Q: Erikaaaaaaa help meeeeeee
I had a good thing going with my diet, right? I was high protein, low carb, low fat, I was KILLING IT!!! I was feeling good, doing my cardio workouts (#scalefreespring baybeeee!!), and staying committed to it until………………maaaaaaaan when that weekend came do you know I ate the whole bag!!!! Don’t ask me of what because I wouldn’t even know where to begin! I ate and ate and ate all day and before I knew it I actually GAINED weight after all that eating!!!
Why did I mess this up so bad? How can I stop it from happening again?
Take a deep breath, sis. We’ve all been there.
You had a very natural reaction to a typical phenomenon experienced by people who do lots of cardio on low-carb diets, and it has a pretty easy fix.
When you do excessive amounts of cardio—I personally think anything beyond 45 minutes total is overdoing it for weight loss—your body begins to demand that you provide additional sources of fuel for your exercise. When you don’t, your body only increases the level of craving, of desire, and of eagerness to eat. You burned out all your energy, and your body is telling you that you need to replace it.
Put a pin in that.
At the same time, something psychological happens when you “go on a diet.” Our standard understanding of “diet” in this country basically translates to “a temporary vacation from our typical bad habits that resulted in weight gain; a short period of time where we suffer greatly in order to lose weight, with the expectation that we can go back to our old habits and everything will be fine once we lose those last few pounds.” People are comfortable with the “suffering” as long as it results in them getting what they want.
Except, when it comes to habits that you are likely very emotionally attached to—and why wouldn’t you be? we all are, to some degree—it’s hard to break from them. It makes the “suffering” unbearable. Those dry ass chicken breasts aren’t anywhere near as enjoyable as those Funyuns (a former favorite of mine) or that pint of ice cream, but you’ll deal with it because when the end is near, you’re going to slay, right?
As an aside, this is also why I think cheat meals are a bad idea—your diet shouldn’t be so restrictive that you need to “cheat” on it, because if you’re a binge eater like me then being given free range to overdo it only furthers the bad habits instead of teaching you new ones. Not only that, but depending on what foods you choose to “cheat” with, you can eat more calories in a day than you burned all week, meaning that you no longer have a calorie deficit. Now, even with several hour-long cardio sessions a week, you burned less calories than you ate. You’ll gain weight.
The answer to this is simple—you need to increase your carb intake, specifically right before and right after you workout. You need to have some carbs in your blood stream to help energize you going into your workouts—don’t worry about trying to go into your exercise fasted; you’ll get more done if you’re properly fueled than if you weren’t. After workouts, your body is scrounging to find fuel to help you function, and will slowly begin to eat away at your muscle in order to do it—something you want to limit as much as possible, and you do that by eating something with a little protein and a lot of fat after your workouts. I’m good for a peanut butter and honey sandwich, or a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a little fruit, or a small bowl of leftovers, whatever. I just always make sure there’s something in the tank when I workout, so that it not only helps me heal, but keeps me from feeling like I need to eat everything in sight when I’m all done.
You also need to modify your diet so that it’s not so restrictive that you feel like the weekend represents this kind of food freedom where all you can think about is diving, nose-first, into a bag of Ruffles Sour Cream and Cheddar (another old favorite of mine.) Don’t make your caloric deficit so large that you’re eating chicken breast and celery every day and feeling like you can’t wait to be done. The goal isn’t reaching that number on the scale; the real goal is finding the right combination of habits and activities that you can maintain for the rest of your life, something that I suspect would be really hard on a low-carb, low-fat diet. It’s okay to eat more healthy dietary fats, and it’s actually good for you.
As happy as I am that you’re getting your #scalefreespring on, you also have to remember that pleasure and the ability to enjoy the lifestyle you’re on—free of “suffering!”—is an important part of being able to maintain whatever pounds you manage to lose. Don’t worry about whatever weight you “gained” during your episode of “overdoing it”—chances are high that most of that weight is water weight you put on from all the salt you likely ate that day, so don’t think anything of it. Just slow it back down, take deep breaths, and create a meal plan for yourself that is less restrictive and still satisfying enough that you don’t feel like you have to binge eat in order to feel satisfied.
Keep it going! Don’t let this deter you. Let this serve as an important lesson—you can’t “suffer” your way through lasting weight loss. Eventually, the diet will collapse, you will regain, and each time you re-enter the cycle you’ll feel a bit more demoralized. Take care of you, and if that means the occasional little bag of chips, just make sure it’s a good one.