You Don’t Get A Gold Star For Starvation

When I sit down with a potential weight loss client, there is a lot of discussion about health history, current life/life stressors, goals, and nutrition.

When we talk about nutrition it’s with the understanding that every individual has their maintenance intake. In other words, eat “this much” and your body will essentially not change in weight.

So, we create a deficit.

For most of my clients, it’s somewhere between 15-20% of their maintenance intake with a conservative outline for additional cardio expenditure and the very marginal expenditure created from strength training.

Sometimes when a client can get acclimated to their deficit amount they get..ambitious.

In other words, if eating “X” amount of calories can get me to my goal, maybe I can just eat significantly less and get there faster!

And in theory, this is exactly how it works.

Except when it doesn’t.

One of the problems with aggressive diets is you can lose a disproportionate amount of muscle mass as well as fat mass. And I will say to you, the same way I say to a potential client: NEVER in the history of this business have I ever had someone tell me: “What I really want to do is lose muscle.”

It’s always fat loss that these clients want.

Now, do you have to keep every single pound of muscle mass that you started with?

Not necessarily.

In fact, many clients of mine might invariably lose 5% of their starting muscle mass. I give them the tools to combat that loss but for some people they just don’t want to micromanage every single aspect of their intake.

The biggest issue with that disproportionate amount of loss between muscle and fat is that not only does a smaller body require fewer calories but the less muscle you have the fewer calories you burn at rest.

Let’s face it, you probably don’t have the luxury of training for hours on end so your body does need to rest. Wouldn’t you want to stack the deck in your favor?

So, I tend to find it puzzling when so many people are willing to dial down their calories below a professionally suggested deficit.

Working the numbers you may get to your goal faster but your sleep quality will suffer, your workouts will suffer, your recovery will suffer and your mood will suffer.

These aren’t really concerns of IF they happen, rather WHEN will they happen?

I have clients who have come in almost elated with the fact that they cut their calories down drastically from where I would have wanted them.

They want that gold star.

They want that affirmation of: I did good, right? Look how little I ate! It’s going to be a great weigh-in today!

But that’s not really the point.

Yes, your goal might be to lose weight and yes, I have a vested interest in getting you there.

But I want you there at your healthiest, your strongest, your most confident.

Not beaten, sunken, withered and tired crawling across the finish line.

While I am immensely happy when my clients see weight loss success, there is a method to the madness, one that has been tried over years and years of client interaction.

It’s not a cookie cutter method. Everyone has slight deviations of how to get there.

And I don’t reward starvation.

I want my clients to eat as much as they can of the foods they enjoy and can control to get to their goals.

I don’t encourage white-knuckling and I don’t encourage trends even though I know that both can and will occur.

What I do reward is the person who continues to polish their skills. The person who will tinker with little variables: more sleep, fewer treats, less alcohol, appropriate portion sizes, more candid food tracking, etc.

I’ll give a gold star for progress no matter how seemingly minuscule.

But a gold star for starving yourself? That I can’t give.

(Below is Pete. Down 34 lbs pounds using that terribly unglamourous method of weight loss: consistent (not flawless) caloric deficit, steady state cardio and strength training. In this picture he’s a handful of pounds away from what he weighed when he got married  over 30 years ago. Not bad for a fella who recently retired.)

“We Make Great People Greater.”