If we prioritize our health, body composition results will follow. Lindsay is a great example of this - she came to me having lost a significant amount of weight through excessive exercise and severe caloric restriction. She learned the hard way that extreme behaviours are NOT necessary or ideal to reach her goals.
The first set of pictures she weighed 105lbs and was eating less than 1200 cals/day while training multiple hours per day. The second picture she was still practicing extreme behaviours followed by periods of binging that had caused her to gain 70lbs. When she was finally ready to commit to prioritizing her health, I explained that if she wanted to reach her ideal body composition goals and still eat enough to enjoy life, she would have to commit to a lengthy reverse diet period to restore the metabolic adaptation that had occurred through the severe caloric deficit and we needed to ensure that her hormones were functioning optimally prior to beginning a cut by monitoring her biofeedback markers throughout the process. In other words, she had to earn the right to cut.
Even when resting, your body is burning calories by performing basic functions to sustain life such as breathing, circulation, nutrient processing and cell production. This calculation of calories for your unique body weight, height, sex, activity level, etc... is called Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the minimum amount of calories needed to keep you alive. When you drop calories below this number for too long, your body adapts in an attempt to KEEP YOU ALIVE. By reducing the number of calories you burn throughout the day, it primes your body for surprisingly rapid weight gain. This biological phenomenon, coined "metabolic adaptation," is the primary reason why many people do not see body composition results even when eating in a severe caloric deficit. With your body continuously fighting to erase the calorie deficit necessary for fat loss, eating fewer calories than you burn can eventually become very tricky. You can only drop calories so far and increase exercise so much before that lifestyle becomes miserable, as well as impossible to maintain. Furthermore, the elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels from severe caloric restriction can actually result in fat gain, especially in the midsection, as that is the easiest place for your body to access energy when it perceives starvation again.
Since an important aspect of Lindsay's lifestyle was CrossFit & Olympic Lifting at Semiahmoo Athletic Club, we took an approach that allowed her to maintain her training volume and intensity (with the addition of rest days!) - we slowly added calories back until she was eating 2900-3100 kcal/day at her highest intake, and her weight actually dropped throughout the reverse diet process.
When we finally began her cut, she dropped weight at a steady trend of 0.5-1lbs per week - this rate is ideal to preserve as much lean muscle mass in the fat loss phase. Fat loss is not a linear progression - some weeks the scale will stay the same, other weeks it may even go up slightly (hello hormones!) and it may take weeks of cumulative effort to see that downward trend. If it didn't take 4 weeks to gain the body fat, don't expect it to take 4 weeks to see the results. Losing body fat while retaining muscle mass is also a slower process then losing total mass, which includes muscle - since lifting heavy is a passion of Lindsay's, we took the slow and steady approach to ensure she maintained her strength and conditioning capacity.
Over the course of 5 months, including 2 diet breaks, we monitored her biofeedback markers to SLOWLY and SAFELY push her into a deficit. She lost over 20lbs throughout the process and never dipped below 1600 kcal/day at the lowest point of her cut.
"I came to Sharan in 2017 at 105lbs after I had been severely under eating for approximately a year. She took the time to talk with me and explain the damage I was doing to my body and set me up with Macros to follow on my own. I was of the mind set that I knew better and chose to not follow the macros and instead binge on everything for the next few months.
My body was so confused going from eating nothing to everything, my metabolism was totally messed up and I had gained a lot of weight in the process.
I went back to Sharan after that begging for her help again, and this time I promised to follow her advice and signed up for month to month coaching. We did a LONG (2 year) reverse diet working my macros back up the right way and exercising daily of course. I actually started to lose weight in that process over time as my body went back to normalcy, my hair grew back, my period came back and I became my happy self again.
Sharan checked in with me weekly via email, however she actually checked in daily as we worked out together everyday. She made me feel supported and pushed me to do what was right for my body and also doubled as my therapist in the process. She taught me about other factors as well like stress management and how important rest is!
Last fall we got to a point where we were ready to do a cut as my body was repaired. It was very gradual, but it didn’t take much to see results. Now I am at a point for the first time in a long time I like my body composition, I like what I’m eating and how much I’m eating, I feel energized, and I’m the fittest and strongest I’ve ever been. Sharan showed me how to be disciplined while also enjoying my life. I’m so happy I took the time (and continue to) work with Sharan and to listen and trust her as she knows exactly what’s she’s doing."