This is an important topic, and one that I’ve already covered pretty well (if I do say so myself) elsewhere. So as usual I’ll be providing some links to external articles that you had better read, as well as some new material.
Remember and understand this: if you want to manage your weight long term, you need a healthy relationship with food. People who are afraid of food or feel guilty about eating are going to have a hard time. These sort of attitudes lead to over-restricting / under-eating. Over-restricting usually leads to binging, which leads to more feelings of guilt about eating, which leads to further fear of food and over-restriction, and so in. It is a VERY vicious cycle we must avoid at all costs.
So as previously stated, our attitude towards food needs to be “what is the most amount of delicious food I can enjoy while maintaining my goal weight”, not “how can I avoid eating, and somehow still get through the day without collapsing”.
I know I’m repeating myself a little but this is IMPORTANT so I’m gonna keep emphasising it until you get it! On a side note when I was in corporate security I’d often hear people walking past complaining “oh I’m on no carbs this week so I can barely think straight” and so on. I had at least one first aid emergency I can remember where a lady collapsed due to hypoglycemia brought on by not eating all morning. Now… these were successful business people probably better educated and more intelligent than I am, but as far as nutrition and weight loss goes… everything people get taught is WRONG.
The main thing people are getting taught is “eat as little as possible”, or even “eat as few carbs as possible” depending on what fad diet you buy into. I can’t say this enough; it is not about eating “as little as possible”, it is about eating THE RIGHT AMOUNT.
On the subject of “as little as possible” you might also want to check out this recent article after you’re done here, about How Caloric Over-Restriction Leads To Binge Eating, and I suggest that it might be an eye opener & perhaps even a game changer if you’re someone who often finds that you end up feeling out of control and over eating. You’re probably just ravenous from neglecting to eat enough across the course of the day, or the previous few days.
IIFYM – If It Fits Your Macros
First up; macros is short for “macronutrients” which means proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. More specifically, the ratio or percentage of calories we consume from each source.
As to what IIFYM is all about… here’s a video I made earlier in the year to promote one of my online training programs.
So like it says in the video, you’re either eating the right amount or you’re not. When people talk about the importance of meal timing, meal frequency, glycemic index, cutting out this or that for whatever reason… what happens if you do all of that, but at the end of the day are still consuming more calories than are required to maintain current weight?
Answer: you still gain weight.
The meal timing and frequency myth in particular… scheduling regular meals and snacks may help as it lessens the likelihood of unplanned high calorie snacking – but again, 3 meals or 6, or 8 meals… if you’re consuming too many calories you are not going to lose weight. How is eating the same amount over 6 meals any better than eating the same amount over 3 meals?
This used to do my head in when I was doing corporate work. Someone would ask my advice on how to lose weight, and before I’d have a chance to answer someone else would butt in with “eat 6 meals a day, cut out carbs, right Dave”? No. Shut the hell up, no one asked you.
Bottom line is as follows:
- Consume too many calories = gain weight.
- Consume appropriate amount of calories = achieve and maintain goal weight.
- Consume too few calories = malnutrition, hormonal chaos, poor health and unpredictable consequences in terms of weight management.
It is important to me to provide guidelines that people can make work within their personal circumstances, rather than hard and fast rules that would be too difficult for most people and literally impossible for some. The “Kiss Principle” applies; aka “Knights In Satan’s Service”. Wait no. I mean “Keep It Simple, Stupid”.
Anything on top of this is at best “fine tuning” and at worst “totally irrelevant and unhelpful”.
This isn’t to say that more complicated approaches won’t work, or aren’t helpful if you’re at the elite level, for example preparing for a bodybuilding or figure modelling contest… but for weight loss clients it is enough to simply go from “inactive + inappropriate eating”, to “appropriate exercise program + appropriate eating”.
What about “clean eating” though?
Clean eating is always a good idea in as far as “cleaning up your diet” by cutting out junk food that delivers a lot of calories with little (or none whatsoever) nutritional value, not to mention artificial colours, flavours and preservatives that can’t be good for you.
When you cut out the junk and make healthier choices, it becomes a lot easier to enjoy more food without exceeding your calorie and macronutrient goals. Again my concern here is that people get too carried away and too obsessive with the idea of “eating clean” and become paranoid about eating anything that’s not on their list of supposedly “clean foods”. This (known as orthorexia) does happen and it is not pretty.
Vitamins and Minerals
Keep in mind I am a qualified Personal Trainer and not an actual nutritionist. Which means I am damn good at recommending target calories and macronutrients, but that is the extent of my scope of practice. As to micronutrition the best advice I can give is that vitamins and minerals come from vegetables and fruits, and you should be eating lots of these in great variety, often.
Related links on my blogspot blot to straighten out any ideas you might still have about “less is always better” when it comes to food & energy intake: