How to Handle Early Weightloss ‘Blues’

Nutrition // Lisa Donaldson // 31 August 2016

‘I’m hungry, tired and irritable!’  ‘I want to quit.’ ‘I am a failure!’ These sorts of proclamations are not unusual for us to hear.

When you dramatically change your diet or exercise regime, the body is certainly going to let you know about it.

A body that has been used to heavily processed or refined foods is likely to protest, as are those who have been eating large volumes of food for years or who have NEVER exercised.

If you are feeling like death at the start of a new regime like 12WBT, we can tell you it will pass. Let’s look at how to survive the first two to three weeks without turning into a ‘hangry beast’.

You’re hungry

If you have the kind of hunger that keeps you awake at night, or that dominates every minute of your day, then you probably need to increase your calories for a while until your body gets used to a lower calorie intake. We like to call this ‘switching gears’.

A gear switch comes into play when an insatiable hunger lingers on and on. You may notice it more on big training days and less on rest/sedentary days. There are two gear switches you can apply.

  • Switching 1 gear = 150cal (1x snack)
  • Switching 2 gears = 300cal (2x snacks, a small meal or some meal inclusions)

These should be used sensibly and without guilt. It’s OK to have some extras if you honestly need them. It’s about keeping you on, not off, the wagon!

Also read: How Mindset Affects Your Weight Loss and Fitness

You have a headache

The withdrawal from sugar and highly processed foods can be nasty. Irritability, tears, flu-like symptoms and tiredness are some of the responses people experience when cutting back the white stuff.

The time period to overcome this can vary, but pushing through that first week is the toughest and the most defining.

To make permanent change it can take as long as 21 to 30 days of focus and willpower, so hang in there. Again, your hydration status needs to be taken into consideration. 30ml/kg is your minimum fluid intake – you’ll need more if you are training, too.

You’ve got the bathroom blues

If you have reduced the volume of food you are consuming, your bathroom behaviour might go through some changes.

It takes the body a little while to get used to a different volume of food for excretion. You can most certainly bulk out your meals (and your fibre) with non-starchy veggies via your snack allowance (or a gear switch).

As a general guide, one cup of non-starchy cooked veggies or two cups of raw salad-style veggies is about 80 calories. Up your hydration as well, this will help bulk out and soften your poop!

You’re tired

If you are exercising for the first time in ages, or getting up very early to commence your day, it’s perfectly normal to feel tired.

Being organised can really help you keep that tiredness from sabotaging your progress. Being able to switch into ‘Robot Mode’ can be useful, especially when you are feeling like the walking dead!

Make sure you prioritise sleep, which also means no electronics before bed, dimming the lights and perhaps using ear plugs and/or eye masks because absolute quiet and dark means quality sleep.  

We know not all parents can sleep with ear plugs but you could sleep with an eye mask – not a Hollywood luxury but a nifty sleep hack!

Also read: 16 Signs You Might be Overtraining

You’re sore

It’s completely normal for your muscles to get stiff and sore after a workout, especially after you have trained really hard, or if you are just getting back into exercise.

It’s important to keep moving, even though you are sore – because this gets blood and other healing fluids back into your muscles, ligaments and tendons so they juice up, and they move more easily (less soreness) as well as recover quickly.

A bath in epsom salts is fantastic, as are recovery compression tights (or any firm tights or leggings) and tops worn at night, as these all help get blood into your soft tissues more quickly, so you recover faster.

So, if you are feeling pretty awful, and you are thinking about throwing the towel in, STOP! What’s important is that you realise that your body is going through some big changes and that change is not always easy. Push through, try some of the strategies on this page and stay focused on why you are here. You are not alone and these feelings will pass. You’ve got this!

Break bad habits 



  1. Debbie Reply

    I finished the 12wbt some months ago! I have increased some of my foods and have put on a few kilos! Besides exercising what else can I do? I like to feel full when I finish eating a meal but on some ocassions I am not completely satisfied and will eat xtra foods but obviously eating over my amount for the day! Thanks

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Debbie – What we’d recommend is that you go back to tracking how many calories you are consuming each day and how many you are burning through your workouts. Aim to get back on track with your 12WBT Calorie Level (for women with weight loss goals we typically recommend 1200 calories per day). Once you reach your goal weight again, stick with your calorie level for two weeks before starting to slightly increase your calories per day. Then you can work on finding the balance in terms of how many calories per day are required for you personally to maintain your goal weight.

      Wishing you all the very best with the continuation of your health and fitness journey!

      12WBT Support Crew

      1. Debbie Reply

        Leila Nemra I have not joined the 12wbt I wish I could but I can not afford it.

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