You’ve survived Christmas and, like millions of other people, you may well be thinking about trying to lose a few pounds or clean up your diet for the new year. As a nutrition coach (I studied for a year with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition for my diploma, have my level 3 personal training nutrition module and a qualification in advanced nutrition for weight management) reading social media and women’s magazines right now makes my blood boil. There are so many ‘detox plans’ available or diets to lose weight very quickly through caloric restriction, often requiring the purchase of expensive but ‘essential’ additional supplements or, even worse, meal replacement drinks and bars.
It’s all nonsense and has no foundation in what we know about how the body stores fats or lets go of it. Here’s a breakdown of what works and what doesn’t.
What doesn’t work
Your liver and lymphatic system does the job of keeping toxins out of your body – you don’t need to do a detox to help it if you eat a mainly unprocessed diet and cook from scratch most of the time. Detox weight loss diets work in the short time because you drink only liquids for a few days and eat no protein or fat. You’ll put back on anything you lose within a few days as this kind of extreme caloric restriction is unpleasant and unsustainable. Give it a miss.
Again, a short term liquid diet that has zero long term weight loss effects. To add insult to injury, you’re giving yourself a hefty dose of fructose with none of the fibre to buffer the sugars hitting your liver and bloodstream
– caloric restriction
So many longitudinal studies show that drastically restricting calories does not lead to lasting weight loss and that the body will ask you to eat more calories over time to compensate for the deficit: hence why people often regain more than they lost. The body likes to be in balance (homeostasis) and will find ways to bring you back to where you were. You need to create a more modest energy deficit you can sustain over time to beat this response.
– alkaline diets
Total nonsense. The body maintains its own pH balance very carefully (blood is slightly alkaline while stomach acid is just that) and your diet won’t change it. You also won’t lose weight snacking on ‘raw’ treats full of nuts and natural sugars like dates, which can pack a huge caloric punch. Healthy and natural foods will make you gain weight if you eat too many of them.
– avoiding fat
Your body needs fats for a huge array of bodily functions including energy production and as insulation for organs and nerves. It was very badly reported research many decades ago (the Ancel Keys study) that led to fat being demonised, but we know that excessive starchy and refined carbohydrate consumption is what does the damage. Unfortunately, we have a thriving low fat diet industry that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
What does work
– eating for your energy requirements but still creating a caloric deficit
Many people eat far too little to sustain their new year exercise regime and wonder why they are starving half the time, prompting binge eating, while some restrict calories below the absolute minimum needed to sustain their bodily functions (Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR). Your body won’t shed fat if it thanks you are starving. Eat to fuel your activity levels while creating enough of a deficit to encourage fat loss. This means shedding about 3,500 calories a week from your current consumption, which you can do by looking at your diet for high calorie, nutritionally useless foods to ditch and filling up on low calorie, nutritionally dense foods like vegetables. You can also increase your caloric deficit through exercise but most of your effort will come from watching your nutrition.
– looking at your macros
As well as looking at your energy requirements you need to consider where your calories come from. Make up a plate from vegetables, a portion of quality protein and a healthy fat like olive oil or good butter, and only add a portion of grains/starchy carbs like rice after exercise. Macronutrients are proteins, fats and carbs. Looking at the proportions of them in your diet and when you eat starchy carbs, combined with creating a caloric deficit, will get the best fat loss results. Think of exercise as a way to build a healthy, strong body and to help manage stress rather than as a punishment or as something you have to do to earn food.
– reducing stress and improving sleep quality
Stress levels and too little or poor quality sleep can have a significant impact on weight loss. Both can lead to cravings for sweet foods, starchy carbs and over eating. Stick to regular sleep patterns and get at least seven hours a night. Leave gadgets well alone an hour before bed to help you relax and avoid unecessary stimulus.
– the diet you can stick to
Ultimately, the diet that works is the one you can actually stick to. You will get the best results from small changes that you adhere to over a long period of time. My clients do well with this approach and see long term change that lasts.
I can offer weight management coaching on its own, combine it with personal training or you can have your diet and workouts managed with me online with the Badass Body Online platform launching in January (women only), offering tailored support from just £75 a month: ideal if you travel for work or don’t have a budget for 1:1 sessions. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to know how to get the body and confidence you really want in 2017!