How do you think a typical dieting timeline goes?
How long? Weeks? Months? Years?
Is it dieting 24/7?
Are there breaks?
How many calories?
Are there different phases and periods in a given nutrition plan?
Well, the number one answer is “it depends.” Everyone is different, and therefore, everyone’s dieting timeline is going to be different. Someone who wants to drop 5-10lbs is going to need a completely different nutrition plan compared to someone with 100lbs to lose.
This is why individualized nutrition is the KEY to seeing real and lasting results.
Often, though, clients and non-clients alike have no clue what a REAL dieting timeline looks like. The clients that do sign on with me often hit a wall one month in because they’ve maybe only lost 2-3 lbs. Based off of popular media and advertisements, they should be a minimum of 15lbs down. At this point, I have to take the time to educate my clients on what REAL dieting looks like...and that mainly is just TIME: time to first get healthy (which most incoming clients are not), time to establish a good, solid foundation (which most incoming clients do not have), time to let the process work (which most incoming clients do not account for), and then time to let the results sink in and to become a part of their new lifestyle (which most incoming clients do not do).
I often use the example I’m sharing with you today: a client case study.
One of my most successful clients has been with me for 2 years. In that time, she’s transformed not only her physical body (by losing 50+ pounds), but her health (her bloodwork indicates she’s a perfectly healthy woman with no indications of hormone imbalances and unexplained cortisol spikes), her mental state (she no longer needs to control not punching a wall), and her overall lifestyle. What differs Reilly from other individuals struggling to lose weight is that she committed herself to the lifestyle and the timeline needed to see such amazing results.
This blog has two functions. It serves the purpose of showing you:
1. A case study simply just bragging on one of my amazing clients
2. An example of a classic dieting timeline that is MORE than just a 30-day weight loss program
Before we dive in, it is important to note that like I said above, everyone’s nutrition is specific to them...the individual. My intention sharing Reilly’s dieting timeline is to SHOW you an example to demonstrate that real results take time and there’s a TON of moving parts that need to be taken accounted for. Your nutrition likely won’t be the same as Reilly’s...and that’s okay. You may not need two years to see the results Reilly has earned...but you could and that’s what I hope you take away from after reading this blog.
Reilly started with me May of 2018. She weighed 210lbs and wanted to lose weight after uncomfortably gaining some weight going through a health scare.
Reilly is a normal person, just like you. She’s got 3 adorable cats. She’s a caterer and works really hard at her job...and is really good at it. She works odd hours with her catering job, making eating difficult. Because she works around food, she simply avoided eating food any time she was at work to not be tempted by the fattening, yummy food she was serving. She didn’t have much of a hunger response nor did she have cravings. Before me, she had no sense of self care or idea as to how much sleep she was missing out on.
However, like many clients, maybe even you, Reilly came to me significantly underfed, averaging 900-1100 calories per day. She was experiencing a slew of hormone imbalances, mainly her cortisol levels were all over the place. Her doctor proposed putting her on weight loss pills (a derivative of amphetamine) to get her to lose weight and regulate her cortisol levels, which is how she ended up in my life.
TWO YEARS OF DIETING
Below is Reilly’s progress over two years, starting in MAY of 2018 and continuing through JUNE of 2020, starting at around 210lbs and now at 158lbs.
In the graph below of Reilly’s progress, you’ll see a couple of things.
1. She’s gone through at least FOUR different phases
2. She’s only gone through 2 cuts in 2 years
3. Her weight has fluctuated A LOT
4. She intentionally went through a phase where she gained weight
5. There are gaps in the graph from intentional breaks from the scale
6. She slowly dropped weight or maintained for a year before her body finally start dropping weight like crazy
So now, let’s break down this 2-year timeline.
PHASE 1: REVERSE DIET
Like many incoming clients, we couldn’t start losing weight immediately because we had nowhere to cut from, so we started with a reverse diet.
You’ve heard the mantra:
Calories In = Calories Out
To lose weight, Reilly needed to have fewer calories coming in than going out, meaning she would be eating less than she was expending. I dropped a blog recently on Reverse Diets. If you’re unsure what a reverse diet is, why you need one, if YOU might need one, and how to do it, check it out and hire a coach to guide you through the process.
We reversed Reilly from 900 calories/day to 2200 calories/day. In five months, she more than doubled her caloric intake. In that time, we practiced how to actually eat during the day and not starve herself throughout the day, how to prepare for catering events, how to fit her new nutrition plan into her lifestyle, how to fuel for workouts, how to sleep better, how to manage stress, and more.
We laid the foundations...and it took FIVE months, which is pretty common with reverse diets because not only are you having to add food which takes time, you have to manage the mindset struggle behind adding food when you want to lose weight...and that takes more time.
Below is her weight through her reverse diet. Fortunately, Reilly was one of the few individuals who LOST weight during a reverse diet. Why? We can’t know for 100% certainty but from my experience, her body was FINALLY being treated well...which caused some of Reilly’s stress levels to go down along with some weight/water retention from years and years of restricting and stressing her body out.
In her reverse diet, we added 1200 calories of food and went from ~210lbs to breaking 200 and sitting comfortably around 198-199lbs.
PHASE 2: CUT #1
Enter Phase 2, active weight loss.
After 5 months of working together, Reilly was finally ready to actively target losing weight. Before, in Reilly’s reverse diet, the goal wasn’t to lose weight. The goal was to GET HEALTHY. She happened to be one of the fortunate individuals who did lose weight, but she could have gained weight and we would have had to keep adding food.
Reilly’s first cut was a more traditional cut so we could learn how her body responds to a calorie deficit. I cut Reilly’s intake 15% and included 2 refeeds per week. We started here to give a pretty conservative drop in calories to make it a very sustainable deficit. The refeeds were to help her with her job working events as a caterer. They helped keep her metabolism high, as well, so we would hit fewer plateaus. For more non-traditional dieting methods, check out a recent blog post I wrote.
Reilly was able to hold onto this deficit with a few minor changes in her cardio activity and refeeds for roughly 4 months, which is pretty standard. Up until this point, we wanted to keep her first cut within the typical 8-12 week window to ensure her metabolism could handle the added stress of dieting and wouldn’t adapt. Often, people spend too much time in a deficit and by the time they crash and burn and come out of the deficit, it’s almost too late to do anything...then you have to spend a significant amount of time reversing that damage done.
Throughout this period, we monitored her biofeedback (sleep, energy, hunger, cravings, stress, recovery) making sure she wasn’t showing signs of metabolic adaptation. We timed this cut (and post-cut reverse diet & maintenance period) with her schedule as this was usually the quiet season for her job as a caterer. As February neared, wedding season and parties started to pick up. We hadn’t quite mastered her stress management, yet, so the goal was to bring her into a higher caloric intake to mitigate the added stress with her job.
Below is Reilly’s amazing progress through her first cut. One important thing to note is that her weight did fluctuate, and this is normal!!! There are big drops, not so big drops, and some increases throughout her cut. In this cut, in just over 12 weeks, she dropped 13 lbs. averaging roughly a pound per week. THIS IS THE IDEAL RATE OF WEIGHT LOSS!!! 1. So your body can adjust as you lose weight and 2. so you can actually follow a sustainable dieting prescription.
PHASE 3: POST-CUT REVERSE DIET/MAINTENANCE
After every cut needs to be a period of reverse dieting and a maintenance for a minimum of 2 months. For Reilly, this was 4 months...for a couple of reasons.
As you can see, Reilly intentionally gained weight during this period. Go back to the very first graph. Only 4 months out of 2 entire years did Reilly gain weight.
Weight gain is often necessary!! Don’t be afraid of it.
As mentioned above, Reilly’s spring into summer season is her busiest season with her job. We timed her break with her busiest season so she would have one less thing stressing her out.
During this time, we practiced with intuitive eating, taking frequent diet breaks, stress management and mindset work, and even taking vacations! For most, this would be the “worst” time of the entire two years working together...but Reilly achieved as much in these couple of months as she did in active diet phases. THIS is when she started to truly buy into the lifestyle and make it her own.
Did gaining weight stress Reilly out? YES! It 100% did. We worked through it. What separates Reilly from many is that she TRUSTED THE PROCESS and knew why we were doing it. She started to find other means of measuring progress and feeling happy with herself. She was building strength at the gym. She was finally feeling comfortable in her own skin. She was starting to give herself space to be a human for the first time in years...that’s just as amazing as losing weight (if not a little more amazing).
PHASE 3: CUT #2
NOW is the time for the real results to come flooding in. This, in my opinion, is the most amazing part of Reilly’s progress and transformation. She passed the threshold for her body to just give in.
During this second cut, we knew everything heading into it. We knew what general approaches worked for her. We knew stress was managed. We knew she was sleeping finally. We knew literally everything, so we could get a bit more creative.
We started with a 2-week on, 2-week off MATADOR approach. The 2 weeks on were a more aggressive 25% deficit with a whole 2 weeks back on maintenance. After a few weeks/months, we took out a maintenance week to keep seeing progress. After a few weeks/months there, we added a deficit week. We’re still chugging along at this 3:1 approach and she’s STILL seeing roughly 1lb/week lost.
Now you might be wondering why we’ve gone past the typical 8-12 week dieting phase. I will be honest when I say I had no intention of doing this... BUT here’s what happened:
Her biofeedback was amazing...and still is. We started letting her biofeedback dictate her rate of progress. When her biofeedback starts to lag, we throw in a diet break or a refeed. If her biofeedback returns to normal (which is has every time), then we dive right back in. The reason we can do this is because for an entire YEAR, she committed herself to building a foundation, getting healthy, and doing the work to learn her body and her mind...
Below is her progress throughout this second cut. As you can see, she’s lost over 40lbs in this phase ALONE.
Hats off to Reilly, am I right???
This timeline isn't here to scare you...but to demonstrate how much TIME and PATIENCE goes into making this a true life altering and lasting change.
It takes time.
It takes effort.
It's so worth it.
Reilly would tell you that. She's not the same person she was two years ago...and these two years, to her, have felt like the speed of light compared to the other 30 years of trying and trying and trying to lose just 5lbs.
If you want to learn what your timeline should look like, apply here for a free strategy call. Don't wait.
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.
Recipe & Macro Guide here.