Calories, diets, scales...it’s really not that complicated!
Recently I wrote a short post on counting calories, attitude towards scales, and diets and I want to elaborate. Have you seen the reality show “The Biggest Loser” where men and women lose an extraordinary amount of weight in a really short period of time? I have only watched an episode or two because in my mind, they are doing a massive disservice to the contestants. The weight loss is massive, too quick and not sustainable. In fact, a study showed that “on average, participants regained 70 percent of the weight they’d lost”.1 So for those who want quick non-lasting results, go ahead, there are plenty of “quick fixes”, the list of these diets and cleanses is too long to mention but the results are minimal. Will you lose weight? Yes. Will you gain it all back and some? Mostly likely
Calorie counting :
Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that the standard prescription for weight loss is to reduce the number of calories you consume. And even if you think quantity is not important, quality is, which in turn, goes back to quantity. Let me explain: if you cut back on added sugar, refined grains, and highly processed foods while concentrating on eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods you will lose weight. So, you are still losing weight because the foods that were cut back are the most caloric/non-nutritious. Clearly, calories are still the main reason you will lose weight. Diet quantity and quality are important for both weight control and long-term well-being. So yes, I do think calorie counting is important if you are trying to modify your body so you know caloric values of what you are putting in your body and its nutritional value.
Diets are individual. What works for one person, might not work for another, yet one common aspect is that in order for the diet to be sustainable it must be foundational which is more vegetables, more whole foods, less added sugar and less refined grains. I have done my share of experiments with different diets and whether it be the 4-hour body, ketogenic diet, Atkins, The Zone, etc., I have come up with the following reasons as to why most don’t sustain their weight loss:
Restrictive diets: Extreme calorie restriction may slow your metabolism and shift your appetite-regulating hormones, which are both factors that contribute to weight gain.
Wrong mindset: When you think of a diet as a quick fix, rather than a long-term solution to better your health, you will be more likely to give up and gain back the weight you lost.
Lack of sustainable habits: Many diets are based on willpower rather than habits you can incorporate into your daily life. They focus on rules rather than lifestyle changes, which may discourage you and prevent weight maintenance.
I am not saying that I am against any of those diets, I do think, however, that you must think of maintenance, will you be able to be on this “diet” forever? So the best advice that I can give you for weight-loss is: reduce calorie intake (http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html), don’t cut out any food groups but limit, drinks a lot of water, understand the difference between cravings vs hunger, and stay active.
The conventional wisdom was to weigh yourself once a week, same weekday, same time. Then some research showed that weighing yourself every day is optimal. These studies suggested that frequent weighers can start to see patterns and act on them. For example, if you eat late at night you could be up 3-5 pounds the next day — so then you might choose to consume fewer calories at night going forward. Then we come to a period of “scale is your enemy” and weighing yourself will drive you crazy, be anything but discouraging and might even be psychologically damaging. Eek.
Before you say anything: Yes, muscle takes up less space than fat, and it’s more metabolically active. When you exercise, you (may) gain muscle, raise your metabolism and lose fat, but that fat loss won’t always show up on the scale. Where it will show up is in measurements, how your clothes fit and how your body looks. All that can happen even if the scale isn’t moving. Yes, but for most, when trying to lose weight, it’s unlikely (especially for women) that you will gain such a significant amount of muscle (especially if you are only doing cardio) that your weight on the scale will stay the same or even go up.
So which way is the right away? It is whatever works for you! I weigh myself once a week, every Monday morning. I know others who weigh themselves every day and others who feel that they can gauge their physical accomplishments by the way their clothes fit or just how they feel. All of these ways are just fine, whatever works for you. The scale is just another tool to use (or not use) for your journey in healthy living.
Questions, comments, suggestions are always welcome!
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