Every year, the most commonly searched google queries relating to fitness and health center around the topic of weight loss. This is how NOT to diet.
How to lose weight FAST?
What exercises will help you lose weight?
What is Keto?
Which diet is best for weight loss?
The topic of weight loss is one explored by nearly everyone struggling to maintain a healthy diet, lose a few pounds or improve their physique. However, the misinformation surrounding the topic of weight loss has grown exponentially due to the rise of online and social media. This is not a diet post, but rather one to give you the tools you have long term success.
Fitness influencers selling sham weight loss pills and advocating magic foods that will ‘strip belly fat fast’ have made the relatively simple (yet not easy) task of losing weight far more complicated than it needs to be. This article will cut through the BS and fake news to offer you clarity as you embark on your weight loss journey.
The science simplified
The theory behind losing weight is simple and all popular diets (even though they won’t state it) such as Keto, Low Carb, Atkins Diet etc.all work on the same basic principle.
Calories in vs Calories out.
Lets face it, most Americans are eating way too many calories per meal. The processed food, fatty beef cuts, poor weight management, all lead poor health outcomes and an increase in chronic illness.
To lose weight you MUST, with absolutely no exceptions at all, be in a caloric deficit, or simply put, eating fewer total calories. This meaning that your body must be expending more energy than it consumes on daily basis. For example, If I consume 2500 calories a day, then in order to lose weight I MUST expend more than 2500 calories per day and repeat that day after day.
Working out your daily caloric intake
Now what determines how many calories you consume is straightforward. It is simply the total of calories you consume through food and drink throughout the day. However, when it comes to determining your caloric expenditure, things are slightly more complicated.
The calories you expend on a daily basis will be a sum of your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the calories you expend through regular daily activity or NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) and the calories you burn through dedicated exercise (i.e. running, gym sessions etc.). Now working all this out may be daunting and appear complicated. But there are many online calculators and apps that can help you find a starting point. Popular online PT James Smith has a great online calculator that can offer a ballpark figure, and MyFitnessPal is also a great option.
Tracking is Smart!
So, you’ve decided on a starting point for the calories you are going to consume daily, but how do you know you’re eating less calories per day?
Well, unless you are tracking the food you eat, it is almost impossible to accurately declare your calorie consumption. A great app to track your calorie intake is ‘MyFitnessPal’.
The app allows you to track all your food in order to keep an accurate log of your daily intake to makes sure you’re eating fewer calories. Now some people are against tracking caloric intake, but tracking, even for a month or so, will help educate you about the caloric density of foods, and will help you produce more consistent and reliable results.
Good and Bad Foods?
The notion of good and bad foods is one that the media loves to latch onto. However, in reality what constitutes good and bad is largely subjective and down to a person’s individual needs and circumstances.
In the realm of weight loss, what people normally mean by a ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ food is one that is lower calorie. By consuming lower calorie foods which are nutrient dense, you are then able to eat a greater volume of food without exceeding your daily calorie goal. These are called low calorie dense foods.
Let’s see a visual example of this by comparing 200 calories of a chocolate bar compared with an apple. As you can see from the images below, the volume of food is very different (see image comparison below).
The likelihood is you going to feel more satiated (full) by consuming 200 calories from the apple (due to the more overall food volume and fiber being significantly higher) rather than the from half a chocolate bar. This is because the chocolate bar is more calorie dense and the apple is less calorie dense. Notice in the pictures how the calories are the same amount. Now this is not to say that you should NEVER eat chocolate, far from it. Just be aware of the differing calorie density of the foods you are eating.
High calorie dense foods are less filling than low calorie dense foods.
When it comes to diet, a good general rule of thumb is the 80:20 rule. 80% of your diet should consist of whole, nutritionally dense foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats etc.). The remaining 20% can be for processed foods or food you love to eat, whether that be chocolate, ice cream etc.
Additionally, without boring you too much with more science, try and keep protein intake relatively high (around 1.6g/KG bodyweight).
The last area I’d like to quickly cover is the topic of meal timing.
Should you intermittent fast?
Should I eat breakfast to ‘fire up my metabolism?!’
The honest answer is it doesn’t matter. Countless scientific studies have proven that all diets, regardless of meal frequency and meal timing, whether you eat breakfast or not, all produce the similar fat loss results and health benefits when the caloric deficit is equated.
Find what works for you and stick with it.
If you’re the type of person who is not hungry in the morning, skip breakfast.
If you love you morning meal, then have at it! What matters most is choosing a protocol that you can adhere to long term.
Step by step guide
- Calorie Deficit. The number 1 GOLDEN rule. Pick a starting calorie target. The deficit you pick should be approximately 10% below your maintenance food calories (as mentioned there are plenty of online calculators that can give you a starting point). Stick with this for 4-6 weeks. If you are not losing weight, then you are not in a calorie deficit and you need to further reduce your intake.
- Track! Tracking (counting calories) is a great way to become food smart and educated about what you are eating. Doing it for just a few weeks will likely be a real eye opener regarding the number of calories you are actually consuming. You will be amazed at how many calorie dense foods and processed foods you may be eating on a daily basis.
- 80:20 rule. Prioritize nutrient dense, lower calorie options. Fruit, vegetables, meats and fish are great options. They are full of nutrients and are likely to keep you fuller for longer. However, don’t eliminate foods that you love from your diet all together. This will lead to a lower adherence, and long term is counterproductive.
- Keep protein high. This will help keep you feeling full, and also retain muscle tissue as you lose weight. Most animal products are low calorie dense foods.
- Don’t let one bad day de rail you. Perfection isn’t the goal here. Think of this as a long term mindset shift. If you have a bad day or two where you go over your calorie target, don’t worry about it! Just get back on the horse tomorrow. Long term change is about sustainable habits, not short term perfection.
I hope this article has given you some clarity within the now murky online world of fat/weight loss. This article isn’t meant to scare you, it is meant to offer some sound and to the point of advice which you can follow easily and sustain over a period of time.
By following these principles, I am more than sure that anyone can achieve their weight loss goals, given enough time, patience, and dedication. Hopefully this article is your next step in healthy living and will help with your overall long term health.
The principles we’ve covered in this article are tried and true. They have worked for me, they have worked for countless others, and I am confident that they will work for you as well.
But don’t take my word for it – give them a try! What do you have to lose? Start with the basics: identify your why, stock up on essential low calorie density foods (so you feel fuller longer), and start small.
And most importantly, be patient! Weight loss doesn’t happen overnight, but if you stick to these principles, you WILL see results. Let us know how it goes in the comments below!