Diminishing Returns to Dieting
There is an order through which you should approach weight loss
This post is going to reveal to you an unfortunate truth: that diminishing returns exist in dieting. Now, don’t get me wrong, you can achieve excellent health and look great, but each pound is incrementally harder to lose than the last.
What are diminishing returns? A phenomena which sets in with nearly everything. It defines the relationship between inputs and outputs. As you increase inputs, everything is fine and dandy and output goes up. Over time, you increase inputs but you don’t get the same results as you used to. Over enough time, you put in a lot of extra input, and the output barely budges.
Let’s take our fictitious thought-experiment-guinea-pig: Bob. First he swaps out grains, processed foods and high-sugar foods and does great. He drops water weight as well as fat and loses 10 lbs in 3 weeks. He sticks to these methods and loses another 10 lbs, this time over another 5 weeks.
See how that slowed down? Bob’s body is now putting in extra effort to retain fat stores, even though he’s eating the same amount of food (nature is clearly inconsistent with our rippling abs cover models…).
Bob produced great results, but he wants them to continue and he sees them tapering off, so he introduces high intensity interval training (HIIT). This contributes to another 5 lbs in the next 5 weeks. At this point he‘s maintained a steady rate of fat loss.
Bob see’s the finishing line is close, so he makes a final push. He introduces intermittent fasting, and does his HIIT workouts before eating his first meal. He also gets his blood work done by his doctor, and identifies some vitamin deficiencies, which he counteracts with a smart supplementation plan. Bob loses the last 5 lbs over the next 7 weeks, making the entire journey 20 weeks, at a rate of 1.5 lbs a week.
In an article I wrote in June on how to get more and better sleep, I also addressed “Why your mum was right the whole time”. Sounds bizarre? It totally fits in here, trust me.
People believe that the answer lies in those 1,2 and 5% marginal benefit changes. Some people walk in and think that fasting will solve all of their problems. Some people think that there is one magic detox plan which is going to melt their fat away. These people are, sadly, deluded.
The grand irony is that the initial, simple steps are the ones which have the largest returns. These are the steps that your mother (/father/grandparents/etc.) was telling you the whole time; who knew that “eat your greens” contained so much wisdom.
Changing your diet to all natural foods is going to provide most of the benefit to you. If you want to push the envelope a little more, then start to incorporate some advanced strategies and think about supplementation. It really is sad when people have good intentions but get suckered in by dieting con-men out to make a quick buck.
So what are my thoughts on “the order of dieting” (not of the knight templar type I’m afraid…). Start with the 80% changes: remove all processed food from your diet for a 2 week period. After two weeks try them out again and see how you feel. Remember they got you to where you are now so they should remain as treats, but what’s likely to happen is that you’ll find them too sweet or they will make you feel so bad you won’t want to eat them again. This leads on to removing foods from your diet which promote inflammation in you specifically. You can do this by eliminating them for a couple of weeks, then eating a tonne of one in a day and measuring how you feel. Only eat food that makes you feel truly great.
Next you can work on improving your exercise routines: perform workouts which maximise fat loss rather than instigate chronic stress and inflammation. These include HIIT and weight lifting (for those not currently lifting then you should be on this yesterday).
After that think about implementing intermittent fasting, nutrient timing and “re-feed” days.
Then comes the supplementation where you can address any deficiencies and manipulate your diet into achieving optimum health. This is where you really dial down the nitty gritty and explore 1 and 2% changes.
So overall the key is to begin at the beginning, surprisingly enough. Don’t try and build the top of the pyramid until you’ve constructed the base. It might be fascinating to hear about your friend’s new detox they’re going on for that holiday in two weeks time. Guess what? They’re going to put it all back on within two days of stepping on that plane. Meanwhile, you’re going to look like an Adonis. Health and fitness is a game to won consistently.
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this post, send it to your friends using the share buttons below. To access more content, visit www.cowlean.co.uk, where I host a weekly long-form piece.