7 lessons about eating for healthy fat loss. By Rachel Hosie
Losing weight is, in theory, simple. But that doesn’t make it easy. The vast majority of people, and women in particular, are always trying, or at the very least wishing, to lose some weight, no matter how much, for health or aesthetic reasons.
If it were as easy as it appears on paper - that is, take in less energy than you’re burning - the multibillion-dollar diet industry wouldn’t exist.
Whether it’s a reality-TV star peddling a bikini blitz workout DVD, an influencer plugging laxative teas, or a tabloid claiming to have come up with a diet plan that will see you losing 10 pounds in a week, supposed quick fixes are everywhere, because we all love the idea of putting in minimal effort and getting results fast.
But the truth is, none of these things work. There is no shortcut, and anything that results in rapid weight loss won’t be healthy or sustainable. You didn’t gain 10 pounds in a week, so how could you possibly lose it that quickly?
Over the past five months, I’ve lost nearly 35 pounds, or over 15 kilos.
Like many, my weight has fluctuated over my adult life, but at the end of 2018 I was the biggest and heaviest I’d ever been. I felt sluggish, hated shopping, and barely fit into any of my clothes (smocks were life), but I don’t think I realized quite how much weight I’d gained until I had a body scan at the end of November.
I’d put on 11 pounds, or 5 kilos, since I’d last weighed myself the previous July, and seeing the number on the scale was the wake-up call I needed.
There’s nothing wrong with gaining weight if you’re healthy, but I wasn’t, and my weight gain was a reflection of the fact that I wasn’t looking after myself.
The weight had crept up over the years, as it so often does. I will always love to eat and drink, but as a 20-something living in London, I’d lost all concept of moderation or balance, regularly binge-drinking and overeating.
My diet wasn’t necessarily unhealthy, and I was very active, but I was simply consuming far too much, frequently eating to the point of pain.
I had an unhealthy relationship with food and my body, and that’s what I decided I would consciously work on come the new year — might as well capitalize on the “new year, new me” vibe, after all.
Losing weight wasn’t my main incentive, but it was part of the overall lifestyle switch I’ve successfully made.
And that’s what’s made this time different to every other time I’ve lost a few pounds. It was time to start putting myself, my health, and my happiness first. No restrictive plans, no strict rules, no thinking of myself as being on a diet, but rather approaching it as a journey toward creating a healthier, happier, sustainable lifestyle.
And it worked.
As a lifestyle journalist with a focus on health, food, wellness, and fitness, I was already well informed about how to live a healthy lifestyle. But there’s still so much I’ve learned this year, from how to train to how to deal with saboteurs (both separate articles entirely).
But perhaps the most important changes I’ve made have been regarding my diet. So here are seven lessons I’ve learned about how to eat to lose weight sustainably.
1. Cutting out foods just results in bingeing.
Cutting bread, sugar, or anything else you enjoy out of your diet is not a good idea as you’ll only end up bingeing on it. Do you want to cut those delicious foods out forever? Didn’t think so. While you may think you “can’t do” moderation (stopping after a few squares of chocolate and not eating the whole bar), you can if you stop demonizing the food. There’s no such thing as “good” and “bad” foods, although, yes, there are more and less nutrient-dense foods.
For me, it’s also helped to think of foods in terms of macros - are they a source of protein, carbs, or fats? So a bar of chocolate is a carb, just like a banana or oats, and they can all be part of a healthy diet.
If you love doughnuts, you don’t have to give them up forever to lose weight, and this can make them easier to resist when your colleague brings in a box of Krispy Kremes - you know what they taste like, you’ll eat doughnuts at a later point in your life, you don’t need to eat one just because they’re there. But at the same time, if you really want a doughnut, just eat one and enjoy it!
If you feel like you’re punishing yourself, it’s never going to work.
2. Working out won’t result in fat loss if you don’t also address your diet.
Before I changed my lifestyle, I already worked out four to five times a week, doing a mixture of weight-lifting, dance classes, and netball.
I was also active in my day-to-day life, walking at least 14,000 steps a day. But I was still overweight.
The past six months have shown me how much truth there is in the adage, “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” Or, more specifically, a diet that simply involves consuming too much.
Working out is great for you in so many ways, and it certainly helps the fat-loss process (more on that another time), but if you think exercise alone is going to see your weight dropping off, you may be disappointed.
3. Upping your protein intake will help a lot.
It’s a complete myth that eating for fitness means plain chicken and broccoli with a protein shake on the side for every meal, but it’s true that keeping your protein intake up is important.
In fact, studies have shown that following a high-protein diet can help maintain muscle and boost metabolism, keep you feeling full when trying to lose weight, and reduce hunger.
“Eating a sufficient amount of protein when you’re losing weight is paramount in order to preserve lean muscle mass,” specialist registered dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine told INSIDER.
“Eating around 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight,” she said, “alongside resistance exercise, helps to maintain both muscle strength and metabolic rate” - the rate at which your body burns calories. “The digestion of protein also requires more calories in comparison to carbs and fat, and help to keep you feeling full too.”