It’s commonly believed that to lose weight all you need to do is to burn more calories than you consume.
While this is partly true, most people go wrong by drastically slashing their calorie intake by restricting food, cutting complete food groups, or even spending time starving themselves. To create an even bigger calorie deficit, they add in excessive exercise, thinking this will speed things along.
On paper, this may look like a sure-fire way to lose weight. But our bodies are more complex than a simple caloric equation.
Research shows that not consuming enough calories actually causes an increase in cravings. It also messes with your hormones and leads to an increase in body fat, rather than the reduction that you’re looking for. And we know you don’t want that!
So how then, can you lose weight?
Build a body that burns fat
The secret is to build a body — a metabolism — that actually burns fat.
The way to do this is not by starving ourselves in a bid to lose weight. Instead, we need to feed our body the right foods to build a faster metabolism, which will help you lose weight quickly without the danger of putting it all back on down the track.
So how can you do this?
Reduce processed foods
One of the biggest things you can do for your waistline is to reduce the amount of processed foods you eat. Often these foods are high in calories, fat, sugar and/or salt, and contain very little nutrition.
While it’s okay to have these foods every now and then, they shouldn’t be a regular part of your eating plan. Generally speaking, the closer your food is to its natural state, the healthier and better it is for you.
Eat more plants
This brings us to our next point — eating more plant food. Fruits and vegetables do wonders for your health and for your weight. However, in Australia, only 7.5% of adults meet the daily requirement of eating 5-6 serves of vegetables a day, while just over half (51.3%) meet the 2 or more serves of fruit a day recommendation.
Research shows that a high intake of vegetables can help you lose weight quickly and help you change your body shape faster. They also help keep you feeling fuller for longer, and contribute very few calories to your diet, so there is no need to count calories! And because your body has to work harder at digesting them, they keep your metabolism firing.
Fruits and vegetables also contain essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need for optimal health. (Remember we need the best nutrition for a fully-functioning metabolism). Aim to include fruits and vegetables of all colours, as each colour group contains different phytonutrients (substances) which have different health benefits. For example, the orange group helps protect against cancer and maintains eye health, while the red group helps protect heart and lungs.
Protein should also feature strongly in your nutrition plan, as it contains essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids required for muscle growth and repair. Because our body doesn’t make essential amino acids, we must obtain them from our diet. Muscle is important because our muscle mass contributes to 66% of our metabolism. Therefore, eating plenty of protein should be a priority.
Good sources of protein are lean meat, poultry and fish, eggs, and a quality whey protein (protein powder) You can also obtain adequate protein with a combination of beans and legumes, soy products like tofu, nuts and seeds.
Eat healthy fats
Yes, you need to include fat in your diet. But not just any fat — healthy Omega-3 fats. Omega-3 plays a number of important roles in our health, including reducing inflammation. Inflammation leads to unwanted weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and even mental illness. Most people don’t consume enough Omega-3, but doing so will help your body function better, which will help you lose weight.
Omega-3 fats are commonly found in oily fish (e.g. salmon and tuna), green leafy vegetables, walnuts, flaxseeds and flax oil.
Be calorie aware
To lose weight, there is no need to count calories. In fact, we strongly discourage counting calories at all. However, it does pay for you to be calorie aware. What this means is to understand that some foods have a higher calorie value than others. For example, take-away fish and chips contains more calories than home-baked fish and oven-baked potato.
This is not to say that you can’t enjoy your favourite foods. If take-away fish and chips is what you crave then enjoy it. But being aware of where hidden calories are (sauces, dressings, fried foods, cakes, biscuits, pastries, desserts, etc.) and avoiding them the majority of the time, can go a long way to helping you lose weight for the long-term.
Easy ways to improve the nutrition in your day
The following tips will help you improve the quality of your nutrition, and build a body that will burn fat. You might also like to read about the 14 foods to help you lose weight.
- Eat lean proteins or combinations of proteins in as many meals as you can each day
- Include colourful fruits and veggies in every meal
- Eat foods close to their natural state (e.g. swap bread or pasta for quinoa or rice)
- Eat more whole or natural foods instead of processed foods
- Avoid skipping meals
- Eat regularly throughout the day
- Eat smaller meals instead of snacks (e.g. instead of coffee and a biscuit, have coffee and yoghurt with mixed berries)
- Choose homemade food over pre-made, packaged or take-away
- Focus on the quality of food, rather than the quantity
- Eat real food instead of diet food
- Plan when you’ll eat your favourite foods, instead of eating them when you feel like it
- Eat a wide range of foods of different colours and textures, instead of eating the same thing
- Flavour your foods with herbs and spices, instead of condiments and sauces
- Serve sauces and dressings on the side so you can control how much you have
- Eat mindfully and enjoy what you’re eating and drinking
- Replace calorie-laden drinks with zero calorie drinks (e.g. swap lemonade with sparkling mineral water flavoured with lemon and mint)
Remember, you don’t have to eliminate the foods you love. If you have a hard time controlling some foods, make an effort to reduce the amount you have, instead of cutting them out completely. For example, if you consume three blocks of chocolate in a week through binge eating, changing this to having a chocolate frog every night of the week will not only satisfy your chocolate craving, but it will significantly reduce the amount of calories you consume.
Similarly, if you find it difficult to control your alcohol intake when you’re socialising, making every second drink a non-alcoholic beverage will mean you’ll consume less alcohol.
Improve your meals to improve your nutrition
Here’s an example of how you can swap your current meal choice with a choice that is better nutritionally, and one that will help you reach your weight loss goals.
It’s important to remember that there is no ‘bad’ food or ‘good’ food. There is simply food that will help you get you closer to your goals, and food that will impede your success.
Our final piece of advice in improving your nutrition to lose weight quickly is to avoid dieting. Focus on healthy eating, making the best choices possible, but allowing yourself to indulge in your favourite foods from time to time.
Trying to eat perfectly will only backfire on you. You’ll either become bored and feel deprived, which will may lead to a binge, or you giving up altogether. Or the pressure to be perfect will cause too much stress, which will slow down your weight loss.
The best way to speed up your weight loss is to make room in your plan for your favourite foods. We actually encourage our clients to eat out and enjoy the experience, because this leads to better weight loss results, than sticking to a rigid meal plan 100% of the time.