How do I know when to stop dieting?
I think this is a question that is addressed rarely. Everyone is so concerned with losing weight and dieting that they forget to set themselves a goal. If the diet is working and the number on the scale goes down, many people get a little bit too enthusiastic.
Today, I would like to point out some signs that you should stop dieting.
1. You have been dieting for a long time but are not seeing progress (anymore)
If have been in a caloric deficit for a long time period, let’s say 6 months, chances are your body has adapted and slowed down metabolism. You might have seen great changes in the beginning and are so happy you would like to continue your diet. However, if you haven’t been able to lose any weight for a month or more, it is a sign that you burn fewer calories than before. Especially if you have not cycled your diet and stayed at the same amount of food continuously, your body burns just as much as you are eating, even if that is only 1300 calories or less.
Thus, it is time to reverse diet. Slowly increase your calories from week to week. If you are not counting calories or macros, just increase your portion sizes, but slowly. Let your body adapt, so that the extra food will not be stored as fat.
You will find that you will actually lose weight in that time period. If that is the case, it means your metabolism has increased and your body is ready to burn off fat. It has noticed you are not starving anymore and extra body fat is not needed as storage for starvation times.
You will not gain significant weight, unless you slowly increase your food intake. Even competitors, athletes and models don’t diet all the time.
Increase your metabolism, enjoy more food and push harder during your workouts. Later, you can start dieting again and make better progress.
2. Relationship with food
Counting calories can alter your relationship with food. Once you start seeing your food only as some numbers you need to hit for that day, it is time to stop. Food should nourish your body and make you feel satiated and full of energy.
Remember, our body is not a calculator. Counting macronutrients or calories is just a way to help you stay consistent. In reality, our body adapts to any given number. Your body can adapt to 2500 calories if you reverse diet slowly and let the metabolism increase. The numbers are not what is important, your consistency is!
Thus, take some time off and enjoy your food and see it as a way to reward yourself. If you are working hard during your workouts and have a demanding job, food is your energy source, not your enemy.
3. You are afraid to stop
Let us assume you have lost weight successfully and are pleased with your physique. However, you have had trouble to maintain your weight in the past. Thus, you are afraid to stop dieting and stay in a caloric deficit, to be save.
This will not only slow down your metabolism, you will also not make any progress in terms of improved body shape through strength training.
You need to trust the process. You will not gain back all the weight in a couple of days. It was a hard process to lose those pounds, so it does not make sence to fear gaining them back in a short amount of time.
My best advice for you is to reverse diet and slowly increase your food intake. Not only will your metabolism increase, but you can also mentally adapt to the increased food intake.
4. You are weak, hungry and crave food
Basically, you lower your food intake for a while, “diet” and then in the next phase you try to keep your lower bodyweight but eat more, aka “reverse diet”.
However, if you are craving food constantly and always experience hunger, no matter how healthy and nutrient-dense your foods are, it means you are simply not eating enough food. You body needs nutrients and releases specific hormones to trigger appetite. In fact, that your body is sending you these signals is good. It means your metabolism is working well and has not slowed down significantly.
Also, watch your energy levels. If you find that you can’t push as hard during your workouts and actually lost muscle, take a step back. Muscle will help you to keep your metabolism going and increase calorie burn. If you are in such a caloric deficit that your body has no other choice than to burn off muscle to get nutrients, you should reverse your diet.
In fact, if you manage to reverse diet properly, you don’t need to drop your calories that much for weight loss. Unless you are obese, I highly recommend to reverse diet before you start your weight loss journey.
5. You lost motivation
You are changing your eating habits and working out because you care for your body. It is a form of self-love and respect. Making healthy decisions should become part of your lifestyle and not be an obligation. However, remember that a healthy lifestyle does not include restriction, deprivation and working out to the point of physical and mental break-down.
If you are tired of counting calories or measuring your portion sizes, take a break! You will not lose any progress by taking a step back and enjoying life a little.
This does not mean that you should start eating fast food or stop working out all together. It means that you should stop obsessing over every gram or calorie you put into your body and every calorie you burned. Make eating food and working out fun again.
Do what you like to do and enjoy a serving of cake in the evening. Go out with your friends and have a drink. Just make sure not to go overboard and still care for your health.
Change up your workout routine and engage in different kinds of sports. Try out yoga or Pilates, go swimming, have fun moving your body!
Never force yourself to do something that is so beneficial for your health.
I hope this article is helpful to serve as a guidance during your weight loss journey. Sometimes, we can get caught up in managing work, food, workouts and stress about the number on the scale so much that we forget to listen to our body’s signals.
Have you experienced any of these signs?
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