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Dieting, calories, food choices and weight loss. Part 2.

December 22, 2012

I’m back with more FOOD TALK.  Today I’m going to discuss the topics of: yoyo dieting, why you need to eat enough calories to lose weight, the importance of protein, and how to go about SMART dieting to lose body fat.

(Make sure you read: Part 1, which covered topics like: You can’t out-exercise a bad diet; food choices…or total calories; how to eat intuitively; and food = fuel for your body.)

Yoyo dieting  = long term disaster.

The subject of yoyo dieting (i.e. crash dieting, fad dieting, detoxing, extreme cutting and bulking etc.) makes me ANGRY. I have seen it ruin clients and friends, their (precious precious!!) lean body mass, their hormones, their moods, their weight and their health, time and again. The reason why so many people can’t seem to maintain a good, lean bodyweight throughout their life is because of yoyo dieting.

Yoyo dieting makes your body soft and squishy. Each time you go on a new low calorie fad diet or detox, or simply start starving yourself for some upcoming occasion, you lose more and more lean body mass. This makes it difficult to regain lean body mass, and when you return to a normal diet you rebound and put on bodyfat very quick. I have seen this happen right in front of my eyes. I have seen a woman crash diet for her wedding in 3 months, look fantastic at her wedding, but put it all back in the next 3 months when her diet returned to normal (not even with overeating, just with normal eating). She not only put the fat back on and more of it, but she also lost whatever lean muscle she had before she dieted.

Consistency with food intake is the only thing that works in the long term when it comes to diet and weight maintenance. If you want to have a firm, lean body 24/7, you need to stop looking for the next “best diet” or the latest detox fad, and change your eating patterns from the crazy, up and down patterns to consistent steady patterns. And while I’m all for the occasional “cheat” meals and snacks once you have your diet working well for you, I think most people in general would benefit from not “cheating” on their diet, and instead learning how to actually stick to it for longer than 2 weeks.

In the immediate sense, drastically dieting can seem to be working. You use it to get ready for a contest, to diet for your wedding, your holiday, or whatever. And it seems fairly simple. But remember, that diet that you think is so wonderful and giving you weight loss results, does not take your metabolism into consideration. Your metabolism (which is, simply put, the sum of the physical and chemical processes that occur in your cells to produce energy) has a memory! It remembers calorie deprivation over the long term, and it regulates accordingly.  And as you drastically diet, your body’s internal regulatory system is keeping score. And it will want to return itself to “normal” as soon as it can. And it will pay whatever cost there is in doing so. Like a furnace, if there is not enough fuel coming in, it will lower its fuel use (down-regulating your metabolism to burn less calories and store more energy). You will blow up when you start to eat normal again, and then the next time you drastically reduce your calories, your body will hold on even tighter to the fat, because like I said above, it remembers! This will become a vicious cycle in the long-term.

Why you need to eat ENOUGH calories to lose weight.

This might sound like a contradiction!  The thing is, it makes total sense when we realise just how smart our bodies are. The body is extremely adept at making you stop losing fat. And in most cases for people who are dieting, reducing calories even lower is not the right way to go about losing body fat. The best way to keep making progress is to create a small deficit (eat slightly less calories than you burn – see below how to figure this out) and then be consistent with that. Don’t do anything extreme! I would not recommend losing more than half to 1 kg a week, max. The problem is that everyone wants the quick fix. They want the fat gone NOW. But weight loss takes time and consistency to make it work. If you are willing to put in the effort and have patience it will be worth it because you will be able to maintain it! No more insane weight fluctuations.

The whole principle of fat loss is based on the simple understanding of energy in and energy out.  But with too severe a restriction on the energy in, you can damage your ability to release (burn) energy.  That’s when your metabolism starts to suffer and the fat stops coming off.

So if your progress has stalled, but you think you’re eating the right foods in the right amounts and exercising regularly, most likely your problem is that you’re not eating enough calories to lose weight. Up your calories with whole, unprocessed foods full of nutrients, and keep exercising, and the fat will start dropping off again.

When people can embrace the fact that having a good, fit body entails a permanent lifestyle change, and not going on the next fad diet, their chance of long term success will increase dramatically.

Are you eating enough protein??

Now on to the subject of protein. In my experience it’s usually mainly females who are guilty of not eating enough, but guys can make this mistake on occasion as well. The average female who can’t lose body-fat usually eats a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast with an egg. One… single… egg.

Then she’ll have a sandwich for lunch with two ounces of lean chicken breast. For dinner it will be a salad with low fat dressing and four ounces of fish. Let’s assume she weighs 60 kilos. Most experts would agree that she would need to consume at least 100 grams of protein per day, if not, 2.2 grams per kilo, which would equal 132 grams (better recommendation!). Each ounce of protein is around 6-7 grams of protein. So in this example she had 36-40 or so grams combined with lunch and dinner plus the 7 grams from the egg. So that’s a total of 43 grams, which is not even close to enough protein. And yet I know women who eat like this every single day. They think they are eating “nothing”, but they aren’t lean or fit looking.

Females often freak out when I tell them to eat more than just four ounces of protein at a sitting but when I break down the macro numbers for them and reveal just how many of the calories they are eating each day are carbs/fats and not protein, it begins to make more sense to them.

To give you an example of what sort of protein intake I am talking about, I wrote out my daily protein intake the other day for this article. Here is all the protein I ate in one day:

Meal 1: 3 large eggs. 18 grams of protein

Meal 2: Large can of tuna 30 grams of protein

Meal 3: 150 grams of chicken breast: 50 grams of protein

Other snacks:

-2 scoops of ON protein powder. 60 grams of protein.

-A bowl of greek yogurt:  21 grams of protein.

-2 tablespoons of peanutbutter: 8 grams of protein.

Total daily protein intake: 187 grams

People who eat a sufficient amount of protein usually end up having an easier time getting and staying lean than those who don’t. It helps keep you satiated and it feeds your muscles. Make sure you’re getting enough! Remember the recommendation of 2.2 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight (or 1 gram per pound of bodyweight) and try and stick to this every day.

SMART dieting to lose body fat.

If you’ve read the above and part 1 of this series, and feel you have a good grasp of the basic principles, you are well on your way to understanding food, dieting, fat loss, metabolism and how the body works. Now I am going to explain the practical side of fat loss. Where do you go from here?

Firstly, you’ll need to start by figuring out your caloric intake needs for your goal. If you need to lose weight, then you will have to eat below your caloric needs (don’t cut more than 30 %). If your goal is to gain weight then you will need to eat above.

You can figure all that out by going here: Harris Benedict Equation.

Remember, we don’t want to do any crazy cuts. Calculators and formulas just give you estimates. They are a good starting point, but they don’t take into account all the individual differences between people and their metabolisms. You have to figure your own body out yourself through trial and error, and learning how to be intuitive and listen to your body’s needs (REAL needs not emotional needs).

Next I would recommend coming up with a macro plan. I recommend getting a balance of the different macros for the average person, i.e. about 30 % of each macronutrient (carbs, fat, protein) and then I usually suggest tagging the extra 10 % onto protein.

You can use a food tracking program/app to figure all of this out. I would suggest myfitnesspal.com. or fitday.com. You can manually set the macro percentages yourself once you have your calorie intake number, and you can work from there.

Next you have to think about your food choices. I personally don’t believe there is anything better than eating whole, unprocessed foods at least 90 % of the time. This would mean eating complete whole proteins (meat, eggs, poultry, fish, whey etc). For your carbs, fruit and veggies should make up the majority of your carb intake. (If you are very active and train a lot, be sure you are getting enough root vegetables like yams, squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, beetroot, etc. Even rice can be a good source of carbs for active people.) I would suggest cutting down on gluten and grains as these can cause inflammation in the body and a lot of people have gluten sensitivities that they don’t even know about, which can negatively affect their body and weight. For your fats, stick to good fats, coming from whole foods as well. Things like, avocado, fatty fish, nuts, olives and olive oil, etc.

After this, get rid of the refined sugar foods/junk food you have lying around in your house. I don’t care if you say you can fit it into your calories and macro plan. You don’t need it and it isn’t going to help you reach your goals. Plain and simple. When you can begin to have some self-discipline and self-control with food choices, you’ll find it easier to be consistent with your diet. Having junk food readily available will encourage binging, especially if you are prone to those tendencies. Everybody knows it’s more likely for you to binge if you have a cupboard full of biscuits, lollies, chocolate, and cookies than if you have your fridge full of fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat and natural yogurt. And I’ve heard people say they need to keep all that junk food in their house for their kids, but that excuse doesn’t work on me, because frankly, you shouldn’t be giving your kids that kind of junk on a regular basis either.

Also make sure you are drinking plenty of water. Plain water. It is one of the best things you can do for yourself, your health and your weight.

Another tip I tell my clients when they have fatloss goals is to try to stick to eating single ingredient foods. For example, the ingredients of an orange is an orange. A piece of fish is a piece of fish. You can mix and match the one ingredient items, but the majority of your meals should be made up of single ingredient items. It makes it so much easier to keep track and take note of exactly what you are eating, than when you buy a shake or a ready-made lasagne from the supermarket or even a “health” bar. This is often how the calories creep up on you without you knowing it.

Remember, tracking your food is something I encourage if you initially need help. But like I said in the first part of this series, learning to eat intuitively is the best long-term solution. I think learning more about calories and macros is the first step in knowing how to eat properly. It just gives you a better understanding of it all.

As far as a specific diets, I do not believe that any one diet plan or protocol (i.e. paleo, primal, low-carb, high-carb, intermittent fasting, etc. etc.) is perfect for everyone. The best diet plan is the one that you as an individual can follow in the long term and make a permanent part of your lifestyle.

And that’s pretty much it. If you stick to the above, and do it properly, you will get results. This isn’t fancy or complicated but I have had clients stick to this alone, and they got better results than they ever had with anything else.

Once you reach your goal the right way, it will be easier to maintain. You’ll be able to have the occasional treats and cheats without losing the plot or rebounding and putting all that fat back on every time. You’ll have a healthier metabolism so you’ll be able to eat more total calories while maintaining your weight, which means you’ll get more total nutrients in you, which will = better health, fitness and vibrancy. It’s worth having patience, going about fat loss the right way and preserving your precious lean body mass.

Exercise and weight training is also a huge part of helping with all of this as well. Not only will it burn calories but it will build muscle which will make your metabolism work even better.

(Stay tuned for my post on eating for putting on serious muscle, for high levels of training and/or performance, which is very different than eating for fat loss or even maintenance. Some of you might be interested in this.)



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