Nutrition: Small Changes, Big Wins

It’s great to see someone who feels empowered and confident through their transformation– whether their goal was weight loss, weight gain, muscle gain, and/or overall health– however, what happens after? We often highlight the achievement, but we neglect what happens next. 

When one reaches their ultimate goal, are they able to stay on track and maintain it? It all depends on the approach they took to reach their goal. 

Approach #1: Fast Results through Drastic Measures

Weight loss challenges are very popular towards the beginning of the new year. Typically, they last about 6-8 weeks and the goal is for people to lose as much weight as possible in order to have the “best” transformation. 

Here are the issues with the challenges:

  • People are focused on the weight on the scale and ignore important factors like stress, hydration, hunger levels, and sleep. 

  • Fast weight loss means the chance of muscle loss is significantly increased and the amount of muscle preserved is not optimized. 

  • People take drastic measures for fast results. This includes cutting calories way too low, dealing with extreme hunger, and/or taking part in fad diets. 

  • There is no educational piece to most challenges; most of the time people fall into a fad diet or an extreme measure and push through. 

  • People ignore bad habits they may already have and revert back to them once the challenge is completed.

Think of it like a house– if your foundation is weak and based on poor measures, the house will be pointless once it is built and will eventually come crashing down. 

Can you lose weight if you cut calories down low enough? Of course. The basis of weight loss is energy balance: calories in vs. calories out. If you eat less than what you expend, you will inevitably lose weight; it’s science. But…

  1. It won’t last.

  2. People tend to be unhappy; this approach has negative effects on mood. 

  3. You’ll lose muscle in the process.

  4. It will take a mental toll on you.

  5. It’s not sustainable.

Approach #2: Slow, Steady, and Methodical

Instead, a gradual approach is the way to go. Overall, it is more sustainable, will have greater long-term results, and will have less negative effects. What are the benefits of this approach?

  • Less muscle loss/increased muscle preservation

  • Focus on habit based nutrition– focus on how you can improve your habits so they are longstanding. Instead of a band-aid fix, you are finding the root cause to your current nutrition weaknesses and making them stronger. 

  • It provides an educational piece– most of the time, if you take an approach focused on sustainability and longevity, you learn about nutritional approaches and the “why”. Things you learn include, but are not limited to: What change is sustainable? What is not? What factors are considered when building muscle/losing fat/optimizing performance? How is my training impacted by my nutrition?

  • You begin to consider other factors beyond just the calories and food label, such as:

    • Quality of food

    • Mental health/stress

    • Hydration

    • Quality of sleep

Taking the slow approach isn’t the most exciting thing, which is why it does not attract as many people as the fast result approach, but it is the one that is proven to be optimal, safe, healthy, and sustainable. The objective should be to optimize your health and reach your goals, and to continue building upon your goals once you have achieved them. The objective should NOT be to take the fast route to your goal just to fall off and start over again..that’s what leads to yo-yo dieting. 

Your body is a dynamic system that is constantly changing and requiring different needs as it transforms. You must be able to adjust your nutrition approach through incremental changes in order to keep your results and to reach your next goal(s). These changes should be gradual to fit your lifestyle and not be detrimental to your mental and physical health.