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What to do if your Diet isn’t working

This time of year is notorious for people starting new and crazy diets; and by February chances are a good proportion of those new-year-dieters have either given up completely or are starting to lose faith in their “it worked for my friend” diets.

As with most things, people are after quick results. “10lbs a week or I’m trying something else.” Healthy fat loss doesn’t come that quick. Consistency works better than an all-out effort for a week.

So... You started a diet in January (well, after you’d eaten the Christmas leftovers and only had the chocolates that no-one likes left), and you’re already beginning to lose hope and admit defeat. What can you do?

The first thing is reassess your “Diet”. If you cut too many calories you’ll almost certainly have lost some weight, but your body is smart and won’t play ball much longer. You need to increase calories (but to just under what you were eating before), so you’re still eating a bit less, but not starving yourself or your body.

To make up for this increase in calories you can attack the “calories in vs. calories out” equation from both ends. Increase your exercise; not excessively, but increase it, to focus on the “calories out” side.

By doing this you’re not tricking your body and sending it into panic mode. Too few calories and your body will adapt and stop burning so many calories, ditch some much needed muscle tissue and focus on storing fat! The exact opposite of what you’re aiming to achieve!

If you keep calories up, your body feels safe and maintains its usual calorie burn. Add in some exercise and you’ve just tipped the balance into the energy deficit you need for fat loss, but without the loss of muscle tissue or your body “slowing down”.

Once you’ve established a reasonable amount of exercise and regained control over your calories, monitor your progress. Don’t weigh yourself daily and stress out over a pound here and there; just once a week.

If you see weight loss, great! Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t be tempted to change things to try and speed it up.

If you see no change, either increase your exercise slightly or cut calories by 100cals a day and see what happens next week.

If your weight goes up (and if you’ve been, honestly, consistent with your diet and exercise) then both increase exercise and decrease calories by 100-200cals a day.

Use this method until you reach your goal weight, but NEVER, ever, EVER cut calories too low. If you’re eating less than 1500 calories a day, training 3-5 days a week (no more), and still not losing weight, find a good trainer and get help – you may be doing something wrong, or could be doing something better, or possibly (in very few cases) you have a more sinister underlying problem.

As a side note, if you’ve been following a low-calorie diet (less than 1500 calories a day) for a while, then you’ve trusted the wrong people and probably done more harm than good. You’ll need to gradually bring calorie intake back up again (before you get ill) and focus on food quality and exercises that don’t take too much out of you while your body repairs itself and recovers from starvation and shut-down. I would also strongly recommend you seek expert help to ensure you do this correctly as you need to undo the damage, ideally without gaining back any fat.

Diet can get extremely complicated, but can also be very simple. Monitor your progress and adjust accordingly, following the simplest of guidelines I just set out, you’ll do fine.

If you need more help, visit for information on Personal Training, Nutrition Coaching, and Bootcamp classes.

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