We’re in trouble.
These days, people spend more on quick-fixes to get into shape, personal trainers, “healthy” food and other products “guaranteed” to improve your life with little extra effort on your behalf. Thanks to the Internet, there are millions of articles extolling superfoods, trendy diets and exercises on machines that cause unnatural movement.
Today, however, you’re going to learn why most people fail at losing weight so you won’t fall into the same hidden hole.
Diets Should Not Be Temporary
Here’s the thing about diets: They refer to a temporary shift in the way you consume meals long enough to achieve the results you’re looking for, whether that’s shedding 15 or 50 pounds. The change is so drastic that you’re constantly miserable and don’t let yourself eat what you really want. Instead, you’re focused on “after,” when you can go back to “normal” once again.
Let’s say you achieve your ideal weight loss and return back to your normal eating habits. The result of all that time in misery suddenly gets erased, and you realize you’re right back where you started.
Think of the game Super Mario Bros. where Mario will die if he comes into contact with an enemy. Dieting, then, is like using star power. Sure, you’ll blast forward and defeat any enemy in your path, but when it finally runs out, you’re the same old Mario as before.
Rather than hope there are enough stars along the way — there aren’t, because that would be cheating — the only way you’ll finish the level is if you go through it slowly, picking up all the powers you can along the way. Each additional coin and power brings you a step closer to more power, more lives, and ultimately more chances for success.
From now on, you no longer diet. Instead, you’re making an ongoing transition into a complete lifestyle. None of these changes are temporary; you must create new building blocks for better nutrition habits to help live longer instead of flying blindly.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up that favorite snack of yours. It just means you won’t have it nearly as frequently as you already might.
Myth: Calories are Calories
We know weight loss through nutrition is the key, not dieting. Nutrition itself can be confusing, though, and fairly contradictory, at that.
At its base definition, a calorie is nothing more than a unit of energy.
Not all calories are created equally, however. This might come as a surprise if you’ve only ever heard to count your calories, but 1,000 donut calories do not provide the same nutritional value as 1,000 steak calories.
Aside from the more scientific reasons why, consider the mere bulk this comparison would require. If a single donut is 195 calories, just six would contain the full 1,000 calories and a substantial chunk left over. A 100-gram flank steak comes in at 192 calories, which means you’ll need well over a pound to get the same amount, and that’ll certainly keep you filled for much longer than six medium-sized donuts will.
The Science of Nutrients
It’s impossible to outrun your fork.
At the end of the day, weight loss is a matter of burning more calories than you’ve consumed. At a certain point, you cannot burn all of the calories you’re consuming, especially if you’re the type who will knock back a full 12-pack of Mountain Dew with an extra-large pizza pie (3,880 for the meal).
In other words, the food you pick matters. If you eat terrible food, you’re not going to see the changes you want in your body. Exercise is merely the food’s supporting cast in the journey of healthy weight loss.
Notice that your goal is not pure weight loss. “Weight” factors in everything, including fat, muscle, bones and everything else in between. Beyond looking good, the goal should be feeling good, being healthy, getting that clean bill of health, and living a long time to mark all those items on your life’s to-do list.
In this case, the goal is fat loss. Whether or not you supplement with exercise can help you add muscle and gain strength, but weight loss through healthy nutrition is a game of burning excess fat.
What to Eat
Manmade foods may mean well, but they’re simply not designed for a healthy human body. A good general rule of thumb to follow is whether or not you can read the list of ingredients, or how long the list is. Check the back of a frozen meal sometime; that tray of seemingly innocent chicken, string beans and potatoes has far more than three ingredients.
By cutting out manmade foods high in sugar, this leaves you with foods that you could find out in nature:
- Meat: Protein, enough said.
- Fowl: If it had wings and tried to fly, you’re good to eat it.
- Fish: Go nuts!
- Eggs: Omega-3 eggs are the best for its added nutrients.
- Vegetables: Eat them all you want, as long as you’re not dousing them in unhealthy sauces and oils.
- Oils: Natural oil is perfectly fine. This includes olive, coconut and avocado oil.
- Nuts: If you need a quick snack, these high-calorie treats are the way to go. However, it’s ill-advised to consume them by the handful.
- Fruit: Limit these since the calories can rack up, but the natural sugar is much better for your body.
- Tubers: Yams and sweet potatoes are key. They’re also higher in carbs and calories, but that makes them great right after a workout.
Whatever you do, just keep your meals simple. Many health experts might choose to tell you more about understanding the rate at which your body burns calories while resting and to consume 500 to 1,000 calories less than that. Don’t do this — this is more work than is necessary.
To create an idea for a dish, pick a source of protein from the above list, such as salmon. Add in two servings of differently colored vegetables, such as a side of green asparagus and a side of orange carrots. If you’re in need of more calories, adding some fats can help improve the dish. For example, cooking the salmon, asparagus and carrots in lightly salted olive oil not only enhances the burst of flavor, but does so in a completely nutritional way.
Let’s try a different dish. Grilling a steak and some broccoli and serving it with a side of celery and some lightly salted almond butter to dip it in can also serve as a fully balanced meal that will leave you feeling satiated for longer.
Don’t worry about eating every three hours. Eat when you want to, and don’t eat the rest of the time. Our bodies are made to rely on excess fat when we aren’t able to eat on a regular basis. By switching to a better diet, you’ll be filled with plenty of healthy nutrients to pack on that energy.
The content of your meals is also much more substantial than processed grains, which makes it much harder to overeat. To go back to the donut and steak example, consider how hard it would be to eat even two pounds of steak. Eating 10 donuts will not only introduce you to more calories, but it’ll leave you hungrier and eating food sooner than a steak meal would.
Making a Lifestyle Change
We know that diets don’t work, and we know nutritious lifestyles do. How, then, can we make this transition without feeling miserable and cut off from all our favorite food pleasures?
Start with tiny changes–the ones you know you can live with. As you get used to each change, you’ll keep making new ones to build your momentum. The goal is to prove to yourself that you’re capable of changing from your current path while trying smarter.
Diets are temporary periods of misery, whether it’s a no-carb diet or a juice detox cleanse or whatever else is trending. They don’t foster permanent solutions, which is the only way to avoid the vicious cycle of losing the weight we already shed last year before gaining it back.
We don’t do that anymore. We make small changes to create the much more stable adjustment into better living.
For the first week, it’s a good idea to just journal your meals and count the calories. Don’t make the adjustments yet; just get an idea of what you’re regularly consuming every day.
The second week, try swapping a single meal each day with something much healthier. Do you normally grab fast food during your lunch hour? Swap that with a packed lunch instead, even if you need to prepare it the night before while you make dinner. Not only are you going to save money, but swapping a single meal isn’t as huge a leap to make, which will make it easier to go further.
The Next Steps
Not sure where to go from here? So far, we’ve learned two core concepts to allow healthy weight loss through a nutritious lifestyle:
- Eat less
- Move more
Of course, both ideas are a little more sophisticated than that. For example, “eating less” can be broken down further to consider macronutrients: fats, carbs and protein. The idea behind If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM), for example, is that any meal you eat is fine as long as the nutrients fit into your daily goals for fats, carbs and proteins to eat.
What is the perfect ratio? It’s hard to say since every person is different, between their goals, their routines and right down to their biology.
No matter where you decide to take your weight loss journey from here, following the IIFYM routine means calculating how many carbs, grams of protein, grams of fat and calories are in a meal, subtracting it from the limit you give yourself each day. In this way, it’s sort of like playing food tetris.
If you’re still on the fence at this stage, prepare yourself for a little tough love…
“I’ve already paid for all this food, so I can’t waste it.”
Yes, you’ve already paid for it, but eating it exclusively for that reason merely worsens the issue. If you really want to change your life and make a difference with yourself, a few bucks lost to bad food isn’t the biggest price you could pay to achieve it.
“I can’t afford healthy food.”
Is this true? Or is it easier to say this rather than consider how much it costs to fund all the junk food, soda and chips each week?
“My roommates still eat bad foods.”
Make a rule that says you won’t eat whatever you didn’t pay for. Isn’t that the more courteous roommate rule, anyway?
Whatever you do, don’t spend all your energy thinking about weight loss and building the perfect routine. It doesn’t exist. The best possible routine you can do is whatever you actually accomplish.