A lot of times I’ve heard people say that they want to lose weight and say that they’ll soon make the time to work out. I think there are a lot of people in general that have the misconception that working out is what will make us lose the weight. We seem to place a higher value of importance to physical activity than we do to nutrition when thinking about weight loss.
The truth is that NUTRITION is the single most important area that you have COMPLETE CONTROL over when entering a weight loss phase. Don’t get me wrong, physical activity is important. It’s wonderful for the body for very many reasons, but nutrition is king when comparing these two. About 80% of what impacts your weight loss comes from what you put on your plate. Remember that.
Let’s talk about what I believe are the three main areas that affect our weight:
- Physical Activity
- Certain medical conditions or hormonal imbalances
Nutrition and physical activity are the two areas where you have control over. You have complete control as to the choices you make for your diet, the amount you consume, the time you spend (or not) on physical activity… you get the point.
On the other hand, when you have a medical condition or hormonal imbalance, you will need professional help and you will need to be more persistent if your condition makes it harder for you to lose weight.
As women age, our hormone levels begin to change and they are no longer running at optimal levels. Therefore, our bodies are less efficient at burning the calories we consume. These factors are NOT completely under your control and you will need assistance from a medical professional if you want your body to function at its optimal level. But for today, I will only focus on nutrition. I’ll come back to talk about this important topic (and controversial) at another time.
Back to the subject of Nutrition. In order to improve your chances of success at losing weight, and actually keeping it off, you must:
UNDERSTAND THE CALORIC & NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF THE FOODS YOU EAT & DRINK.
Fundamentals of Nutrition
- Calories In Vs. Calories Out
Food is FUEL for your body, in the same way that gasoline is the fuel to your car. Without fuel, neither will run. Calories are the amount of energy released when your body breaks down the food. Very simply put, our bodies burn calories at rest and through normal daily, and planned, physical activity. Whatever calories aren’t burned, they are converted and stored as fat.
With everything else held constant, remember this:
*If you consume MORE calories than your body burns, you will GAIN weight.
*If you consume the SAME calories as your body burns, you will MAINTAIN your weight.
*If you consume LESS calories than your body burns, you will LOSE weight. This is where you are in a CALORIE DEFICIT and where you want to be, for a period of time, in order to lose the weight.
I know I have oversimplified this topic, but this is the cliff notes version of what you need to remember as a basic understanding of how food fuels your body and how nutrition is key to dialing in your overall weight.
Key point: Take the time to understand the caloric value of the foods you consume. You will see food differently after this.
2. Three Essential Macronutrients + One More
All food contains macronutrients and micronutrients. For this discussion, we will only be looking at the main drivers that we use for energy to fuel our bodies: The Macronutrients and the calories per gram for each of those.
- Fats (9 calories per gram)
I’m going to start with Fat because out of the three main macronutrients, it’s the one with the most calories per gram, and thus satiates your body more than protein or carbs. Many people want to cut out all fats from their diet, but the reality is that fats are essential to your diet. Fats help regulate hormones in the body. But for the most part, they need to be consumed in moderation! Be very careful to NOT overconsume fats due to their high caloric value (9 calories per gram).
Recommendation: For your fat intake, stick to healthy fats like those found in avocado, almond butter and coconut or olive oil.
- Protein (4 calories per gram)
Protein is very good at keeping you properly satiated and has some very important properties for muscle health as well. As we age, we all begin to lose muscle mass. This condition is known as Sarcopenia. Women start losing some muscle mass starting in their 30’s at a rate of about 3%-10% per decade, depending on the person. By eating proper amounts of protein, your feeding your muscle to slow down that process.
A good rule of thumb is to eat about 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. However, this is up to you, but I do recommend that you eat protein with every meal. In order to keep your body strong for the longest time possible, you need to maintain proper muscle mass. Think of it as the daily vitamin for your muscle!
Recommendation: Protein is typically found in fish, chicken, pork, red meat, and eggs. However, for vegan/vegetarian options, you can find it in peas, most beans, lentils, quinoa, etc. There are also other protein supplements in the market for any lifestyle.
- Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)
Carbohydrates provide the quickest form of energy to the body by changing it 100% into glucose. This is what gives you that quick boost of energy. Glycogen is used by the body, but any extra glycogen is turned into fat.
a. Complex Carbs
These are the most satiating of the carb family. This is where you find your vegetables, whole grains, bread, rice and potatoes.
b. Simple Carbs
Simple carbs include everything that contains some form of sugar. This is where you find candy, sugary drinks and juices, and syrups.
Recommendation: I would recommend that you stick to complex carbs when trying to get into a caloric deficit. Include lots of vegetables and even moderate amounts of grains, rice and potatoes at the beginning. As you go deeper into your caloric deficit, you can cut out the grains, rice and potatoes and stay with the vegetables in order to reduce your calorie intake.
Let’s have a chat about sugars. I for one LOVE dessert! For a weight loss phase, you have to cut most of it out. In the beginning, you should find a replacement such as dark chocolate, dark chocolate covered almonds, or a piece of fruit to help you with the cravings. I really believe that giving yourself a small reward that you can fit into your weight loss nutrition plan, will help you keep moving forward with your program.
Recommendation: For weight loss though, avoid desserts that you can’t figure out what caloric value they have. One dessert might not look like much, but that dessert could have an amount of calories equal to those that you can consume in a day. It defeats the purpose and you will not improve.
- Alcohol (7 calories per gram)
The plus one is alcohol! This is really a NON-ESSENTIAL Macro, but I know that some of us wish it were, right?! It really has no nutritional value. The only value that it has is that we like how it tastes and/or makes us feel. That said, you need to limit your intake if you want to lose weight. At 7 calories per gram, it is up there close to fat when it comes to calorie load. Sad but true.
Recommendation: Most of your calories should come from food for proper body nourishment. However, if you like to enjoy some drinks, lower your daily/weekly consumption to 25% of what you’re used to drinking pre-weight loss journey. The key is to keep you committed and engaged, so dial it in for your weight loss phase.
After this discussion, you now know the caloric value per gram, for each macronutrient. Why is it important? Because you can now begin to measure your daily Average Calorie Intake and begin crafting a plan to get into a Calorie Deficit!
If you’re scratching your head right now and asking how you’re going to do this… don’t worry! I’ll cover this on my next blog post. I’ll give you practical tips on how to go about doing this, so sign up to get my post when I release it!
Anyhow, I want you stop demonizing food by labeling it as either good or bad. It’s just that certain foods are better for you than others when the goal is to lose weight.
Having a basic understanding of the caloric and nutritional value of your food is key to success. I SERIOUSLY CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH!
That’s it for today ladies. Until next time, I wish you have a strong and healthier life!