I’ve lost weight. I’ve kept it off. I have seen and helped others do the same. They used different methods than I have. But one thing was consistent for all. That is the big secret about weight loss… So here it is:
How to lose weight: Sustain a caloric deficit.
Consume less food/calories than the calories/energy that you expand. This is not forever, only for the time required to lose the weight. It is very possible to overeat “healthy” food and not achieve the calorie deficit needed to lose weight.
How to keep it off: Sustain a caloric balance.
The good news is that you do not have to maintain a calorie deficit to stay in shape. All you need to do is maintain a caloric balance. That is to avoid overeating and putting the weight back on. In other words balance your caloric intake with your expenditure.
The reality is that calories are all that matter to weight loss. Not to say that the source of all calories are equal. Quality is important. A low quality diet is often higher in calories and vice versa. ANY diet will lead to weight loss if you’re in a caloric deficit, even one based on junk food.
Self-experimentation is important. We are all unique. Differences in gender, age, activity levels, body types, genetics, hormonal chemistry, absorptive capacity and so much more influences metabolism and weight loss. To find out what works for you on the calorie intake side as well as the burning side, you have to experiment. There is not one nutrition plan or diet that will work for all. That being said, here are a few lessons I have gained from my experimentation and coaching.
Avoid added sugar, fat and salt (normally found in junk, deep fried and processed food)
They add empty or useless calories and they increase the yummy taste of food that overrides your brains reward hormones, making it very hard not to over consume.
Avoid processed food
This food is normally high in added fat, salt and sugar as well as numerous other chemicals increasing shelf life and taste. All that reduce the nutritional content and increase possible harm to the body. Further it lacks nutrients (good stuff needed for optimal health) and de-regulates the body’s ability to naturally sense satiety and hunger. Leading to over eating.
Don’t drink calories
Still one of the most important reasons people don’t loose weight is because they consume calories through liquid and don’t realize it. Avoid all liquid that contains calories, especially alcohol.
All macronutrients have a place. Proteins, fats and carbohydrates all form part of a healthy diet. For optimal health we require food from each of these groups. Vilifying or idolizing one group is not the answer. With that I am not saying that low carb or low fat diets are bad, they can definitely be used as a tool to assist in weight loss. Lowering carbs or fats or cycling them for certain periods or phases of a diet can be very effective. This can optimize hormones or prevent metabolic slowdown. Fats are higher in calories than protein and carbs and a few too many nuts or teaspoons of oil could tilt the scales towards a positive energy balance (eating more than you are expanding). Protein on the other hand is very important for many reasons, for one it’s shown to help with satiety, but expert sources acknoledge the claims of how much protein is required are overblown. Eat it, but don’t worship it. Any macronutrient in excess will cause weight gain. However all macronutrients should make up a part of a healthy balanced diet.
By eating larger portions, you are more likely to over consume food and put on weight. It’s that simple. Try using smaller plates or bowls that will give you the impression that your portions are bigger.
Caloric density matters
Certain foods have more calories per unit/serving. Aim for food choices with a lower caloric density and a higher nutrient density. This way you can eat more, so you will feel fuller and you will be acquiring more nutrients needed for vital metabolic processes. Whole foods or super foods are usually low in caloric density and high in nutrients.
Vegetables are KING
It is really hard to go wrong with veggies. Unless you drench it in oil, butter, sugar or other sauces. The phyto-nutrients that are abundant in veggies fight disease, improve immune function, cognitive function, vital markers and digestion. For weight loss, select less starchy and more fiberous options.
Learn to appreciate the good taste of whole food
Appreciate food that tastes ‘good’ rather than ‘amazing’. Stop drowning healthy, nutritious food in sauces and condiments to enhance the taste. Stick to low/no calorie options like salt, pepper, lemon juice and other herbs and spices.
Eat in, not out, when possible
If you can, eat more food that comes from your kitchen and less that comes from restaurants or take-away spots. Simple reason, you don’t know what they add to it to make it taste better. Even if it is the ‘healthy’ option on the menu.
Why are you snacking? If it is because of some outdated advice that it speeds up your metabolism, then stop it! It is a myth. One of many. The only thing that snacking does is it ads more calories. Where does this fit in with a calorie deficit nutrition plan? The only acceptable reason there is for snacking, is if it helps you to reduce your total food intake. In other words, if you snack, and you eat less during your mealtimes. Don’t fool yourself; if the snack plus the smaller meal isn’t less than the larger meal by itself, you are still consuming more calories. Snacking is generally a bad habit.
Have rescue foods in place
There may be times when you absolutely have to eat or snack on something. Have a “rescue” food in place. I go for a fresh carrot or two. Super healthy and filling, rather than grabbing a packet of chips or cookies.
Focus on satisfied rather than full
If you are feeling full after a meal, you probably over ate. You should feel 80% full rather than stuffed. Eat slower. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to sense that you are satisfied. If you eat too fast, you will still feel hungry by the time you have finished your meal, and this will lead to over eating.
Try going to bed a little hungry
Sleep is prime fat burning time. That is if you don’t go to bed on a full stomach. Try to finish your last meal at least 3 hours before you go to bed. This also optimizes Growth Hormone, which is a very beneficial for many reasons.
Are you really hungry? Or are you…
Avoid emotional eating or eating for the wrong reasons. We give meaning to food and the experience of eating. When make associations of reward, comfort, etc. with food, we are destined to fail. Food is fuel and we should not give it any other meaning.
Avoid Mindless Eating
If you are not present to the experience and mindful while you eat, you will probably not really ‘taste’ and appreciate the food. And you will end up not feeling satisfied. We often eat while watching TV, working, driving, checking e-mails and Facebook or playing on our mobile phones etc. This leads to mindless eating.
Have your treats but keep them at a distance
The way to sustain weight loss is via balance and moderation. You should allow yourself to have a treat every once in a while. How often, would depend on your progress and goals. Have a cheat meal, not a cheat DAY. Also, don’t stock up on treats. If you have unhealthy food at home, it will be eaten sooner or later. Remove the temptation.
Food should never be a reward
Never reward yourself with food, if you make associations in you head for food as reward, you are setting yourself up for disaster. “Because I exercised” are three words that hamper weight loss because people use it as an excuse to eat. Reward yourself with a new pair of running shoes or anything other than food.
Don’t believe marketing and labeling
Most supplement and food companies’ number one objective is profit. They will market, sell and communicate almost anything to get you to buy more of their products. They don’t care about your health, take responsibility for yourself and don’t fall for the quick fixes and magic potions.
Weights VS Cardio?
Both. If time is a problem, prioritize weights (resistance training), then higher intensity shorter duration interval training and then lower intensity, longer duration steady state cardio.
Don’t train yourself stupid
There is truth in the saying: “Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym”. Naturally exercise is important to weigh loss and a healthy lifestyle. But you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. If you view exercise as punishment for overeating you are creating an unhealthy relationship with exercise.
I am not talking about exercise specifically. I am referring to NEAT or Non-exercise activity thermogenesis that is “moving around doing stuff that is not sport or exercise.” NEAT is powerful a weight-loss tool and reduces some of the negative effects that a sedentary life can bring. Many people don’t consider anything less than a vomit-inducing CrossFit class to be making a substantial contribution to getting in shape. Movement or exercise does not have to be hard to be beneficial. NEAT should not replace exercise, but supplement it. For more information on NEAT please click here
If you found this article useful or would like more information on any of the above topics, then you should try my free crash course on 7 Thriving habits. In this course, we delve a little deeper into what is needed to live a healthy life.
About the author: Reinhard Korb is a thought leader in the combined application of nutrition, exercise, neuroscience and mindfulness. He helps optimize health, wellness and performance in his clients. As the founder of Thrive, he has facilitated and helped various organisations and individuals actualize their potential and achieve peak performance states. He is a certified Fitness & Nutrition Coach, Meta Coach, Neuro Coach, Stress Management Coach and Wellness Coach