I am a self-proclaimed anti-dieter. I promote health, fitness, and weight loss if needed. But, pretty please and thank you, let’s not use the “D” word. In all seriousness, is diet truly a four-letter word that should be cast from your vocabulary and into the fiery pits of hell??? Maybe…and maybe not.
If I’m truly honest, a “good” diet can have multiple benefits. It’s your approach, attitude, and willingness to learn from the experiences that matter most. If weight loss is your target goal, there are several ways to go about it. Below, I’m highlighting a few of the more popular options out there that I believe are reasonable and healthy ways to get you lasting results.
Traditional Calorie Counting: When creating a caloric deficit using this traditional method, you’ll start with establishing your Basal Metabolic Rate. Your BMR is a calculation of how many calories your body burns at rest. Basically, it’s a measure of energy expenditure needed for your body to do what it does autonomically (i.e. digestion, breathing, circulation of blood, etc.) without purposeful activity. BMR is found using an equation that takes into account your height, weight, age, and sex. These factors are then combined with an estimate of your daily activities and then minimum and maximum thresholds for caloric intake are established for weight loss.
In terms of simple math, this method can be quite effective. You have a concrete way of asserting control over your nutrition and consumption. If consistently practiced, you are likely to see results over time, become more aware of appropriate portioning of foods, and make lower calorie snack and meal choices.
However, there are other factors such as stress, sleep habits, hormonal shifts, etc. that have an effect on measured weight as our bodies are more complex than just calories in versus calories out. In addition, because the focus is solely on calories, you may or may not become more inclined to choose nutrient dense foods that give your body the fuel it needs to feel satisfied and truly nourished. You may also find yourself becoming preoccupied with counting, measuring, etc. and missing out on the joy of eating food. This can encourage an inappropriate relationship with food and lead to the habit of associating successes and failures with the consumption of “good” and “bad” foods.
Counting Macros: Macros are short for macronutrients. Macronutrients are those we need in large quantities to sustain life. The macronutrients for humans are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
When counting macros, understanding that your body does not require equal amounts of each nutrient is key. What you need in fat grams is very different from your carb count. In addition, factors such as age, sex, activity level, etc. will also impact what your daily macros should look like. So, at the end of the day your percentages, generally speaking, should probably fall somewhere within this range:
You can get with a trained professional to help you figure out more precise percentages based on your goals. If you’re wanting to lose weight, your macros will be quite different than when you want to build muscle mass or maintain your current weight.
Counting macros can encourage you to learn a lot about the nutritional content of some of your favorite foods. Although counting and tracking are involved, it’s not just about calories. Instead it provides more insight into whether or not you’re getting the nutrients your body needs in the correct quantities. Nonetheless, just like calorie counting, it can influence preoccupation with numbers and create stress when eating in a less controlled environment.
Intermittent Fasting: Intermittent fasting (IF) involves cycling between periods of fasting and eating. There is less focus on what you eat and more on when you eat. Different cycles exist, but of the most common is a period of 16 hours of fasting and an eight-hour window for eating. The idea behind IF is that allowing hunger, something that we typically avoid, can be advantageous for overall health. It has been linked to improved digestion, encouraging fat burning as a fuel source thereby decreasing belly fat, and because there is no one-size fits all method, it allows some flexibility in choosing your options.
Difficulties associated with this method include ensuring you get all of the nutrients you need as there is less time for eating throughout the day. Getting all of your nutrients in an eight-hour window can be challenging. In addition, you may find that it makes some social events challenging and you may experience some of the negative effects of the hunger such as inattention, attitude and mood swings, etc. in varying degrees.
Each of the fore-mentioned methods of weight loss work. In light of everything that’s popular these days, I believe those discussed are the least controversial and encourage the consumption of real food in mostly appropriate quantities. There is no one-size fits all system, and you’ll have to play around with what works best for you. There are pros and cons on all ends, but regardless of which option you take, you’ll have to create a sustainable system to maintain once you’ve hit goal and here, in my opinion, is where the difficulty truly lies.
If you’re starting from scratch, meaning you have no idea how to eat healthy and nourish your body, there is a good amount of learning that takes place on a good “diet”. You should learn appropriate serving sizes and how to create a balanced meal. In addition, you should also become more informed on which food choices are more satisfying thereby curbing appetite and promoting the consumption of fiber, whole grains, and adequate amounts of protein.
So there, I’ll admit it, “dieting” is not always such an awful thing. Learning how to properly fuel your body is one of the best things you can do and if it starts with a “diet” then so be it!