We’ve probably all heard that a calorie is just a calorie, and also the other side of the argument that you have to eat clean. Like most things, the truth is that happiness is somewhere in the middle. You can have your cake and eat it too. You just can’t have all cake all the time. You need to pay attention to more than just calories, but you don’t have to eat only specific foods or types of foods.
Here are three keys to successful dieting and weight maintenance for the long term:
Your weight loss is determined by your daily calories
To lose weight is a simple matter of calories in and calories out. If you eat less than you burn each day, then you will lose weight. If you eat more than you burn each day, then you will gain weight. Simple process. You may not be happy with the amount that you need to eat to lose weight, but it’s still a scientific fact. When we’re talking strictly weight loss, a calorie is a calorie regardless of where it comes from.
That being said when we talk about losing weight most of us want to lose fat, not just weight. If you focus only on scale weight, then you could be at risk of losing muscle along with fat and that won’t give you the end shape that you want. You’ll most likely end up a smaller, saggier version of you. You want the weight you lose to be most, ideally all, fat. That takes a bit more than just calories in and calories out if you want the best results.
Your fat loss and body composition is determined by your daily macros and workouts
Muscle burns more calories than fat does, so it takes more food to support its needs. To keep the muscle that you have while dieting, you need to incorporate resistance training into your workouts. Cardio is great for calorie burning, but you need to pick up heavy things to give your body incentive to keep the muscle around. Otherwise your body will get rid of the biggest calorie consumer when the calories you eat are scarce. It also matters what type of calories you eat.
You need to eat enough protein every day to preserve muscle. The amounts vary per person based on weight, body fat percentage, length of time dieting, and other factors. Typically though you should be eating more than the standard junk or processed food diet allows. You need to carbs to give you energy to get you through your workouts and even just your basic day. Going too low in carbs will sap your energy and make you too tired to want to move sometimes. LOL.
You need to eat healthy fats which play an important role in hormones, make food taste good, and also make meals filling along with protein and carbs. If your fats are too low, your meals will be a little bland and you could eventually have some hormonal issues. To ensure that you are getting a good mixture of protein, fats, and carbs, you can’t just focus on calories. You need to be aware of the make up of foods you’re eating.
This is why counting macros is as important as counting calories. It allows you to focus on changing body composition and the way you look, not simply dropping pounds. As I’ve mentioned before, you should aim for mostly healthier food choices but you should also include some fun stuff that you crave and enjoy in your eating. You can still lose weight with beef jerky and popcorn, chicken tenders and pop tarts, and chicken breast and sweet potatoes. There’s more to it in the long term though.
Your long term success is determined by the quality of your food
Once you reach goal, you want to maintain the hard work you achieved and not accidentally undo it. Your body needs a wide range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. If it is deficient in anything, it has a way of setting off cravings so that it gets what it needs. If you eat fast food or processed foods for most of your meals, you may be able to lose fat by watching calories and macros but you won’t feel your best. If you run short on nutrients, cravings could easily cause you to overeat as your body tries to convince you to give it what it’s lacking.
Processed foods are often higher in sugars and sodium to make them taste good. Who doesn’t want to eat foods all the time that taste good?! So you eat them, the hormonal reaction in your body is set off and it’s really easy to keep on eating. These foods also tend to be lower in fiber and pretty calorie dense so it’s easy to eat too many calories of these foods before you’re actually full. Before you know it, the weight may start to come back on.
Besides the obvious, your main goal with any nutritional program should be to learn to enjoy healthier food choices that include fruits, veggies, lean meats, whole grains and healthy fats. I didn’t say you’d enjoy them right from the start, but you should gradually work to rely on these choices for the main part of your eating as they provide your body with the nutrients it needs for health, energy and more.
One of the benefits of watching macros and calories is that it allows you to include treats like pizza, chocolate, granola, cupcakes, or whatever your preference is and work it into your program without much thought or effort. It provides freedom from foods being off limits which can be detrimental to a diet. It’s better to have a smaller treat and work it into your plan when a craving strikes, than to deny yourself until you have an accidental binge on it. It’s not meant to be an every meal or even an every day thing.
Think of it like a surprise party. They are tons of fun and really exciting when they happen. If you have surprise parties every day, they lose that feeling and you stop looking forward to it. If you’re going to have a treat, wouldn’t it be better if it was something that was fun and exciting instead of the norm and mundane? By gradually reducing the amount of treats and processed foods, you’ll find that they taste sweeter, are more exciting, and start being special again.
Reduce portions of your favorite foods and start making healthier substitutions. Instead of going cold turkey like most dieters, you can work to change the proportions and eventually move to having treats once or twice a week. When you no longer have the reliance on junk foods and associated cravings, you’ll be well on your way to long term weight maintenance instead of a constant battle with food and the scale.
What you eat does matter and does make long term weight maintenance much easier. All of the above applies to dieting and fat loss, but the same rules apply to muscle building. The only difference is that muscle building requires a calorie surplus, but all the other concepts still work – workouts, macros, and food still matters.
If you need help figuring out the best approach to meet your fat loss, muscle building or long term goals, online coaching with me can take out the guess work. Check out what some of my clients have to say and let’s create your own success story. I’d love to help you end the diets forever.