It is January 2, 2021. Assuming January 1st was for celebrating or recovery, today is the most popular day to begin a “diet” or New Year’s Resolution. There is a saying among some that “diets don’t work” that is meant to reflect that a dieter’s mentality can lead to weight cycling, and yet we know how important diet is to a healthy body weight, so I would like to propose an alternative approach that is more specific than the long term lifestyle change that we all know is the end game.
I shall borrow lessons from training for Ironman 70.3 and apply them to a weight loss journey. I think one of the reasons that amateur sports events are popular is that they embody the process of identifying a challenge, the fear of failing, the hope of success,
working towards that goal, and ultimately triumph of the human spirit, either through success or through the courage to have made it to the starting line. Allow me to explain.
Before each triathlon, like every other triathlete, I would make a race plan. In this plan, each leg of the race: the swim, bike, and the run, I would have mapped out the route, identified the most difficult parts and the parts where I could make up time, planned strategies for each, and made a way to monitor if I was on target, either through a pace, a heart rate, or both. I planned ahead with equipment, training, water, electrolytes, and nutrition. During the race, things never went exactly as planned. At places, they went better than planned, at others, there aches and pains, or my body did not perform or respond as planned, or there was something outside of my control, like someone kicked me in the face in the water or crashed in front of me on the bike. So, I had to adjust my plan mid race. Things never went just according to plan!
For a weight loss journey, this is how I recommend making your race plan for medically supervised weight loss:
Set Your Pace
Start out with a sprint and maintain it for as long as you can. Twenty percent weight loss, or 12 weeks, whichever is shorter, is a good benchmark. In weight loss, a sprint means that you are staying strictly on your plan. Physiologically, the weight loss curve can be steep for the first 25% of the starting body weight and in the first 6 months, and the lowest weight achieved in the first 6 months is correlated with the final body weight. Metabolic adaptation to weight loss may begin after that. Also, if you are losing weight effectively, you are likely on the right plan and any high insulin levels are likely controlled. If you set it too fast, you may "bonk" and become a "DNF" or "did not finish". Setting a pace is where a coach can come in handy. In weight loss, this is setting a goal weight and weight loss goal or expectations along the way, such as monthly or biweekly weight loss. For our protein sparing modified fast programs, 100% adherence is expected to give 100% results, whereas 99% adherence may give anywhere between zero and 99% results. In other words, the protocol is rather predictable, but a “diet” is not. If you set your pace too slow, you cut yourself short.
Know When You’ve Hit The Wall
When you h