You Are What You Eat
Food is quite plentiful for all of us likely to read this blog, and that very fact coupled with lack of exercise is leading most of us to struggle with weight. Struggling with weight leads to diminishing confidence, depression etc. not good places to be and something I’m sure all of us would like to avoid. In this post I’ll try to go over some very basic things regarding food and eating so hopefully you’ll have an easier time of it.
The very basics: What you eat and why?
If we consider that protein and carbohydrates both have around 4 kcal per gram and fat has around 9 kcal the clear choice would be to avoid fat, and that’s the advice most of us have been given throughout life. This however isn’t quite how it works. A meta-analysis of studies regarding weight loss came to the conclusion that avoiding carbohydrates over fats leads, on average, to leaner people. This is caused by the fact that fats keep you full for a longer period of time and make you full much quicker. For example studies show that people who drink full fat milk over fat-free are skinnier. So avoid carbohydrates, and especially quick carbohydrates found in candy, sodas, baked goods etc. Another side effect of avoiding carbs and eating more fats is that you will feel better in general, if you eat a load of pasta you feel quite bloated and sleepy after the meal. Since carbs raise insulin levels quickly you tend to go through periods of low and high energy which doesn’t happen with fats and protein since your body takes quite a while to process them.
Since fat and protein sources don’t really contain all the nutrients you need, you will need to eat something else to supplement your diet. This should be fruit and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables have their calories mostly in carbs, but they are complex carbs “good carbs” that need to be chopped down into simple carbs for your body to use which means the spike from them is way less than say soda. Additional benefit of fruit and vegetables is that studies show that every portion of fruit and vegetables eaten increase overall life satisfaction at least up to 8 portions and this effect is quite immediate. I mean happiness is just an orange away, why wouldn’t you do that? (1 portion is around 1 apple, banana, pear etc. 1 cup of berries, grapes etc.) So your plate should consist of protein source, meat, chicken, fish, soybean, whatever and vegetables that are low in carbs, meaning you avoid things like potatoes and yams and prefer things like cauliflower and peppers.
So how to lose weight?
Let’s say you fix your diet and start avoiding carbs, especially simple carbs, and prefer protein and fat over it. You get your portions right (calculate your maintenance calories and from there you can calculate how much you should eat in general). That will get you to a healthy diet, if you cut below that you will start losing weight, but there is another way which some will find easier. You can use the so called 5/2 diet. Which means that two non-consecutive days of the week you only eat one, about 500 kcal meal, and nothing else. This means that on those days you lose on average 1300 kcal, which means about a pound a week if you can keep the other days slightly in the negative. (You need to lose around 3500 kcal to lose a pound). The traditional way is to eat around 500 kcal less than you use during a day which will lead to around the same rate of weight loss. Some people find one easier than the other so try both and see which you prefer.
As I’m sure you can tell I’m going over the very basics and very broad guidelines, these guidelines work and are the basis on which you should build. If you don’t know which vegetables to go for, what is a carbohydrate what things contain lots of carbohydrates etc. the internet has you covered. Just Google what you don’t know and you’ll find plenty of info. I’ll also gladly point you in the right direction in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter. This is meant to be as the broad guidelines studies have shown to be the best way we currently know of. Now how to start the process? If you make the switch quickly you'll probably find it quite hard and your body will go through carb withdrawal which will leave you some what sluggish and lacking energy. This will go away in about two weeks, but I suggest that you make switch slowly. Just start making better choices, cooking healthier food etc. don't do all of it at once. It's much easier to make it part of your life when you chance slowly than if you do everything at once. It will cause a lot of mental load since you have nothing you used to and usually people tend to go overboardwhen doing the quick switch. This too is a journey so don't try to sprint through it. One last tip; Eat slowly, the slower you eat more of a hormone that signals to your brain that you are full excretes which leads to you becoming fuller from a smaller amount of food. This is the one I struggle most with personally.