I have a client we will call Suzie Q, for the purposes of this article.
Suzie Q is a great client. She’s very responsible with regular check ins. She always gives me the biofeedback I need and she is always on top of sticking to protocol without excuses.
Recently Suzie Q had a goal to tighten up and lean out. She wants to get back to full Cycle Diet mode. I adjusted her diet accordingly. Keep in mind however, that Suzie Q was already in great shape to be sure.
This is Suzie Q near her leanest a couple years ago.
At the time she was deep into the Cycle Diet and got even leaner than this picture, all while enjoying regular refeeds. But then her new business took her away from Cycle Diet mode for a while, as she made a priority of getting her business up and running.
That’s the backdrop concerning Suzie Q, but this article is about showing you how a diet can go too far…
…and when it does, what to do about it before it causes havoc metabolically and cosmetically. And you should know that dieting can go too far without you even being aware of it.
Often times, we can see in others, what we fail to see in ourselves.
So this is a really important article to read and is an actual recent Client Case Study
Below is her actual email check in.
Client Suzie Q Check-In Email
I just finished week 8 of my current program. My first goal was to lean out a bit and second goal was to get back on the Cycle Diet. Training: so this is weird. This entire week, I haven’t felt any of my muscles work. I don’t know what was lifting the weights, but it couldn’t have been my muscles lol! No pump would be an understatement. Pace was pretty decent but strength dropped a little on exercises with weights.
On body weight exercises; my muscles were getting fried early into each set. The quad blast was especially comical. My legs had nothing to give.
Diet/hunger: diet totally on point. Hunger has been on a whole other level this week. On Wednesday night I was a little sick to my stomach waiting for dinner time. Meals haven’t been filling me up for a while but my stomach has been feeling physically empty lately. I was even starving mid quad blast.
I’ve also been getting urges to scroll through food porn on Instagram or just browse through my cook books.
Digestion is ok. I’m not exactly constipated but there seems to be less waste being eliminated these last couple of days even though my food volume hasn’t changed.
Sleep, energy, etc: getting 6 to 7 hours a night and I sleep through the night but sleep is lighter. Feeling a little tapped from the afternoon onwards. Other stress is very manageable these last 2 weeks.
Scale and mirror reflection: I feel like this is the best I’ve looked in the last 5-6 months and I think I’m getting close to where I want to be, but not just yet. Very happy with how my clothes fit and I’m feeling much more confident in a bikini. Weight is 124.1
MY RESPONSE AND LESSONS FOR YOU ALL TO HEED:
1) The first thing I noted is that at week 8 of this program, she is likely in the mastery phase for this particular program. So there would be no reason her workout performance would be dropping off so dramatically all of a sudden.
2) Next, when Suzie Q reported just how off-track her body felt with training for this check in period, this was not like her overall either. And the degree to which her muscles and her body were not responding to regular workouts was a drastic difference from recent check ins on this same program.
Given she is in the mastery phase for this program, that should not be happening because her body is well adjusted to this particular protocol.
Regular check-ins are really important even during times when it seems there isn’t much to report.
So I advised her in no uncertain terms to take next week’s training as a back-off week and back-off her workouts in terms of load and training pace. I believe my exact words for impact were, “Slow it the fack down for next week.” I also had her cut out her metabolic work for the next week or two.
However: When she reported that her hunger had increased to a whole new level, I knew we had a problem. On its own, this kind of feedback can often just be incidental or based on current circumstances.
But when combined with her feedback about her workouts tanking and her body feeling flat and rubbery and non-responsive; I knew this was directly related to the changes we made in her diet to get her to lean out. WARNING SIGNS!
No one’s stomach should feel so empty as to feel nauseous before a meal, and no one should be ‘getting hungry’ during a workout.
I assigned her to take a full refeed day on the weekend, and to bump her meal to meal portions back up to where they were before we tightened up her diet. (Remember, she already looks fantastic by most people’s objective eye)
I cautioned her that this sort of thing can happen when someone diets too hard and/or too fast. They just hit a wall. But that wall has to be something that is responded to, and not just accepted as “the cost of leaning out!
Even when the goal is to lean out, it is imperative to “take the die out of dieting!”
And when she reported she had urges to scroll through food porn and look through cookbooks, I knew this was her body's way of getting her to pay attention that it is not receiving the energy it needs!
I’ve written about this extensively in my book Metabolic Damage and the Dangers of Dieting.
I knew a refeed day would help quell those urges a little bit, but that wouldn’t deal with the overall cause – basic starvation.
It’s the old joke I tell people over and over when dieting gets to this point: “Food is just like money, and sex – they only matter to you when you aren’t getting any!”
So urges to indulge in food-porn, fantasizing about food and being so hungry you feel nauseous; these are the body’s way of getting your mind to pay attention to its needs!
Here’s where it gets tricky and here is the trap so many dieters fall prey to.
IMPORTANT LESSON BELOW!
Then Suzie Q comments on how this is the best she has looked in the last 5-6 months and that she is close to where she wants to be, but not there yet. She comments she is happy with how her clothes fit and much more confident in a bikini.
This is the “DANGER ZONE” folks.
You can see how easy it is to just ignore crucial biofeedback in pursuit of cosmetic ends.
I cautioned her to read her own biofeedback from earlier in her check in. I told her to look at what this short-term goal is starting to cost her.
And as her Coach I outlined for her the realities of where she was then at:
1) This is clearly unsustainable
2) If she keeps going she will become intensely irritable (hangry) – her sleep will be disrupted, which will make her even more irritable
3) Her hair will start falling out
4) She will feel even weaker, which will make her even more irritable
5) She will lose muscle and start to look “skinny fat” instead of tight, toned, and athletic
6) Her metabolism will downregulate, which will have even bigger NEGATIVE cosmetic consequences down the road that she can’t foresee right now
I advised her that the short-term lean out experiment must now end and we must reverse course. The cost is too great to continue down the path any further.
For Suzie Q – since these negative repercussions of dieting were relatively recent and new, the solution was relatively simple in order to nip this in the bud and self-correct.
I advised her to restart The Cycle Diet by taking one whole day off dieting the coming weekend and then the following weekend take one refeed meal only. And then she is to ‘cycle’ the whole day refeed one week with the one meal only refeed the following week, till we get a consistent read on her biofeedback moving forward.
I also advised her to increase her portions back to where they were before we went on the short-term ‘quest for leanness.’
Keep in mind Suzie Q is a client who already looked great by any objective standards, so going back to original portion sizes of diet maintenance didn’t mean she was suddenly going to just get fat, even if she does put back on a few pounds!
There are two MAJOR LESSONS to learn from this Client Case Study folks
1) “if you can only look your best by feeling your worst, then your diet has gone way too far”
2) This is how reading biofeedback ‘really’ works. You heed the wisdom of the body’s messages and you respond accordingly. You do NOT dismiss negative physiological impact as something to withstand just to meet some arbitrary goal. That is how metabolic damage ensues
The body knows and the body communicates.
And just because you may not like or want the message your body is communicating, only a fool ignores it!
As I mentioned above, Suzie Q is a great client and she heeded my advice, and is glad she did so.
Cycle Diet Refeed
As a final aside – Suzie Q is no stranger to Cycle Diet refeeds!
Here is a potpourri of examples of her previous refeeds:
She knows how to enjoy indulgent food and days off dieting when her metabolism is cooperating and in supercompensation mode!
I hope the Client Case Study of Suzie Q is a lesson you can learn from and heed.
But I suspect as usual
Some of you will get it
Some of you will not