Last week, I touched on the physiological changes in the body that occur when we eat less calories than we require. The next part of this blog isn’t going to make much sense if you haven’t read that blog, so go back and read it first by clicking here. For everyone else, as promised, I’m going to discuss what we can do to perhaps achieve weight loss, despite the metabolic changes that make this difficult.
1. Create a small energy deficit
The magnitude of the changes mentioned last week is proportional to the size of the energy deficit. The less calories you eat, the more the body is going to try combat this and more physiological changes will occur. Larger energy deficits will also result in a greater loss of muscle. The solution: make the smallest possible energy deficit possible. Most people hate this because it also means slow weight loss. However, our bodies were not meant for fast weight loss. Forget what you look like a couple months down the road, think long-term.
2. Offset muscle loss
When we lose weight, it is sadly not just fat. Weight loss will result in a loss of muscle as well. As mentioned above, sticking to smaller calorie deficits results in less loss of muscle and more loss of fat. Another method to maintain muscle when losing weight is eating a high protein diet. Most people eat enough total protein throughout the day, but fail to distribute it evenly throughout the day. For instance, most people don’t eat enough protein at breakfast or with snacks but get way too much at lunch or dinner (more on that by clicking here). Another way to offset muscle loss is by participating in a regular resistance exercise routine such as hitting the gym to lift some weight.
3. Stick with it
Only make diet changes that you can maintain for the rest of your life. If the diet change is not sustainable, then you’re probably better off not making any changes. If you follow an extremely restrictive diet, at some point it will no longer be sustainable. When you inevitably start eating more, the weight gain is preferentially gained as fat and as mentioned in point two, the weight loss that occurred will be both fat and muscle. As well, the fat re-gained is likely going to be more than you originally lost. You’ll not only be at a higher fat then when you first started the diet, but also the decreased energy expenditure that occurs when reducing calories continues to persist. You’ll require less calories at the same weight and any future attempts at losing weight will be much harder. A diet should come with its own special warning: “causes weight gain.”
4. Don’t lose weight
It seems like almost everyone is trying to lose weight. Yet, most of these people are already at a healthy body weight and really don’t have any reason to lose weight beyond aesthetic reasons. Our bodies have a set weight range or a weight where they like to naturally fall. The “thin-ideal” that our culture promotes is not the body weight meant for most people. Our bodies’ adaptive mechanisms are trying to keep us within this set range, regardless of how hard we work towards this thin-ideal body. Rather than trying to achieve weight loss that your body is fighting against, perhaps this means coming to terms with and loving the weight you’re at. If you make balanced and healthy food decisions, you need to trust that your body will naturally go to a healthy weight.
I have certainly lost clients because I don’t promise drastic weight loss that is offered through diet programs, supplements or the many diet cults. There is no food or food group that I’m going to tell you to avoid, or any particular food that I’m going to tell you that you have to eat. I will mostly likely tell you to keep eating sandwiches for lunch and spaghetti for supper. You won’t achieve fast weight loss, and you might not even lose weight. The alternative would be prescribing drastic and restrictive dietary changes that would certainly result in weight loss. However, while this may work for a short-period of time, long-term you’ll most likely end up at a higher weight.
To get my nutrition newsletter straight to your inbox, click here.