Summer is coming up fast and with that, an increase of ads featuring diet pills, detoxes, fit teas, and other products with a promise to help you shed that “quarantine 15.” The companies who tout these products profit off of one thing– your insecurities.
Maybe you’re not feeling your absolute best. Maybe you’re wanting to shed that quarantine 15 or take actionable steps to achieve some body composition goals. There is nothing wrong with that.
BUT… is ~6 weeks a realistic timeline for YOU to see the results you’re hoping for?
Let’s start by talking about sustainable progress…
These products and programs have given most people the expectation that weight loss should be fast and if it’s not fast, you’re failing. Is this true?
First, if you’ve been here a while you remember that weight loss ≠ fat loss. Our body is not just made of fat and more than likely, water weight is the culprit behind scale fluctuations. You may have lost a pound of water weight on the scale but this kind of weight loss won’t contribute to body composition changes. Those come from achieving fat loss. More on this here!
When it comes to your rate of loss, what should you be aiming for? What’s realistic?
The best rate for SUSTAINABLE FAT LOSS, meaning, a rate of loss that allows you to lose fat and KEEP IT OFF, should be between 0.5 pounds and 1.5 pounds/week, usually achieving the higher end initially.
With that in mind, 6-weeks might be realistic for someone who has 3-9 pounds to lose and is already at an optimal food intake (most aren’t), and has experience with weight lifting.
However, these numbers are used in context with consuming adequate food intake, managing stress, getting a good amount of restful sleep, and consuming a nutrient-dense dietary intake. These numbers are NOT used for fad diets or detox programs, as those tend to be unsustainable and therefore, unreliable indicators of sustained progress over time.
Is a 6-week goal realistic for others? It depends. Here are a few questions to ask yourself…
- Do you consume enough calories based on your height, weight, activity level, lifestyle, and stress levels? If not, this needs to be worked on first.
- Do you have more than 9 pounds you would like to lose? (only works if we’re using the scale for reference which isn’t completely accurate. More on this later.)
- How is your relationship with food and your body? Do you apply morality to food? Do you struggle with extreme body criticism?
- What is your current activity level like? If you started to include activity, would you be able to maintain it long-term?
Consuming enough calories is CRUCIAL to achieve your goals. 9 out of 10 times when someone applies for 1:1 coaching, we see that they have been undereating or chronically dieting for months or years, and sometimes even decades. This causes metabolic adaptation. Metabolic adaptation occurs when our body adapts to the calorie intake we are providing to ensure survival and perform all of our internal processes. This doesn’t mean that intake is optimal though and a lot of times results in a downregulation of hormones, like thyroid and sex hormones, and an increase in stress hormones. This creates an environment that is not conducive to fat loss and instead is ideal for fat gain. Unfortunately, if you’ve been doing this for years or decades, this means your journey is probably going to take longer than most.
We know that to achieve fat loss we need a calorie deficit and that fat loss plateaus happen so let’s chat about that as well. If you’re currently undereating at around 1,200 calories/day and trying to pursue fat loss, a calorie deficit would be hard to achieve while also optimizing energy levels, muscle building, managing stress, and making sure you’re getting in an adequate amount of nutrients. If we were to put you in a calorie deficit at this level when your fat loss plateaus we would have to dive even further into a deficit that would result in more health-related problems. Remember… calories are your body’s source of energy. We need them to function optimally. This situation is not ideal for fat loss.
The solution would be to increase your intake over time through Reverse Dieting which would allow for more food intake, health optimization, and a better baseline to begin at. This also gives you plenty of time to work on your relationship and habits when it comes to food as well as address body image issues you may be struggling with. If you feel that this situation applies to you, I highly recommend working on this with an educated professional for support and guidance.
If you have a significant amount of weight you’d like to lose, setting realistic expectations is also crucial. Results don’t happen overnight and if you need to reverse diet or work on your relationship with food and/or your body, they may not happen for months. Remember that the time is going to pass whether you’re working on these things or not.
I need to go a bit off-topic here to drive a point home… scale weight is NOT always indicative of overall progress. If you are resistance training, which I encourage everyone to do regardless of body composition goals, the scale may not change much as you go through the process of losing body fat while also building mass. Muscle does NOT weigh more than fat, but it is denser than fat tissue, which means it takes up less space while also contributing to changing the shape of your body. This could mean that even though you’ve lost two pounds of body fat, you’ve gained two pounds of muscle and therefore look and feel leaner. This is shown by taking body measurements and seeing inches lost as well as taking regular progress pictures. Even if you have ~9 pounds of weight to lose in ~6 weeks to get summer-ready”, you could lose 9 pounds of body fat and replace it with 9 pounds of muscle mass (this isn’t a super realistic scenario physiologically, just bear with me). While the scale may have stayed the same, your ENTIRE body has changed. Would you still say you lacked progress?
Here is a HUGE consideration for body composition goals… you CAN NOT HATE YOUR BODY SMALLER. Read that again and again and again until it sticks. Remember… the companies that want you to, profit off of you hating your body. Don’t give them that satisfaction. Am I saying you need to love your body and not want to change it? Not at all. What I am saying is that a smaller body WILL NOT bring you the happiness you’re looking for and somewhere else, a need of yours is not being met.
Working on your relationship with your body is critical for anyone seeking body composition changes. It’s also important to remember that body image is not static. You will NOT feel confident in your skin every single day of your life. You will see your imperfections and be critical of them at times, but it doesn’t mean that your relationship with your body is wrong UNLESS those feelings cause unhealthy behaviors when it comes to nutrition and exercise. Body image is dynamic and fluctuates day to day. Having a good relationship with your body image means that even when you’re having a low day, you still nourish and move your body and don’t punish it because you’re experiencing completely normal feelings.
Remember that depriving your body of the food it needs to function optimally is NOT the answer. Food is not the issue. It is not good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, clean or dirty. It is food. You can enjoy a donut here and there without feeling guilty for it. You can go out to dinner with your loved ones from time to time and not derail your progress. Food is a basic physiological need and associating it with feelings of guilt causes more damage than just eating the damn donut once in a while. Your relationship with food is incredibly important and should be worked on before attempting to lose body fat. I can promise you that it will take longer than 8 weeks to heal it, so plan accordingly if you’re trying to get “summer-ready.”
Last, but not least, let’s chat about activity levels. Exercise is important, but not because it’s how we achieve fat loss or change how our body looks. It’s important because it provides numerous health benefits and increases the longevity of our lives. You can lose all the weight through very low-calorie intakes and a copious amount of cardio but if you go back to eating how you were before you started your “diet,” you’ll gain the weight right back. Finding a way to move your body that you genuinely enjoy and can sustain long-term is critical for long-term results and health benefits.
And no, hours upon hours of cardio is NOT the answer. Cardio is wonderful for the health benefits that it provides and should be included in a balanced training schedule, but for a lot of individuals, it can be the most adaptive form of exercise and cause increased hunger levels, making it very hard to adhere to your calorie or macro targets.
Alright… so WHEN should you get Summer ready? Well, NOW of course, but not for this Summer. For next Summer, and all of the summer’s after that because now you’re seeing the importance of genuinely learning how to fuel, nourish, and move your body in a way that provides you sustainable results.
Commit to the long game. Commit to your health. Commit to your growth. Commit to learning how to love yourself in all shapes and sizes, in all phases of life, and how to overcome your struggles.
If you need some support, our coaches are here to help. Apply for coaching HERE!