Now that autumn is officially here there will be plenty of people who didn’t quite get around to getting their weight loss nutrition sorted at the beginning of the year and who are looking for a quick fix. A ‘diet’ that will see the fat melt away as fast as possible. Actually, isn’t that what most of us would like anyway? Fast results.
I actually don’t like the word diet. To me, having ‘dieted’ many, many times in the past, the word diet implies deprivation. I also now know, again from personal experience, that you are either ON a diet or OFF a diet. On the diet you are striving for perfection, often going hungry, and then when you can’t do it any longer and go OFF the diet, boom, anything goes and you make up for lost time. The result? Instant weight re-gain.
There are so many ‘diets' around, ranging from some that aren’t too bad, to some that are just plain stupid and it has become very confusing for the average person looking to lose weight to know what to believe. The bottom line is – can you follow whatever plan you are on to lose the weight for the rest of your life, more or less? In other words, is it sustainable long term, because if it’s not you will join the millions of dieters who lose weight and then regain it when they return to their normal pattern of eating.
Most diets work in the short term because they restrict calories. Of course if you eat less than your body requires you will most likely lose weight. Some diets restrict carbohydrates, some restrict grains and dairy, some are very low calorie and some restrict just about everything!
Some diets like the cabbage soup diet, the lemon detox diet and the HCG diet, are extremely low calorie diets so of course you will lose weight. On 500 calories a day you could rename these diets as starvation diets, none of which could be sustained for long and in most cases you will lose water, muscle and fat. No one benefits from losing muscle.
This week I heard of two new (to me) diets. The Banting Diet (a version of the Paleo diet but which allows dairy) and the Weetbix Diet. Both have rules that may not work if you want to eat out or prefer to have more options.
Don’t be fooled by models in advertisements saying how much weight they lost on the whatever diet – generally those photos are either photo shopped, or the people used in the photos were never overweight in the first place. It is just marketing hype designed to suck in the desperate.
As a teenager (yes, I started my dieting career young) I tried the Israeli Army Diet (two days of apples, two days of cheese, two days of chicken and one day of salad, boy was I hungry on the apple days!), the bread diet, the hip and thigh diet, the original Atkins diet and just generally eating very little some days diets. You know what? None of them gave long lasting results because they were too hard to keep doing so I’d always regain the weight I lost, plus more. Does that sound familiar? I have since learned that the only way to lose weight and keep it off is to eat right most of the time. I had to change my lifestyle and my diet, but the benefits are many, including only having one size of clothes in my wardrobe, instead of three sizes to accommodate fluctuating levels of body fat.
To lose weight and keep it off
You do need to make changes to your diet and I’m going to list what I think are basic principles to follow for just about anyone who wishes to lose fat, but maintain their muscle mass.
- The first principle is that you need to consume less calories (energy) than your body requires.
- Watch your portion sizes. Just because it is the right kind of food doesn’t mean you can eat it in unlimited portions if your goal is weight loss.
- You should focus on eating minimally processed food. The more ‘one ingredient’ foods in your diet the better (veggies, protein, nuts, seeds, a small amount of fruit, etc). Limit packaged foods which list lots of numbers on the ingredients label.
- Reduce starchy carbohydrates (bread, rice, potato, etc), as well as simple carbohydrates in your diet.
- Limit added sugar in your diet. Fizzy drinks are a large source of sugar in some people’s diet.
- Eat lots of the right kind (low carbohydrate) vegetables at lunch and dinner.
- Drink sufficient water throughout the day.
- Eat a form of quality protein at each meal and snack. Note, this doesn’t necessarily mean meat; nuts, dairy and other non-meat options are suitable.
- Be aware of liquid food – alcohol, café coffees (apart from black), juice and soft drinks. Just because you drink it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have calories!
- Do some regular exercise. Ideally at least 30 minutes, at least 4-5 times a week. With the shorter days now you might consider hiring a piece of exercise equipment so there are no weather related excuses. Nearly everyone can find 30 minutes to fit in exercise if it is a priority.
If you would like help with a sustainable lifestyle plan, please get in touch, I would love to help.