Goodbye All-or-nothing Mindset, Hello sustainable Weight Loss!
Maybe you can relate – You are great at losing weight when there is a short term goal or a particular incentive?
But unfortunately you are also great at gaining the same weight back (and some more)?
You feel like you are your own worst enemy, stuck in this rut and you don’t know how to get out of it?
All you want to do is jump on the next best diet challenge, but secretly you are already looking forward to overindulging over the holidays or on that wedding you are invited to?
Well, then maybe you can relate to Brittany. ↓
(In case you don’t want to read the whole blog, I can only encourage you to read or watch what Brittany has to say at the end of the blog about her journey and what has was the crucial difference in order to make these changes last once and for all.)
Brittany is a client who came to us in May 2019.
Here is what she said in her intake form:
“I tend to be an “all or nothing” person – either militantly adherent within guardrails or wildly reckless when left without guidelines.
I know this is mental work I need to do!
I am DONE with gaining and losing the same 10 lbs over and over.
I am on a hamster wheel fighting the same battle over and over.
I’ve never had the help of a personal coach and I am ready to ask for help!” – Brittany, May 2019
Brittany is not the only one who struggles with all-or-nothing thinking.
On the contrary.
Somehow it seems (!) to be easier for us to compartmentalize our eating into “I need to be strict and feel empowered being in control over my body!” and “I am going to let go of control and allow myself anything and everything”.
Unfortunately, our metabolism hates this (and, let’s be honest, so does our mind).
The body doesn’t really know what’s really going on, it constantly has to switch between thinking “okay there is a food shortage” and “oh wow there is plenty of food, I better eat as much as I can and store some of this for the next food shortage”.
Everything (digestion, muscle growth, fatloss, hormones…) is FAR from optimization!
That is why I was so excited that Brittany finally decided enough was enough and reached out for help.
So let me introduce you to the 2019 Brittany:
→ Height: 5’ 4”
→ Weight: 150 lbs
→ Age: 32
→ Occupation: Finance Manager (sedentary for most of the day)
→ Years training: 5 years
→ Estimated Body Fat % (if applicable)? 30.0%. I had a DXA scan done last Sunday showing my BF at 30%
→ Training:My normal training split is 4x/week weights (1 upper push, 1 upper pull, and 2 lower) and some cardio (mostly HIT finishers post lift, body weight circuits. I always get between 10k-13k steps per day.
I really struggle with maintaining my success and leanness post-cut. My body’s set point seems to be at 150 lbs (where i currently sit), but i feel and look my best around 140 lbs based on aesthetics and how my clothes fit. My body responds well during body fat phases, but
I MENTALLY have never successfully reversed out in a way that lets me maintain my leanness (I put the weight back on very fast and walk away from all healthy habits).
My short term goal is to lose the 10 lbs and get back to feeling strong, lean, and powerful (especially or my vacation in 2 months)!
My long term goals are:
- shift my mindset to view fitness/nutrition & body comp as the “long game” (not an 8-week cycle)
- adopt responsibility for doing the work and maintaining my leanness post-cut
- trust myself to intuitively eat.
In the past, i haven’t paid attention to the biofeedback during a cut. I’d be so fatigued, have no sex drive, poor sleep, and not performing in my lifts…but i’d just keep on going! I want to learn how to better support my body through the process and beyond.
I am so excited to learn and soak up all your knowledge! I am ready to elevate my life and get back in the driver’s seat for the LONG TERM!!!”
Note: I struggle with weekend indulgences, social events and having “just a little” ice cream/cookies/cake. This leads to “a lot” of ice cream/cookies/cake. I do better as an abstainer from these items even if they fit in my macros.
This is how we got Brittany going:
So even though it was Brittany’s long-term goal to MAINTAIN her weight, our initial approach was to get her weight to 140 within the next 10 weeks before she was going on vacation to Italy.
This required a more aggressive approach than I may have proposed otherwise.
Our proposed periodization was
Deficit for 10 weeks → Maintain as best as possible over Italy trip (estimations and rough guidelines)
→ Return to a more moderate cut if necessary → Reverse and Maintain around 135lbs
145g Protein/ 155g Carbs/ 50g Fats= 1650 calories, no refeed days.
I was happy with her training split and added in cardio level so we did not change anything on that end. My main concern was adherence across the whole week.
Weight: 150 → 145 lbs
Deviations: 1 Weekend indulgence that momentarily drove weight up 2 pounds.
We lowered macros further in order to ensure we reach her goal of 140 by the time she went on holiday.
145g Protein/ 130g Carbs/ 45g Fats = 1505 calories, no refeed days.
Weight: 145 → 141 lbs
Deviations: Another weekend indulgence that momentarily drove weight up 2 lbs.
Weight before vacation at the end of the month: 139 lbs (yeay we reached her interim goal!!)
Weight after vacation: 149 lbs
Main guidelines were hydration, lean protein, vegetables, picking one “treat” per day (pasta, pizza, dessert) and sharing if possible, taking protein bars and powers with her, fasting in the morning if feasible, keeping alcohol consumption in check, prioritizing sleep where possible
Brittany’s comment in retrospection:
Even with the guidelines in place, I continued to self-sabotage with old habits, treating the strategic “diet break” during my week in Italy as an “earned” free-for-all. This enabled the same weight fluctuation cycle to begin again, because I had not done the mindset work to learn new lifestyle habits or discovered the self awareness to break old patterns.
Month 4- 7:
Macros: 145g protein/ 130g carbs/ 55g fat = 1595
1 Refeed day, mostly for social/ adherence purposes at 180g carbs = 1795 cal
Without an immediate goal (like her vacation) Brittany slipped into her old all-or-nothing mindset repeatedly.
147 lbs – 147 lbs: We kept spinning in circles between getting her weight down 5-7 lbs, just to gain it all back by her going MIA for 1-2 weeks with no tracking.
This is when it became clear that we needed to really tackle mindset as well, in order to see lasting changes.
→ I encouraged her to implement small portions of her “trigger foods” throughout the week, rather than labelling them as ‘forbidden’ and then over-indulging on them when she had the chance.
I would often let one off-plan, “non-perfect” choice spiral into a late night pantry raid and then extend to 3-4 days of poor choices before it was time to again “repent with rigid perfection.
→ I encouraged her to implement new recipes 1-2 times a week in order to avoid “diet fatigue” and getting bored of eating the same things over and over again (just to over-indulge when she would have something different)
I totally had a mindset of “good foods” (allowed in my diet) and “bad foods” (not allowed when I was ‘on track’). Especially when I would eat out and there were “non-normal diet foods” that would mentally signal to me that this was a non-diet window, and I could go HAM and over-indulge…
→ We started working more on foresight and preparing better for weekend trips (looking up restaurants, booking into hotels with fridges and a gym, bringing healthy snack options…)
I began implementing more inner work around habits and mindset and started to internalize that it was never the FIRST choice that led to disappointment and backslides in our progress. I realized it was ME giving MYSELF permission to continue that downwards spiral and that actually at any point, I had the power to stop the cycle and make a different choice. From then on I reached out to Lisa after the first day or a poor food choice, actively getting back on track immediately, rather than being MIA for several days…. I also started realizing patterns to my over-indulgences, for example I was basically waiting for my boyfriend to go to sleep soI could eat the entire box of Special K in the cupboard in private. It only then hit me how much emotional power I had given that crusty box of $2.99 cardboard.
Month 8 – Christmas and the holidays
Macros: Minor adjustment to 150g Protein/ 125g Carbs/ 55f = 1580 cal (still one refeed day)
In order to help just a little bit with hunger.
Weight: 147 lbs – 138 lbs – 148 lbs
We started seeing the mindset work pay off with no deviations between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
However, then Christmas came around the corner, which Brittany spent with her relatives and even if the first week was more mindful, in the second week old habits and ways of thinking started sneaking back in and there were several days of overindulgence.
Thankfully, Brittany is such a reflective person and she was more aware than ever that she had to continue working on her mindset in order to make these changes last.
→ She started identifying her exact triggers (such as going home to her mom’s house where she felt ‘safe’ and like she could “let her guard down”)
→ She soaked up books that would help her with her “healthy habits” (like Atomic Habits by James Clear) like no other, listened to podcasts that would keep her focused on her goal, implemented a personal development practice, committed to daily mindset work…
→ She was more clear on her WHY than ever. She knew she did not want to go back to feeling like she was controlled by food, like she was stuck in this never ending cycle, feeling uncomfortable in her own body… Brittany was committed to a lifestyle of moderation and adopting a mindset of flexible-dieting with a healthy 80/20 approach to food – no “0 or 100”, no assigning moral values to foods.
Weight: 148 lbs (lots of water retention after the holidays) → 138 lbs
We considered her 2 weeks MIA over Christmas as a diet break and therefore planned to cut for another ~12 weeks in the new year before reversing and transitioning into maintenance.
Mindset work continued to pay off.
Nonetheless, there was still one weekend deviation.
These periods of retraction are NORMAL, unfortunately!
It is our old Self trying to pull us back to comfort, to where it believes we are “safe”, because anything unfamiliar, any personal growth feels unsafe. You have to understand that our subconscious and really our whole body is just programmed for one things: to ensure our survival. That is why our body likes to hold on to body fat. Why our mind likes to go back to the familiar and hates uncertainty…
BUT, if you keep doing the mindset work, if you become more and more aware of the fact that it’s necessary to push into this discomfort, eventually these periods of “retraction” will become shorter and spaced further apart. In the beginning you might “derail” for one week per month, then one weekend per month, then one weekend every two month, then only 3 times a year… Eventually your SELF will have completely become that new version of you and the drawbacks will start feeling foreign and the new habits will start feeling automated and “normal”.
Weight 138 lbs → 131 lbs
We kept adjusting Brittany’s goal because she started feeling so empowered and 135lbs was not actually where she wanted to be. Since all her biofeedback was in a very good place there was no reason not to keep chasing her true potential.
There was still one deviation over a weekend. But Brittany stayed relentless and her consistency and accuracy otherwise was nothing short of impressive!
I began to really experience and exhibit the fruit of my labor around my mindset work and habit implementation. I finally started to identify and feel worthy of my new, leaner physique.
Month 11 – 12:
Slight macro adjustment: 150g Protein/ 110g Carbs/ 50g Fat= 1490
(still one refeed day per week) to drive the cut home strong!
Weight: 131 lbs – 127 lbs
→ So many great mental wins! Numerous social occasions that Brittany mastered successfully and she grew stronger and stronger as the new version of her SELF that she had become.
Month 13: START OF REVERSE DIET
Before you think – wow, this girl was in a deficit for nearly a year, isn’t that exactly what you preach NOT to do?
Yes and no.
- There were multiple deviation, periods of unplanned untracked days which overall add up to a total of about 12 weeks!
- We kept a close eye on biofeedback the entire time.
- The main issue was consistency.
- Yes, we could have worked on nothing but consistency, mindset and habits at maintenance first, BUT it was Brittany’s first and foremost goal to lose weight. Most people don’t get very excited or lose motivation if you tell them “hey actually weight loss is not really what you need right now, just pay me for 6-9 months of mindset work first before we start working on any physical changes…” In the end we are a NUTRITION COACHING company and we are here to deliver on your physical goals, sometimes it just takes longer than initially expected or intended, because there are deeper underlying issues that need to be addressed at the same time.
Even though we had been in a deficit for so long we decided on a slow and gradual approach to her reverse diet, because we really wanted to make sure the weight stayed below 130.
Over the course of the first month we increased calories every week by about 50-60 calories from carbs and fats up to 1753 with two refeed days per week (solely adherence purposes) and Brittany’s weight actually continued to drop to 127.
We continued to take it slow, Brittany was still hesitant adding more food and more of her trigger foods or just more carbs in general.
But after three months of reverse dieting her calories were at
145g Protein/ 210g Carbs/ 73g Fats = 2077 calories
And weight continued to go down.
We are STILL maintaining at 122 lbs now, as her weight continued to drop!
In the image below, you can see her most recent DEXA scan:
Brittany has encountered numerous challenges over the course of her reverse diet, some of which she mastered, some of which were still learning opportunities.
→ She celebrated her birthday successfully, for the first time NOT buying a whole cake just to keep overindulging on it for multiple days after. She had went to a restaurant with friends, had some wine, chose a nutritious high protein main with vegetables and enjoyed her favorite ice cream for dessert, but mostly valued the COMPANY of the people she was with.
→ She is very aware of what social situations and what people may trigger her and what things help her stay in the right mind frame.
→ She keeps ice cream and special K cereal in her house regularly now. Things that she could pretty much eat by the container, now she is happy with a small serving size if it fits her macros, learning to trust herself.
→ She has become a pro at planning out her weekend getaways, making sure she still gets a good workout in while away, not to punish herself or to work things off, but because it keeps her in the right mindset and because she enjoys it
→ She still finds longer periods of time away from home challenging, because they require more planning and and even higher degree of willpower to stay in the “new me” mind frame, because they usually include more temptations
I will let Brittany finish the blog with a few words
“ There are four key items that I integrated to finally end the perpetual cycle of gaining/losing 10 lbs and conquer my all or nothing mindset:
1) Education with Relentless Application: I got curious – I learned the methods, leveraged the science, and constantly asked “why”?…and then applied, applied, applied!
a) I actively pursued knowledge by consuming TCM’s vast catalog of free content (blogs, podcasts, newsletters, Instagram, Facebook), as well as, the content of the team’s industry peers (two of my favorites being Jordan Syatt and Brad Jensen).
2) Personal Development Work: I did the inner work to identify the limiting self-beliefs, behaviors and habits I was allowing to pre-determine my ceiling of advancement
3) Coaching Connection & Accountability: I developed a deep, vulnerable relationship with my coach (I’m talking the good, the bad, AND the ugly).
Lisa became a confidant and counselor for all areas of my life because it was apparent
my nutrition habits were consistently showing up across all four pillars: body,
relationships, mindset, and business
4) Learning to Love The process: I committed to the process today, and again the next day, and again the next day, snowballing these seemingly small repeated actions into a massive mental and physical transformation over the span of 16 months.
Better yet, because I used the right method of phased sustainable changes, those results won’t go away at month 18, or month 24…
So the three big lessons I took from this weight loss journey are
1) It was never the first off-track meal that impacted my progress. Rather, it was the permission I then gave myself to continue making choices that didn’t align with my goals.
2) If this new physical transformation was going to be permanent, I needed to begin to recognize and identify myself that way.
“…Very few people take the time to sit down and contemplate what they’ve just done in
achieving something…[they] never actually integrate that success into [their] identity as a human being…” – Brendon Burchard, The Brendon Show Podcast “From Fear to
3) Habits, mindset, and personal development are at the center of everything.
- I set up a list of daily non-negotiables and structured the rest of my day around them
(morning routine, 10k steps, water intake, self-reflection)
- “…ask yourself what you can do to improve yourself. Acceptance is the first step to
change. Awareness proceeds change. We’re in a really, really wild time, but if you’re not spending it trying to get better, then what are you doing?…” – Cody McBroom, The
Boom Boom Performance Podcast” Episode 407 “Perspective is Everything”
I am so proud of Brittany, her dedication, perseverance and commitment to her goal and I am unbelievably thrilled I get to be part of her journey!
Moral of the story for YOU, the reader:
Sometimes physical change takes longer than we think it should or we would like it to.
But especially when it comes down to a dysfunctional relationship with food and dieting in general, isn’t it better the change take place over a year or more while addressing mindset as well and make it LASTING CHANGE rather than having to start over and over and over again?
If this resonates with you and you also feel like it could be your mindset that is truly keeping you from seeing long-term success, click HERE to apply for our coaching.