In the last chapter, you learned the essential numbers you need to know in order to lose weight, how to calculate those for yourself, and how to use those numbers to define your nutritional goals.
Now it’s time to put those numbers to work. You should understand from the start that your diet plan is the most important part of losing weight. Sure, other things (like exercise) can help – but to see results, you need to fully understand how important it is to take this seriously.
Start with a great nutritional foundation, make the commitment to stick with it, and you’ll be on track to achieving your goals – even if you completely skip everything else.
Dieting & Eating Healthy: Not the Same Thing!
There’s a huge misunderstanding that “eating healthy” and “eating to lose weight” are largely one-in-the-same. That’s not really the case, and confusing these two can sabotage your results very quickly.
It’s also helpful to understand “healthy” foods in order to keep your nutrition as healthy as possible while you’re dieting. It’s entirely possible (easy, in fact) to follow a diet that helps you lose weight, yet fails to meet your nutritional needs.
Dieting is more about how much you eat, whereas eating healthy is all about what you eat.
For example, something like olive oil could be considered one of the healthiest foods in existence. It’s a great source of healthy unsaturated fats, and clinical studies have shown benefit in fighting heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, depression, and even cancer!
But, all of this certainly doesn’t mean that olive oil is “healthy” in the weight-loss sense. 2 tablespoons has 240 calories, which is a huge part of your daily allotment. Furthermore, oils like this are empty calories that can add pounds without doing much to satisfy your appetite.
That doesn’t mean healthy foods like this should be avoided – but, like all other foods, portion control is still just as important.
As long as you’re changing the way you eat in order to lose weight, you might as well focus on eating healthy as well. “Healthy” food won’t necessarily help you lose weight, but it’s a good chance to kill two birds with one stone.
The goal of your diet should be to primarily create a calorie deficit that helps you lose weight – but it should accomplish this using the healthiest food options available. After all, you could theoretically lose weight eating Pop Tarts and French fries (assuming portions are controlled), but does that really sound healthy?
Net Calories vs. Macronutrients
“Macronutrients” is just a fancy term to describe protein, carbs, and fat.
Up until recently, there has been much debate on what combination of these macronutrients is best for weight loss. You’ve likely seen all sorts of diets, ranging from the popular low-carb to protein shake diets to more obscure diets like the high-fat diet.
Thankfully, modern medical studies have shined some valuable light on this confusion – and the results have all been the same: Calories are what matter for weight loss. It doesn’t matter so much where those calories come from, so long as you meet your caloric goals.
With that said, the real world implications can be a bit more complicated. Our bodies all need certain minimal amounts of each of the macronutrients, and selecting these wisely can help make it easier to stick to your diet.
For instance, fat isn’t bad!
The abundance of foods marketed to dieters that proudly display “Low Fat!” could be misleading. The reduced fat content does equal lower calorie products, but it’s not the fat itself that makes the difference.
Fat doesn’t make you fat. You won’t lose any weight by simply eating less fat, unless you reduce your total food intake. In fact, we need healthy fats. Our brains are composed of 60% fat, and fat is vital to our joint health. Fat is also the slowest food-source to digest, so it can help curb your appetite, level your blood sugar, and leave you feeling full longer.
The same concept applies to carbs. People tend to lose weight when eating low-carb diets simply because, by cutting out the carb sources, they are eating less food overall.
Protein digests quicker than fat, but it’s still helpful in keeping you feeling full. While increased protein intake hasn’t been shown to help with weight loss, it has been shown to help with preserving your muscle mass as you lose weight – but only up to the point of “adequate protein intake”. In other words, just make sure you’re getting your recommended daily allowance of protein – beyond that, you’re only packing on more calories by chugging those protein shakes.
By making good decisions to balance your macronutrients, you can improve your weight loss results by maximizing your appetite control. At the end of the day though, how much you eat (from a calorie standpoint) is what really matters.
Meal Timing: Sorting Fact from Fiction
Another popular belief is that it’s best to divide your food into smaller, more frequent meals. This belief is so popular that it’s even earned its own term: “Frequent Feeding”.
The reality is a bit different. Study after study has attempted to demonstrate the benefits of eating more frequently, but they’ve all failed to produce results. Based on these studies, it just doesn’t matter when you eat. You could eat six micro-meals daily, stick to the standard three-meals-per-day structure, or fast the entire day and then stuff yourself with all of your daily calories in one meal – it’s all the same.
Once again, it boils down to your total daily calorie intake being what matters. By buying into this frequent feeding model, you’re just making your diet more complicated than it needs to be.
You should schedule your meals in the fashion that works best for you.
People with busier schedules might find it easier to eat a couple of larger meals per day. Those prone to frequent snacking urges, on the other hand, might enjoy dividing their calories into smaller, more frequent meals.
There’s one meal timing catch that does matter – finding the best routine to keep you full during the day. For instance, some people find they can easily skip breakfast and don’t get hungry until later in the day. In that case, there’s no sense in eating a lot of food early in the day. You’d be better off saving those calories for when your appetite starts being problematic.
We’re all different, and that’s why it’s important to experiment with timing. Personally, I find that if I don’t eat enough early in the day, my blood sugar plummets and I’m prone to rebound overeating – so I aim to eat a large portion of my calorie allotment when I first wake up. You may be much different from me, so play around to find the best schedule for you.
We’ll move on to putting this information into an actual plan in the next chapter: Eating Right – Your Diet Plan