Big guys often HATE getting lean because they have to go through the Suck Stage—those months where the scale is dropping yet they just feel smaller and weaker.
But they’re losing fake “mass” — it doesn’t feel like it, but it really is all unhealthy, unwanted bodyfat — and on the other side of the suck their real physique awaits.
So why the hesitation?
Not surprisingly, it’s mental.
Big guys can go their whole lives self-identifying as The Big Guy.
On the surface, it’s not so bad. They’re often popular and have good friendships and can even find real athletic success in sports like football, weightlifting, or even baseball.
But inside, they still kinda hate how they look. They want to be leaner, fitter, look better, and feel better.
So it comes as no surprise that, usually as young adults, they decide it’s time to shed the old identity and go about becoming the lean person they really wanna be.
They scour the internet, read a few hundred fitness articles, browse forums, talk to their friends, and maybe even hire a coach.
They snap a before pic and the diet begins. And, at first, the weight flies off.
Five pounds the first week.
Then a few weeks of 2-3 pounds.
Then a month or so of slow but steady “pound-a-week” weight loss.
Clothes start to fit better and people start complimenting:
“You dieting bro?”
And then commenting:
“Whoa, you’re skinny! You sick?”
“Guess you’re done playing ball?”
Thats also when strength starts to drop. Not in everything, just in a few big lifts you’ve always been good at and keep an eye on, like squats and bench presses.
Finally, a weight loss plateau hits.
If this sounds familiar to you, then you know that this is about when you start to take a so-called “honest” assessment.
Hey, you’re 20 pounds down. NICE!
But when you look at yourself, you look the SAME. Only SMALLER and WEAKER.
So, you quit dieting, have a few big meals (maybe at first you call them “refeeds”) and the strength comes back fast. And the weight, which was ALL FAT (and fullness) comes back fast too.
I’ve seen the above MANY times. I call it the Suck Stage and it’s just something you have to get through. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but it doesn’t feel like it.
It’s the stage when,
- the scale weight goes down (good, but it’s slow, with pauses and interrupts here and there);
- your face gets leaner (also good, but occasionally the source of unhelpful comments);
- your clothes fit better all around (great!);
- some of your big lifts go down;
- training stops feeling as “fun”;
- clothes get looser in places you liked them feeling tight,
- a visual comparison says you basically just got smaller.
Here’s the reality check:
If you lost 20 pounds and you were weight training, 90% of that was probably fat or water loss. Even if your squat and bench dropped little, that’s often just due to a loss in leverages, not real “strength” or muscle. YOU LOST ALL FAT.
You weren’t wasting away like Christian Bale going from American Psycho (2000) to The Machinist (2004).
You didn’t need to change things up to “preserve” muscle.
Building muscle tends to work much better in a leaner, healthier state. So you were doing the right thing—it just didn’t feel like it because, again, “Suck Stage.” Heck, you might even have been building a bit if the overall diet and program were well-designed and well-executed.
Eventually, had you gone all the way through the Suck Stage and out the other side, you’d find that fat stores will get low enough that your musculature just suddenly “appears.”
Weirdly, you stop getting smaller and seem to get bigger as those cuts in your physique start to appear to others. Okay, maybe they don’t show up so well in sweats and your old favorite XXL hoodie, but they certainly show even through a t-shirt or even a decently slim-fit oxford or a well-cut sweater. Deltoids and quads begin to separate, the pecs start to “get square.” And when you do take the shirt off, vascularity also emerges, depending on your genetics and especially if you’re training.
You’re coming out the other side of the Suck Stage. It’s hard, but it’s rewarding.
Here’s a client, Chris P. He’s down 25 lbs and counting.
He’s at the tail end of the suck stage and just starting to come out the other side.
Note how the arms look bigger, not smaller—that’ll keep happening as the delts and triceps give them even more pronounced cuts and shape. You can see the abs just about to start coming in.
All this is typically a sign that soon (not now, but soon) the diet can shift slightly towards building or “recomposition”; or, you just stay focused on getting even leaner or learning to maintain without a rebound or binge-fest.
The diet isn’t “over.” It’s just that you’re finally through the Suck Stage and coming out the other side.
And yet now the scale might now say you’ve lost 30 or 40 pounds or more.
The good news is that you only have to get through the Suck Stage once.
The bad news is that it’s more a mental game than a physical one. This is because you are literally re-writing your story and identity. You’re going from being The Big Guy to being The Fit Guy or even The Lean Guy.
So, here’s my advice: start re-writing that story and that identity right now. Do it BEFORE you even start dieting. Start thinking of what you’ll do and how you feel when you’re no longer wearing The Big Guy label.
Identify as being lean.
Then do the work to make it a reality.
If you’ve tried before and you’re worried about hitting that plateau again, or playing mind-games with yourself (again), then talk to me.
As your coach, I can make sure you’re training and programming is on-point (if for no other reason than you don’t keep doubting yourself on that), and I can help you with the mental game, too. I can’t do the work for you, but I sure as hell be there for you when you need help pushing on through the Suck Stage and finally emerging out the other side.