat at the same time. Therefore the weight on the scale may not move much or even goes slightly up, but you are looking better. That’s why taking fotos and measurements can also help to document your progress.
To sum it up, the scale is out of our control. What you can control though is the decisions you make. So focusing on building good habits that lead to your goal, is way better in the long term.
Prepare to fail
For some reason, people like to think they’re robots when it comes to their decision making: they make rational, optimal choices without margin for error. And while it is true, that, in theory, we could just stick to the best plan and never slip, it usually doesn’t work like this.
Of course, you will screw up at some point. Mistakes are normal and not only a minor set back, but also an opportunity to grow. We are human, we make mistakes, no problem here.
So expect mistakes. Take them as a challenge. Don’t be too hard to you. Look at them and try to find out what made you fail. Then find a strategy to work around it so that this mistake doesn’t happen again. And most important: just get back on track as soon as possible. Don’t compensate, just focus on your usual plan.
For example: if you overate on cake and cookies at a party while dieting, think about why you did it. Is your diet too restrictive? Did you starve the whole day because you wanted to compensate for the excess of calories in the evening? Where you bored as hell at the party? For each of these points there is a solution. And it is not punishing yourself the day after with a caloric restriction or excessive exercise! It may also help to consciously take the decision to eat as much sweets as you like this one evening (without starving before!) and then go back on track. If you do it just once in a while it won’t ruin your fat loss. Of course it does if you do it on a regular basis, but this is another story.
some People around you will act up
Sadly not everybody around you is going to support your endeavors. You are going to hear all kinds of excuses why they can’t do it (even if you didn’t ask them), they are going to try to more or less unconsciously sabotage you (e.g. placing a piece of cake on your office desk), you will get bad looks for not eating certain things, people will complain that you are so complicated, and sometimes people will outright insult you.
This is normal. This is called cognitive dissonance and explains their behaviour: they actually don’t attack you, but rationalise their own lifestyle choices despite knowing that they are bad. Usually these people want to achieve what you do and admire your discipline but lack the commitment to make these changes themselves. So don’t be offended, explain that you don’t want to put pressure on them or to feel them guilty and go on as if nothing happened. In the worst case, limit contact temporarly.
Jump over your own shadow
We, as humans, are homeostasis machines. We like to stay the same, it is easy, it is safe. Significant means are needed to break homestasis. That means that, at least at some point or another, some drastic changes have to be made when it comes to weight loss.
That thing that you just can’t possibly imagine yourself doing? That’s something that’s probably worth trying. For me it was counting macros: I came from a paleo background and tracking macros is somewhat frowned upon there. Yet I came to a point where paleo alone just wasn’t enough and I needed more control (or precision). For you this might be something different. Maybe you can’t imagine meal prepping every weekend for the upcoming week. No matter what it is, exactly that one thing that you have been avoiding, may hold the key to success. Give it a honest try, you probably like it anyways, and even if you don’t like it, there is still a lot to learn from this.
If you think that you can’t achieve all this by yourself, it may be worth hiring a coach who can help you just by the fact that you have to show some accountability by cheking in on a regular basis. A good coach will help you building sustainable (healthy) habits and support you with his experience through the ups and downs of a diet. Even if it seems expensive at first sight, it may make the difference between reaching your goals or not.
Are you struggling with a boring diet or are you not enjoying your training anymore? Contact us and let us talk how we can reach your body composition or strength goals and let training and eating be fun again!