This week, we examine the key factors that predict fat loss success.
It’s evident that all individuals can lose body fat through following a calorie restricted diet. Successful weight loss is defined as intentionally losing 10% of body mass and maintaining it for one year.
However, more than 80% of successful individuals experience weight gain after 1 year, 85% after 2 years and 95% after 3 years…with the majority of the weight loss being regained. That being said, those who maintain their weight for 2 years are more likely to maintain their weight over the following 5-10 years.
So, why do some individuals fail whilst others succeed with weight loss maintenance (WLM)
Although the following predictive factors have been identified in overweight/obese individuals, we can draw the same recommendations for athletes. From experience, they are exactly the same regardless of your competition level.
Greaves et al (2017) found that a combination of continuous self-regulation, enduring motivation, the ability to manage external challenges, a change in identity, and need fulfilment alterations were key to WLM.
Hartman-Boyce et al (2019) found that WLM success was linked with critical self-monitoring, strong self-knowledge, self-accountability and an underlying trust in the approach taken.
Spreckley et al (2021) built upon these findings and found that those who had WLM success consistently mentioned having: structured plans, regular assessments, calorie/portion tracking, meal planning, clear relapse protocols, visual reminders (progress photos), support groups, peer feedback, coach feedback, better self-image, stronger self-confidence, clear goals, highly personalised goals, continuously reassessed goals, prioritisation of goals.
These individuals were then better able to handle intrinsic and extrinsic challenges better: Unforeseen life events, emotional eating, holidays, celebrations, work/personal stress and unsupportive peers.
Although these individuals experienced fear of weight regain and criticism, they were able to manage this through reinventing themselves, building a new identity, becoming a role model and being immersed in a new supportive community.
The theme of self-monitoring, having clearly defined routines, structured plans and pre-planning food appeared heavily with these successful individuals. Ultimately, they had a plan, they implemented that plan and they had the tools to monitor their progress. They were all proactive.
When this was combined with a greater understanding of their plan, coach and peer accountability (support groups), motivation was heightened to continue implementing their plan. If they overindulged, they had clear relapse protocols to get them back on track.
These individuals also spoke of a sense of ‘reinvention’ and an identity shift to a new lifestyle after successful weight loss. They weren’t clinging onto their ‘old you’ and were defining their ‘new you’ and stepping into that new identity every day.
These individuals also put the needs of themselves over the needs of their peers – improving yourself is not selfishness.
As you can see, WLM isn’t a result of specific calorie and macronutrient targets, it’s about everything else. It’s about personal development; it’s about changing your mindset to become a better version of yourself.
From 10 years of coaching, It’s always thinking of the person first, getting them to demand more from themselves so they can operate on a higher level…then, they are better able to implement their plan and cope with all the challenges of life.
The specifics of a nutrition and training plan contribute a small fraction to their success if the supportive factors above aren’t in place.