It’s no surprise that there is confusion around the area that is weight loss, the so-called low carb, no carb, high protein, low fat diets that are bouncing around. Then there are the fasting diets, ketogenic diets, ultra-low calorie diets and way more to boot. Come on, is it any surprise we are struggling guys?
Instead of focussing on all the things you COULD be doing, let’s take a look at the things people shouldn’t be doing…
1.) Don’t Hyper Calorie Restrict
Calorie restriction is THE key factor in weight loss, but HYPER calorie restriction will only set you up for a rebound. Think of your body as a bank, and your metabolism as your bank manager. If you only deposit £200 a month into your account, your bank will soon restrict how much money they allow you to spend.
The same goes for metabolism, only deposit saaayyy 800kcal a day and soon enough the metabolism (the body’s take on a bank manager) is going to restrict how much (in the currency of calories) you can spend through downregulation of metabolism. Certain energy systems will slow, hormones that reduce the gumption to exercise will circulate, and muscle mass will deteriorate slowing Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) over the course of a day. The result…the dread PLATEAU!
2.) Don’t cut your calories all at once
You need to play the long game! Now I’m not saying weight loss has to take forever, what I’m saying is cutting calories from say 3000kcal a day (example maintenance calories) to 1500kcal will certainly induce weight loss, but only to a point. This is where the above bank manager analogy comes in again, you cut calories and enjoy the rapid weight loss, but once you hit an inevitable plateau…you have no-where left to go. You’ve shot your load to early guys!
Reducing calories further from 1500kcal to 1200kcal might not be enough to bump you over that threshold to see further weight loss. Can you relate? The amount of people that ask me ‘why am I only eating 1000kcal a day and STILL not losing any more weight!?’.
Start with a modest calorie deficit of around 300-500kcal, be patient and enjoy 1-2lbs weight loss a week. Then as this begins to slow further reduce calories by another 200-300kcal and maybe play with macro composition to enjoy more steady weight loss. Do this until you either hit target weight, or until you hit the maintenance calories for your ideal ‘healthy’ weight, then it’s just a matter of persisting and waiting for the magic to happen.
3.) Don’t neglect Nutritional Density!
Reduction of calories is only part of the process. Yes if you are in a calorie deficit you will certainly see weight loss, but remember the goal is LASTING change and not the peaks and troughs in weight that can be so damaging to our health!
If you hit a calorie deficit but don’t maintain nutritional density i.e. how much actual nourishment or ‘goodness’ you get from the food/drink you consume, then expect this to be to the detriment of both your weight loss and your health. Remember that muscle is your friend when it comes to weight loss, try losing any lasting ‘weight’ if the only weight loss you are seeing is in the form of muscle. Soon enough it will come to an abrupt STOP!
When we become deficient in key nutrients and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) many of our metabolic pathways take a hit, in turn our hormones shift and we face overwhelming urges to eat…and eat crap. The body is clever, it knows what it needs and calories are at the top of that list, however they come is immaterial to the brain.
Whether you like it or not, soon enough you will be eating the way you used to and the weight will creep back up. Defeats the object a little, unless you get a kick out of short term weight loss statuses on Facebook or Instagram that is, in this case you are onto a winner. No recommended!
4.) Don’t reduce carbs
There is a caveat to this one which is if your Doctor or Dietitian recommended you to avoid carbs for a therapeutic effect then of course reduce carbs. However my rationale for this suggestion is based on a previous article on this exact matter.
Said article got a LOT of engagement which is nice, we deduced the reason for this was that it covered the findings of a recent study (you guys love ACTUAL scientific evidence). It also helped that this study was the largest of its kind EVER, so people took notice.
The short and fast of it was after being confined to a Metabolic ward/room subjects (people used for the study) saw no difference in weight loss when fed a low carb, high fat diet compared to a low fat, high carb diet (protein was kept constant for both).
The reason some people see a reduction in weight on a low car diet is that a carb reduction makes it easy to enter a calorie deficit, that’s it. It’s not a particularly easy and satisfying way to live but some people like it. So my advice is to focus more on balance rather than the indiscriminate exclusion of one food group.
5.) Don’t go by the scales
If you base your weight loss success on the scales ONLY, then you are setting yourself up for potential frustration. One of the biggest frustrations for people trying to lose weight is when they up the exercise (as they’re advised to do) and reduce the calories (which they’re also advised to do) only to find they don’t see the numbers go down on the scales.
They can feel their trousers are looser, the belt has gone down a few notches and visually they look different, and yet weight is the same or sometimes even UP! Why?
Body composition. Favourable shifts in body composition i.e. more muscle and less fat will often see weight maintenance on the scales. This is great, but trying to explain this to people with their heart set on a number is like trying to tell your lady she looks great in that black dress…you know she does and yet she see’s something completely different.
Muscle weighs more than fat, cliché but true. So when assessing your success in losing weight, change the term to ‘fat loss’ and take the proper baseline anthropometrical measurements such as waist circumference, mid-upper arm and mid-upper thigh circumference as well as overall body composition if possible on either BIA scales or better still a DEXA scan (warning, those bad boys are expensive).
By all means monitor weight, but do so alongside other more meaningful metrics to avoid unwarranted disappointment.