When clean eating progress stalls, whats next?

What happens when someone on a “Clean Eating” plan stalls out on their progress?

Whenever I work with a new client either in person or through my online Coaching Program my first steps is to get them focused on switching their current diet of mostly processed foods to an almost fully whole foods diet. It doesn’t matter if the client is trying to put on muscle or lose body fat this is always Step One. It’s extremely tough to get someone healthy and lean on a diet filled with processed foods…no matter what people tell you.

What do I mean by processed foods? Mostly packaged, flour and grain-based carbohydrate type foods…so things like cereals, crackers, muffins, chips, breads etc. Even if they contain the hippiest ingredients and say they came from the Tree of Life itself trust me they are still heavily processed and will get in the way of your fat loss goals.

Whole Foods, on the other hand, are just that “Whole”, they haven’t been processed into anything from their original state. For example, an apple is a whole food, an apple strudel is not. A Chicken Breast is a whole food, a chicken nugget is not. A potato is a whole food, a potato chip is not. I think you get the idea…

Whole/non-processed foods eating is often referred to these days as “clean eating” , non-processed or whole foods doesn’t sound as sexy it seems.

There is a huge difference between a breakfast of eggs, avocado, and berries vs. a bowl of “healthy” cereal. The reaction in your body from those two types of foods, even at the exact same caloric intake is massively different. This is why real health professionals will tell you caloric intake is important but the makeup of those calories is much much more important for health, fat loss and even muscle building.

While I don’t believe most people can eat 100% whole foods all the time, it’s important to at least aim for a high percentage of foods that aren’t processed if getting in great shape quickly and in a healthy way is your goal. There has to be a little wiggle room for some fun foods but how much wiggle room depends on what your goals are and how fast you want to achieve them.

So we’ve determined food that isn’t processed like crazy is the key to getting healthy and lean. Great! 

But what happens when someone shifts over to eating a whole/clean foods diet and eventually stalls out on their progress? At this point, they can’t really eat any cleaner as they might already be eating as “clean” as they possibly can. 

clean eating meme

When a client masters Step One and has become a clean eater, and let’s say they’ve stalled out with their progress then it’s time for me to objectively look at their overall calorie intake, meal timing and the ratio of their macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fats). Someone could be eating nothing but low processed foods and still have issues losing weight if perhaps they are overeating or undereating calories, skipping meals, many of their meals don’t have enough protein and they are eating way too many “good carbs”.

Even on a clean eating plan, I see all kinds of things that can stall out progress. 

– Not enough consistent sleep – yes sleep plays a massive role in health and fat loss

– Not drinking enough water each day – also massive role in health and fat loss

– Skipping meals – random and unplanned meals throughout the day – random and in great shape don’t go hand in hand

– Way too many “good carbs” for their current body-fat level and activity level

– Not enough daily protein – trust me your broccoli doesn’t have enough protein

– Not enough daily fat – usually because they’ve developed a fat phobia

Here is how I prioritize the steps I take with my clients. How fast we move through the steps is determined by the individual I’m working with. Some people can take months making baby steps with improving the quality of their food, while others can do it overnight.

Step One – Focus on an eating plan that is very low processed foods and eating on a regular schedule

Step Two – Focus on lifestyle factors like Sleep, Stress, Water intake and Exercise intensity/frequency

Step Three – Determine the right ratio of Macronutrients for their goals and overall Caloric intake

At this point, you might be saying ok Jade so how many calories or how much carbs, protein, and fat should I be eating each day. The reality is that this is different for each person I’m working with depending on if they are a male or female, how much they currently weigh, their current body fat percentage, how frequently they exercise, what type of exercise they are doing and of course how aggressive their goals. 

I couldn’t really answer that question in a simple way that would work for everyone. That being said, if I had to give you a tip to take away from this article I would say the majority of people who are frustrated with not seeing enough fat-loss results aren’t taking in enough daily protein and are way over-consuming carbohydrates each day. If most people took their current calories and evened them out to a point where their macronutrients were more balanced they would have a great starting point for results. 

For example. Let’s say you track your food for a week using MyFitnessPal. In that week you realize your average daily protein intake is 50-60 grams, your average carbohydrate intake is 250-300 grams and your fat is 60-70 grams (this is around 2000 calories). I see this exact ratio often from frustrated “clean eaters”. If fat loss is your goal you will have trouble in this unbalanced range. If this macronutrient ratio looks similar to yours I would suggest increasing your daily protein and decreasing your daily carbs to a more balanced level in order to spark some new results.

If you’ve gone “clean eating” and have stalled out with your progress shoot me a message. I’ll help sort out your macronutrients and get you on track for quick results.

Jade McClure – Vancouver Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach

Share Button


Jade is a Vancouver Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach with over a decade of helping people get fit and healthy.