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Slow fitness.

Slow stuff is all the rage. People are sick of fast food, low quality, low nutrition, high preservatives, no time to appreciate it, indigestion... so slow food happened. And then there was all kind of other slow things, like slow TV (which to be honest I don't really understand, but then I don't really follow the other kind either). We seem to be starting to get a handle on the idea that instant gratification, isn't always the best kind.

Slow and steady....

But I still have clients approach me and ask me to help them lose 6kg by the end of the month. I tell them, as is my responsibility, that while it may be possible, it will involve lifestyle changes that are uncomfortable and potentially unsustainable. It is likely that the weight will come straight back on. I always work with my clients' informed choices, but if it were entirely in my hands, I would choose the slower road.

Ideally, sustainable fat loss happens at about 0.5-1% of your bodyweight weekly. That can seem very slow when you are facing down a large loss. I know when I began losing my post baby weight and did the maths, 6-8 months seemed like a long time to wait to hit my first goal. I was reminded of that saying about "this time next year you will be glad you started today" and to be honest, that time flew. Moreover, I suspect that after that 8 months I was far closer to my goal than I would have been if I had pushed to lose the weight in 3 months, then rebounded.

The myth of maintenance.

Most quick-fix weight loss programmes include this idea of "maintenance". In order to lose weight quickly you adopt a regime which is frankly horrible. You operate under severe calorie deficit, sticking to all kinds of rules that just aren't compatible with your life. You don't like it, but you are assured that it's short term, once you reach your goal, you can go to the magic land of "maintenance".

Then when you reach your goal, assuming the regime doesn't fail you first, you celebrate and get ready for "maintenance", but actually you are just relieved you can start eating food again and slip back into your old habits. Because maintenance is actually adopting a whole new set of rules and habits all over again, but this time, you don't have the motivation - because you are already at your goal.

Fitness (and this includes body composition as much as things like muscle strength) is reversible. Once you go back to your old routines, your body will recentre itself in its old state. So you just put your body through an enormous amount of discomfort and physical stress, only to find yourself back at square one, or worse. This isn't just futile, it's damaging. People who go through this cycle repeatedly are put at risk of  all kinds of illness including cardiovascular disease. That doesn't seem like sound fitness practice to me.

Finding your new set point

This brings us to the good news. The truth is, that if you are prepared to be patient, or to focus on short term habit improvements as opposed to daunting weight loss goals, then you don't need maintenance. You don't even need diets. MAGIC!

Don't believe me? Lets have an example.

Lisa (who is imaginary) is 30 years old 5'4" and weighs 80kg.

Assuming she lives a moderately active life, she is burning around 2450 calories a day.

So let's say she starts walking to and from work, 20 minutes each way. She doesn't change her diet or her other activities. She's now in 300 calories a day deficit and she will be losing around 1kg a month on average.

A while down the line, she hits her target weight. At 60kg, and still moderately active, she will be burning 2150 calories a day. Her weight loss naturally stalls here as she is now consuming the same amount of calories as she is expending. If she stops walking to work, then she will be in calorie excess again, and her weight will creep up.

Hopefully this has demonstrated the point I want to make - If you set your activity and diet to match the needs of your goal, your body will adapt to slowly fit that profile. Or to put it another way, lose the diet, go straight to maintenance, while you have the motivation to do so and get it right. Focus your energy on developing habits you can keep for life, and the results will follow.

The secret is playing the long game.

By building habits which you know you can live with, you won't be pushing for an unattainable goal. Take a look at this great infographic from Precision Nutrition. It shows you clearly what kind of lifestyle it takes to maintain a particular level of body fat. Consider what you are willing and able to commit to, long term, and know what kind of body composition that will realistically support.

If you need more help with the diet, lifestyle and activity changes you need to improve your health, why not check out my online personal training plans?


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