These days you can’t blame a person for not knowing where to turn anymore. The constant bombardment of fad diets every year make it a confusing task when it comes to deciding how to approach losing weight. So, what’s this year’s flavour of the month so to speak, or is there a simpler more sustainable approach to a weight loss diet?
For starters, there’s no magical food plan that works for everyone and no food group should ever be avoided when designing a good weight loss diet. It generally isn’t sustainable and sooner or later nutritional deficiencies begin to arise.
Not to mention the dreaded rebound effect experienced by 90% of dieters who gain their lost weight back again. High-fat, low-carb, Atkins etc. they have all been tried before yet statistically people are becoming more and more overweight. You need a strategy that can be maintained, and it really can be fairly simple on paper which any sports dietitian will tell you; use more energy from fat through moderate physical activity while consuming less energy from food.
1. Don’t decrease energy intake too much
Restricting energy from food over a period of more than 3 months too severely can result in…
- Insufficient nutrient intake such as vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and carbohydrate which are vital for the proper functioning of your body
- Loss of lean tissue resulting in diminished muscle tone and a
- Lower BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), the rate at which a person burns energy at standstill, these are calories that are used for vital functions such as breathing and heartbeat. Think it’s insignificant? Basal metabolic rate accounts for 50-60% of a person’s daily energy use!
2. Make sure that your diet is nutritionally adequate
A weight loss diet should still be well-balanced emphasizing vegetables, fruit, whole-grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products. However, sometimes low-calorie diets are required for aggressive treatment (usually short-term). In this case, vitamin and mineral supplements will be recommended, because the small amount of food eaten just doesn’t provide the right amount of nutrients.
3. Eat less energy-dense foods
In general, foods with a
- High water content
- High fibre content and
- Low-fat content
Provide a better feeling of fullness with fewer calories. If portion sizes are equal, tuna from brine has far fewer calories than tuna in oil for instance. A handful of raisins has virtually double the calories of a handful of grapes. So, reducing energy density while maintaining the same food portions sizes, but from nutrient-dense fruit and vegetables, can be a good strategy to control hunger.
4. Avoid empty calories
Empty calories come from high-fat, sugary and alcoholic foods and beverages. In a healthy diet, these things are fine in moderation and can easily be part of a maintenance diet. But when you’re trying to lose weight it is best to avoid them as they offer a lot of energy but not much, if any, nutrients.
- Cream-based foods and beverages
- Fried foods
- High-fat meats such as bacon
- Beer and spirits
Are some examples of ‘empty’ calories.
5. Choose fats more wisely
Saturated fats are necessary in very small amounts and a person usually meets the recommended daily allowance even through a strict diet, but they shouldn’t make up most of your daily fat intake. Monounsaturated fats increase good cholesterol (which transports bad cholesterol out of the body) so select foods with a higher ratio of monounsaturated fats such as
- Olive oil
- Almonds and
Remember though that if weight loss is your goal, even these foods should be eaten in very small amounts as they are fats after all and contribute significantly to your total daily energy intake. Once you’re on a maintenance diet which a sports dietitian can design for you, these foods can be eaten more often.
6. Select the right types of carbs
Carb choices should be unrefined, rich in fibre and come from whole sources such as
- Whole-grain rice
- Whole-grain bread
- High-fibre fruit and vegetables
Avoid refined carbs such as
- Sweetened carbonated drinks,
- Fruit juices
- Energy drinks
- White bread
- Sugar-sweetened Cereals, granola
- Pastries & deserts
- Honey, syrups and other ‘hidden’ sugars
There are many other sugary types of carbs to avoid but you should get the picture now and be able to differentiate between unrefined and refined carbohydrates.Focus on fibre
7. Focus on fibre
A fibre-rich weight loss diet promotes a feeling of fullness, lowers overall calorie intake and is usually nutrient dense due to sufficient intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. As an added bonus high-fiber diets have also been linked to
- Reduced bowel cancer risk
- Reduced cholesterol and
- Reduced type 2 diabetes risk
8. Learn to eat smaller portions
Most people vastly overestimate their portion sizes. You only need to look at the size of many restaurant portions these days to see where folks are going wrong. Many deserts I’ve seen could easily be share between four people, let alone one!
Stick to these general suggestions…
- Stick to serving sizes on food labels
- Eat until you have satisfied your hunger, not until you’re uncomfortably stuffed
- Eat smaller, more regular meals and snacks spaced around 3 hours apart
- Incorporate measurable meal replacements such as protein powder shakes into your diet if you struggle to control your portion sizes
High water-containing foods increase the feeling of fullness and reduce hunger. It can also help to drink a large glass of water before a meal to fill the stomach and discourage eating too much. For many people, they may already see an improvement in their weight just by replacing sugary carbonated drinks, energy drinks and fruit juices with plenty of good quality water.
10. Become more physically active
This is where many people fall short. They either don’t exercise enough or even at all and expect a diet to do all the work. You must motivate that fat to be used! Those who combine exercising with a diet plan typically lose more fat, retain muscle, become more toned and maintain lost weight more than those who only follow a diet. Besides exercise affording one the opportunity to burn more fat and lose weight more quickly, some bonus health benefits are as follows…
- Improves blood pressure
- Decreases diabetes risk
- Improves cardiovascular fitness and more
Burn more calories than what you put in with an energy-controlled diet and exercise sessions consisting of at least 30-45 minutes, 5 days per week. Eat wholesome, unrefined foods and keep portions small while avoiding sugar, saturated fat, and alcohol.