“This is the BEST diet for weight loss! You MUST cut out that food group to burn fat! My way is the ONLY way that works!”
I’m sure you see claims like that around the internet daily. And when you do, please take them with a grain of salt. There are many different ways to eat that can help you lose weight, but none of them is the “only” way. No cutting out of any food group, eating only during certain hours of the day, or meal replacement weight loss shake is magical.
There is ONE thing that needs to happen for you to lose weight: You need to be in a caloric deficit for an extended period of time. When your body uses more energy than you feed it, it is forced to use its energy reserves, and therefore you will lose weight. You can get into a caloric deficit by:
- eating less calories
- moving more (therefore burning more calories- but you likely won’t be able to out-move a bad diet)
- a combination of the two
Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy to put into practice as the basic concept behind it.
Imagine the following: You want to lose weight quickly, and proceed to eat as low-calorie as possible for two weeks. You end up eating only lettuce for two weeks, and by the end of it, you have lost a lot of weight.
So what’s the problem with this? Lettuce can’t give your body all the nutrients it needs, and you start feeling the effects of that over time. Also, because a diet like that is not very satisfying, at some point, you start craving other foods. Because of the lack of many essential nutrients and the diet not being very satisfying or enjoyable, you cannot stick with it for very long; the diet is not sustainable. At some point, you therefore go back to the way you ate before, and slowly start gaining back the weight you lost. In the process, you have learned nothing about how to make sustainable weight loss work for you.
So what can you do to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way? Let’s have a look at a few things to keep in mind when choosing a diet, and when evaluating different diets that are out there.
A good diet…
… gives you all the nutrients your body needs to function properly.
… gives you enough protein. Protein is filling and satiating, and helps you keep your lean (muscle) mass while in a caloric deficit.
… is filling enough to allow you to stick with it. If you’re hungry all the time, you’ll probably give up at some point.
… is sustainable and reasonably enjoyable. Pick a way to eat that WORKS FOR YOU; something that you feel you could stick with in the long term. Include delicious foods that you enjoy eating, while still allowing you to get closer to your weight loss goals.
A few tips that might help you achieve the above, are:
- Include a source of lean protein in your meals (protein, nutrients)
- Include a variety of vegetables and fruit in your meals (high in fibre which keeps you full longer; good nutrient value)
- Include whole grain options (high in fibre, nutrients)
- Include sources of healthy fats in your meals (satiety, nutrients, nutrient absorption)
- Minimise overly processed, calorie-dense foods that will leave you craving more (high calories, low nutrient value)
- Work with herbs & spices to make your meals tasty
- Don’t go with the all-or-nothing approach (I ate one cookie, might as well eat the whole pack now because my progress is ruined anyway… NOPE!)
- Allow yourself to eat your favourite foods from time to time in moderation if that helps you stick with your diet in the long term
- Don’t drink your calories (soft drinks, sugary coffee drinks and the like add a significant amount of calories to your day almost unnoticed, because they are not filling)
Most importantly, don’t feel pressured to go with a certain diet just because it’s popular at the moment, because somebody else is doing it, or because your favourite influencer is promoting it. Try something that you feel might work for you.
What is important to you when choosing a diet? What diets have worked for you? Let me know in the comments!