I talk to a lot of people about diet and exercise. Sometimes it’s just about working out, and sometimes it’s about an amazing recipe (like these delicious crunchy spiced chickpeas). But more often than not, it’s about losing weight.
The knee-jerk reaction for a lot of people, especially those who want to lose unneeded body fat, is to cut calories.
Cutting calories offers very little support in the department of permanent healthy weight loss. More importantly, a lot of people who attempt to lose weight by cutting calories may not be eating enough to begin with. And those who are eating too much probably need to curb certain types of foods they’re eating, but not all. More importantly, cutting calories implies that you’d have to count calories to begin with. In my opinion, counting calories beyond getting a good handle on roughly how much you’re eating in a day, will make you go calorie crazy.
Calories are just a unit of energy. The quality of the calorie makes the biggest difference in maintaining a healthy, well-maintained body. In no way is a 200-calorie bowl of Lucky Charms anywhere near as healthy as a 200-calorie bowl of heart-healthy vegetables.
If you’re spending way too much time staring at the back of food packages adding up the number of calories you’re about to eat, consider a couple reasons why the weight may not be coming off in the first place.
1) You’re Not Eating Enough
I can only imagine how frustrating it must be not to be able to lose weight if you generally don’t eat a lot to begin with. I’m more of a follower of nutrients than calories, but for now, let’s say you’re eating 1200 calories a day but you still can’t lose weight, or you suddenly experience weight gain. You decide to cut back on 200 calories. Now you’re eating a measly 1000 calories. You may lose a small amount of weight temporarily, but it will probably rebound back thanks to our body’s amazing ability to preserve itself!
2) You’re Not Eating As Healthy As You Should
Sometimes weight gain happens because we eat too much of the wrong food. I’m not going to point the finger at carbohydrates, protein or fat in general. Rather, I’m talking about the widespread consumption of too much sugar and unhealthy fats. If you’re an average size woman (about 5’4″ and 140+ pounds) with an average activity level, it’s no surprise that weight loss is a challenge if you’re eating 3000+ calories a day. Hopefully that doesn’t surprise you, either. Here’s the thing…chances are some of what you’re eating is healthy. You don’t want to lose that! Cutting calories could mean cutting out the nutrients your body needs.
If you’re not eating a lot, or perhaps not enough, then the answer is one part eating more and two parts eating high quality. Here are a few tips to follow:
• Start by eating small, regular meals. Be sure to include plenty of protein and healthy fat in your diet. Healthy fats include coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and whole eggs.
• Drink plenty of water. This will help with digestion and drive metabolism.
• Don’t eat “diet” foods – especially those that offer hope because they’re low calorie, low fat or fat free. They’re chemical disasters that crush your body’s health and inhibit weight loss.
If you are eating too much, the answer is one part dietary awareness, one part eating high quality and one part self-discipline. Here are a few tips to follow:
• Start by reading food labels to cut out all food products that have 12 or more grams of sugar per serving and any sort of corn, canola or soybean oil.
• Maintain or eat more of the vegetables, healthy fats and high quality protein you’re already eating.
• Get to know your “fullness factor.” Don’t eat to capacity and be sure to push the plate away when you’ve had enough.
• Old habits die hard, but once you’re over the hump, things get easier. Make a quick list of your three worst dietary habits (nighttime snacking, fried food, overindulging at breakfast, etc.) and cut them out. Make the list short and attainable, but do take aim at the habits you feel are sabotaging your body.
Traci D Mitchell is the author of The Belly Burn Plan: Six Weeks to a Lean, Fit & Healthy Body. A certified personal trainer, Traci holds a master’s degree in health and nutrition education, and a master’s degree in communication. She has been featured on the TODAY Show, Dr. Oz, Steve Harvey, the LA Times, Oprah.com, Shape and many more. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and private coaching. Interested in working with Traci? Get info here. To keep up-to-date, subscribe to her newsletter.