Dieting 101: What you need to know

Outside of the fitness and lifting communities, people have very limited knowledge on how effective and sustainable dieting and weight loss actually works.

Cold Hard Truth

Before going into full-throttle diet mode, assess whether you even need to be losing weight to reach your goals.

Beginners, and those with a long history of dieting for weight loss, should aim to eat as close to a maintenance level and focus on performance first. Losing weight without having built a structure through resistance exercise will leave you looking frail. More aggressive weight loss is NOT the answer.

Every single diet you think of works on the same basis: a calorie deficit.

The answer to why it worked for your neighbour, but not you, is their perception of how “easy” it was to follow.

Remember this: You can gain, maintain and/or lose weight on every single diet style. I don’t care whether you choose to eat keto, paleo, plant-based, low carb, low fat, so long as it is something you see yourself sticking to long term.

If the thought of that makes you quesy…. you may want to read further.

Biochemistry 101:

  • macros = macronutrients = carbs, fats and proteins
  • carbs and proteins are 4 calories per gram, fat is 9 calories per gram
  • calories = energy in food
  • Ex. a food with 10g (x4 calories) of protein, 5g (x 9 calories) of fat and 30g (x 4 calories) of carbs has 205 calories

Macro Counting vs Calorie Counting

Technically they are the same thing. However, those who define their regime as macro counting focus on the final ratio. Someone with a 1800 calorie goal finishes the day at 1750, did a decent job. However, someone counting macros would not be pleased if that meant they ate only 10% protein and 70% carbs.

Macro counting is ultimately superior because of the following:

  • controlling for protein intake has been scientifically proven to be necessary for maximizing muscle retention, especially during periods of weight loss
  • Food labels are inaccurate because labelling standards allow for rounding. If tracking the gram values of macronutrients you will find you technically have hit your goal even if the app tells you you have 150 calories left to eat. Grab a calculator and you’ll find out you have been lied to.

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Macro Counting vs Intuitive Eating

I have have lost weight with both tactics. I do strongly believe either can be effective. Although, one may be a superior method depending where you are in life and in your “fitness journey.”

I would highly suggest macro counting if most of these apply to you:

  • don’t typically read food labels
  • eat whatever is convenient, on the go
  • have never successfully lost weight, don’t know what it entails
  • are not an extreme perfectionist
  • have never suffered from an eating disorder, disordered eating behaviours or are at high risk of either
  • Have lost some weight but are now stuck at a plateau
  • have a very specific goal with an inflexible timeline (i.e. competition)

I would highly suggest intuitive eating if most of these apply to you:

  • feel mentally exhausted from strict calorie counting (I burn out after about 3 months)
  • you already eat healthy foods and have an accurate sense of what a balanced diet looks like
  • You find yourself constantly choosing artificial diet foods and avoiding whole foods out of fear of gaining weight (i.e. oils, pasta etc)
  • You are on a hamster wheel of constant yo-yo restrictive diets
  • Your goal is to feel and be healthy, not directly tied to losing or gaining a certain amount of weight

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8 Tips for Macro Counting

  1. Weigh your food and weight it raw, not cooked.
  2. If you have less than 15 lbs to lose, don’t put yourself in a deficit larger than 350 calories. (training and adherence will suffer)
  3. Give yourself a day where you don’t track just to manage feelings of being restricted.
  4. On days you don’t track, do not take it as a “free/cheat day” just eat intuitively, (otherwise you lose your privilege)
  5. Don’t panic if you forget to track something, just guess and move on with life.
  6. Do not ignore fibre and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals)
  7. Don’t be afraid of not eating “clean” 100% of the time. You will still lose weight if you track the ice cream… and the cookie, I promise.
  8. Your macro goals should be a range rather than a specific number to allow for flexibility and peace of mind.

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7  Tips for Intuitive Eating

  1. Eat when you are hungry, your body doesn’t care if it’s 9 am or 9 pm
  2. Place the fork, spoon or granola bar down and let go of it after every mouthful
  3. Take a breath before you take another mouthful
  4. Stay well hydrated
  5. Make sure every meal and snack are a mix of carbs and fats or carbs and protein
  6. Eat cleaner foods as much as possible, will make sure you’re hitting fibre and micronutrient needs
  7. Sporadically track a day of eating to check in whether you are completely missing the mark in terms of nutrition

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In the end….

The method you can stick to is the method that will win. It’s plain and simple. There is no magical weight loss diet, and anyone claiming otherwise is not a credible source of information.

Dieting is not easy, if it was, the fitness industry would not be worth billions of dollars. Sacrifices need to be made, and unless you are ready to wholeheartedly embrace them, you aren’t ready to lose weight.

So look at what you are eating right now, or what you ate today.

How are the choices you’re making, shaping you both physically and mentally?

What barriers are holding you back and how are you going to overcome them?

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