Time and time again you hop into a diet that your friends tell you about, only to decide it “doesn’t work for you.” Well, I am here to tell you that chronic dieting is causing your fat loss plateau – and the reason being is that you are a chronic dieter. You just from one diet to the next without ever giving your body a chance to catch up. And if you are reading this, chances are this was/is you. I have been here. I have diet hopped and checked out different ways of eating because one must be the right way, right? Wrong.
When it comes to diet culture these days – women are still stuck on the idea that eating less is the only way. And I don’t blame you because the media and celebrities endorse it. But, science tells us there is a better way. When you actually start to listen to the body response instead of stuffing it back down you will realize that the plateau is actually a cry for help. And if our body is crying for help, we need to listen. Because we only get one body to live in – so you better try your damndest to take care of it! So…why is chronic dieting causing your fat loss plateau?
According the the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of diet is
“a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight”.
“food and drink regularly provided or consumed”.
So “diet” doesn’t only mean restricting calorie intake – but rather it can also just be term used to talk about what you regularly consume. In this blog, the diet term I am using is the first one – I am talking about the restriction of calories to decrease overall body weight.
Based on the definition we can determine that a chronic dieter is someone who is constantly trying different diets, but is always limiting food intake with a goal to decrease body weight. Could be different approaches like intermittent fasting, ketogenic, Atkins, macro tracking, fasting, etc. but ultimately the end goal is weight loss.
You may assume that if a diet isn’t working for you, aka you are not losing weight, then it doesn’t work and you need to move on. But if you continue to try diet after diet and decrease food over and over again..sooner or later it is going to catch up to you and you will NEVER see the results you want.
When we think about weight/fat loss – we expect it to be linear, and in the downward direction if we were looking at a graph. This is true overall, but there are still peaks and valleys – they just trend in the downward direction. Weight loss is never just a straight line in the decreasing direction until we hit our goal, although wouldn’t that be awesome?! So this leads to so much discouragement and harder dieting when we continue to step on the scale and things aren’t changing like we are expecting and the number keeps rising and falling every other day.
Fat loss plateaus are caused like any other plateau really – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Kind of like insanity – right?
You are just starting your health and fitness journey and you head to the gym. You pick a workout, do some cardio and after a few days, or weeks, you are seeing the scale drop. You are feeling amazing and decide that it is totally working, so, you head to the gym and continue on the same plan day after day. Well, after awhile the program is going to stop working because your body is adapting. That is the beauty of the human body – without us having to tell it or change it, it just knows that it needs to work differently/harder to make up for the new stimulus and situations you put it through. But, in the fitness world, this isn’t what we want.
This means our body has adapted to the stimulus of the workout and it is no longer being “pushed” out of that zone to make changes. And so the plateau hits. So you assume that means you need to start eating less and working out more – which in turn, might shift the scale a little bit but not enough. So then you try a different workout program and drop food. This again, works for awhile but then stops. So you jump to the next plan. And after awhile your body hits burnout and starts to completely work against you.
Thus, the issue with plan hopping. But also, chronic dieting. Because if you are jumping from plan to plan, chances are you continue to restrict your calories more and more and before you know it you have tried 7 different diets in the last 2 years and can’t figure out why “nothing is working”.
So with the issue of not giving a plan long enough to work, and also not prioritizing progressive overload, you also have burned out your metabolism.
When we diet for long periods of time (chronic dieting) – we find ourselves either hitting a plateau, or actually going in the opposite direction and gaining fat. This fat gain typically happens in the belly (stress hormone related) or in the legs (female hormone related). This is because after we have put so much stress on our bodies in a caloric deficit (the only way to lose fat) our body starts to burn out.
We start to become insulin resistant (when cells in your muscles/fat/liver resist the signal that insulin sends out – so it creates more and we end up with too much, aka fat gain) which if left untreated can turn into type 2 diabetes. We also burn out our adrenal glands which can cause weight gain, along with a constant spike in cortisol which is the leading contributor to unwanted belly fat. So then we think we are doing something wrong so we try a new diet, which again puts us in a deficit and is going to cause hormones to go in all different directions still. And then overtime, after your body is like STOP IT I CAN’T TAKE IT, it is just going to stop functioning properly. You will start to put on weight no matter how hard to try to keep it off.
It is a vicious cycle – but there is a way to break the fat loss plateau, or avoid it all together. So if you find that you might be one of these chronic dieters and have been on this roller coaster for awhile…listen up!
The biggest way to avoid a plateau is to listen to your body. Pick a workout program you enjoy and then put yourself into a caloric deficit (eating less calories than you are burning in a given day). Do this for a few weeks/months and be consistent. If after a while you see progress slow, or stop, you need to then start reversing yourself out of the deficit and into maintenance calories (eating the same number of calories as you burn in a given day). This is going to allow your body to reset, rest, relax, hormones to start leveling out and your body to start functioning like a well oiled machine.
The issue we have these days, in society, is that we think we always need to be in a deficit and if we aren’t losing weight then our deficit isn’t big enough. So then we start to diet even harder, and even harder, until we really hit a wall and our weight starts to climb. Women think they need to constantly be trying to lose weight – which creates chronic dieters. If we NEVER eat the amount of food our body needs to normalize and level out – we are never going to see the results and fat loss changes we want. We need to have times of eating more food, and allowing our stress hormones to drop to see the changes we want.
THIS IS WHY LONG TERM DIETING DOES NOT WORK.
Stick with 1 thing – for a long duration of time. If you spend all your energy hopping from diet to diet or program to program you are never going to find something that works for you. Why? Because you don’t give yourself enough time in each place to actually let it work! You have to be able to let your body adjust a little give it time to actually create the results you want, and then make sure you program progressive overload (either increasing weight, reps or sets). No way of eating, no workout program, no coach is going to give you your ideal results in a short period of time. It doesn’t matter how good it is or what it is, it just doesn’t happen.
So if you are waiting around for the “perfect” program that is going to help you shed fat in days and keep it off….keep looking – And don’t get your hopes up. You have be be consistent in anything you do. Give it time, be patient, and if after a few months you still aren’t seeing the results or changes you hoped for (even on a small scale) then you can start increasing your food. You need to bring yourself up to maintenance calories so that your body, and hormones, get a break for a while. Then after a few months with increased food levels you can start again dropping into a deficit!
Chronic Dieting = always eating less than your body needs to survive = long term weight gain