Most people want to lose weight when they start a nutrition plan.
I mean, generally, you have three options with any nutrition plan: lose weight/bodyfat, gain muscle/size, or maintain weight. Most people (I’d say 75-85%) I have found tend to lean towards that weight loss goal.
As a coach, my job is to help people reach their goals and upon signing on a client, I take that responsibility of getting people to that goal they’re striving to reach.
Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is, however, that not everyone is quite ready for weight loss. In fact, from my experience, MOST people need a bit of work to their diets before starting a fat loss phase.
But this is often met with a massive amount of resistance—partly due to the millions of fitness and nutrition “experts” claiming that they can guarantee instant weight loss, or results within 30 days, or 6-week challenges to get rock hard abs. The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, these ads are lying to you...or at least misleading you terribly.
These numerous advertisements and marketing strategies have created a false sense of how to realistically reach your goals. It takes more than 2, 4, 6, even 8 weeks to get real, long-lasting results in most cases. Yes, there are the few anomalies that can achieve and sustain quick weight loss, but that’s the exception not the rule.
In my experience working with 100+ clients, I have found very few immediately ready for a fat loss phase the second they sign on. Usually, most clients are coming to me severely undereating, with nowhere to go. Some come to me with absolutely zero meal structure or macro composition. Others come to me having dieted constantly for the past 10 years. Then there’s the people who’ve never eaten a single vegetable. In all of these cases, it doesn’t make sense for me to even target fat loss for a couple of reasons, which I’ll get into in a bit.
Today’s blog is essentially going to function as YOUR checklist to honestly and realistically without bias, assess your nutrition to determine whether you’re ready for a fat loss phase...and what to do if you’re not there yet.
But real quick, let’s clarify what I mean by a “fat loss phase”.
By “fat loss phase”, I am referring to the planned, programmed, and intentional deficit created for the sole purpose of losing weight.
To generate fat loss, you essentially need to be eating LESS than what you’re burning.
This is most often through what is called a cut, where we cut calories from your maintenance.
But here’s the catch...you need to have somewhere to cut FROM...and if you don’t, then that’s one sign you’re not ready for fat loss.
SO without further ado, let’s get into all the signs that you’re probably not ready for fat loss...
You’re not ready for fat loss if...
You’re eating less than 1700 calories
You’ve dieted more than twice in the past year
You’ve never eaten at maintenance
You’re only doing cardio
Your stress levels are too high
You have no idea what calories/macros are/entail
You’re not eating whole foods/veggies
You only eat processed foods
Your biofeedback is shit (not sleeping, energy is garbage, recovery is poor, etc.)
If you answered yes to any of these, you likely are NOT ready for fat loss.
If you answered yes to 2 or more, you are NOT ready for fat loss.
If you answered yes to 5 or more, you definitely without a doubt are NOT ready for fat loss.
So what now?
Just because you’re not ready for fat loss now doesn’t mean you’ll never be ready for fat loss.
Most often, those NOT ready for fat loss are in need of a reverse diet, or the slow addition of calories back into one’s diet over the course of a few weeks or months.
If you’re eating less than 1500-1700 calories, then you’re likely in need of a reverse diet. To determine if you are in need of one, compare your current intake by tracking your intake for about a week to your calculated maintenance (body weight x 13-16). If your current intake is 500 calories LOWER, then you’re in need of a reverse diet. Luckily for you, I just wrote an extensive article explaining how to go through a reverse diet.
If the difference between your current intake and your calculated maintenance intake isn’t 500 calories or greater, then you don’t necessarily have to reverse diet. You can easily just make the additions to your caloric intake to get you to your calculated maintenance without much weight gain, if at all. However, if there are some mental barriers preventing you from wanting to increase your caloric intake, then I would take it a bit slower and treating it more like a reverse diet by making weekly slow additions of 50-100 calories.
The biggest point, regardless to how you plan to or need to manipulate your caloric intake, is to manage and improve your biofeedback. Your biofeedback is the most important piece of the puzzle. If it’s not in check, it’s going to be THAT much harder for you to reach any goal be it weight loss or muscle gain.
During reverse diets and by increasing your caloric intake, you will see improvements in your energy, sleep, mood, hunger/cravings, and recovery. If you don’t need to go through a full reverse, your main priority will be to make weekly changes to improve and monitor your biofeedback. For example, if you are currently at a healthy intake but not sleeping or able to get through a day without crashing, you’re likely not ready for fat loss because stress is too high. Managing your stress and improving sleep and energy (by either removing stressors, improving night/morning routine, meditation/journaling, improving food quality, limiting blue light, etc.) will improve all of your biofeedback markers, making future weight loss or muscle gain possible and easier.
This depends on a number of factors. If you need a full reverse diet, this could take as long as 3-6 months. If it’s simple stress management and a slight tweak in macros and calories, I would say to hold and maintain for at least 2 months. Could you maintain for a month or even just a few weeks sure? BUT this is going to make future cuts and gaining phases significantly harder. The longer you maintain, the easier future cuts and gaining phases will be. Obviously, we have to find the middle ground. YES maintaining a year will be better for future health and weight-loss compared to a maintenance of 3-6 months, but as a coach, I understand that I have to be realistic with my clients’ goals. As a general rule of thumb, I find that 3-6 month middle ground to be perfectly sufficient in restoring metabolism and biofeedback with the caveat that IF you don’t feel good and you’re still checking yes to any and all of the options on the checklist that you hold off on cuts and weight loss until those are in check.
What will happen to your weight?
Now some people will lose weight outside of their fat loss phase. In fact, some people never even need to go into a fat loss phase because what we did beforehand—what I will teach you below—worked its magic and helped the clients reach their goals.
In some reverse diets, we see a change in body comp and weight loss. The act of improving food quality, managing overall stress and stress around eating, sleeping more, prioritizing recovery, and increasing intake, we can see weight loss. This is most common in people who have little macro/calorie tracking and even in people in the most severe cases of having chronically undereaten for so long. Why? Because their bodies have lived in a constant state of stress and now is actually being supported...which lets their bodies reduce stress and respond how it’s wanted to respond for years.
This is why I don’t always immediately drop clients’ intakes the second they sign on...because sometimes, it is completely unnecessary.
Fat loss isn’t the first step in so many cases, despite the sometimes desperate and immediate desire to reach that point.
Take the steps first to prioritize your health. Learn how your body is supposed to feel. Learn how to fight hunger and cravings. Learn how to NOT restrict yourself 24/7/365. Do the work FIRST to earn your right to diet and lose weight and I guarantee you will be 100x more successful.
YES it takes longer. YES it can be frustrating. But it gets you 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years down the road STILL seeing results and STILL in a place of healing and happiness.
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.