One of the first things people do when they want to lose weight is restrict their diet, hoping to take a shortcut to shedding their extra kilos.
‘Calorie in, calorie out’ no doubt seems to be a very simple concept.
It’s true that if you restrict your calories but still maintain a balance according to your energy expenditure and include exercise, a positive result can be achieved. However, a lot of people restrict their calorie intake beyond what they should, which can cause issues long term.
We are bombarded with a new crash diet every week promising rapid weight loss in a short period of time.
These diets generally advise to restrict energy intake and to quit junk foods. Some diets do promote some healthy eating messages, including eating plenty of vegetables and fruits. However, others require a complete elimination of one whole food group or promote theories that are not evidence based. These crash diets are very really about long term lifestyle changes.
Ironically, people who are constantly on a diet will find they are more prone to weight fluctuations.
If a diet only involves following a restrictive calorie meal plan and not lifestyle education, it’s very unlikely the diet will be sustainable. More often than not, when people ‘come off’ a diet, the weight they lost is easily regained. Most of the time, these dieters will bounce back to their original weight, or even gain more.
If a restrictive diet is not planned thoroughly, dieters will miss out on vital vitamins and minerals obtained from foods.
A lot of people choose 1200 calories to be the magic number for dieting, which is in fact too low for most healthy individuals. This amount of calories is also very unlikely to meet the entire recommended daily intake for vital nutrients such as calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin A and folate.
Metabolism is very important in regulating how our body ultilises energy. Factors that affect metabolism include reduced muscle mass, age and (you guessed it) restricting calories over a long period. Restricting calories long term can cause a loss of lean muscle mass, which can contribute to a low metabolism.
The key to healthy weight loss is to increase your metabolism or maintain a high metabolism by ensuring a high muscle mass.
This can be achieved by retaining a low body fat mass through regular exercise (both cardio and weight training) and eating a balanced diet. What you eat should match your energy expenditure and include foods from all food groups. This means moderate amounts of whole grains and low GI carbohydrates, fresh meat, poultry and fish. You should also include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy fats, like olive oil and avocado.
Losing weight shouldn’t equate to torture or starvation. I’ve seen a lot of examples where highly active clients wanting to shed kilos went on a low calorie diet. They started to feel tired, extremely hungry and grumpy throughout the day with NO weight loss. They felt better after introducing carbohydrates back to their diet, with more energy and lost body fat.
Healthy eating really is mind over matter. Eating is a conscious decision and creating healthy eating habits and a good relationship with food is far more effective then counting calories, binge eating and the guilt associated with yo-yo dieting.