How many times have you tried to lose weight but were distracted by life? The 2020-2021 coronavirus lock-down and the unprecedented election chase didn’t help to fulfill your New Year resolution to lose some pounds as well, right? The constant stress pushed us into warm and cozy hands of overeating, and that’s okay! However, now, when the vaccine is about to spread worldwide, it seems like we can finally breathe out and take some time for ourselves.
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Losing body fat and maintaining your goal weight can be simple. Check out some basic nutrition principles and experts’ recommendations that will help you lose excess fat and get the body of your dreams.
Nutrition and fat loss seem complicated as new diets explode every month, and pharmaceutical and sport nutrition companies try to sell you their new super diets, workout plans, and lose-50-pounds-in-a-week pills. However, this is all just marketing. What matters is keeping a balanced diet with a slight calorie deficit and staying consistent.
You’ve surely heard of trendy diets like paleo, vegan, keto diet, or intermittent fasting but before you adopt them, think of how sustainable they will be for you. Will you be able to restrict carbs to stay in ketosis for the rest of your life? Will it be comfortable for you to skip breakfasts or dinners forever? If the answer is “No,” choose more flexible eating plans that will allow you to enjoy your life, hanging on with your friends, and having your favorite but not-that-healthy dishes now and then. As a matter of fact, choosing intuitive eating and flexible approaches is more beneficial for your mental health(1) and is a more sustainable way to lose body fat forever.
Don’t stigmatize food! There are no particular foods that can make you fat or lean. However, various foods have different caloric and nutritional density, and sometimes it’s just wiser to choose one product instead of the other. Adopting healthy relations with food will help you get rid of stress on a diet, whether stigmatizing foods as “bad” or “good” can lead to eating disorders(2) in the long run.
Mediterranean diet as an option
Unimeal experts have researched the question and along with the U.S. News(3) have ranked the Mediterranean diet as The Best Diet Overall. According to this diet, you can have olive oil, nuts, fatty fish, and dry wine, however, the basis of your meals should be fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
As a matter of fact, the Mediterranean food pyramid corresponds to the Healthy plate(4) principles composed by the Harvard School of Public Health and is considered beneficial for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes prevention(5).
Intermittent fasting principles to boost your weight loss
Intermittent fasting is not only one of the trendiest eating patterns in 2021, but it also offers multiple research(6) proving its effectiveness for weight loss, wellbeing, and longevity. IF experts state(7) that the 16:8 fasting scheme can help you lose fat.
Some researchers(8) state that protein has a higher thermic effect of food which means that your body needs more energy to digest it. As protein has a higher saturation capacity comparing to carbs and fats, we recommend you adding it to your diet. If you feel hunger urges, add egg whites, skin chicken breasts, or tuna to your next meal. If you don’t want these foods, maybe what you’re dealing with are emotional cravings and not true physiological hunger.
The reality of sustainable and constant weight loss is that you have to put a little bit more focus on your nutrition. Pay closer attention to what you eat, at least at the beginning of your transformation journey. Track your calorie intake to understand how much food you eat or have someone do it for you. This doesn’t mean that you will have to scale all your foods for the rest of your life, but several weeks of keeping an eye on what you put in your mouth will help you understand why you’ve gained extra pounds.
Tracking your foods will make your weight loss easier. Most people with excess weight think that they eat less than they actually do. Write down everything you put in your mouth for at least several days to determine the actual amount of calories you consume. You will be shocked, as people tend to underestimate the number of calories they eat up to 20%(9)!
The only way to lose fat fast is by restricting your calories to the minimum. The problem with this approach is that when you lose weight like this, your metabolic rate adapts and burns less energy to keep you running. And when you increase your calories back to your previous maintenance level, you will end up gaining weight.
For example, Ann is 160 pounds eating 2,100 calories per day to maintain her weight. She decides to lose 20 pounds.
To do so, Ann restricts her calories up to 1,200 per day, and in 12 weeks, she achieves her goal and now weighs 140 pounds.
Now, Ann wants to get back to her regular eating habits and her 2,100 calories a day and starts to gain the weight back rapidly. Why does this happen?
First of all, her new maintenance level is now 2,000 as she has lost 20 pounds. But what’s essential and what online calculators never consider is that her metabolic rate now is much lower as her body has adapted(10) to consuming only 1,200 calories per day which is her new maintenance level.
Ann understands that she cannot keep on living on 1,200 calories. She always feels hungry, tired, cold even on sunny days, and not happy at all. And she doesn’t know what to do now.
Extremely low-calorie diets are unsustainable. You will binge after severe restrictions as crash diets raise(11) your hunger hormone level, and the question is “when” and not “if.” For women, the extreme cut of calories can also cause multiple problems with health, including amenorrhea and hormone disbalance(12).
There are so many examples of people who tried crash diets and gained weight afterward that you simply don’t have to experiment on yourself to see that they don’t work. Remember that the more extreme your plan is, the harder it will be to stick to. Even though there are multiple recommendations online on how to lose weight fast we will be happy if you avoid them and opt for more sustainable options that will not only help you lose weight but will also improve your health.
Make nutrition your priority as healthy eating is more important than working out. You need to run for about 30 minutes at a moderate pace to burn 360 calories. But three minutes will be enough to get them back by eating a glazed chocolate doughnut. You might spend one or two hours at the gym, but the rest of the time, you have to fuel your body with the proper food.
On the other hand, the one habit that you enjoy more is the one that you will be more consistent with. Think of the steps that will fit into your lifestyle the best: Cooking and getting to know nutrition principles or adding one more workout to your weekly routine? Losing weight is stressful, and you have to make it as comfortable for your body as possible.
Remember that what helps the others might not work for you. People might say that oatmeal is good for your health but if it makes you bloated, just don’t eat it. Protein might help you lose weight faster, but if your kidney(13) are against this approach, don’t adopt it! Analyze how various foods affect you and stop eating them if they make you feel sick.
If you don’t want to exercise and you feel sick just thinking of counting calories, start by making smaller steps. For example, add 15 minutes of walking into your daily routine or get a personalized meal plan with all the macros and calories already counted for you, so you don’t have to waste your time thinking about nutrition. Smaller steps will lead you to more significant success.
When you cut calories and lose weight, your body adapts. Don’t blame it: it’s smart and just wants to keep you alive. You can easily spot the metabolic adaptation. If you were in a calorie deficit for a long time, you can see that now you fidget less, you’re not as active as you used to be, sometimes if your restriction was severe, you find it more difficult to concentrate on your work and even on maintaining a simple conversation.
So what should you do if you’ve already lost some weight with the help of calorie restriction, suffer from metabolic adaptation, want to eat more again, and don’t put the weight back?
When you’ve already achieved your goal weight, you will have to fix your metabolism. One of the recent methods to increase your metabolic rate bodybuilders use is reverse dieting(14). It is exactly what it sounds like: instead of cutting your calories, you will have to reverse and start to increase your food intake slowly. This method suggests adding 50-100 calories every week after you’ve finished the cut phase until you achieve your new maintenance level. Reverse dieting helps you avoid weight gain while increasing your calories and eating more.
What are the downfalls?
It means that you will have to count your calories meticulously. Doing so might be extremely difficult and has a bunch of disadvantages for your mental health and quality of life.
Adding some strength training into your routine is one of the working strategies(15) for weight maintenance most nutritionists agree with. Physical activity specifically where heavy weights are involved boosts your metabolism, and this is something you need after a weight loss. Workouts will help you build new lean mass and studies(16) show that muscles need more energy to maintain than body fat. If you’re already working out, think of changing your routine and switching cardio training to lifting weights.
Myth-busting about lifting weights for women
Muscles are a bit denser than fat, which means that they take less volume in your body, however, they still need space. If you don’t like how women athletes look, don’t be afraid: You won’t get bulky without special routine and pharmaceutical gainers. What you will have is a more toned body that looks younger.
If counting calories for the rest of your life is not what you were looking for before your weight-loss journey, try to incorporate new healthy habits into your life.
Don’t try to adopt all the healthy habits you’ve found online immediately, starting next Monday. By pushing yourself too hard, you will end up being obsessed with food, and this is not what we need to maintain our mental health. Severe restrictions will only lead to a binge-purge cycle. Unfortunately, this is something that inevitably happens, as when you restrict yourself too hard, hunger hormones explode, and they are stronger than your brain or your willpower.
Don’t focus on the scale
Your weight will fluctuate during the month depending on your menstrual cycle, your sodium intake, your stress level, etc., so don’t panic if you’ve spotted an increase in your weight that seems to come from nowhere. What matters more are your volumes and the way you look. Track your progress not only with scales but also by your clothes and by taking pictures. Sometimes, when you move slowly, it might seem that you’re standing still. But your photos will help you to evaluate your progress and stay motivated.
Don’t set unrealistic goals
Too high expectations can lead to disappointment and frustration. If your main goal is to decrease your body fat percentage and you’re not a professional bodybuilder, keep in mind that becoming extremely lean for a woman (less than 15% body fat) can be harmful to overall health, skin, hair beauty, and reproductive system.
Don’t compare yourself to other people
Even if you and your friend are of the same age, with the same weight, height, and activity level, there might still be differences between how fast your bodies react to the same diet. The reason can be in genetics, different fat and lean mass percentage, and even different digestion. You have heard that before, but we have to repeat it once again: the only person you can compare yourself to is you!
If there were only one piece of advice that we could give, it would be “Stay consistent!” Maybe you won’t see dramatic results after just one week of healthy eating and working out, but you will see them sooner or later.
Losing weight and maintaining your new leaner physique is not that difficult if you keep a sustainable, not extremely restrictive, balanced diet. Don’t push yourself too hard, and stay patient. You haven’t gained all these extra pounds in one week and you won’t lose them in one week. Just eat good, and don’t get upset if you get an extra tasty treat now and then. Simply go back on track, return to your meal plan, and keep going. Be consistent, and you will lose weight and maintain it for many years to come.