By Charlie Remiggio
Many people have the greatest intentions when starting a weight loss program.
They may decide:
“I’m giving up bread!”
“I’m giving up sugar!”
“I’m joining a gym and working out 4 days per week for 1 hour!”
Everything starts out well for a while and you may lose weight but you eventually give up and you’re right back where you started from eating bread, sugar and not working out. This can be very frustrating and this cycle can repeat itself many times where you lose and gain weight.
The problem is that there is no middle ground. It’s ALL or NOTHING.
When you fully restrict a food that you commonly eat or you plan to exercise way more than you ever have, I refer to these as INTENSE PHASES because they are an intense challenge for most people.
I’m not necessarily against intense phases, but I don’t think most people view them that way. I think most people realize they need to eat better and exercise and they don’t like how they look or feel and they pick a plan that will get them there the quickest. The problem is that this “quick” plan is very intense and they can’t sustain it and then they give up.
For example, if you decide you want to give up sugar, will you do this for the rest of your life? If your answer is yes, then I would consider your decision a PERMANENT LIFESTYLE CHANGE.
If your answer is no, then I would consider your decision an INTENSE PHASE. How will you then manage sugar when you have it again? Will you go back to your old habits again and gain all the weight back? This is where the all or nothing problem arises.
What you need is a MAINTENANCE PHASE. Will you have sugar once per week, twice per week, 3 times per week, etc.? This is something you must decide for maintenance.
Keep in mind that intense and maintenance phases are relative for each person and can also change for each person if they progress.
For example, an intense phase for an extremely sedentary person just starting out may be doing a spin class 3 days per week for 60 minutes. This same spin program may be a maintenance phase for someone very active.
Also, as the sedentary person gets in better shape, that previous 60 minute spin class 3 days per week can eventually become a maintenance phase.
The key is to know and honor where you are so that you don’t burn out or feel like a failure and give up.
You can also use intense and maintenance phases throughout the year based upon your goals.
Here is an example:
Goal 1: You want to be in great “bathing suit” shape in June, July & August.
Goal 2: You want to be in great “bathing suit” shape for your vacation on February 15th
Intense Phase 1: January 1st – February 14th
Intense Phase 2: May 1st – June 15th
Maintenance Phase 1: February 15th – April 30th
Maintenance Phase 2: June 16th – August 31st
Maintenance Phase 3: September 1st – December 31st
For Intense Phases 1 & 2 you may choose to weight train for 3 days per week for 60 minutes and do cardiovascular training 4 days per week for 60 minutes. You may also choose not to have any processed foods during these phases.
For Maintenance Phases 1 & 3 you may choose to weight train 2 days per week for 45 minutes and do cardiovascular training 3 days per week for 45 minutes. You may also choose to have “treats” 3 times per week.
For Maintenance Phase 2, since it’s in the summer where you still want to stay in great shape, you may choose to weight train 3 days per week for 45 minutes and do cardiovascular training 3 days per week for 60 minutes. You may also choose to have “treats” 1 time per week. This phase is not as much as the intense phases but it’s a little more challenging than the previous maintenance phases due to your goal.
This is just one example of how you can structure a plan. The key is to find a plan that works for you and a plan that you can sustain.
Don’t get caught up in the trap of trying to sustain a very intense phase.