How can I be in the diet business without being in the diet business? It’s a question I find myself asking myself more and more these days. Look, I love what I do. I founded PowerUp Nutrition in 2016 and it has been an amazing ride ever since of coaching and helping others fuel their lifestyle and reach their goals through flexible nutrition. There is no doubt that this is what I am passionate about.
I guess I should re-phrase this. What I truly want to distance myself from is the endless cycle of yo-yo dieting and pursuit of fad diets. Celery juice? WTF! You like to eat air instead of pasta? Have at it, but cutting carbs does not make you healthy! And fruits are not the problem.
The thing is, there is a lot more to nutrition than the pursuit of losing weight. Weight loss may be how people find us, but I hope that when they leave this isn’t their sole take-away.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone feel great in their skin and fuel their body well. Who doesn’t love a good before and after! But the mindset shifts are the ones I am most proud of. The shift that happens when we stop seeing food as good or bad. When we start to understand how great we can feel when we eat for energy and performance and start making gains again! Sometimes it comes with weight loss. Other times it does not.
The hardest part of my job, though, is that not everyone is in a place to lose weight. Many come to me following a long history of dieting. If you have been bouncing from one diet to the next, from low carbs to low fat and everything in between, chances are that your body is in need of a little recovery before weight loss is a healthy and viable option for you.
You may have heard this before, but it’s true that you need to earn your right to diet. Read that again: earn your right to diet. Most will hire a coach after trying and failing to do this on their own for a while, most often chronically under-eating and feeling frustrated. Dieting harder just won’t work. 1200 calories is only really appropriate for toddlers!
What are some signs someone is under-eating and not in a position to diet right now?
- Weight loss has stalled despite being in a “calorie deficit”. I use quotations here because obviously if you were in a deficit you would lose weight. But there comes a time when cutting more calories is just not an option. For one, if you are cutting really low it will be very hard, if not impossible to stick to your diet. And if you can’t stick to it, it doesn’t work! You know how it goes: starve Monday to Friday, binge Saturday and Sunday. Getting nowhere in the end. Or maybe you do in fact eat very little, but are no longer losing weight because you have spent so long living in a deficit that now your BMR* has slowed down in response to it.
- Cant sleep through the night. When you don’t eat sufficiently, levels of your stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol will peak at the wrong times, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. I see this all the time with chronic dieters and over-exercisers waking up before dawn every day. Hell, I am not pointing fingers, I used to be one of you. Now I just eat more and sleep like a baby.
- Intense cravings– You can’t stop obsessing over food. Chronic restriction leads to obsessing over food and binging.
- Find yourself unusually cold. That was me! While I do naturally have poor circulation and I tend to be cold, I was for a while, so cold that it was truly affecting my quality of life. Even with my knowledge it took me a while to connect the dots. If you find yourself cold all the time, that’s a red flag.
- Stop seeing performance gains in the gym. When you don’t eat enough your body is not recovering and building strength. Making gains in the gym becomes very hard.
- Lower motivation to go to the gym. Food is energy; without enough of it, it’s easy to want to curl up and watch Netflix all day.
- Lower than usual libido. Here we have lack of energy partly to blame again. Anytime you’re in a negative energy balance (taking in fewer calories than you burn), you enter a catabolic state and your testosterone levels drop. In fact, if you look at it from an evolutionary standpoint, it actually makes complete sense that you would have a low sex drive while dieting. In times of famine when food shortages are short, there would be very little sense in going around reproducing.
- Amenorrhea-or when your menstrual cycle disappears. To some women this may feel like winning the jackpot– because let’s face it, periods are the worst! But women are meant to menstruate monthly; it’s a sign of vitality and health. Losing it is a sure sign that something is wrong. The female triad is often brought on by a combination of over-training and under-eating. And it can’t be ignored or brushed off.
- Lower energy or fatigue. See number 6. Food is energy! You need it to live, you don’t need to earn the right to eat.
*BMR refers to your basal metabolic rate, the rate at which your body uses energy when you are resting in order to keep vital functions going such as breathing. The minimum calories you need to just survive.
Now does this mean if you are frustrated and can’t lose weight I don’t want to help you?
Of course not.
I am here for you 100% but we may need to have a little chat before we embark on this journey and spend some time earning our right to diet. If this is you, now what?
Now we play the long game. And that is not going to be easy. We start by having a chat where I tell you point blank than chasing weight loss at all costs isn’t my jam. Yes, I want you to reach your goals, but mainly I want you to be healthy and I want to know when you do lose weight that you will be able to keep it off and that maybe 125 is not a good goal for you. Maybe we just see where we can find balance between you nourishing your body, feeling your best and being happy in your skin.
We take a good look at your lifestyle, stress levels, sleeping habit, we do a reverse diet where we spend some time upping your cals gradually and monitoring how you feel. We shift our focus away from weight loss for a bit and monitor health and bio-markers like improved sleep, energy and performance gains in the gym. Shifting our focus to feeling better instead of weighing less.
Now this is not an easy sell and it’s for sure a tough conversation to have. But what is the alternative? Continue to yo-yo diet, feeling crappy and frustrated?
Yes, your goal may be to lose weight but I am betting that feeling awesome is your true goal, and that is something that goes far beyond the number on the scale. Feeling good naked, happy in your skin, energized and living a life you love. Fix your shit first. Then weight loss can be pursued in a healthy and lasting way.
I personally am no longer okay with lowering my health markers in order to weigh a certain number. I am closer to understanding where my body is happy and where I am happy in it. I say closer to, because just like you I am a work in progress and I still have my days when doubts and insecurities creep in. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your body and lose a few pounds. But there is something wrong with being on a diet year-round. When was the last time you were not trying to lose weight? Heard my coach say this recently and it struck a real chord with me.
Your diet needs to be periodized. A diet must be followed by a reverse diet and a period of maintenance.
How long do we need to spend fixing your shit? This is where I have to give you the ever frustrating coach’s response: it depends. In my experience, it can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks to up to 3-4 months at maintenance depending upon your current health status and dieting history. Reversing is scary, I get it. Best case scenario, you are lucky and what we call a hyper-responder who loses weight when we add food. Worst case scenario, you put on a few pounds in the process which can be defeating. But the added pounds usually come with a host of positive impacts, and we need to focus on all the non-scale victories for a while. After reversing, we spend some time at maintenance and, let’s face it, maintenance is boring too, it’s easy to lose motivation when we don’t see the scale moving down but this is where coaching comes in and this is when we spend time tackling mindset and doing the works. Being able to eat more and pretty much keep weight hovering around the same up or minus a few pounds may not seem exciting, but it’s a big deal and a big win, trust me. We are upping your BMR, you should be enjoying more energy, better sleep and more food freedom. Learn to enjoy that time and play the long game because aren’t you tired of being on a continuous diet?
I know you are, I know I am. Good news is for the first time in a while both of coaches have openings. Need some help? Reach out we would love to help you put an end to the yo-yo dieting.