Starting today, we will be posting articles bi-monthly that expose some very common weight loss myths. As you know, there are plenty of them out there, so it will take us 2-3 months to bust as many of them as possible.
If you’ve personally tried or even read up on some of those drop-weight-fast diet plans out there, what makes them special is that they restrict your intake of one particular nutrient, usually carbs or fat. When you cut out all of your starchy carbs (bread, cereal, rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.), not only are you cutting back your overall calorie intake, but you’re removing from your diet the very foods that help your body retain water.
Think of when you make a pot of rice – you start off with 1 cup of uncooked rice and end up with 3 cups of cooked rice. What happens during the cooking process is that the rice grain swells as it fills with water. So too does your body if you are eating too many starchy carbs. When you cut them out, so too goes the excess body water. Unfortunately, this is not a healthy weight loss idea, as your body needs the nutrients found in unprocessed whole grains like sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, and oats. These foods are full of cholesterol-lowering fiber, and immune-boosting antioxidants and phytochemicals. More important is to figure out what the appropriate amount is to help you achieve your weight loss goals.
We’re not here to say that following a low-carb diet is bad. Quite the opposite. There is plenty of new research that shows that a lower carbohydrate diet can decrease your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and Alzheimer’s. But not all carbs are created equal. We want to have high-quality carbs: veggies, fruits, and whole grains. The amount of each will vary from person-to-person. Some people can tolerate more carbs while others will do much better on less. A lot of what determines which is the best plan for you is the state of your current health and weight as well as what are your health and weight goals. Working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is a great way to get a customized meal plan (if that’s what you’re looking for) or just a boost in education to help you make better informed choices for excellent health.
So, what should you do?
First, figure out how many calories you need to lose weight. We recommend giving yourself a range of calories so that you don’t feel restricted and that you provide enough fuel to your body to keep your metabolism high. The worst thing you can do is to cut your food calories too low, as this will only cause your metabolism to slow down, hence making it more difficult to lose the weight. Anything under 1,200 calories is too low. If you’re planning on exercising regularly (which we hope you are), you absolutely need more calories to help your body recover so that you can continue to exercise at a high level. Also, listen to your body – If it is hungry (physical hunger, not emotional hunger), then feed it, even if it means going over your calorie range.
- Multiply your goal weight by 12 = ______
- Multiply your goal weight by 16 = ______
- This is your calorie range to aim for every day
From there you’ll divide your calories into the different macros – protein, fat, and carbohydrate. How much for each macro? Well, that depends on you. For a reference:
- Ketogenic diet: 70-80%fat, 5-10% carbohydrate, 10-15% protein
- Paleo diet (this one has the widest ranges): 30-40% fat, 30-40% carbohydrates 30-40% protein
- Standard American Diet (what the USDA recommends): 30-35% fat, 50-60% carbohydrate, 15-20% protein
What’s best for you might take some trial-and-error. It’s ok to experiment with your macro composition until you find what works for you. There’s no wrong answer.
The Bottom Line
There is no one right or best way to lose weight. Really the focus should be on improving health markers and decreasing inflammation – weight loss is just a nice benefit from this. The healthiest way to achieve this is through a combination of healthy, clean eating, regular exercise, getting quality sleep, stress reduction, and creating a healthy microbiome. Not only will you lose weight, but you will improve your aerobic capacity, insulin sensitivity, blood sugar level, blood pressure, and cholesterol – without going into starvation mode.