If your diet is specifically to change your eating habits and be more well-rounded nutritionally, and weight loss is not a part of it, then that's totally different (and probably most of today's article won't really apply to you). But if you are specifically trying to shed weight, you need to know your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure), and balance it against what you’re eating.
Diets like paleo, low carb, low fat, etc., don’t have magic fat burning properties. Calories in/calories out still matter even if you are following a particular diet method. Even if you are eating healthier (which is great) and giving up the junk food, you can still easily overeat, this time just in things like healthy oils like coconut and olive oil, avocados, nuts and nut butters, dried fruits etc (which is very easy to do, by the way). Any diet you are doing for weight loss needs to be balanced clearly against your energy needs, or it’s going to be a endless, frustrating battle.
The best thing you can do if you are serious about fat loss is to set a target calorie goal that includes higher protein and the amount of carbs that gives you energy for workouts and does not deprive you so much that you are constantly snacking/craving etc, but keeps you in a deficit so you can lose weight, and then start counting your calories each day. Even if you don’t want to count calories forever, if snacking, portion control and a general "free for all" attitude about what you are ACTUALLY eating and drinking in terms of calories everyday is a problem for you, tracking can be a good place to start. Easy websites like myfitnesspal or fitday make tracking pretty simple and only takes a couple minutes each day.
In order to truly count calories properly, you need to be honest no matter what it is you are eating, even if you don’t like the look or sound of it, because your brain will want to delude itself into thinking it’s doing something other than what it is, and it will do this very often.
Calories you consume mindlessly, or that you don’t account for, aren’t going to disappear into thin air. They count, too. For some clients I have found it’s important for them to be meticulous with counting everything in the beginning so that they can really see what they are consuming.
Often it’s a bit of a learning game, and in time you may become a lot more comfortable eyeballing things and knowing more or less how much you are actually eating, and once you get to that point and feel like you have got a good handle on your weight loss/reached your goal weight you don’t have to be as concerned with every little detail.
But especially in the beginning it is important to overestimate what you are eating and underestimate what you burning, because the brain’s tendency is to naturally want to do the opposite; this is human nature. Once you can accept that your brain is not to be trusted and that it is up to you to combat your delusions/little white lies you tell yourself, you will gain so much more control over your results.
From my experience with clients, weight loss really is about 80 percent diet, and 20 percent exercise. It’s extremely easy to cancel out your calories burned while exercising in just a small amount of overeating, and in fact increasing exercise without carefully watching your food intake can actually lead to weight gain because many people become a lot more hungry from the extra physical activity. Not to mention, many people find it easy to justify excessive calories when they’ve just worked out, because they feel like they’ve “earned it”.
My advice is to attack your fat loss goals completely separate from your fitness goals. One should not cancel out the other. If you are training to be fit, healthy and strong, keep doing what you are doing. But the fat loss goals should be based around your diet, whether or not you are training. Stop justifying dessert with the two miles you ran today. By the same token, stop running 10 extra miles because you overate on dessert. This just becomes a vicious cycle and it is really very pointless because all it does is screws with you mentally.
Just because you signed up to a gym and started exercising doesn’t mean you will start losing fat and reaching your goals automatically. Sure the added activity can certainly help and make a big difference, but getting your diet dialled in is where the real magic will begin.
You can't get to the root of what you need to do differently, your secret to success or the habit that will make the difference, without being able to acknowledge what is right now. How did you get where you are now? What brought you to the point where you realised you wanted to change? What would you say to yourself, about your daily habits and what you do, if you could step outside your body and watch yourself for a day?
I have found that many times people don’t have any idea how they got where they are in the first place. Before you can change something, you have to understand why you are where you are and how you got there. It's being honest with yourself. And this can be an uncomfortable, and sometimes painful thing, but change has to start with acceptance of reality.
It’s an extremely liberating feeling to know you are in control of what you do, what you eat, how you exercise, and how you look (up to the point of your genetics). You can change your perceptions about food and fitness. You can control your eating; it doesn’t have to control you.
Once you begin treating your body as the beautiful work of art that it is, and treating it with care and kindness, you will stop feeling such intense emotions about something as silly as eating too much food or not working out enough. It’s simply a balance, and you can find it again. Even if you stuff it up one day, you can find it again the next day. It doesn’t have to be a downward spiral because it’s not an emotional issue. It is simply a matter of physics and science.
Knowing that you are not exempt from the laws of physics and calories in/calories out is a liberating thing, because it means that just because you stuffed up and overate one day doesn’t mean you have to continue down the negative spiral and give up all hope. You are not a huge failure for over eating or not exercising or stuffing up your calories. Rather it’s simply something that you can address in a productive and healthy way tomorrow.
Knowledge is power and having this power also takes away all the excuses of “well weight loss just doesn’t happen for me or my metabolism” and “I must be unique because I just can’t lose weight no matter how little I eat”. You now know what you have to do when you feel ready to attack your weight loss goals. It’s not a guessing game or an emotional issue anymore. It’s simply a balancing act.
Treating your weight in a more scientific way, knowing that you can balance everything in the end, and you don’t have to beat yourself up for every little splurge is the best way to become more rational about your diet. This will mean that you can appreciate the treats more, and have a more sustainable relationship with your own health and body. You will reach your goals by accepting moderation, being honest with yourself, and learning that you can’t trick yourself or the energy equation if you want to see real results.
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