In a world full of diet plans, nutrition regimens, and weight-loss gurus, it’s hard to find the truth about nutrition in all the noise. We have family members that swear by specific diets, friends that have lost “X” number of pounds from a particular program, and others than can’t find long term success because a diet “didn’t work for them.” Any of these scenarios sound familiar?
Then we ask ourselves, why does this all seem so complicated?! And why does everyone get so passionate about defending the way they eat as the single answer?
Let’s get into it from a perspective that isn’t fueled by emotion, confusion, and defensiveness. Because if we stick to the evidence, it’s hard to find one program that is the go-to. So, what is the truth about nutrition programs?
They all work.
Every. Single. One.
Each program (Paleo, Keto, Whole30, Atkins, Weight Watchers, etc.) has a poster child for weight loss, and they work…but it’s less about the regimen and more about the facts.
An individual will lose weight if they want to lose weight, if there is a reason important enough to change their behavior. It’s just like anything else in life that internally motivates us. We will go to great lengths to make sure we have the tools, education, the resources we need to get the job done!
When it comes to weight loss, sticking to these 3 principles will yield results. I added a fourth principle because I think it’s important to overall happiness, despite weight and body composition!
1. Eat fewer calories than you burn in a day
Nutrition in its rawest form is simple math. Many will argue it’s not as simple as calories in, calories out (we get to that in #2) – but this is the first place to start! We can discuss all other factors that influence metabolism in another blog post.
Here is the simple math:
1 pound = 3,500 kcal (calories).
For every 3,500 net calories consumed we will gain one pound.
For every 3,500 net calories burned we will lose one pound.
Throughout the day we consume and burn calories — our net calories are what determine our weight loss/gain. Sometimes we eat more than we should and don’t know, especially if we eat out. You may want to use a food tracker if you’re not sure how many calories you’re eating, there are plenty of trackers in the App or Google Play store. One of my favorites is My Fitness Pal.
Everyone has a different recommended daily calorie intake based on age, gender, and BMI. Click here for a calculated estimate of your recommended intake.
2. Eat nutrient dense food
Nutrient density refers to foods that are high in, well, nutrients! It also refers to foods low in “empty” calories.
Vitamins and minerals are necessary micronutrients our body needs, and complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats are all examples of macronutrients. Both types of nutrients we get from real food (and supplementation if necessary).
Our body loves whole, real food – they are both made up of organic substances, so they work well together! The more we give it heavily processed, sugary foods the more it’s going to rebel against us.
See some examples of nutrient dense food here.
3. Move your body
The effects of our sedentary lifestyle are becoming evident in the epidemics we are seeing more of in America: obesity, chronic illness, and chronic pain . All of these epidemics have been shown to improve with consistent, daily exercise. Furthermore, our mental health drastically improves with the addition of movement throughout our day!
Think about it…a good amount of Americans:
- Sit in the car to get to work.
- Sit at a desk at work.
- Break for lunch – sit, relax, and eat.
- Return to the desk to resume work.
- Sit in the car to drive home home.
- Sit and eat dinner (alone or with family).
- Sit on the couch and watch Netflix, play video games, or whatever else to “unwind” after a busy work day.
- We lie down and go to bed.
EVEN IF we get an hour of exercise in, that doesn’t UNDO all the sitting we’ve done that day. Below #4 I’ve listed some tips to getting more active at work.
Some of you may eat lunch at your desk or never leave it because you feel that you have that much work to do. Your mental health, productivity, and job satisfaction will increase the more you move (and fuel your body with good food) throughout your day! Prioritize your health.
4. Love your body
This may be one of the most critical pieces in losing weight and maintaining it. It really has more to do with mindset than anything.
If you don’t love yourself (and your body), you will be more prone to self-sabotage and repeating patterns that get you stuck in a cycle of unhealthy habits. We may not like the way our body looks and feels all the time, but we have to respect it for all of the incredible things it does and helps us accomplish! Simply staying alive is an accomplishment!
Think about it this way. If your best friend asks you for help, most of the time you’d drop everything to be there for them. You also don’t (maliciously) insult them, speak negatively to them, flake on every commitment, or constantly put them down – so why would you do the same to yourself?! Or maybe you do…in which case, you may have more to work on…
The more you love your body, you will be more in tune with what it feels good eating (and what makes it feel terrible).
Quick note: If you feel you have a bad relationship with food or struggle with self-love, seeing a therapist or counselor may be an excellent resource to get to the root of the issue!
Tips that resonate and make sense to your life
While there is never going to be a “one size fits all” nutrition plan, there are always tips that resonate well with everyone based on their lifestyle. And by lifestyle I mean everything that makes up the way you live your life: work schedule, priorities, family, social scene, etc. Think about these tips and if they could apply to you, or get creative and come up with your own solutions for success.
1. Meal prep before the work week.
2. Eat your meals at a stand-up table.
3. Go on a walk for meetings (one-on-one or phone meetings).
4. Walk on your breaks or at lunch.
5. Have bands or weights at your desk to periodically move and exercise.
6. If you know you shouldn’t eat a specific food, DON’T BUY IT OR KEEP IT IN THE HOUSE.
7. Go and see a therapist or counselor if you have an unhealthy relationship with food.
8. Shop the outside ring of the grocery store.
9. Have an accountability buddy.
10. Drink a cup of water before, during, and after each meal.
At the end of the day, if good nutrition and movement isn’t important to you, it will be evident and you may see the effects of it as time progresses. There isn’t anyone policing you to eat well and exercise – you have to care enough to show your body the LOVE it truly deserves. And if you don’t love yourself and your body? That responsibility lies with no one but you, so do what you need to take care of YOU.