Top Diet Tips For Sustainable Weight Loss
When we look at weight loss programmes, we are often in awe at the progress photos and the numbers on the scale. We see amazing results and the person losing the weight is often incredibly proud of themselves. And so they should be.
Would you be surprised to learn that when we analyse weight loss programmes over time, we find that most people regain the weight they lost?
On average, in the two years post diet, more than half of the weight that was lost, is regained. In the five years post diet, more than 80% of the weight lost, is regained.
The real kicker? 90% of people who lose weight on a diet programme, will regain what they lost, over time. (i)
🤔 So, is there any point in dieting?
👉 Honestly, no there isn’t.
But obesity rates are growing year on year and with the range of health issues it is associated with, it’s something we need to tackle.
🧐 But how?
It’s much better to make lifestyle changes; when and how you eat and how you move becomes part of your lifestyle – how you change in shape and size continues alongside this lifestyle.
❓How Do Diets Work?
Most diets are largely based on cutting out major food groups. You may see low carb diets, low fat diets or if you’re unlucky enough to try the cabbage diet, you’ll also be cutting out friend groups as they can’t tolerate your gas any longer!
When you cut out a food group, you are, often without realising reducing your caloric intake. The weight loss that results is based on the typical CICO model, calories in vs. calories out. This is based on the idea that any excess calories eaten are converted to fat, and any shortfall of calories results in you using fat as energy.
👉 Which biologically is true.
When we eat, food is digested and then utilised in the body; if we don’t use carbs or fats straight away, then they are converted into fatty tissue around the body, as a reserve for later use. Protein, is largely excreted if we don’t use it, but if we are running low on our energy stores, then protein stored in muscles can be broken down and used for energy too!
So, if we aren’t ingesting enough nutrients to sustain our body functions, it will turn to our stored fat and break it down, which results in weight loss.
Evolutionarily, this was necessary because we would often experience feast or famine. We could eat when food was in abundance and store it for when it wasn’t. To an extent, easy fat gain would be an evolutionary advantage.
But, in most Western countries, we’re not hunting our next feast; we can just pop to the supermarket whenever we feel a bit peckish.
We live in abundance – and food companies want to sell, which is why they have developed the bliss point. This is where added salt, sugar and fat have reached optimal tastiness levels. This makes most foods moreish, and, evolutionarily, when the going is good, we keep going (eating that is!).
It is this evolutionary aspect that contributes somewhat to weight gain.
It seems that there are glitches involved in satiety genes. Leptin is released from fat cells, and it tells the rest of the body that fat cells exist – this feedback tells us that we are satiated – we have enough energy for a rainy day, so we can stop eating.
But these glitches result in a leptin deficiency – in short, the fat cells aren’t telling anyone that they are there, so the body doesn’t think it has any and so we keep eating to build our rainy-day stores. (ii)
This isn’t a cop out – but it shows us how complex weight gain and loss can be and that a quick 12-week plan probably isn’t considering everything it should.
Another thing to consider with fad diets is how the microbiome has been seen to play a role in weight gain, and loss.
The microbiome is a collection of bacteria and more, found in our gut. It has links with how we feel and behave, our immune function and not surprisingly, our shape and size.
It is thought that the collection of microbes found in our gut influences energy balance in the body; this includes energy expenditure and storage.
👉 Like most things, we first found this in animal studies.
When the microbiota from obese mice was transplanted to lean mice, those lean mice became obese. In addition, when transplanted with a lean microbiota, obese mice became lean.
We are not suggesting that you should undergo a microbiota transplant, but instead, tend to your own microbiota health. For example, the use of chronic antibiotics has been linked to obesity in humans. As we know, antibiotics kill all microbes. In life, and in our gut, we have both good and bad bugs. We need to create a supportive environment for the good bugs and try to keep a limit on the bad bugs.
Good bugs love fibre, its what they feed on! And this is where many fad diets can cause issues. Fibre is an indigestible carbohydrate in technical terms; so, if you remove carbs from your diet, you often remove large quantities of fibre.
Fibre can’t be digested by our human digestive tract, so it finds its way to our large intestine. When it arrives, it’s broken down by the bugs in our gut and in the process, produces a number of compounds that support our health. But it is the food of the good bugs, so we really need to include it if we want to support out microbiota.
We hope that by now you have realised that most diets work on the concept of CICO, which is calories in vs. calories out. For the most part, this often results in weight loss, but weight gain and therefore loss can be so much more complex, which is why any weight lost, is regained within years.
So, how can weight loss be more sustainable?
💥 Consider your Genes
It is clear that there are genetic predispositions to weight gain. However, the science is clear, these gene glitches do not result in obesity without the exposure to an obesogenic environment.
In short, our environment affects whether these genes become an issue for us. Genes can’t be changed, it’s what we’re born with, but we can work with them for better or worse.
These genes become a problem in an obesogenic environment, which is one that promotes weight gain. This can be because we are surrounded by fast food outlets, or don’t have access to healthy food choices, we may have limited access to physical activity or live with people who don’t have the same outlook on health.
Can you avoid fast food outlets? Is your family supportive of your health goals?
If we understand the impact of our environment on our weight status, we can work with it.
💥 Support Your Gut Health
Out gut health is so intertwined with every function in our body, if we are trying to improve our health it’s a great place to start. Even more so when we can see links between weight status and how our bugs are feeling.
Fibre is your friend, it feeds those microbes in the gut and it also supports movement of food. In addition, fibre often makes us feel fuller for longer, so it can sometimes reduce snacking.
Aim for 30g of fibre per day.
👉 Sources of Fibre:
40g oats – 3.1g fibre count
1 slice rye bread – 3.6g fibre count
½ cup quinoa – 5.6 fibre count
70g broccoli – 2.8g fibre count
160g new potatoes – 2.9g fibre count
80g beans – 3.3g fibre count
64g raspberries – 4.3g fibre count
1 medium pear – 4.3g fibre count
28g almonds – 4.5g fibre count
96g red lentils – 4.7g fibre count
½ tin green lentils – 9.2g fibre count
1 cup cannellini beans – 7.2g fibre count
How are you getting your 30g a day?
💥 Change your Outlook!
Most diets are built on the idea of restriction. You reduce caloric intake, or you remove certain food groups.
When you lose the weight and reintroduce those foods (because of course you will, holidays are meant to be enjoyed) you will likely regain the weight.
Most diets don’t help us understand why we have piled on those extra pounds, so this is essential.
When we are hungry, we think we need to eat more, but maybe we’re just not eating what our bodies need.
Maybe we just need to eat better.
Do you have veg with every meal?
Do you eat enough protein?
Do you eat enough good fats?
To know how and what you eat, use your hand:
Your palm should be your protein source per meal.
Your fist should be your veggie intake.
A cupped hand should be your carb intake.
And for good fats, use your thumb.
If you are a man, use both hands per meal and if you are a woman, just use one hand. This is a guide, but a great place to start.
💥 Give your body what it needs!
It’s easy to get into a challenging relationship with food when we diet. We see foods as bad and good. Perhaps a more appropriate way to look at them is to consider what they provide for your body.
A piece of cake brings a large quantity of sugar to the table, with little vitamin and mineral content.
A roasted carrot salad brings a range of vitamins and minerals, along with some friendly fibre too! Topped with some goats cheese and you’ve got a protein and fat hit as well! This meal is giving your body plenty of compounds to function as it should.
However, if you’re out for dinner with a friend and you really fancy that slice of cake; if you’ve given your body a day full of nourishing food to help it do its thing, the lack of nutrition in the cake isn’t so much of an issue, you’ve just got to take the hit with the calories.
Any weight change must be sustainable and restricting certain food groups for the rest of your life is hardly that. We will all want to eat cake again, and if we can fuel our bodies well, then cake with friends shouldn’t have to become an issue.
We hope you can see how complex weight gain and loss can actually be and why it’s important to understand the real reasons why we sometimes struggle. Our perspective and outlook are the most sustainable ways to maintain our ideal weight; along with creating a lifestyle where we know how to nourish our body.