South Beach, Dukan, Slimming World, Paleo, 5:2, Atkins, WeightWatchers. The list goes on, but which one works for you? Does the food we consume have to have these restrictions or are they just another method to distract us from the underlying principle of how we lose weight or stay in good health?
Welcome everyone to myHealthRev, let’s get into today’s discussion.
How good are they?
Firstly, have you tried any of them? If so, how successful were they? Presumably everyone has mixed answers and opinions on this one. If you have managed to find a diet that works then stick with it because it seems a rare commodity in today’s yoyo eating habits (including my own at times).
More than likely though, just like me, you’ve dabbled in and out of different diets, had them work for a few weeks, months, maybe even a year, only to relapse. I suppose most people relapse for pretty similar reasons when it comes to eating healthy, the usual suspects of motivation, the “cheeky cheat” meal on Friday night (most other nights too) or the beloved willpower.
Then…you’ll have one of your closest friends (at least before their comment) tell you “it’s all about moderation”. Could that be the secret to dissolving this £2 Billion per year industry (UK alone)?. Doubt it. It depends how someone defines moderation I guess, but something tells me that isn’t working. In practice, eating things in moderation seems to make sense. It’s not an optimal diet though, not by any means. By this I mean at both a macro/micro nutrient level. How do you know you’re reaching nutritional requirements? This takes a little more planning.
As mentioned, through my dabbling in and out different diets, having varying levels of what I define “successful” I have always found there being some drawbacks to popular industry diets. That being said I haven’t tried all of them. My issue wasn’t so much the upkeep of the particular requirements, but rather the health outcomes experienced. At one particular time I was testing intermitting fasting, similar to the 5:2 diet, with the hope of increasing muscle mass and decreasing body fat % (I didn’t do my homework back then), which I was tracking through skin-fold calliper measurements. Anyway, the weight was being lost which looked fairly promising on the scale, so far so good. That turned out to be about all that was good. My strength was absolutely plummeting and…of course so was my actual goal of increasing lean muscle mass.
The Important part! After a little trial and error I found this particular method of diet didn’t meet my requirements for the goals I wanted to achieve. Seems obvious, but before you go and suffer these diets and wonder why they fail, often its because you’re not getting the results you desire (you haven’t adopted the appropriate diet) or the clarity of your goal and what you want to achieve is painfully missing. Fact is, you need both! Objection! “I just want to lose some weight”. Great, who doesn’t…try eating in moderation.
What do I recommend?
All this fluff to introduce my recommendation. Anyways, get yourself a small notepad and a pen, keep them wherever you tend to eat most frequently. Next, figure out your BMR, its a quick search on google. This part will take some trial and error on your part as there some conflicting evidence on the accuracy of this metabolic estimation (up to 15% – enough to alter your results), but the foundation is there for the most part.
Here’s how it works
For example, my calorie intake is looking at 1700 per day. That’s the target. I have some other macronutrient targets too, but I’ll have an in-depth discussion on nutrition, regular and sports nutrition in a future blog. So the idea, as you’ve seen before is to track and write down the food you eat during that day. I heavily recommend weighing food. To me, tracking food has a few benefits that deserve mentioning. Firstly, it’s flexible for the most part, in terms of how you meet those calories (but remember! Bad choices lead to bad results). Second, every time you have a meal you are conditioning yourself to track your consumption, rather than not knowing if you’re doing things right or wrong (lets you stay on track). Lastly, by the end of week 1 or week 2, you can review the foods you have ate and figure out where (if any) the issues lay. Brilliant…and it keeps you motivated.
If we’re even having a sensible conversation (it would be a first for me), exercise cannot be disregarded. If you want to truly lose weight, preferably body fat (if you want to gain lean muscle that is) then we need calorie expenditure. 3500 calories to one pound of fat (depending on your source…but it’ll do for our purposes). So if the target is to lose 2 pounds of fat per week, then we need to burn 7000 calories. Thats a heavy pill to swallow if you don’t exercise already. But start small, uphill walking at your own pace would be my pick, alternatively, music in the ears, dog walking…whatever you choose to do, write small notes or use your phone to track it. Give yourself checkpoints every two weeks at least to review progress and adjust the exercise accordingly to help you steer yourself in the right direction.
“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment” – Zig Ziglar.
RECAP: Use a food diary. Track your meals/calories through BMR needs. Weigh food. Meet the recommendations for exercise slowly and safely. Aim to expend a total amount of calories equivalent to the weight you wish to lose ever week (1 pound = 3500 calories).
So, if you’re keen, try it out. Persistence and patience go along way when trying to achieve goals in general. This in no exception! So take your time and find your motive for action. These methods are secondary…but they’ll help you when you’re ready.
Above is my small book where I keep a note of things. Straight forward, meal name and number, calories and protein (142 was my target then). Not every day you’ll get perfect, but you’ll gradually become accustomed to things. Also, remember within my own book is things I’m not accounting for, i.e coffee etc. As I mentioned BMR accuracy is debatable.
Think of your nutrition as the foundation upon which you can lose weight through exercise. If you can at least balance you calories, this will allow whatever exercise you perform to really chip away for those results. Doing this through diet alone can be done…it would just take much longer. That said, we would be slowing down our progress if we committed to diet alone.
To illustrate this further, my target of 1700 gives me a deficit of 800 calories per day (based on recommended average caloric requirements for men) which would lead to a 5,600 deficit by the end of week 1. This is 1400 away from 2 pounds of weight (composition depending on your diet). Whereas if you were to expend between 5-7000 on exercise and maintain the number, you would be losing approximately 3 pound per week. No brainer, at least double the speed you lose weight without exercise and achieve you goals without putting your physiological functions under strain due to some quick fix diet that isn’t sustainable.
Upcoming blog, I’ll discuss how we can periodise our eating to avoid any plateau.
As always, get in touch if you have any questions. I’d love to know how you get on if you pick up some of the tips.
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