So, you have decided to try and shed a few pounds, get rid of a little bit of the belly, possibly the hips? Great!
When carrying a few extra pounds, weight loss can do great things for your mental health and confidence but also decrease stress on various other systems within the body like the heart and blood vessels.
The problem for most people is how they go about accomplishing this goal. But hey, it isn’t your fault. Popular media tends to emphasize the need to reduce food intake to levels that leave most individuals starving on their so called ‘sustainable’ meal plan. Although calorie intake or food intake does need to be adjusted more often than not, the new diet cannot and absolutely should not leave you feeling hunger pangs all day long.
And here is why.
Your body is a very smart and highly engineered system. We have various systems and processes in place in our bodies to make sure they respond to the things they need too like hunger.
Believe it or not, when you feel hungry, it is your body telling you it needs energy to maintain vital processes, like digestion, blood flow, thinking etc. All the stuff we don’t have a whole lot of control over. The issues arise when hunger is ignored.
The body is telling you to feed it, when you ignore this it plays its own unique little trick to reduce the calories it burns. And no, I don’t mean you will exercise less, I mean it will lower your metabolic rate. This is the energy required to run processes and activities in your body you have absolutely no control over. This is bad.
Elite level endurance athletes actually make use of this process to allow them to run faster during races, or bike further. But for someone who wants to boost the metabolism, this is not a good goal. So, we have it clearly defined now that feeling hungry isn’t a good thing.
Well how do we modify the diet to make sure you stay satisfied while not eating too much food causing more weight gain?
Your foods you eat play a big role, so calories are important but the quality of the calories is almost more important than the total. There is a hierarchy in satisfaction between the major food categories – protein is the most satisfying, fats are next and carbs are dead last. Now, I am not telling you to go out and eat a huge steak, the goal is moderation.
Each meal should contain a quality source of protein and fats (beef, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs etc.) and also a good serving of nutrient-rich carbohydrates.
Nutrient-rich carbohydrates are vegetables. Fruits are ok but are high in sugar. Things like bread and pastas are not nutrient-rich and more calorie-dense. Therefore the more you can reduce these items in your diet and replace them with low calorie veggies that are filling from the space they occupy is an ideal way toward weight loss. Healthy fats can also come from things like avocado, nuts and seeds and olive oil.
Another trick to staying full is making sure the stomach has something in it.
We all know drinking water is important, so why not make sure you have lots of water throughout the day as well. This sets off stretch receptors in the stomach that can help reduce hunger pangs, just like the veggies that are lower in calories than bread but take up lots of space.
The final key to weight loss is good variety in your diet. Mix things up!
Make sure you don’t over consume any type of macro (protein, fat or carb) or also specific types of foods within them. So veggies are good, but only carrots and sugar peas means your sugar intake will still be high and therefore not ideal for getting you the weight loss you desire.
The key lies in good balance, like in all areas of life. Meals should have each major food source represented and leave you feeling satisfied. As we know now, when we get hungry and don’t respond to those signals, we end up having to do even more work on the treadmill just to stay weight stable. Not good.
So make sure your diet has good variety, and no one type of food or specific food is over emphasized. This will lead you to success on your endeavour toward a lower bodyweight and more important, body fat percentage.
Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.