Dieting is a progression just like exercise. You don’t go into the gym expecting to a run a 7-minute mile! You practice every day and you improve every week. For many (including myself) a 7-minute mile is very extreme. It will probably take me a good year to train to achieve something like that – but this type of perspective is what you need when wanting to follow an extreme diet.
Dieting is about progression.
I often tell people to slowly reduce their caloric intake when trying to lose weight. Most people go from eating 2500 + calories a day to eating just 1000. Not only is it unrealistic long-term, but eventually your body will plateau and I never recommend eating less than 1000 calories a day. You need calories for energy and regular organ functioning!
When I give birth, I follow a dieting progression that works for me every time. I start off by not eating as ‘bad’. When I say ‘bad’ I mean avoiding anything fried, buttered or full of sugar. When I’m ready to be on a program, which is usually around the time I can start working out at six weeks post-labor, I start to write down what I eat. Usually I’m consuming anywhere between 1900-2300 calories. Since I usually breastfeed, I try not to limit my consumption too much. I aim for around 1800-2000 calories for the first few weeks. By just dropping 300-500 calories I lose an average of 2 pounds a week in the beginning. When I start to plateau, I may drop it to 1600-1800 calories. Sometimes I play with my macronutrient ratios. Bottom line: I never underfeed my body. It’s important to give it enough fuel to sustain itself and sometimes a bit less to be challenged enough to get to a weight loss goal or just a little more to gain muscle and mass.
I never go below 1200 calories.
My point here is that I don’t drop my calories immediately. It’s a progression. It changes as I plateau. This ‘slowly but surely’ approach works for me mentally and physically.
For example. When I start incorporating a healthier diet I start by excluding the snacks. I try to eat every 2-3 hours with meals consisting of 300-400 calories each. Snacks means no more finishing my son’s peanut butter jelly sandwich, drinking a soy latte on the run or sharing a fruit snack with my son. My meals aren’t perfect either. In the beginning I still eat on the go and buy fast food when I’m busy. Of course, I have a list of things I usually get. I get grilled snack wraps and Mc Donalds, grilled chicken fajita pita with no cheese at Jack n the Box and Chicken Burrito Fresca style at Taco Bell. See! I know what to order! But, in the long run, it’s better to be cleaner on my diet. Everything I order usually has loads of sodium. In my next phase I try to incorporate more protein and complex carbohydrates. When I can master eating regularly and eat somewhat healthy meals without snacks, then I start playing with my foods. Most recently I started eating only protein and vegetables for dinner. For breakfast I began consistently eating egg whites and oatmeal – I feat that took months to finally master. Before I used to eat on the go and consume a protein shake and cereal. I know that my body needs something more substantial so I’m proud of my most recent commitment to spending five minutes making eggs and heating oatmeal!
Eating is a progression. You can’t go from eating fast food to eating chicken and broccoli all day. It’s not natural or long term.
My best advice for people who want to make a complete lifestyle change (because that’s what we all want, a new lifestyle, which creates a new body!) then you must take it one step at a time. It’s not a miraculous journey, it’s a journey that takes patience, understanding, progression and time!