By Daire Curley
TRACK WHAT YOU EAT
Keep a food diary when starting a dieting phase, write down everything you eat for at least a 3 day period. Be specific and thorough and count everything including sugar added to teas and coffee and that cheeky biscuit while watching TV. Once you know how much you are eating on a normal daily basis, you can then use a calorie tracker such as MyFitnessPal to calculate the average calories consumed over three days. Once you have your average calories, I would suggest setting a target 200 calories lower than your current daily average. For example, if you eat 2200 calories on a daily basis and wish to lose body-fat, decrease your intake by 200 calories to 2000 calories. Tracking your calories is vitally important, for the average person it may not be necessary to do this daily, but I would highly recommend doing this in the beginning so you can get an understanding for which foods are higher in calories and understand portion sizes.
6 SMALL MEALS PER DAY IS NOT NECESSARY
Contrary to widespread belief, the 6 small meals a day myth has been de-bunked many times over by extensive research now. It is true that food has a thermic effect, i.e your body must burn calories to digest foods, so by eating many times per day your body will burn additional calories, right? Sadly, this will have a 1-2% effect on your results. What is most important is that your total daily calories eaten are less than what your body expends. (i.e calories in less than calories out) If you are a busy person and can only fit in 2-3 bigger meals per day, then this is perfectly fine. However, eating often can sometime help with hunger and cravings but this varies from person to person. For the average person I would recommend 3 main meals per day along with 1-2 snacks. This is a manageable amount of meals to cook or pre-prepare without having to eat a tiny portion of chicken and rice or white fish and sweet potato 6 times per day.
DON’T ELIMINATE CARBS
I’ve heard it time and time again from clients “I’m trying to lose weight so I’ve totally cut out my carbs” is often the solution they think is best. However, what I always instill in my clients is that carbohydrates are not the enemy and will give you abundant energy to perform well in the gym and throughout life’s daily tasks. Going on a zero carb diet is what a professional bodybuilder may put themselves through 2-3 weeks out from a competition as they sometimes need to do it to get in shape when a show is coming up quickly and time is running out. I can proudly personally say I have never been on a zero carb diet myself or gone ‘keto’ and only had to put one of my clients on zero carbs for less than a week who was approaching a photoshoot. So why avoid eliminating carbohydrates from our diets? Carbs will fuel you to power through your workout and give you the energy to get through work or school with the mental focus you need. Having no energy not only makes you feel terrible but will make you perform poorly in the gym. Not only this but carbs are essential for recovery, re-fueling glycogen stores after a workout by consuming carbs will speed up recovery time and help prevent you from injury. You will also sleep better and longer when carbs are in the daily diet, especially when eaten before bed. I am, and always will be the advocate of eat more and exercise more. You can get the same results in the same amount of time by exercising more throughout the day rather than cutting out food groups from your diet like carbs. This may be just an extra 200 calories burned per day by walking 30 minutes to work instead of driving which will then allow you to have 50g of extra carbs (200 cals) in your diet, sounds better right?
TREAT YOURSELF IN MODERATION
Overly restricting yourself generally has a negative effect on dieting. Stating that you will eat only ‘clean’ foods for the duration of your 12 or 16 week diet is for most people unattainable. Instead I like to adopt the 80/20 split when approaching reducing body fat. This means that 80% of the foods you eat will be single ingredient, micro nutrient dense whole foods e.g chicken breast, spinach, eggs, almonds, salmon, etc. and the other 20% can come from foods you enjoy such as ice-cream, chocolate, cereal etc. For someone who diets on 2000 calories this means that 400 calories of their daily intake can be less healthy foods. This allocation of calories is much more beneficial long term as it builds a healthy and sustainable balance between eating foods you enjoy and therefore will make the dieting process much easier for you so you are more likely to stick with the process long term. Long term consistency always equals results!
KEEP AN EYE ON PROGRESS, DON’T OBSESS OVER IT
Tracking your progress is always motivating while dieting. There are many mediums for looking at progress and this in not just limited to the scales! You can take progress pictures, body measurements from your waist, hips and thigh, have a skinfold caliper test or even a DEXA scan if you wish! All of these are credible ways to track progress and you should look at everything available to you. This being said, don’t obsess over your progress either. As we now know fat loss is not linear and fluctuates from week to week depending on a number of factors. For example I’ve just started my diet and am up 1.8kgs on the scales in 2 weeks, if I had been inexperienced I would have said to my coach this diet isn’t working, right? Well in reality you have to look at a number of factors like water consumption, training, recovery etc. I have dramatically increased my water intake as I wasn’t drinking enough the past few weeks and have gone for 1 liter per day to 4-5 liters. This would cause my body to hold onto quite a lot of water due to the sudden increase. There are also a handful of other factors which may affect my weight however I am 2cm down on my waist measurement and visibly much leaner, hence why the scales is not always the answer!
GET MORE ACTIVE, EAT MORE FOOD
I mentioned this before but it is so often missed by people dieting, they think the only way to continue making progress when dieting is to continually reduce food intake, however a reduce in food means a reduction in available energy. Instead, try get more active and expend more calories. Make your workouts more intensive by reducing rest times, add in some cardio either HIIT, LISS or both, walk more throughout the day by walking instead of driving or taking the bus or heading out for a quick brisk walk on your lunch break! There are hundreds of ways to burn calories all you need is the desire to go and do it!
GET HELP IF NEEDED
This help can come in two forms, either by hiring a coach online or personal trainer to assist you or by having one of your friends or family members diet with you and train together to motivate you! Getting help and educating yourself is the best thing you will do when it comes to diet and training, as you will be confident in the plan you are following and know you are making progress. Having a coach certainly adds the accountability factor to the situation as they will track your progress for you and keep you motivated and will also be there to answer any questions you may have throughout the process.
SET A GOAL AND HAVE A PLAN
Arguably the most important tip I can give is to always have a clear vision of your goal and a plan on how you will get there. If you decide to diet for 2 weeks or 2 months, the process is the same. You must have a plan which will allow you to achieve the results desired in your set amount of time. Setting realistic and healthy goals is also important, with most of my weight loss clients we aim for 1lb on average per week drop in bodyweight. Bodyweight is not the be all and end all but it is a measure of good progress. So be realistic and set a manageable yet challenging goal for yourself.
DON’T ALWAYS BE ON A DIET
If you are someone who ‘diets’ 365 days per year, yet never really makes any progress, it may be time to step back and evaluate a few things. Firstly, dieting is taxing and stressful on the body, it does not want to be continually calorie restricted or else we will slow ourselves down without even knowing it. By this I don’t mean our metabolisms but our bodies will not want to move, to function correctly or to be active regularly. I always recommend taking ‘diet breaks’ for between 2-4 weeks for long term weight loss clients. During this period you would increase your daily calories back to maintenance level where you are neither losing nor gaining weight. This has a very positive effect on weight loss as when you enter back into a dieting phase your mind and body will feel refreshed and ready to start again!
EAT MORE FILLING FOODS
The worst thing about dieting for majority of people is the hunger. No matter how slowly you diet at some stage in the process we will all experience stages of hunger. However there are ways to subside these feelings without busting through your daily allocated calories, you can simply consume more volume foods! Good examples of high volume, low calorie foods are berries, salads, green vegetables, zero calorie drinks, zero fat yoghurts and many more. Adding these foods to your diet will fill you up and give you the sensation that you have eaten a large, calorie dense meal when in reality they are very low calorie!
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