I was chatting on the phone to an online client yesterday and the topic of realistic expectations and feelings during a body transformation came up. I think many people get this wrong which can really impact your results.
Often we have an image that a body transformation should feel like a scene off a rocky film as you run up the steps with the crowd cheering you on while feeling on top of the world. Other people have a more horror film view of changing their body where they are locked in some cold, lonely and miserable place feeling hungry. Both of these extremes are way off what you should expect to feel when getting in shape.
The expected feeling when changing your body has a lot to do with how close you are to maximum fat loss speeds. The body has a controlled speed at which it can lose fat. This is probably around the 1.5% body fat level / week. There is no way around this max speed as further attempts to lose fat results in the body shutting down its metabolic processes to protect against the rapid fat loss. The closer to max fat loss rate you reach the harder the process is to follow.
Due to this we can predict how you feel based on how hard you are going at your body transformation –
Fat loss (%Max)Effort Level* Exercise Feeling Food Cravings
0% Easy Strong / Fit None*
<25% Comfortable Fit / Consistent Mild / Variable
<50% Good Effort Average Strong / Variable
<75% Hard Weak / Inconsistent ** Strong / Frequent
<100% Brutal V.Weak** V.Strong / Frequent
*There are many variables to this chart. General effort relates to the individual, if you hate exercise it will feel an effort to do it at any point in your life. Likewise, many people have food cravings all the time. However the chart gives a general expectation of what happens when changing the body.
**When really under eating you often invoke a adrenaline response to combat low blood sugar. If you happen to exercise during this moment you will feel strong and on top of the world. However, for every one of these sessions there will be various poor and weak sessions as well.
When you accept that fat loss has a controlled speed of progress then you can see from the very beginning how long it will take for you to get to your goal. As a general rule people under estimate how much body fat they have and thus getting to their goals is a much longer process than they expected. What this means is at the very beginning you can see that it will take 8, 12, 26 weeks etc to get to your goals.
This has huge implications for your plan of action. However good a plan may be, if you cannot stick to it for the needed duration to get to your ultimate goals you will never be successful.
This then links into the table below;
Fat loss (%Max)Duration Sustainable Motivation Needed*
0% Forever Average
<25% Long Term – Months Good
<50% Medium Term – Many Weeks High
<75% Short Term – Few Weeks Very High
<100% Short Term – Days to a week Very High
*Again motivation links back to how you relate to the tasks needed to be done when changing your body shape. It also links into how important you value your goals and the neural patterns you possess in to related health and fitness behaviours.
If your goal is around 12 weeks away of fat loss progress and you are attempting to follow a maximum fat loss plan. You know from day 1 you will not be able to stick to it for twelve weeks, you also know it will feel tough with food cravings and low energy.
This leaves you with a couple of options. Use a lower intensity plan of action which can be sustained for longer or alternatively insert off periods between the harder dieting phases. For example, you could do two weeks hard fat loss followed by a break even few days and so forth.
So back to my original conversation of expectations. If you are going to go hard at it then you have to be aware that exercise performance will vary and that food cravings will come and go. It will not be a rocky film all the time. Alongside this you should expect to see nice body fat changes each week.
The flip side to this is if you are putting in effort yet feel none of these signs nor are you seeing fat loss you can safely assume you are not in the degree of difficulty with your plan as perhaps you thought.
There are no rights or wrongs with intensity to use. We all know people who have lost weight without trying, this means they are in the gentle range and see great results over the months. On the other side we also know people who made rapid changes focusing on a hard core plan. For me the key isn’t which plan to use but just being aware of the expectations before you start as often people quit because they simply had misaligned expectations vs reality.
Photo – Click the link to see the famous rocky training sequence.