How to Stop YoYo Dieting: Looking deep within yourself
Answer this for me.
While you were losing weight, did you find motivation in the scale moving down?
I sure did when I was going through a fat loss phase with my coach last year. And, during the weight maintenance phase, you no longer have that positive feedback from your scale!
We see clients gain lean mass during weight maintenance. It happens via muscle gain and a re-hydration of the muscles. Sometimes, you have to be comfortable seeing the scale move up a little bit. And that’s an uncomfortable position to be in!
For most people, seeing the scale move up is deflating. They think “why am I still putting this effort into tracking if the scale is moving up? If the scale is going to move up, I might as well eat what I want!”
And I totally get this mentality. I’ve been there. After losing 10lbs for a race last year I found maintaining that fat loss incredibly difficult. I snuck more snacks in, and I made excuses that a few extra squares of chocolate were OK.
So I also realize why it’s hard to accept that the small weight gain that occurs after weight loss is generally non-fat mass. It’s usually a combination of water, carbohydrate, and muscle.
I also realize that this rationalization doesn’t fully address the emotional side of things.
And one of the most common things I see after a fat loss phase is that people felt restricted in some way. They want to treat themselves. But when they do treat themselves, they feel bad.
And the crazy thing about this is:
That feeling bad about your decision to “cheat” actually makes you MORE likely to cheat again!
This is an awful feedback loop of cheating and guilting.
A 2007 study surveyed a group of college women to determine how they scored on a scale of restrictive eating and eating guilt.
The researchers fed the women a donut, and then presented them with a bowl of candy to eat from while watching a video.
One group was given messages of self-compassion, that “everybody in the study was eating a donut, and that it’s OK”. And this message appeared to reduce the amount of candy they ate vs. the group of guilty or restricted eaters who did not receive these same messages.
I’ve seen this in practice with my clients. This is another reason why working closely with a coach to help you maintain weight after weight loss is so important. Especially true if you tend to have trash inner talk or tendencies towards self punishment. Your coach can help you wipe the slate clean, shut down the guilt cycle, and help you regain perspective about how much progress you’ve made. Then, you can re-focus, enjoy your indulgence for what it was, and get back on track the next meal.
How to Stop YoYo Dieting: What happens to your body after weight loss?
Now let’s talk about what happens to your body after weight loss. I know parts of this might sound nerdy, but it’s critically important to understand. I’ve simplified the concepts and I will make sure you know how to take action – so stay with me.
When you lose fat, your brain sees this as a bad thing even though your mind might love it when you look in the mirror!
What the heck is Leptin?
Your fat cells release a hormone called leptin. This lets your brain know that your body has energy stored. And, when your body has enough energy stored, your brain feels safe to let the rest of your body to operate as usual. When your body operates as usual, you will have a normal daily energy expenditure.
But when you lose fat, your brain might start feeling cut off from it’s safety blanket buddy leptin. And, evidence suggests your brain might tell your body to decrease it’s activity, and to seek out easy calories by stimulating your appetite.
What the Experts Have Discovered
There is a study that looked at women who dieted down for four months to lose a total 12% of their body mass. This accounted for a 35-50% reduction of their total body fat mass. You guessed it: their brain probably felt a bit lonely without leptin. The study showed that the hormones leptin, T3, Estrogen and Testosterone all dropped significantly.
Within 14-20 weeks of eating their maintenance calories and doing less exercise, the women in the study saw most hormones recover. The exception was T3 and Testosterone which I’ll discuss the significance of later.
And, because these hormones are all suppressed after a diet, it sets the stage for rapid weight regain after weight loss. This is helpful if the source of your next meal is uncertain, but it is quite unhelpful if you want to maintain your weight loss. Hence the yo-yo diet effect.
Here’s an example. After you lose fat, and leptin is lower than baseline, you might not feel full. (Even after big meals). You might have that never ending hunger [[or hanger]] as your body fights to restore the energy stores it’s used to.
That is why we find that after you make your transformation, you lean on your nutrition coach even harder for support. Not only are you biochemically more likely to overeat, but mentally and emotionally as well.
To take it back to the diet and recovery study, let’s discuss one of the other hormones that didn’t return back to baseline- T3.
T3 – Thyroid Hormone
T3 is the active form of Thyroid hormone that affects your body’s metabolic rate, or how much energy it burns. When thyroid hormone is lower, your total energy expenditure is lower. So, because your body has lower energy expenditure, you have less wiggle room for over eating. And if you’re struggling to regulate your appetite for reasons ranging from emotional to hormonal- you’re more prone to over eating. That puts you in a tight spot.
Luckily, I am going to teach you a few easy habits to maintain your weight loss even in the face of downregulated T3 and upregulated appetite.
Increase Your Non-Exercise Activity
One of the most important habits I have found is to consciously increase your non-exercise activity. This is anything you do that isn’t “I’m putting on my workout clothes” activities. Things as small as what you see me doing now, standing and moving my arms to communicate. Walking is the most common non-exercise activity. The best non-exercise activity is the type that reduces your stress.
The reason this is so important is that non-exercise energy expenditure goes down subconsciously after fat loss.
Here’s a story to highlight. I had a client whose iPhone was spying on her. Not in the way you think.
Her Health app gave us insight into just how drastic the subconscious drop in activity is during and after fat loss.
She hit a weight loss plateau after two months, which usually doesn’t happen until month 3. So I had her check her step count on the health app.
Before she started her fat loss phase she was walking an average 6-7000 steps per day.
By the end of her second month when she was wondering why her weight loss had slowed her step count had dropped under 2000 steps per day! That is about as sedentary as you can get.
Her highest impact habit at that point was to identify where she could insert more movement in her day.
And I am a HUGE fan of stacking functions. Especially because Too Much To Do is one of the biggest nutrition roadblocks people experience.
I discovered she talked to her family members or friends on the phone daily. So, we got her to plug in some headphones and take those conversations on a walk! This was a way to get in more exercise without more hours at the gym.
This small change meant she hit over 8000 steps per day. Her rate of fat loss was now restored. This habit also made weight maintenance dead simple for her. Win-Win!
The other important thing I want to point out is that walking and connecting with her friends and family was a stress reducing activity.
Being constantly in a sympathetic state working in a hospital, doing CrossFit, and driving meant she was stressed.
Stress hormones can have a negative feedback loop on Thyroid hormone and sex hormones which drop in females after a weight loss diet. So getting out of a constant sympathetic nervous system state is quite helpful to weigh maintenance as well.
How to Stop YoYo Dieting: Take Notice of Your Environment
The last MAJOR thing that I see as being key to creating a sustainable transformation is the ability to control your environments. We are creatures of our environment, so home, work, and even travel environments should make the right choice the easy choice.
I usually recommend clients start out fixing the environments they either spend the most time in, or are most likely to make poor decisions in.
How to stop yo yo dieting with: The Office
Surprisingly, once clients get into a good meal prep routine and bring their own food to work, the office tends to be the easiest place to stay on point.
Home is where the vices are. Especially if your significant other, flat mates, or kids aren’t eating the same way as you.
The best option in this case is to remove any foods that you are prone to over eating from your home environment.
How to stop yo yo dieting with: Co-Habitants
But if you live with other people, this isn’t fully within your control. So it helps to open up conversations to see if you can get the rest of your co-habitants on board.
If you can’t remove vice foods right away without flat mate friction, then the next best option is to make it harder for yourself to access those foods. It’s also quite helpful to make sure you have the right food options prepared and convenient to access.
There is some deeper work you can do around engineering your environment for success.
One of my favorites is having clients start to keep notes about the triggers and cues in their environment that signal cravings.
How to stop yo yo dieting with: Specific Rooms/Places
Sometimes you have associations with a room, like your kitchen, signaling a craving for the easy calories in your pantry.
People, times of day, and other habits that cravings are anchored to are all other areas you can look at to uncover clues about craving cues.
You and your coach can then use the notes you’ve kept to create an action plan. You can use them to help you REMOVE the triggers for unhealthy behaviors. Or work on changing your association with those triggers.
If you walk into the kitchen and go straight to the pantry, then take everything out of your pantry that you could eat right away. You can take it a step further and put a bunch of prepared food in your fridge. This will condition you to be let down by the pantry. But, you’ll be rewarded by the fridge full of healthy, conveniently prepared meals
If you feel like you’re ready to work with one of our expert nutrition coaches, feel free to set up an initial call at beyondmacros.com/call
Until next time heros, much love and keep shining.
At Beyond Macros we are THE sustainable transformation nutrition coaches. If you are interested in learning exactly how to get leaner, stronger, and perform your best Click Here to learn more about what you get with a Beyond Macros coach, or schedule an initial meeting with us HERE