The most common question that I get is “how do I lose weight?” As I’ve mentioned before in many other posts, everyone’s body responds differently to different foods, so it may take a bit of trial and error. However, the good news is that I can help you make better decisions when you do decide to try something new. In a previous post, 10 Weight Loss Commandments, I wrote about some basic principles that you can apply to your weight loss program regardless of your dietary restrictions or needs; now I’m going to focus specifically on the nutrition aspect of weight loss.
Most simply, weight loss is a result of burning more calories than you consume; calories in < calories out. There are 3,500 calories in 1 pound of fat, so the “magical” formula is to be in a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories for the week. However, calories alone are not the ONLY factor to consider. You may have heard that “not all calories are created equal” (I know I’ve mentioned it!), but why? Sure you could probably lose a few pounds if you kept eating junk and just changed your portion sizes, but trust me when I tell you in the long run you are not doing yourself any favors.
So why can’t you eat whatever you want if you’re watching your portion sizes? In theory, you could, but there are many other complications that could come along with only worrying about calories rather than the quality of food that you put in your body. I know some people will disagree with me here because you see these bodybuilders and fitness models who have amazing physiques and seem to eat what they want (IIFYM.) I explained in another post what IIFYM (if it fits your macros) is so I won’t go into detail here, but you can read that article if you’re not sure what that is. However, I am not speaking of nutrition solely for a physical appearance, but as nourishing fuel for your body. You wouldn’t put crappy gas in a Ferrari would you?! You should fuel your body with that same mentality.
Now to the reason you clicked on this post. What do you eat? If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m a big advocate for whole foods. The fresher the better. I’m going to stress that again; avoid processed foods as much as you can! I’m not suggesting you start following a raw vegan diet, but things like chips, candy, sodas (yes, even the diet ones), etc. need to go. Basic rule of thumb: shop the perimeter of the grocery store first. You can read more about healthy grocery shopping tips here.
“Yea, yea, yea Laura, I know about avoiding processed foods, but WHAT DO I EAT?” Vegetables are your friend. You should be eating vegetables at EVERY meal. Yes, even breakfast. Throw some spinach in a smoothie or make a veggie omelet. BOOM, veggies for breakfast. For lunch and dinner, make at least half of your plate full of non starchy vegetables. Go ahead and load ‘em up. It’s a great way to get vitamins and minerals, and fiber which help keeps you full.
Next up? Healthy fats. Fat helps to slow digestion, which helps you feel fuller longer. They are also full of essential fatty acids necessary for various bodily functions. I see too often people are afraid of fat. You don’t have to be! Yes, fat has more calories per gram that protein or carbs, but it is not the enemy. I’m not telling you to go and eat fast food hamburgers and fried chicken, but the right kind of fat can actually help you burn fat. Not sure what’s considered a healthy fat? Click here.
This next one shouldn’t be a surprise to you… water! If you can only start with one change this is the one to start with. Most people have heard the “ eight 8 ounce glasses of water per day” rule, but personally, I recommend at least half of your body weight in ounces. So unless you weigh 128 pounds, eight 8 ounce glasses of water a day just isn’t going to cut it. For example, lets say you weigh 150 pounds. 150 divided by 2 = 75. So you should be drinking at least 75 ounces of water a day. Are you drinking enough? Not sure how you could possibly get that much water in throughout the day? I have some tips for you! (click here to read how to get water post).
What about carbs? That is the million dollar question. As I mentioned numerous times, everyone’s body responds differently; some do better with lower amounts of carbs in their diet and some do better with more. Whichever you find works best for you, try to keep them balanced throughout the day to keep consistent blood sugar levels. That “sugar crash” you’ve heard of is a result of carbohydrates rapidly spiking your blood sugar and then rapidly dropping. What do you think the best sources for carbs are? You guessed it! Whole foods 🙂 Fruits, starchy vegetables, rice, grains, etc. Scientifically speaking, carbs are our body’s first source of energy so if your body uses up all of the carbs for fuel it has to move on to fat and protein for energy; thus burning your fat stores or your muscle. This is why it is important to make sure you are consuming enough protein because the last thing you want to do is lose your muscle and slow down your metabolism. Which brings me to my net point…
Have a serving of protein at every meal. If you are heavily active you will need to eat more protein than the average person. By making sure you eat enough protein, you help prevent muscle breakdown. The more lean muscle mass you have the faster your metabolism. This is why you see really fit people eating a ton of food and they are able to maintain their physique. Obviously they are burning calories as they are working out, but they also burn more calories at rest than someone who has less lean muscle mass.
Okay so we covered eating healthy fats, protein, water, and carbs. Now a little pep talk time. One bad meal does not make you fat. Just like one good meal won’t make you skinny. Don’t beat yourself up because you had a slip up and ate a cookie. Don’t throw away the whole day thinking “I’ll start again tomorrow.” No. You get back on track at your next meal. If you know you have a party or event that you will be attending, work a little harder and eat a little less the days before and after. Life is about balance. A general rule of thumb regarding “cheats” is to follow the 80/20 rule. Eat healthy 80% of the time and treat yourself 20% of the time. That doesn’t meant that you HAVE to take advantage of that 20%, but it’s something to keep in mind so you don’t stress out about ocassionally straying from your new healthy lifestyle.
Stay focused, great things will happen 🙂