Fortunately and unfortunately, our bodies are usually pretty good at letting us know when they need us to take a step down and relax. For me, that meant a week of sickness. And a weight loss plateau. And weeks of frustration. And another bout of sickness.
Ladies, gentlemen, cave people: while the impetus to continuously challenge and change the body and the mind is a strong force for many of us, heed my words of caution and GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! As I once outlined in a post about the dangers of chronic cardio, it’s important to give your body and mind a chance to play catch-up, especially if you’re in weight-loss or muscle-building mode. This might seem like common sense to some, but it’s a good reminder for those of us who tend to get tunnel vision (ahem–me) when working toward a goal, especially when that goal is something like weight loss.
If you’re hardcore into CrossFit and find yourself starting to lag during your workouts, don’t get angry with yourself and try to “push through it” by working yourself harder or longer. Instead, take a day or two off, do some light yoga, go for relaxing walks or just hang out and keep your mind off the gym for a few days. By giving yourself some time away, your muscles can heal, your stress levels will go down, your mind can take a break, and you’ll be able to return to the gym in a few days’ time, stronger and better-able to rock the dead lifts you were struggling to complete before. I might even venture so far as to say that you can take several days away from the gym and come out better than before.
The same goes for your diet and intake: of course, in the simplest sense, you require a caloric deficit to lose weight. Although the calories in/calories out method isn’t quite as effective as we all think, monitoring your intake and controlling portions is a good way to make sure you’re not overfeeding yourself. But, as many dieters can tell you, you can only sustain a markedly low intake level for so long before your body begins to realize that it’s not getting enough food, therefore holding onto body fat and consumed calories with vigor in order to stave of starvation. This is called biological science, and you can either make it work for you, or against you.
Now, there’s no true scientific evidence to support this theory, so I’m telling you to take my words of advice (and any words of advice not coming from a medically trained professional) with a grain of salt, BUT: instead of keeping a major caloric deficit day-in and day-out, or even worse, lowering your calories gradually until you get to 900 calories a day, try calorie cycling. Essentially, when you cycle your calories, you eat at a “dieting” level for a few days out of the week, then you eat a higher amount of calories the rest of the days. So, for example, Monday you’d eat 1,400 calories, Tuesday you’d eat 1,600, Wednesday you’d eat 2,000, and Thursday you’d eat 1,400 again, so on and so forth. By continuously “confusing” your body, the chances of it thinking that it’s starving is much less likely.
Listen, I know it’s scary to be told that you should stop exercising as much and that you need to eat more when weight loss is the end goal, but take the advice from someone who stressed herself out a bit too much when the pounds stopped falling off and got sick for three weeks. It’s much better to take a few days off than it is to be bed-ridden and stuffy-headed because you couldn’t get yourself to relax.