Flip through any magazine or turn on any infomercial and there will be some “expert” promising that they have the next greatest diet; guaranteed to help you shed pounds in record time.  Low carb, juice cleanse, fasting, all shakes, caveman…the list goes on and on.  But, how do you know which one is right for you?  Here is the short answer…none of them!  Crash diets and fad diets may help you shed inches initially, but the cost almost always outweighs the benefits.

The issue that I see with so many clients is that they are completely confused about how to lose weight in a safe, sustainable way that doesn’t mean starving themselves.  The answer is simple, but getting there can be quite difficult for most people.  As humans, it is in our nature to be drawn to the fast, easy answer to our problems.  Sustainable nutrition for most people, however, is neither fast nor easy.  But, as I explain to my clients, eating right isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard.  That may sound counterintuitive, but by the end of this article I think you will see the truth in that statement.

The problems with fad diets

Let’s be honest, the concept of losing weight rapidly and easily is quite appealing.  Unfortunately, the reality is that if losing weight was fast and easy…everyone would be ready to grace the cover of fitness magazines.  While, at the outset, fad diets may help you drop a few pounds, the truth is that you can’t live the rest of your life sucking down only weight loss shakes or depriving yourself of food three times a week.  So what happens when you stop?  Well for most people those pound that were shed come roaring back with a vengeance.  And so begins the vicious cycle of fad diet to weight gain to fad diet to weight gain, which finally ends in frustration and failure!

If you are an athlete, runner, or in any way interested fitness fad diets present another issue.  Depriving yourself of the proper amount of calories, nutrients, or macros can leave you fatigued and unable to carry on the physical activities that you enjoy. 

The Solution

So we have established that fad diets typically crash and burn, but that still leaves us with how do we lose weight in a way that is sustainable and healthy.  Here is where I tell you that I am not just the president, but a client as well!  I wasn’t always in great shape or a trainer or athlete.  In fact, just a little over two years ago I was 70 pounds heavier and completely out of shape.  I have been where you are, and I have struggled with how to lose weight.  In the initial stages of my weight loss I tried every magic pill and fad diet.  The results…I failed miserably.  After a lot of experimentation, the following points are what helped me lose weight and keep it off:

  • Know your needs.  There are countless online calculators that will give you a pretty good idea of the number of calories you need each day to maintain your weight, gain weight, or lose weight.  These calorie calculators take account of daily activity and exercise, which allows for good personalization.

 

  • Know what is going in your mouth.  Once you know how many calories you need, the next step is to know how many calories you are taking in.  I track my calorie intake on my phone using an app.  This lets me see how I am doing and make sure that I am hitting my calorie goal.

 

  • Know your portions.  To know what to log, you first need to know what you are eating and how much of it.  Here is where the work comes in:  measure your food.  It may be a little time consuming at the outset, but it is an invaluable tool to know what a proper portion size is.  And, this doesn’t have to be something you do for the rest of your life.  A solid month or two of measuring and weighing your food and you should have a pretty good handle on portion control.

 

  • Eliminate the “whites.”  The first thing I cut from my diet was anything white.  This includes sugar, white flour, white pasta, white bread, most fruit, and anything fried.  These foods tend to be high in calories, low in nutritional value, and have a negative impact on blood sugar and insulin level. 
    • What, no fruits??  I thought fruits were good for you!  Well, yes and no.  Fruits are primarily sugar and very high in carbs, but most do contain a good amount of vitamins and nutrients; a bit of a catch 22.  My approach to fruit is to limit my intake of them to breakfast and pre- and post-workout, and to only consume fruits that have a low glycemic index.  Low glycemic index (GI) foods have a lesser impact on your blood sugar and insulin levels, and, therefore, a lesser impact on your ability to lose weight.

 

  • Flip the pyramid.  No, not the food pyramid we learned in school, but the way in which you structure your meals.  Most people eat a small breakfast and progressively eat bigger and bigger meals, making dinner the biggest meal of the day.  If you want to lose weight, flip this around.  Make breakfast your biggest meal and dinner your smallest.  Breakfast gets your metabolism firing and you have all day to burn off the calories.  This is opposed to dinner when it may only be an hour or two until you are settling down for the night and your metabolism begins to slow.

 

  • Plan your carbs.  Poor carbs, they have gotten such a bad rap in the last decade.  Truth is, carbs are absolutely necessary, especially if you work out or train.  Just ask any endurance athlete and they will be quick to tell you all the benefits of carbs.  However, we all know that too many carbs can derail weight loss in a hurry.  My approach to carbs is simple:  save them for breakfast and pre- and post-workout, when your body needs them the most; eat the right carbs (whole grains, sweet potatoes, and others that have low GI); and eat them in moderation for your needs, the more active you are the more you need.

 

  • Plan ahead.  The most common thing I hear from clients is that they do not have enough time to eat right.  Well that is just nonsense!  With a little planning, eating right should not be time consuming.  Setting aside an hour or two to meal prep and always carrying a protein bar or nuts with you for a quick snack will allow you to eat healthy despite your hectic schedule.

 

  • Ditch the booze.  Not only is alcohol high in empty calories, it wreaks havoc on your body.  Even small amounts of alcohol will slow your metabolism as your body works to rid itself of what it considers poison.  While your body’s focus is on the alcohol, its storing all of those extra calories you are consuming.  Cut it out or cut it back if you want to hit your weight loss goals.

 

  • Cheat.  Once a week I have a cheat meal and encourage my clients to do the same.  Not only does it allow you to enjoy the foods you once loved, but it also helps to keep your body guessing and your metabolism firing on all cylinders.

 

  • Supplement.  Making sure you are getting all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need can be hard work.  But, adding in a multivitamin, some fish oil, and a little CLA can help make sure your body is operating at peak efficiency and always burning fat. 

 

These simple tips require a little bit of effort, but it’s not hard work.  Planning, discipline, and observation can be the difference between hitting your goals or riding the fad diet roller coaster.  Weight loss isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard.  So ditch the fad diets and start working toward the body you have been seeking!  

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