Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tick tock: The fat loss clock

You've started eating clean(er) and training hard(er) and you are on a mission to lose some bodyfat. Assuming you have a solid nutrition and training plan, you are cruising along and feeling great. You check your skinfolds and measurements bi-weekly and to your excitement, they are slowly creeping down...

until

two weeks go by and they haven't budged; nary a change anywhere. You go through a mental checklist in your head to make sure that your nutrition was on point and you didn't miss a training session. It was and you didn't.
You start to scrutinize your training and meal plan. "I'm not doing enough." you think to yourself. "I need to eat less. I need to train harder. I need to do more cardio!" You've now worked yourself up into total hysteria and fired off an angry email to your coach expressing your dismay and dissatisfaction with the subject line titled, "EMERGENCY!!!!"

I've done it and you've done it. We go one or two measly weeks without making any significant progress and we immediately push the panic button and vow to do an overhaul of our entire program. We assume that everything that was so right just a week or two ago is suddenly all wrong!

Now let me be the first to sympathize when this happens. It's extremely frustrating, especially because when you are dieting, a few weeks can seem like a lifetime! I hear it from clients (and admittedly, myself) all of the time, "But I've eaten clean for 6 whole days! Shouldn't that count for something?!" Sure it should and it does! But big changes come from those 6 days of eating clean repeated over and over and over again.

I've gone weeks at a time without cheat meals and when it came time to check my skinfolds I pranced into the living room in my bikini as proud as a little show pony, and when the results came in I'd be upset that they were only down 1 - 2 mm. That is when I had to reevaluate my expectations. Losing 1 - 2 mm is great! It's definitely moving in the right direction. And what did I expect? That I'd be completely shredded after sticking to my plan for 3 weeks? Not likely. But what will get me leaner is staying the course and losing those 1 - 2 mm time and time again.

I want you to think of somebody that has a physique that you admire. How long do you think it took that person to achieve that physique? Chances are good that it took months and months, and even more likely, years and years of being consistent and persistent. I'll bet my favorite Tory Burch bag that that person did not obtain that smokin' body after a mere few weeks of eating clean and training hard. That body came from all of those crucial little bits of progress that have added up over time.

So what is the right time table for fat loss?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but...there isn't one. 

That's right. I'll say it again for emphasis: There is no such thing as the "right" amount of fat to lose in a certain given time frame. So next time you exclaim that you haven't lost enough bodyfat that week I want you to ask yourself, "According to whose standards?" The amount of fat that will be lost varies drastically from person to person. You and your best friend may be following very similar programs and your friend may lose a little less weight than you over the course of a month. That doesn't mean she is doing anything wrong - it just means that your bodies are different. The next month she may lose a little bit more and you may lose a little bit less. That is normal.

When we test our bodyfat or take our measurements (notice I do not mention the scale) and nothing has changed in the last week or two, the first thing that we need to do is remind ourselves that progress is never linear. Progress comes over extended periods of time in the form of fits, flatlines, and spurts, and this is completely normal.

Don't Give Up


One of the biggest mistakes I see people make on their quest for fat loss is throwing in the towel and diving headfirst into a cheesecake after just a few weeks because they get impatient and frustrated. While stalling for a week or two is certainly frustrating, I can assure you that quitting will definitely not get you any closer to your goals! It's important to stay the course and keep on pushing through.
This post is not to burst your bubble and make you think you will be grinding out bodyfat at a snails pace for eternity; absolutely not. My goal is to encourage you to stay on course and keep working hard during these little plateaus that will inevitably make an appearance here and there.

Losing bodyfat can be a very tedious task. Remember that there is no golden rule for the amount of fat you should lose over the course of a week or two. Progress, regardless of how minor, is still progress and those small things eventually add up to very big changes. We could all benefit from looking at physique transformations as a marathon and not a sprint. Set realistic expectations and know that your journey towards your goal will be full of peaks and valleys and the most important thing you can do is stay the course and keep working hard. If 3 - 5 weeks go by and you still aren't making any progress at all then that is the time to start looking at small tweaks you may want to make to your nutrition plan, training plan, or both.

I'd like to invite you to be consistent with your nutrition and training for one full year and see the amazing changes that will bring! 

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19 comments:

  1. Love it Jen :) Oh boy, have I been there! x

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  2. I love this post! I've seen so many people who haven't seen changes after a couple of weeks and then blow their diet, saying it "doesn't matter anyway". Even I have wanted to do it myself! But it's always in the week or two afterwards that you're rewarded for patience.

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    1. Absolutely. There have been days that I feel like saying "screw it", but that inner coach talks myself down from the ledge, I stick it out another week, and BAM! Results. Every single time!

      It's like that old ketchup commercial: "Good things come to those who wait."

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  3. Tru dat Jen! Great post and important things to keep in mind. I think we are all guilty of getting too frustrated when we don't meet our expectations fast enough. Big picture is key and consistency is super key.

    xoxo

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    1. Thanks Red! It's funny how we set such high expectations for ourselves but we are all so quick to tell our friends or loved ones to slow down and be patient!

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  4. thanks for the great motivational talk. Today .. I needed it ....

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    1. I'm glad it was helpful. I need to remind myself of this stuff frequently as well!

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  5. it's so motivating to hear this! I literally spent the last 2 weeks eating fantastic and cheating almost none. tonight I had pizza and although i used it as my cheat I thought "noooo what have i done?!" it's nice to know others go through the same thing but more importantly to get motivation from you to battle through those greasy urges.

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    1. I still struggle with off-plan meals sometimes because I'm so scared that it's going to undo any progress I've made, and that is just ridiculous! Off-plan meals once in awhile are good for us, both physiologically and psychologically! So cheers to pizza! :)

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  6. I just had to read this again. Today marks one month of no eating out and no alcohol (not that I was a raging alcoholic, but I would enjoy a few beers 1-2 times a week), and lifting heavier than I ever have. I measured myself yesterday, and nothing had changed. I know better than to base results off of weight, but I thought I'd at least see some small budge in measurements in 4 weeks. I'll keep on truckin...

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    1. I swear to you, going without wine is absolutely the hardest part of it all for me. I could go without any junk food if I could just have wine NIGHTLY! (Now who sounds like the alcoholic? lol)
      Keep on truckin' girl and I'm definitely here if you ever need any input!

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  7. such insightfu thoughts, Jen (as always) I love everything you write, your thought s opinions and words of advice. Fat loss or weight loss of any kind is HARD work and thats what most people do not realize. It takes work and focus and a bit of a change of a lifestyle for some, but it is so attainable. Everyone is looking for a quick fix and sadly, this is when the weight will pack right back on

    What has helped me the most is keeping those 'cheat meals' (eventhough I hate those words) 1-2 times a week. I eat what I want and I enjoy it and it keep sme on track. I feel so much better about myself and see dramatic changes when I acutally do NOT restrict 100%...your body cannot function without those little cheats. What will happen is you will binge and get frustrated and quit. Stay focused. train hard. Be smart :)

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    1. Thank you so much! As a huge fan of your blog, those words mean a lot coming from you!

      I also loathe the term "cheat meal", and prefer "off-plan meal", and I agree that they are so important. If I know I have an off-plan meal coming my way it helps me stay the course during the week! And I'm also the type that will crave something 10x worse if I know I "can't" have it so it's best I let myself have it and just plan it accordingly! Great wisdom in what you said!

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  8. oh miss jen...you hit the nail on the head for me today :)...still in rehab mode, and it's frustrating!! still eating good, and training, but i want things to be fixed YESTERDAY :)...thanks for the reminder that this is not a sprint, to enjoy the progress i have made and will continue to make...also glad to know you are human, drinking wine and pizza ;)....thanks for the great post!!
    erin

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  9. Love this post!
    I'm not weighing at all now because it was so depressing. I'd be so disappointed and frustrated over and over to see no or little change. I decided to just work away and see what happened knowing that I've previously seemed to "whoosh" or take weeks to notice any change at all. I think it's working! Clothes are looser, people have said I look better...and I'm not panicked about every bite worrying that the scale will change the next day. It's easier just to aim for being generally good and consistently making better choices, not perfect.

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  10. So timely!! I literally just got done messaging some figure competitors and asking for advice about how long it took them to achieve their look when I saw you post this. I'm very anxious to start seeing results that I'm almost giddy about it. So when I don't see things move in the right direction or I don't see changes in the mirror as quickly as I would like, I tend to get frustrated. This post is PERFECT timing for me. Thank you!

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  11. So timely!! I literally just got done messaging some figure competitors and asking for advice about how long it took them to achieve their look when I saw you post this. I'm very anxious to start seeing results that I'm almost giddy about it. So when I don't see things move in the right direction or I don't see changes in the mirror as quickly as I would like, I tend to get frustrated. This post is PERFECT timing for me. Thank you!

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  12. This is great timing for me too. In 14 months I've lost just about 25 lbs. Sometimes my trainer will share a "client of the month" story who lost maybe 12-15 lbs in 2-3 months and while I celebrate their successes, I can't help but feel jealous that they are getting results so much faster than me. I work my butt off in the gym, I eat the right foods, and I've cut down my portions, yet it is still a miracle when I lose a pound over the course of 1-2 weeks. When I think about how much more weight I have to lose, it makes me want to quit sometimes. In fact I have "quit" focusing on body comp several times, choosing instead to focus on performance. These are the times where I am my happiest, but in general I don't see any body comp improvements when this is my focus, so eventually I have to switch back to body comp mode.

    Don't get me wrong--I am proud that I have lost those 25 pounds. I know exactly how hard I worked for that. Sometimes I don't give myself enough credit for those successes. I just struggle when I start to think that it is going to take another 12-18 months before I lose the last 20 lbs I'd like to. I'm not on some crash diet expecting results in just 2-3 weeks, but I don't think it's too much to ask to lose a few lbs a month.

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