People are finally wising up to fad diets. Things like the Atkins and the 5/2 and the ketogenic and the million other silly ways to lose weight are beginning to drown under the, ahem, weight of science and common sense.
We know that losing weight is mostly a matter of calories-in balanced against calories out, so the prevailing wisdom is that diets should be sustainable, with people saying things like: “Dont lose weight too quickly, youll put it back on with interest”.
But what exactly does “sustainable” mean? After over-indulging this Easter, many City workers will be thinking about shifting weight in time for their summer holiday, which isnt all that far away. The good news is that theres nothing wrong with aggressively working towards a goal within a short time frame.
In an ideal world I always encourage my clients to aim for at least 12 weeks before they should expect to see reasonable changes. However, not everyone has the time or the patience to commit to a full three months. If a client tells me they need to get results in a short space of time, I won't say we cant do it, but Ill be realistic about what needs to be done for this to happen.
If you have six weeks to get in shape – say youre up for a big film role, or a Victorias Secret event – then you need to accept that youre going to have a crappy few weeks. There will be hard work, it will take a lot of willpower, you wont be going out drinking and in some cases, you may be training more than once a day. I wouldnt usually recommend this approach, but if your goals are that important, Ill coach you through it, and make sure youre in the right state of mind. This process is similar to someone whos doing a transformation and only have a few weeks before their final photos are taken – if they arent where they need/want to be, sometimes you have to be aggressive.
The key is to look closely at how you're feeling. Only then should you start looking at changes in weight or definition or diet. Theres no point in me coaching someone to a goal if their head is in a place where theyll eat a 16-inch pizza and drink 15 pints the following day (believe me, Ive seen it happen).
Last November a friend of mine asked me if Id pose for a photoshoot for her – I looked at myself and said "no chance!" Id been slacking for months. But throughout the day, I kept wondering how long it would take me to get lean again. I set myself a challenge to eat just 1,000 calories a day, when Id usually eat around 3,000. Thats a huge reduction and I worked out that if I was to continue to exercise each day, I should lose around 4kg.
So I hit the gym every morning and kept to the diet, usually only eating after 4pm, saving my food for an evening meal.
It wasnt easy, and I wouldnt recommend it, but I saw dramatic results in a short space of time. Throughout the experiment, my energy levels stayed relatively high and, weirdly, I found I was going to bed later most nights. My workout intensity dropped, but I still managed to train every day. My work performance didnt change, either, with no major headaches or “crash” periods.
Now, I hear you say, how is that sustainable? Well, three months on, Im now eating around 2,500 calories a day, my diet is more flexible, and I'm consistent with my training, but I'm far leaner than before – Im in the shape of my life.
Again – seriously, please listen to this part – I do not recommend dieting like this. The point Im trying to make is that you can aggressive pursue goals, see quick results, and then adapt your lifestyle to maintain your achievements.
In some cases, people put weight back on, especially after low calorie “shake diets” or” juice cleanses”. This is because they simply return to their normal eating habits. But if you plan for the weeks and months after your aggressive diet/fitness regime, theres no reason it cant be part of a sustainable lifestyle.
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