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When dieting is not a good idea...

Of all the emails I get throughout the year, this question is the most common:

I want to lose 15 lbs. I’m doing everything right, but nothing’s budging. I work out an hour a day, spinning, HIIT, Crossfit and I eat 1,500 calories a day.

Reading between the lines, these emails tend to come from women who are tracking, counting, measuring food intake and push themselves hard. They may be Type-A and achievers in everyday life and apply that same approach to their pursuit of the ideal body.

I have worked with clients in the fitness and nutrition space for 20 years and pride myself on getting people results. But, in a case like this, where you are already working out very hard, eating little and want to lose more weight, dieting and cutting calories even more is actually the worst suggestion.

The reason for the lack of progress isn’t that they’re not working out hard enough or eating too much. The reason there is no progress is because they have been dieting too hard. They may have spend years in this never-ending diet cycle and understandably, it can get very exhausting and frustration to the point where you throw your hands up in the air and say:

What gives? I’ve tried everything. I can’t push myself harder or eat less. I am already exhausted and have used up all my free time to exercise. What else is there to do?

I totally understand the frustration because it’s hard to know what to do in this situation.

Your trainer may tell you that you’re just not working out hard or often enough. You’re not doing enough cardio. Or, he may think you’re just not being honest about your food intake (that’s for another story.

Your nutritionist or the latest diet book is telling you that you have to cut calories more or add fasting or skip meals or cut

out entire food groups.

You may feel tired of even trying.

You may be down about yourself about this never-ending pursuit of looking and feeling better without real results.

Of course you don’t want to gain weight or lose the progress you’ve made, but you’re also stuck because you don’t know what the next step is.

Do you know why diets stop working?
  • METABOLIC SLOWDOWN: When we lose weight, our metabolic rate slows down and that means you’re burning fewer calories to maintain the weight you’re at. You simply require less energy to maintain your weight. That means you also need to take in fewer calories to match that requirement.

  • METABOLIC ADAPTATION: When your brain notices less food coming in, the metabolism adapts and decreases its output and calorie burn. Your thyroid slows down (ever experienced thyroid slow-down after intense dieting or exercise or intense stress….?)

  • STRESS: If you push your body too hard into a calorie deficit (by exercising a lot and eating little), you trigger stress hormone spikes. Long-term stress hormone spikes trigger fat storage. You may also find yourself with a slew of stress-related symptoms: bloat, water retention, digestive issues, sleep disturbances (waking up between 1-3am), feeling wired mentally and physically tired, unable to focus, thyroid slow-down, difficulty conceiving, low sex drive, fat storage in odd areas such as underarms, upper back, lower back, bubble butt, hips and thighs).

  • EXTREMES TRIGGER APPETITE _ CRAVING SPIKES. If you're always fighting hunger and cravings, it's hard to stay the course. Low energy makes It hard to exercise and move, further reducing the energy burn.

How do I manage these challenges?

Let me introduce the Metabolism Repair approach I’ve taught hundreds of clients.

STEP 1. Reduce the stress: We need to bridge the gap between energy output and intake. We create workouts that match the metabolism.

If someone wants to get lean and defined, strength training is key, along with low intensity cardio, such as walking and biking or hiking. That simple switch from super-intense and no-days-off-plans can quickly reduce stress hormones and in turn allow the body to show signs of improvement.

Sleeping through the night, regular digestion, bloat and puffiness disappear, thyroid values normalize, mood balanced out, appetite quiets down, sugar cravings quiet, energy increases, period symptoms improve, PMS normalizes…. Just to name a few.

STEP 2. Alternate periods of workout intensity: It’s ok to diet and work out hard for a few days, but if you push extreme calorie deprivation for longer than a week, the thyroid slows down, your metabolism slows and appetite and sugar cravings kick in big time. Why? The body wants to be in balance. It doesn’t do well with long-term stress, so it puts everything into action to keep you in balance.

STEP 3. Match food intake to energy expenditure: The key step is to eat more on days you work out more and eat less on rest days. That little change alone is a major miracle worker because it reduces the stress response. Ever seen Athletes diet and count calories…? They work out hard and they eat a lot AND they recover a lot. Everything matches their goals, energy output and stress levels. You need to train like an athlete, not like a dieter.

STEP 4. Match your food and workouts to your cycle. Every period in life requires gradual adjustments in food and exercise. A 20-year old sees results easily, while someone in menopause needs to work out differently and be more careful about starches and sugar. A pregnant woman is pretty much stress resistant, while a new mom is very stress-sensitive. Understanding our unique metabolism is key to seeing change in your body.

STEP 5. Break through the fear and Trust the Process: The hardest and most challenging aspect of working with clients like this is their fear of getting fat by working out less and eating differently.

Even though they don’t see any results with their current approach, there is initially always considerable resistance to changing the approach. Why? Because the steps required to heal the metabolism are in polar contrast to the messages of the weight loss industry.

We’ve been taught that weight loss is all about calories since the dawn of time. But, we all know there’s more to it. How else can you explain that despite their intense calorie deprivation there’s no change? Why do they feel so much worse physically and mentally despite ‘doing everything right'…?

For someone who has been practicing this approach for a long time, the hardest step is to exercise less or differently and eating differently or more. It just doesn’t make sense from a calorie model. But, when they learn about the effects of exercise and food on our metabolism and hormones, when they give themselves the chance to really try for two weeks, the proof is in the results.

Based on my experience, this is one of the main reasons people don’t see results. They don’t know how to shift course once they’re stuck in this terrible cycle. Either they stay stuck or they put the weight back on.

The good news is that changes can happen with a smart approach to tweaking things. And, the bestride effect is that it frees up hours a week that were previously spent slugging away in fitness classes or at the gym. Plus, the money saved…

What's YOUR biggest struggle?

Hit reply and let me know!

Cheers, Ariane


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