What Should Dieting Look Like?
“Dieting” – It’s really a loaded word. It can mean SO many things and bring out SO many emotions for people. But what should it REALLY mean? Dieting, in our eyes, is essentially a short-term caloric restriction and/or food-restriction (i.e. elimination diets) in an effort to reach a body-composition or weight-loss goal. You should NOT, and I repeat, you should NOT diet your entire life.
You need to be ready for “cutting” or “dieting” – it is a battle both mentally and physically. You may be hungry, you may not feel as strong in the gym, and you are going to have to sacrifice a lot depending on your usual social life. If you plan to go through this process, having actionable, measurable, and realistic goals is extremely important and we truly believe you should have someone that is qualified to guide you through this process.
To lose weight, it is a calculated process that can get taken too far very easily and do more damage than good. Find someone that will understand and know what caloric deficit and food combination is going to fit you best to help you maintain muscle mass, but mostly lose body-fat. Too large of a calorie deficit and you can start to lose muscle and harm the metabolic rate, and too little of a calorie deficit might not bring many results at all.
Maintaining: Cruise Control, but stay within that speed limit!
Now maintaining is a different story. Maintaining progress is slightly easier and more enjoyable (as it should be!) because this is a lifestyle! You’ve worked your butt off, you’ve sacrificed, and now you want to simply “cruise control” that progress. So what does that look like? It definitely doesn’t look like bringing ALL the foods you had sacrificed back into your diet, or going back to binge drinking every weekend. It usually means slightly higher intake levels to get away from losing weight and looking more to maintain your current weight, moderate indulgences like an ice cream cone on a Saturday night here and there, or a few glasses of wine at a special occasion, etc.
Maintaining still means you are eating nutrient dense, appropriate intake levels 85-95% of the time (depending on who you are) and keeping up with consistent exercise. It can very easily and very quickly spiral out of control when one bad weekend can turn into a bad week…month…and months later we are back to where we started this whole journey at.
It can also go south quickly if we adopt the “weekdays are great, weekends not so much” mentality. Weekends are a time to relax for sure, de-stress, go out to eat even – but if every weekend turns into 5-7 beers on Saturday night, hung-over greasy food on Sundays, etc. then you will find your maintenance slowly not maintaining.
So be very cautious with maintaining and know the difference between moderate indulgences and “letting loose”. While you maintain, it is also a great time to experiment with different nutritional strategies, different foods, different exercise routines, etc. Find what works best for you!
Now to Compare – Dieting vs. Maintaining
Here is a slightly more “visual” explanation of what we just discussed. And one main thing to notice is that these two columns LOOK similar. Maintaining is easier, more enjoyable, but (if dieting is done in a healthy way) then maintenance is simply the good habits you build while dieting carried over!
Length of Time
Speed of Progress
Can range from slow and steady to more aggressive.
Cruise Control that progress!
Types of Changes
Small to Large Changes depending on individual and adherence ability.
Experimentation + Data Collection period including small changes here and there.
Buckle Down and Sacrifice
Don’t be so hard on yourself and learn from mistakes/experimentation. Always getting back on track if noticing deviation.
Can range dramatically. Low-carb, low-fat, elimination diets, etc.
Consistently keeping nutrient dense foods in your diet and trying new foods to see how your body responds. Always aware of how body feels.
Regular observation and monitoring to make adjustments if necessary.
Occasional weigh-ins or InBody body-fat testings to make sure progress is being maintained and allow for adjustments if you notice progress is slipping.