Losing weight is easy. There, I said it. Unpopular opinion, but it is true.
Science, studies, basic chemistry will tell you that eating in a calorie deficit will result in losing weight. Okay, so what is a calorie deficit?
a calorie deficit is "a shortage of calories consumed relative to the amount of calories needed to maintain bodyweight".
Simply put, to lose fat you must consume less calories than what your body needs to maintain its current state. If my body required 2,000 calories per day total to sustain my weight; then eating 1,800 calories consistently would result in weight loss.
The hardest part of losing weight isn't eating in a calorie deficit. The hardest part is being completely accurate and consistent.
A lot of times, clients will voice "I don't even eat that much!" But, when I ask them what they're eating... they list off packaged food items, don't include their nightly wine, and allow themselves a break on weekends. This lifestyle is contributing to weight gain. These choices are setting them up for inaccurate calorie counting and inconsistent calorie deficit.
Here's another example..
Client 1: 2,000 calories will maintain her weight.
The week totals to 14,000 calories. She is maintaining her weight eating 14,000 calories per week.
So, she decides to eat 1,800 calories per day to lose weight. However, Friday she had a few too many glasses of wine. Saturday she ate pizza and beer at a football game. Sunday, she was extremely hungover and only wanted carbs all day. She thinks, "oh well, I'll start Monday..."
Friday: 2,000 (+1 glass of wine)
Saturday: 3,000 (+2 slices of pizza and 2 beers)
Sunday: 2,500 (+bagel egg cheese sandwich, wrap for lunch, pasta for dinner)
Now, this client are 14,700 calories. She was eating perfect majority of the week. But because of her inconsistency and lack of properly tracking, she is now gaining weight.
Tracking calories isn't hard. There are many ways to do it; MyFitnessPal, notes in your phone, even the good old-fashioned meal journal. You can pre-log meals to keep you on track or log them as the day goes by. Whatever your method, it's doable.
Despite it being so easy, I have many... actually, majority of my clients will not track their food.
This will make losing weight a bit more challenging and creates less structure and guarantee. However, my clients have seen weight loss success from 6 simple steps. And none of these require tracking calories!
Step 1: Eat less packaged and processed foods + eat more whole, real foods.
It is that simple. Food manufacturers make processed foods more appealing by adding in artificial sweeteners, sugars, glutens, and chemicals to make food addicting. Not only do we have a hard time putting the chip bag down, but these added ingredients add more calories.
Think about eating a potato. It's filling, full of fiber, and you most likely aren't going to reach for another potato. Now compare this to eating half a bag of potato chips. There are 10-12 potatoes needed to fill a large bag of potato chips. And don't forget, the added oils and chemicals. Now that's a lot of calories but it was so easy to work your way to the bottom of the bag!
Packaged and processed foods have made us consume more sugars, artificial sweeteners, processed carbs, and oils that have contributed to the obesity epidemic.
If that hasn't sold you, lets discuss insulin. Insulin is a hormone released after consuming carbohydrates. It is the hormone that turns our carbs into energy. However, energy (also known as calories) that is not utilized will be stored. It can be stored for later use as well as stored as fat. This has deemed insulin the nickname of "fat storing hormone".
Now let's take the potato vs. potato chips situation in terms of insulin secretion. One large, white potato has about 64g of carbs. Remember, this potato is filling and dense. You're most likely not going to reach for another potato. The fiber in the potato will cause it to break down and release energy slowly; therefore, less insulin will be secreted. Now to compare the bag of potato chips, which has 180 grams of carbs and less nutrients. Your blood sugar will spike faster and cause more insulin to be secreted. And remember, insulin is called "fat storing hormone" for a reason.
That being said, cut it out. Replace your potato chips with a real potato. You'll not only lose weight, you'll feel more satisfied and energized by choosing real food.
Step 2: Build your plate in this order: protein, fat, fiber and micronutrients.
I train all of my clients to understand each macronutrient plays a different role. Protein will rebuild muscle, create a satiating feeling and provide us with nutrients we cannot get from plants. Fat allows us to "stay fuller for longer". A little bit of fat curbs cravings and snacking. Fiber is a source of carbohydrate that is unable to be completely digested. So we push it through our system; this is why fiber helps aid digestion. Fiber is also a carbohydrate; therefore it provides us with long-sustained energy. Lastly, micronutrients (greens) give us the vitamins and minerals we need for a fully functioning, healthy body.
To lose fat without tracking, building your plate in this fashion is crucial.
To give an example: pre-educated clients of mine typically tell me their dinners consist of pasta (but it's Banza! it's healthy! ;) ), take-out sushi, and the occasional steak and mashed potatoes. This carb-rich lifestyle is causing increased blood sugar every single night. With increased blood sugar, comes released insulin. We don't need all this energy before bed, so it is simply stored as fat until needed.
However, if you were to create your meals using the blueprint above, the chances of you gaining fat are extremely slim. You can apply the building your plate blueprint to many situations:
grilling out: bun-less burger (protein) with tomato, lettuce and onion (fiber - greens) plus sliced avocado (fat).
Italian restaurant: choosing the filet (protein) over pasta, paired with broccolini (greens) and baby potatoes (fiber) with a drizzle of olive oil (fat).
sushi: fresh sashimi (protein/no rice) with a side of sliced avocado (fat).
By building your plate with protein and fat as the most important components, you will be full and satiated. This will result in eating less calories.
Step 3: Out-Of-Sight-Out-Of-Mind rule
This rule is difficult at first; but oh-so worth the resistance. Everyone has a "trigger food" or a food item that is too tempting to say no. And what's crazy.. we typically buy this trigger food and stock our cabinets with it at all times. Why the heck would we do that if we were trying to lose weight?
I learned this trick from a personal experience. I became obsessed with Skinny Pop popcorn. This slowly transitioned to bagged popcorn versions similar to Garrett's... no where near "skinny". I would buy cheddar and caramel popcorn and go through bags of them weekly (my husband can attest). I would fill up huge bowls meant for serving chips, and eat the entire thing!
Luckily, I know a problem when I see one. That is when I told myself, and my husband (accountability!) that I cannot buy popcorn at the grocery store anymore. If I really wanted the popcorn, I would have to physically get off the couch and go to the grocery store to buy that popcorn.
I never once actually left my house to buy popcorn.
Overtime, I craved it less and never thought about it. I rarely give it a blink when I see it in the grocery store.
That is the "out of sight, out of mind" rule.
If you have a food that is hard to say no, don't buy it. Having it out of the house causes little to no temptation. You may think about it at times and wish it was there, but you have a natural barrier of it literally not being at your house.
This is not deprivation. This is will-power. And yes, I do believe you need some sort of will power to lose fat.
And if you really wanted the popcorn, you'd leave your house, drive to the grocery store and buy that bag of popcorn. If you really do this, then clearly that popcorn was worth it.
Step 4: Rest and Digest
This rule is important for every single person; not just the weight-loss client. Rest and digest is a rule simply allowing time for your body to rest and digest the meals you eat. Simply put, just quit snacking.
Your meals should be rich in protein, fat, fiber and greens. That's a lot of food! If you find yourself snacking in-between meals, you have either left a macro out... or, you are bored.
I like to relate this rule to Thanksgiving day. Thanksgiving meal can be very healthy. Turkey is lean, sweet potatoes are full of fiber and less carbs, green bean casserole is literally green beans, canned mushroom soup topped with fried onions (could be worse!). A meal like this isn't going to make you gain 5lbs overnight.
What gets people in trouble is the meat and cheese before dinner, the extra cornbread on the table, the pumpkin pie a few hours later... and maybe some Mac n cheese because why not?
This snacking can easily add 500 more calories. These were all calories you didn't account for.
The rest and digest principal is simple; eat meals with enough protein, fat and fiber and you shouldn't need to snack. I like to give my clients a goal time, like 4-5 hours between meals to allow your body to rest, digest, and use the calories you consumed. If you're constantly snacking on crackers, fruit, yogurts, etc throughout the day, your body is constantly being pumped with carbs and calories. There is no time to allow yourself to rest and digest.
Give yourself time between meals and you'll notice you're not actually hungry. Snacking has become habit. This rule allows you to see you can break that habit and that feeling hungry is okay. You should be hungry when dinner roles around (not ravenous, but you're hungry).
Please remember, this means you should not skip meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are needed to be full and nutritious. Skipping meals will result in ravenous behaviors and out-of-control tendencies towards food.
Step 5: Get your family on board
I believe in the power of community; if you're trying to change your nutrition habits by yourself, it is hard to remain consistent. Remember, consistency is one of the hard parts to losing weight.
Share your goals and aspirations with your partner, friends, kids (only if the communication is right), and coworkers! Tell them that you're on a venture of changing your dietary habits and you'd love for them to join or support you.
My husband is a saint; he accepted this lifestyle the day he met me. I have cooked using whole real foods our entire relationship and he's never flinched. I know it is not that easy for everyone; especially if your relationship started with the pizza and beer at the football game.
But it's never too late to begin again. The most simple goals, such as cooking together 4 times a week or replacing pasta night with BYO salad night goes a long way with a team.
Your partner can keep you accountable while eating out, too. Simple conversation around food choices at the dinner table can go a long way with reaching your fat loss goals.
If this was helpful and you're ready to dive deeper into your nutrition habits and come up with a better plan-of-attack, I am here for you.
I work with clients over the phone to create nutrition plans catered to their goals and schedules.
If you're looking for a community-setting, my private Facebook group "FIT + FEARLESS ONLINE COOKBOOK" has all of my recipes, nutrition newsletters, and weekly LIVE conversations with members discussing all things nutrition.
Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.