As a fat loss coach I offer 6 and 12 week program options. I work some clients for a few month-long periods post 12-week program. But there comes a point when the client needs to take a break for several reasons:
- they’ve achieved their goal
- they’ve lost motivation
- the deficit is taking a toll on them mentally
- their body is adapting to the lower calorie level (similar to hitting a plateau–but hate that term)
The Dare To Eat program is largely a calorie counting program. The client learns how to track their macros and is held accountable for 12 weeks and then whether I recommend my clients take a break from tracking, or they’ve accomplished their goal and feel ready to take a step away from fat loss, they all wonder the same thing… what about the deficit?
They ask questions like:
Do I have to eat these calories the rest of my life?
If I stop tracking how do I know I’m not going to eat too much or too little?
How do I find my maintenance calories?
These are all great questions, ones I answer every week; therefore I figured it would be a good time to write about it 😉
Before I give you my top three tips for what to do after losing weight on a diet, here’s a little background.
The Dare to Eat Program, as mentioned, is largely a calorie counting program. Despite the negative articles out there bashing calorie counting, it can be highly effective if the client is simultaneously developing positive habits when working with a coach.
A lot (not all) of the negativity around calorie counting stems from the aftermath of it rather than the counting itself, which is why I am very particular about coaching clients out of their deficit/calorie counting just as much as I am concerned with coaching them during the fat loss phase.
During closing phone calls with clients, some people ask me about this idea of a “reverse diet.” If you follow and bodybuilders or bikini competitors on Instagram I’m sure you’re all to familiar with that term. If you aren’t, it basically refers to this idea that if you’ve spent 16 weeks dieting down, (for example), so after the diet you shouldn’t just start eating normally again, but rather, you should climb back up the ladder you climbed down. Does that make sense?
Let’s say that a 150 pound woman started eating at a slight deficit of 1900 calorie average and exercised moderately three times a week. After several weeks, (we will use 12 for this example) she loses 8 pounds and at 142 pounds she is eating an average of somewhere around 1600-1700 average a week, possibly less. She won’t go right back to eating 1800-1900 every day, (or even more than 1800 on days she exercises) because her body will receive the greater amount of calories as excess, and potentially store it as fat, since her body took time to adjust to fewer calories on a regular basis.
Whether the client has read about a reverse diet or not, they all still share the same concern for what to do next. And after working with clients after they’ve taken a break and done maintenance on their own and helping all my clients keep their progress (and passively lose more weight over time) I feel compelled to share my top three tips with you.
Top Three Tips for what to do after your diet:
1. Don’t change anything
If you’ve spent 6 weeks or more food prepping, tracking meals and/or calories, chances are you’ve created some pretty stellar habits if you’ve reached your goal, or come far enough that you’re ready to work your way out of a calorie deficit.
Shifting your focus away from dieting doesn’t have to be super complicated and you won’t suffer severe repercussions if you stay true to what has been working. (***Disclaimer: I’m referring to habits I help my clients cultivate– things like eating things you don’t love, falling asleep starving every night, exercising two hours every day are not examples of positive diet habits, these do not count)
The first week after your diet ends, I encourage my clients to take a mental break from counting calories, and instead rely on eating the things they’ve been eating and sticking with their normal routine. This step one goes along with a caveat (see Tip 2), but generally speaking, their body is used to what they’ve been eating and how often they’ve been training and so I encourage them to keep all the same, minus the actually tabulating, and see Tip 2.
2. Let hunger be your guide
Before I write more about step two it’s important to know that I *always* offer a rough draft guide of numbers for my clients to follow or refer to post Dare to Eat, just in case they are the 1 in 5 people I tend to find really loves calorie counting from a mathematical standpoint. There are a fair amount of people who truly see their calorie counting like they see their monthly budget and they enjoy the balance of it all. If a client is that personality type, I allow them to follow a rough plan of reverse-dieting numbers, (again, roughly speaking) and tell them to listen to their body.
But, back to hunger. The first week after the deficit I tell clients to let hunger be their guide, as they use their habits to be the basis for their next steps. In example, if a client goes through their regular week and feels ravenously hungry on a random Wednesday, I encourage them to have a bigger serving of vegetables at dinner, eat the extra piece of toast with breakfast and begin to listen more carefully to your hunger cues.
All things being said, these are the tips I give in confidence that the client spoke honestly when they said they’re happy with their routine and meals they’ve been eating. This tip is also supported by Tip 3.
3. Begin to shift your focus away from your meals and onto your training
Nine out of 10 Dare to Eat clients become interested in strength training sometime during their program They learn that they can use exercise like strength training to sculpt and shape their body and feel strong. And then use their nutrition skills to lose fat– clearly separating the two. After 12 weeks of Dare to Eat they become skilled in the nutrition department. Prioritizing protein at meals, quantifying their snacks and making sure to increase their carbs on days they train are routine activities, and now they can work more on strength as a skill.
That being said, when the emphasis shifts to strength training I warn my clients that this may 100% affect their hunger, and so taking rest days can help balance out their caloric intake for the week as a whole. For example, if they lift really heavy on a Monday and end up having that extra piece of toast and perhaps desert with dinner (more calories than they were eating on a deficit), then eating less on Tuesday will be more easily accomplished when they are resting and letting their muscles recover.
I’ve had several clients who’ve followed these steps and lost more weight over the next year, unintentionally.
Take Erin for example. Erin lost about 12-14 ish pounds in her Dare to Eat program and started lifting for the first time EVER. At the conclusion of her Dare to Eat program she was about 120 pounds and ready to start powerlifting. Over the next year she got stronger, saw ups and downs on the scale (obviously keeping me in the loop) and ended up at a bodyweight of 114 deadlifting 220 pounds. Now, even stronger she doesnt always walk around at 114 due to muscle, but she looks like 110 pounds she’s so tiny! The video below was LAST November, and show her doing deadlifts with 215 pounds.
Another client of mine, Kendall, wanted to do the Dare to Eat program simply to learn more about nutrition. She said that seeing the “healthy” section of the grocery store stressed her out because she didn’t know what was actually healthy. Kendall didn’t even care about the scale but lost 8 pounds in her DTE program. The cooler part was that she learned how to meal prep, began lifting and then she sent me a text last month (over a year an a half later) revealing her abs. See below.
Kendall’s initial progress photos:
A year later:
And a year and a half later:
Finally. my client Danielle, who lost 6 pounds in 6 weeks continued on by herself to lose another six pound in less than a year’s time and now weighs 114!
Way to go Danielle!!!
If you’re someone who’s struggled with this and still is trying to find a healthy balance between tracking meals, enjoying foods and maintaining your progress, shoot me and email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s chat about it!