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Meet Shannon: A Client Case Study

Left - January (start - 1350 calories) / Center - March (2 months in reverse diet - 1900 calories) / Right - June (1 month in cut - 1600 calories)

Meet Shannon.

Shannon is one of my clients. Shannon started working with me in January.

Here are some of her stats when she started working with me…

Female, 31 years old, 5’7”, 147 lbs

When we started working together, her goals were:

  • Lose weight, especially midsection from pregnancy

  • To develop a healthy relationship with food

  • To be able to not binge…especially on weekends and days leading up to her period

  • To learn to control sweet tooth

  • To get out of the yo-yo dieting cycle

  • To not rely on coffee so much

While also keeping some non-negotiables in. For her, these were:

  • Alcohol

  • Coffee

  • Her 5-year-old kid

  • Occasional date nights

  • Birthday parties with big families on both sides

Her biggest concern? Mindset. She usually gets frustrated easily and just gives up. (I actually laugh at this now when I went back through her intake form and read this…but I’ll save that for the end why it’s so funny).

This is almost all of the information I ask for in my intake form. As you can see, it’s pretty in depth because I want to know MORE than just your age, weight, and height. I want to know your energy, recovery, gym performance, sleep, stress, mood, and everything detailed above. If you’re following a plan that doesn’t keep any of this (which is all what makes you YOU) in mind, then apply here for a free consultation call to work with a coach who actually does. Shameless plug, I know, but it’s because I care about and value a holistic approach to nutrition. Working with me, you’re more than 3 numbers.

Now the last piece was her food intake before we started working together. She tracked for three days and her food log macros are below.

Shannon's Intake Food Log

I calculated her BMR (basal metabolic rate) based off of her age, weight and height. It came to 1423 calories.

I then factored in her activity level. For a couple days of running and CrossFit, I set her activity factor to 1.45, giving her a maintenance caloric intake of 2060 calories.

*This process is detailed explicitly in my [free] nutrition guide and goes through step-by-step (with worksheets) how to do this for your own self!

Up until this point, all of this was either collected from her intake form or calculated using pre-determined formulas…so very little work on my part.

Now here’s the fun…and where I come in and work my magic.

Now she’s supposed to burn 2060 calories, as calculated using the formulas to determine her maintenance amount. This hypothetical number is supposed to be how much she’s 1. eating and 2. expending.

However…if you look at Shannon’s food log, you can see that she’s averaging about 1350 calories per day and she’s not gaining or losing any weight. This means that her metabolism has adapted. When you undereat long enough, your body will eventually slow down to match the new intake. Why? Because your body doesn’t want to wither away to nothing. There are some energy-consuming processes that aren’t essential that your body will turn off (or just slow down). This includes a lot of your hormones, reproductive system, hair/skin/nail health, etc. Now you don’t know these things are slowed down…until you come out of the deficit and start to finally feel good again. Chronically undereating will increase stress, and in turn increase the amount of cortisol coursing through your body. Elevated cortisol can lead to a number of problems: increased appetite, cravings, binges, weight gain, inability to lose weight, bloating, reduced thyroid function, and so on.

So here, I had two avenues…

  1. Take her in a deficit from where she’s at to help her lose weight

  2. Bring her intake up via a reverse diet…THEN put her in a deficit

Now #1 would likely work, but doing so would put her body and mind at even MORE stress and damage, would slow her metabolism even more, and also would be a miserable, unsustainable deficit to follow. She’d probably be having to eat somewhere between 800-900 calories… and ethically and morally, I refuse to do that with anyone.

Option #2, obviously the one we went with, allows her to accomplish all of her goals while staying healthy. She can get her intake up (by reverse dieting) while working on the mindset portion of things, redefining her relationship with food, and learning how to balance progress with her non-negotiables (coffee, alcohol, hubby and family time). THEN, she gets to diet from her new intake of ~2000 calories, meaning she’ll be losing weight eating 1500 (if not more) calories…100-200 calories more than what she started with.

And that’s what we did.

My first goal was to bring her protein intake up first. Why protein first? Protein helps bring TDEE (total daily energy expenditure, aka how much she’s burning) up because it takes more energy to digest compared to fats and carbs. Protein helps with hunger and cravings by reducing them and increasing satiety because it takes longer to digest. Protein is also the secret macro to achieving body comp changes because protein is the building blocks for muscle. Additionally, her fats and carbs weren’t astronomically low where I was concerned she’d be susceptible to binges, etc., so I was comfortable leaving them alone for a bit while we focused on protein.

Each week, we made a 5g jump in protein until we got to 140g (her goal body weight). Every 3-4 weeks, I would make a 5-10lb jump in either fats or carbs until we reached 200g carbs and 75g fats. I did this intermittently to save time, and also monitored her mindset. When I sensed she was struggling with staying consistent and adherent, I’d boost fats or carbs because she liked them and that was a reward for her.

During the reverse diet, I also monitored her weight (see below). Now, Shannon was one of the blessed individuals who lost weight during a reverse diet. It’s not always guaranteed. Some lose weight. Most maintain their weight. Occasionally, some will gain weight. That being said, her weight didn’t always drop. On weeks her weight jumped up (likely due to stress), we didn’t add food at all. I would wait until it came back down, then would proceed with the reverse diet. If you have a good coach, then this is something they should 100% be doing. It’s also why having a coach during this process is SO important. The mindset behind adding food and fearing weight gain is tough, speaking from experience. Trusting an unbiased coach eases the process and guarantees success.

The gap is from when she was experiencing high amounts of stress (son was sick in hospital) so we took a break from the scale.
Shannon's Weight During Reverse Diet - The gap is from when she was experiencing high amounts of stress (son was sick in hospital) so we took a break from the scale.

This process started January 14th and we had completely finished our reverse diet May 6th. That’s four months, which may seem like a long time…but guess what, it worked beautifully.

In that time, she…

  • Actually LOST weight dropping from 147lbs to 137lbs

  • Saw amazing body comp changes (1st pic – January, 2nd pic – March, 3rd pic – June)

  • PR’d a ton of lifts

  • Rehabbed perfectly from an injury without derailing

  • Learned how to go out to eat and go to family parties and not ruin her progress

  • Learned how to let loose a bit and not feel guilt

  • Learned how to celebrate non-scale victories

In four months…to achieve all that??? Yeah, that’s pretty damn good. It took me 2-3 years to accomplish what she was able to achieve in just a few short months.

We are now 1 month into a cut. She’s more adherent. She’s consistent and she’s thoroughly enjoyed the process.

There’s a couple takeaways to take from Shannon.

#1. Patience

Shannon didn’t demand quick results in a month. She didn’t try to quit two, even three, months in because she was still adding food. Real nutrition takes time…but the time it takes is worth it because it lasts. Shannon has been working with me for 5 months. Four of those were our reverse diet. The past month and the 2-3 that follow it will be the cut she’s been waiting for since January. She’s already lost 12 lbs. total in these 5 months and seen an amazing transformation. Yes, it’s going to take 8-9 months, but it’s better than years of quick 1-month fixes. Referring back to the beginning of this article, Shannon’s biggest concern on her intake form was her impatience and inability to stick to anything claiming she is easily frustrated and gives up easily. Shannon, by far, is one of my most dedicated and committed clients who has never doubted the process or given up. It’s funny that was her concern, because it’s now far from true.

#2. Trust the process

Reverse diets aren’t easy!! You’re adding food…and possibly gaining weight. Stressing about the added weight is going to make it even harder because it might cause even more weight gain. This vicious cycle is helpful for no one. Shannon trusted the process completely even when the scale bumped up or when she was unsure of what I was suggesting to her. Intuitively, it doesn’t make sense to add food when the goal is losing weight. But I educated her on WHY she needed to add food, what benefits would come from it, and how it would help her lose weight easier in the upcoming months.

#3. Be open minded

This wasn’t the method Shannon had thought we were going with, but because she was patient and trusted the process, she remained open-minded to new possibilities and directions. If something wasn’t working, she’d let me know and we’d find a new avenue, even if it wasn’t super conventional. She was skeptical at my encouragement of alcohol and treats, but remained open minded as she included them (in moderation) on weekends. Now, she doesn’t demonize them and didn’t even ask for permission on her birthday to have the cake. Her check in said “It was my birthday, so I obviously had the cake, then made sure I got right back on track the next day”. If you’re working with a coach, you’ve likely tried everything to no avail (otherwise you wouldn’t be spending a decent bit of money paying someone to help you). If nothing has worked, just remain open minded and try what the coach is suggesting. What’s the worst that happens?

I have many more clients like Shannon. All of them doing the exact same thing, reaching the exact same results. Having these success stories and seeing the amazing transformations they make truly gives me no greater joy. It’s WHY I do what I do. I know how amazing this transformation feels because I went through it 3 years ago. I know how great it feels to 1. finally eat the right amount of food to fuel my body and 2. feel strong and comfortable and 3. love the body I now have.

This could be you. All you have to do is hop on a [free] consultation call with me today.

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