There’s just one thing you need to know about diets. They all ultimately work the same way - creating a calorie gap by changing the amount or types of food you eat.
As I said in yesterday’s post, if the calorie gap averages out to 500 calories per day over the course of a week you’ll lose weight at about 0.5kg per week.
So how many calories should you be eating? Simple - use an online calculator to find your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (based on your gender, age, height, weight, activity level) - there’s one at http://www.iifym.com/tdee-calculator/. Then knock off 500 calories.
If you are already tracking your food intake, you may have found yourself anticipating meals (a big roast dinner, perhaps) and ensuring that you compensate for that by eating a light breakfast and lunch. Similarly, if you had a big dinner the night before, you could eat very lightly until the following dinner time. It seems that as long as your weekly calorie deficit averages 500 calories, day to day fluctuations won’t derail your progress.
Likewise, if you prefer to have larger meals every day, consider restricting your eating to 2 meals in 8 hours (lunch and dinner). This is quite good for shift workers, too.
So that’s the calorie gap - all you have to do is maintain that for the duration of your goal. As you lose weight, you’ll need to recalculate your TDEE, perhaps every 4 weeks.
Having determined how many calories to eat, it’s then a question of finding a way of eating that suits you, gets results and is easy to stick to for up to a year. Some people prefer to drop carbs, others prefer to limit fats. You might need to experiment to find the one for you.
This distinction between a diet and a way of eating is important. If you perceive you’re making a sacrifice (as we tend to do on a diet) there’s a high chance you won’t stick to it. If it just happens to be how you eat, you will.
There is a growing opinion that ‘flexible dieting’ is the way forward. As long as you’re eating the right number of calories and the right split between protein, fat and carbs then it doesn’t matter where those calories come from. It’s worth your investigation - see https://healthyeater.com/.
Whatever approach you take, be careful to ensure that your body is getting the minimum amount of fats that it requires - at 25% of your daily calories should come from fat. You should also eat sufficient protein to maintain muscle levels (otherwise there’s a danger that your body will start to burn muscle, not fat, and you really don’t want that). If you can’t make sense of it, an hour’s consultation with a qualified PT or Nutrition Coach would give you a plan that’s right for you, for about £60-70. My own experience was that when I got the nutrition side sorted, I really started to get some benefits. So invest in yourself and get it right.
Whatever you do, make sure you keep tracking measurements and a food diary (and check you’re following it properly).
There is one other thing you need to know. At the end of any weight loss project you are in great danger of putting the weight you lost back on. It’s just the body doing what it’s genetically programmed to do - maintain a ‘set point’ weight. It turns out that you can manipulate this set point using a technique called ‘reverse dieting’. Basically you very gradually increase your calories back to a maintenance level over, typically, a 4-6 week period (depending how big a calorie gap you created). If you don’t do this, the body will go into hoarding mode, and you’ll undo all your good work quicker than you dared imagine.
To summarise: find a way of eating that you can stick to for the long term, cut your calories and track the effect it has on your weight. Consider a consultation with a nutritional coach for best results.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about the other component to a weight loss plan - exercise.