In this blog post we will start to dive into another and probably the most important lever when it comes to changing our weight: Changing Our Diet! Or in other words changing the way that we look at HOW we fuel our bodies by analyzing how our bodies react to what we are giving it!
In our previous post about TDEE and the effect that exercise plays in weight changes you may have noticed that with our sample person’s weight change journey we specifically excluded dietary changes but did categorize the amount of kcals needed in both a daily number and a weekly number. We went in with the assumption that the only variable that we were changing was adding 2 hours of exercise (4 exercise units) in order to help that individual reduce his weight down 31 lbs. We also discussed how by just adding the 2 hours of exercise/week that it would take 62 weeks for him to get to his goal weight.
What if I told you there are ways to speed up that process all while giving you more energy and less pain? Let's find out how!
Current research shows that the best way to maintain a weight change is CONSISTENCY! But how do we make sure that we are staying consistent? We do that by making sure that our goals are both REASONABLE and ATTAINABLE! If you are attempting to change your weight, in either direction, the healthiest way of doing so is limiting the caloric changes to around 500 kcals/day. So if you would like to reduce your weight you would be removing 500 kcals/day or 3500 kcals/week and if you are looking to gain weight you would be looking at adding 500 kcals/day or 3500 kcals/week.
Let’s look at the way most Americans have been taught how to eat. Most Americans have been taught that they are “allowed” or “supposed” to eat 3 square meals a day and a snack. And by doing this, they will be able to maintain their ideal weight. (Dividing their caloric intake into 3: 600 kcal meals and a 200 kcal snack assuming a 2000 kcal diet) I’m going to break some news to you that will probably not come as any sort of surprise. It’s not effective for everyone, in fact, I personally do not know of anyone who eats this way and is maintaining a healthy weight, but let's assume there are people out there who can/do. All the power to them, but this post isn’t for them. It's for you, the person who wants to find a way that’s going to help them reach their goals when the other things you’ve tried have not worked.
So what can we do?
We throw that notion right out the door where it belongs! And what we do is we start to look at what is going to work best for you! First things first when it comes to making a dietary change is to first establish what you are eating on average. Current standard practice is documenting what you are consuming for at least a 2 week period. With this we include EVERYTHING that you are EATING, DRINKING, and anything else that you are putting into your body while keeping track of WHEN you are doing it. The previous method of doing this was keeping a food journal for that timeframe but the accuracy of that is oftentimes skewed as most people do not measure their foods accurately. I have personally found that the best way to keep track (in the beginning stages) is to simply take a picture of whatever it is you plan on immediately consuming before it hits your mouth and go from there. This isn’t the most accurate form of tracking exact measurements in terms of calories consumed but what it does provide is insights on what and when you are consuming. Arguably more important in these beginning stages.
What do we do with the information that we’ve gathered?
We take a look at all the photos in that timeframe and we analyze! With this we are taking a look at the CONTENT of what you’re eating. Are you eating a lot of meat, vegetables, fruits, dairy, grains, fast food, cupcakes, snack bars, potato chips, etc? Are you drinking calories? For example milkshakes, sweetened teas, frappuccinos, soda, juice, sweetened and dairy added coffee, etc? Are you drinking water, just plain water with nothing added to it? Are you noticing any mental/physical changes after eating certain foods?
When are you consuming?
Are you eating right when you wake up or right before bed? Are you skipping meals? Are you eating in only a certain window of time? All this information is important and paints a picture of what you are building your body up with and if you are timing the nutritional intake to suit your body's needs. In other words, are you making the most out of what you are eating with the timing that you are eating it? We’ve all heard the phrase at some point in our lives “you are what you eat” and there is so much truth in that statement. What we consume is LITERALLY what our bodies use to build our cells, build our muscles, maintain the strength of our bones, among many other things.
Which leads us to our next point: Is what you are putting into your body causing damage to your body? How would you know?
One of the amazing aspects about all living things is our abilities to adapt! Over time, as far back as when we were children and significantly more plastic (malleable) we are introduced to a multitude of foods without really understanding how those foods are interacting with our systems. Over time our bodies end up “getting used to” the effects that those foods do to our bodies and we start to think that those effects are “normal.”
Have you ever noticed after eating certain foods that your body has some reactions? For example, have you ever had heartburn? Have you ever had a hangover? Have you ever had an allergic reaction? But what if these types of reactions are more subtle and more easy to miss? For example: Have you ever noticed that your joints are acting up after eating a meal? Do you notice that your hair/skin/nails are dry and brittle? Do you ever feel tired after eating something specific? These examples are all ways that your body is telling you that what you’re putting in your body is not right. We do not have the ability to have our bodies send a text saying. “Hey, I don't like this, stop!” and as such we all need to start paying better attention to the signals that our bodies are telling us about what we put into it.
Jumping back to the beginning of this blog post we discussed a little bit about changing the amount of calories that were eating. That’s all and good and we will be discussing sustainable ways to do that further out but, what I like to have people focus on first when it comes to making dietary changes is not the amount that you’re eating or the calories associated with it, but instead the quality of what you are putting into your body and how your body is reacting to it! Getting healthy is more focused on what you are doing to build yourself up than it is on cutting things out! By listening and learning what your body is telling you about what you’re putting into it is the first step someone should take when making REASONABLE and ATTAINABLE long term changes to your weight.
In our future posts we will be discussing how we can use the information gathered here to further fine tune our diets and figure out how to best move forward in your weight change journey!