Who hasn’t scrolled past a before and after picture and not been mildly curious about what the featured person did to achieve their results? A hall mark of many people’s ‘health and fitness journey’ is a before and after photo. In fact, these are one of the most lucrative marketing tools there are online. No words required, you automatically see someone who might look like you now, compared with the person you are aspiring to be, and automatically associate the plan they followed with their results.
Have you ever wondered what happens to those people after the after photo? The startling fact is that the majority of people who make changes to their diet in order to lose weight, put the weight back on, and in some case, end up worse then when they started, having lost precious muscle in the dieting process, which is much harder to regain than fat.
The boring, but important truth is that the weigh change is the easy bit. It’s the maintenance part that trips so many people up. It might seem obvious, but somehow so many people fail to realise, that in order to maintain the change accomplished, for the most part, the strategies used need to be maintained for the long term. Which means that the diet itself is nowhere near as relevant as the underlying changes that need to happen in mindset and knowledge for weight loss to stick. If you have used a highly restrictive diet to achieve your results, and don’t really have a clue about how it was actually achieved, maintenance is going to be an issue.
Why you need to prepare for after the ‘after-shot’
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred (not a hard figure, but pretty close), people fail to prepare for is the maintenance aspect of weight loss. It’s just not a conversation that is had very often. And the other issue is it’s not an exact science, but there are some clues.
As we lose weight, our body gets smaller, which means our basal energy requirements also reduce because there is less of you that requires energy to be maintained! Further, as we lose weight, our body senses this weight loss and enters a feedback loop whereby hormonal changes occur that see increases in hunger related hormones, and a decrease in hormones associated with fullness.
Researchers have estimated that for everyone kilo lost, energy expenditure reduces by 20-30 calories per day, and that appetite increases will lead to an extra 100 calories per day being consumed. So, as you lose weight, you also need to account for this metabolic down turn. (and no, this is not ‘metabolic damage’, it’s thermodynamics).
Research indicates that if you want to maintain your results, it’s going to take likely an equal amount of effort to do so, thus if what you are doing to lose the weight is not something you can see yourself sustaining long term, then it would be wise to rethink your approach.
You need to change your mind, for the better.
Here’s the truth, mindless plan followingmand black and white thinking are not your allies. To maintain results, you’re going to have to switch on and become an active participant in your journey.
Mindset changes are required as a part of the process if you want to keep what you worked so hard for. One of the biggest shifts I see people who are most successful have is around black and white or ‘all or nothing’ type thinking when it comes to food. If your diet approach has you dividing foods into ‘good foods’ and ‘bad foods’ and barred from your most favourite meals, there is a large likelihood you will eventually snap. You need to learn to live in a world where burgers, cake and chocolate exists- because they do, and sticking your head in the sand and hoping for the best is never an effective approach.
What does it take?
To really understand how to get and maintain results a more nuanced understanding of food, energy content of food and of how to navigate things like holidays and special occasions with out spinning out is 100% required. You need to learn how to have the foods you enjoy without feeling like you have stuffed everything up and spiralling into a food fest for the rest of the weekend. Change in your attitude and understanding of food is a large predictor of success.
This is because weight maintenance is mediated by the interactions between your environment, habits, biology, and genetics. While it’s important to generally be choosing foods that are ‘healthy’, the actual dietary approach you choose is almost irrelevant. What makes results stick are the changes in your understanding of energy balance, changes to your daily routines, changes to your food environment, and in some cases, changes to who you hang around with. These factors are far more likely to predict your long term success than whether you chose meal replacement shakes, juice cleanses or intermittent energy restriction to shift the weight.
So, if you’ve been chasing the after photo without thinking longer term, now is the time to stop and reassess your approach. Invest the time into finding good information, ask for help, get a plan and play the long game, or risk riding the diet carousel long after close time.