So let’s start with the ‘diet’, now I have put this in inverted commas because the first question people ask is “Which diet are you on?” Maybe you are thinking you should try intermittent fasting or the ketogenic diet, or maybe Slimming World is for you. You might even have considered the Skinny Coffee’s of the world of Boom Bod because after all you want a quick fix and that’s what they SELL you on. The truth is, you don’t need to do any of these. What you need to do is the thing that all of these ‘diets’ have as the main principle, the reason why they work – THE CALORIE DEFICIT.
In part one I explained to you my methods of goal-setting and benefits of breaking it down into smaller chunks to help you with your long-term weight loss goals. Here in part two I will be taking it one step further for you and outlining my views on how you should approach your ‘diet’. I was going to discuss exercise too but I am going to save that for part three, there is too much to take in from just one blog post!
What is it?
A calorie deficit is simply consuming fewer calories than the amount you expend as energy. It really is as simple as that in most cases. You don’t have to cut out a complete macro-nutrient in order to lose weight, you can if you want but it is not realistic to maintain long-term. There are many ways that you can try to work out how many calories you require – there are lots of calculations available online. The truth is, they are all an estimate, they of course cannot really know how many calories you will burn each day and of course each day will be different depending on what you have done, eaten, your exercise etc. We can only ever make educated guesses. What is required however is consistency, if you choose a number but only stick to it for a day or two then you will never know whether it would have worked or not and this is where most people go wrong.
Here is what I would recommend doing if you haven’t started yet. Firstly, I would advise that you log a food diary for the previous week if you can remember, but chances are, you won’t. So do the next 3 days as if you would normally eat, don’t change a thing – this is very important because you need a true reflection. Once you have done this you should review these 3 days and before you start worrying about what diet to do or what calories to hit, look at where you can shave off some calories just by tweaking some meals or cutting out snacks etc. I guarantee that you could reduce snacking and save lots of calories from the off. You could opt for protein dense foods and veg options for your meals to fill you up. You could also look at reducing down portion sizes. Then I would weigh yourself on the scales, make the changes and stick to them for a full week, maybe two weeks and re-weigh yourself. Here is the golden secret!!! If you haven’t lost weight, you are not in a deficit, if you have lost weight then you are, sounds simple right?
People try to change everything at once and that is why they fail, humans don’t like change and especially when it involves cutting out the stuff that tastes incredible – do you really think I don’t eat chocolate or pizza from time to time? What kind of life is that? Just like with the goal-setting we have to break it down, chunk by chunk into achievable things. You will not change the habits of a lifetime just because it is January (or now February).
So let’s say you have done what I have said so far – a food log for 3 days, reviewed it, looked where you can reduce intake, weigh yourself, put into practice for 1-2 weeks before weighing yourself again… You have lost weight, fantastic! What’s next?
Standing still is dangerous in any walk of life and same goes for your weight loss goals, here you will have made great leaps forward. But it is no good if you do not continue the good work and then further improve it.
Now the only thing you might add to the process I didn’t mention earlier would be to take some progress photos with minimal clothing and some circumference measurements, usually waist, hips, leg & arm would be a good start, if you are a bloke then the chest is also a good one to do.
Back to the initial progress, I recommend continuing your current changes for another couple of weeks but I would start paying attention to something else too, your protein take. Protein is one of three macro-nutrients (the others being carbs & fats) and is the most important to keep at adequate levels whether your goal is muscle gain or weight loss. Your body is pretty much made up of protein including skin, hair, nails, muscle etc so it would be pretty daft to ignore the importance of getting adequate intake. You will often hear the term ‘high-protein’ which in a sense has it’s relevance because most of the general population are deficient in protein, but I believe in talking about adequate protein because if people are deficient we are not asking them to go high, we are asking for them to eat adequate for their goals. Therefore this requires a little education on what adequate is, rather than branding it ‘high protein’ which can make it sound that we are asking you to do more than what is ‘normal’. I just want you to eat what is required – so what is that? Well there are a lot of numbers out there but the normal recommendation would be between 1.2-2.2g per kg of body-weight. Therefore in theory a 75kg individual would be looking to have between 90-165g per day. That being said, this is generally based around lean body-weight and so if your BMI is closer to or greater than 30 (obese) I would be aiming more toward 1g per kg of body-weight. I tend to say to most females to aim for around 100g for starters and males around 120g as an average, you won’t go far wrong with these figures.
Look to add protein into each meal (ideally). Breakfast can often be the one where you get push-back from clients because they want to have cereal or toast (if you want to know why this isn’t optimal send me an email separately – email@example.com). When looking for fat loss I will always opt for a high protein, high fat breakfast because it fills me up for longer until my next meal – I also will not snack when looking for fat loss – never ever. You won’t die because you don’t snack in-between meals, don’t worry – hunger is cyclical, it will go away and as I say, you won’t die nor will it ‘mess your hormones up’.
My recommendation roughly would be to aim for a serving of around 20-35g of protein in each meal. More reasons why protein is integral include the increased metabolism due to the thermic effect of food – basically you burn between 20-30kcal for every 100kcal of protein you eat which is more than both carbs and fats because it is harder to break down. It also aids recovery and as you know from the above, also the growth and repair of cells around the body. It is also very high in satiety which basically means it fills you up. So again, as I say, it is a bit daft to ignore the benefits of eating an ADEQUATE protein diet.
I spent a lot of time on protein there because underneath calories, it is the next most important thing for weight/fat loss and it is usually the thing that most people need to focus on. So for the next two weeks I would work on making sure your protein intake is ADEQUATE whilst maintaining the other things we have previously talked about. I would continue to measure your weight weekly or bi-weekly for the first 4 weeks so that you can monitor progress. After 4 weeks I would reduce the frequency for females to 4 weekly weigh ins. This is due to huge change that occurs during the menstrual cycle (contrary to what Julie at Sli**ing World tells you – * out so Julie doesn’t try to sue me), this way you should have continuity with the timings of this. For males I would recommend weighing weekly still – certainly at first. I would look to track your measurements 4 weekly and photos even less frequently maybe monthly or bi-monthly as you want to be able to see progress to keep you motivated.
So in theory now you are 4 weeks in, you have done all of the above and you are losing weight. You have started changing some habits in relation to your food and also made a start to tracking your progress, the second you start seeing results you will want to carry it on.
I have actually kept the focus here pretty basic, manage calories without even working to a specific number, but keep a food log so you can make edits based on progress, of course if progress halts you may need to make more edits. Manage protein intake to an adequate level and be consistent. The truth is, that is all you need to do to start with, it doesn’t need to be over-complicated.
The next step would be to introduce exercise and we will cover that in part 3, so far now, you can get started with managing your ‘diet’. Notice how progress can be made without focusing massively on exercise – that is how important nutrition is and it is why I haven’t even mentioned exercise yet, because nutrition is step one, which again is where a lot of people get it wrong.
Remember you don’t need to choose a ‘diet’ you already have one, you just need to make it better.
It isn’t going to be easy, but the principles sure are simple.
If you have any questions, you can get in touch with me directly – firstname.lastname@example.org