So many of our SMILE community members out there ask me what diet I think is the best out there for weight loss?
Well, the first thing I usually say, is that you want to lose fat, not just weight. The goal of any program is to maintain as much muscle as possible, whilst still shredding those fat pounds away. Muscle not only keeps you strong and healthy, it is vital in maximising your fat loss as well. Maybe we’ll delve into that in another blog post.
But back to diet, with countless fads currently in fashion, it’s easy to get lost! It honestly makes me dizzy! Being a fitness professional for many years makes me no expert about all things diet and nutrition, but I’ve seen what works for my clients and I know what works for me.
Now before I even begin, if you take away anything from this article, let it be this: I believe two concepts count above all else:
- NEGATIVE ENERGY BALANCE: Is the relationship between the energy IN you take from the calories you get from food and drink and the energy OUT are the calories being used by your body for your daily energy requirements. Of course, this can be complicated by things like medical issues and hormones (to name just a few things), but as a general rule, if you consume less than you require YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT!
- CONSISTENCY: In my mind, the biggest problem with “diets” is that it implies it’s something done in the short term to produce quick results. I suppose in makes sense that If you stick to something and are consistent in the short term, YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT but if you want to keep that weight off and change yourself for the better, whatever you choose to do should become a long term lifestyle commitment.
So in reality, my thoughts on diet aren’t that exciting and wont get clicks or sell magazines, but those two concepts have produced real results for me and my clients. And as I said above, any weight loss adventure should be a combination of diet and exercise, so that you maximise that muscle for awesome long term results.
Now, to the juicy part. Here’s a really quick run down of the main diets on most radars at the moment:
Obviously, this diet involves restricting carbohydrate foods such as those found in high sugary morsels like cakes, biscuits, as well as in pasta and bread. But in turn, substituting those for foods high in protein, fats and vegetables. When we restrict a whole food group this usually tends to lower our calories, so we actually end up eating less! Although I did have a client once who substituted all her carbs for cheese, which, as you can imagine, didn’t produce the desired results…
So If done properly, low carb can lead to decreased calories in, which in turn goes back to my initial point of calories in vs calories out = weight loss! But when we restrict carbs entirely, we may be missing out on valuable vitamins and minerals we need for optimal health. I also personally find to lack energy, which leads to less optimal working out and general laziness, but there are many internet stories of people pushing through the energy low to come through the other side on a low carb high! So, your mileage may vary. But realistically is this something sustainable long term? Well that’s up to you to answer but for me that’s a no. I do however think we should all reduce highly refined processed sugars and carbs from our diet, as universally they have been shown to be bad for us!
Is definitely the flavour of the month in terms of diet and while it’s quite similar to the low carb diet in terms of carb restriction (however with more extreme restriction) the key difference here is that it proposes a much higher fat intake and less protein, so that your body will turn to fat for fuel as opposed to glucose from carb. Again, when looking at eliminating entire food groups you run the risk of missing out on really important vitamins and minerals gained from good, healthy produce. A super high fat diet comes with its own health concerns and I’m not going to delve into this, but being someone who has tried eating this way, I’m not a fan of this diet as I ended up feeling really unhealthy and sluggish consuming so much fat and protein. I also found calorie control difficult as these foods tend to be very calorific, as you can imagine. It’s not something I personally believe I could realistically sustain doing in the long term, but again, many people swear by it and I have no doubt there have been countless fortunes created on keto books!
PORTION CONTROLLED MEAL PLANS – FRESH AND FROZEN
There has been a huge influx into the healthy food market of calorie controlled and portion controlled packaged meals. Now, I used to not be a fan of these, as to me they looked gluggy and often lacked nutritional value. They often increased things such as sodium levels to replace taste taken away by fats and sugars. However, these days there are some awesome suppliers in supermarkets and locally in your community delivering meal plans according to the individual. Some options are fully cooked and only need to be re-heated and others are only partially cooked which require a little more effort. In my opinion, it’s a great way to eat nutrient rich food that makes keeping check of your calories easy. Control your portions, get in a negative calorie balance and watch those pounds fly away. The biggest downside to these meals is, in my opinion, cost. Although there are lots of new companies on the scene, so you may be able to find something to fit your budget. Whether it’s sustainable to keep paying in the long term is another question, however it can teach you the concept of portion control and balanced meals. So I think they can be a great starting point for those looking to change eating habits long term.
MEAL REPLACEMENT BARS/SHAKES/SOUPS
You guys have probably noticed the proliferation of these meal replacements when you’ve walked down the aisle at your supermarket. You’ve also probably noticed the impressive claims they all tend to make! In a nutshell, these products are supposed to be a calorie controlled “nutritionally balanced” meal that you consume instead of a regular meal. So instead of that lasagne at lunch, you would eat a bar. So the fact is, that if you stick with it, they do work because each portion tends to be very low in calories, and the more regular meals you “replace”, the more you will be in a calorie deficit. VLCD or Very Low Calorie Diet is the ultimate expression of this and expects you to essentially replace all meals in the day. I do believe these can be a good way to kick-start a weight loss program and have had some of my clients see really good results. But, these replacements can vary greatly in quality and nutritional value and are never meant to be a long term solution.
INTERMITTENT FASTING (IF)
There are ton’s of IF variant’s, such as the 5:2 method created by popular TV doctor Michael Mosley, which essentially suggests participants eat 500 calories “2” days a week and then the other “5” can be relatively unrestricted. Or the 16:8 method which follows the same schedule everyday of a window of 8 hours of eating with a period of 16hours of no calorie intake at all. So for example, a participant would not commencing eating until 11am (skipping breakfast) and eat meals until 7pm. Most of the IF diets suggest plenty of water and black coffee or green tea to be consumed throughout the fasting period, to boost your metabolism. IF is really an eating schedule as opposed to a diet. Most variant’s don’t really restrict any type of foods. But importantly, science has backed it with loads of research stating that not only can it help you lose weight (less time to eat, means less time to get your calories in), but it has also been seen to improve insulin sensitivity (and hence blood sugar levels), decrease risk of heart disease and cancer.
Personally, I follow this way of eating and have been for some time. Now it’s no walk in the park at first, as I was one of those people (actually, still am haha) that constantly thought of what & when to eat next. I found it difficult to consume less calories and my weight fluctuated despite all the exercise I do! BUT, I found that by restricting my window of eating, not only did I eliminate hunger pangs and constant thoughts of eating, I really did end up eating less. Surprisingly, I also have more energy than I thought I would, all whilst still eating the things I enjoy. Again it’s not for everyone, but as I keep reiterating, it’s about what you can stick to and blend into your lifestyle. Not just tomorrow, or next week, but for your whole life!
MY EATING PLAN: Intermittent fasting and portion control with a 80/20 rule to allow a flexible diet.
This is no fad diet, but a mix of most of the stuff we’ve discussed today. I’ve found something that works for me and is now my lifestyle:
- Dump the junk: Swap out the high processed foods for eating real whole foods and fresh produce
- Consider Calories: I have a rough idea of how many calories my body needs based on my activity level. From that I can work out how much I REALLY should consume. You might find you actually need to eat much less than you thought. I sure did, so I use 16:8 IF to help me get those calories in down to the right level.
- 80:20 rule: eat 80% really well and allow 20% of indulgence so that you feel normal and part of society!
So how does this translate to the real world for me? I keep my Monday to Fridays pretty strict and filled with really good prepped balanced meals which I start eating at ~11am and finish at 7pm. I include carbs in most meals to keep my energy levels up during working out to maximise my muscle maintenance, however, carbs are usually the smallest component of the meal, with proteins and vegetables being the largest elements. Protein I find keeps me feeling fuller for longer periods of time so I often find myself eating less if I have a good size portion of protein. My favourite go to proteins are grilled salmon, eggs (boiled or scrambled) tuna cans and grilled chicken. I like to combine these with a salad or a bunch of oven roasted vegetables. My carb preference will be sweet potato, rice, and sometimes sourdough bread. Fruit is also a carb and I can’t live without my green apple a day!
I allow myself weekend indulgences (but adjust my period of eating accordingly) when I tend to be socialising and out with my husband and friends. Nothing worse than not being able to have cake at your friend’s child’s birthday party, just don’t go for seconds or thirds maybe ;) This 80/20 rule keeps me sane and doesn’t make me feel too restricted in my eating.
So, in short, experiment but ultimately choose a way of eating that’s appropriate for you and your body and that you feel you can consistently stick to for a long period of time. Achieve that and you’ll never have to think about a fad diet again!
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