The title of this post is misleading. People can, have and will successfully lose weight using a hundred different strategies as long as they satisfy the basic rules of energy balance. However we can do better than simply aiming to eat smaller portions of crap food.
Outlined below are four of my favorite strategies for simultaneously promoting weight loss and a more positive approach to food. None should come as a surprise. The biochemistry of healthy eating might be complicated but the solutions rarely are.
DRINK MORE WATER - It’s hardly breaking news to learn drinking water and staying hydrated is beneficial to our health. Beyond this obvious physiological fact drinking more water can aid weight loss by displacing the calorie-heavy drinks which have taken such a strong grip on our modern menu. A single cup of orange juice contains over 100 calories derived almost entirely from quickly absorbed sugar which can be consumed in a single gulp. At a rate of three glasses per day this would equate to more than 2000 calories a week, an extra day’s worth of food for many of us. The picture does not get any prettier with other juices, soft drinks, energy drinks, milkshakes and alcoholic beverages. Drinking more water leaves less room for drinking these unnecessary calories.
EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES - Again we all know fruits and vegetables are nutrient-rich and good for us. Importantly from a weight loss stand-point they are also full of water and fiber which make them comparatively sparse in calories. As an example let’s compare a burger and the poster-boy of healthy food, broccoli. Depending on the brand the burger is likely to contain 500-600 calories of processed meat, refined carbs and oils. To eat the equivalent amount of calories you would need to scoff down a whopping 1.47-1.76 kilograms of broccoli. No one would ever voluntarily do this! By devoting more plate real-estate to fruits and veggies we leave less room for energy-dense alternatives. They are still there, just in smaller amounts. The net result is being able to eat satisfying volumes of food without the burden of excessive calorie intakes.
EAT SOME PROTEIN-DENSE FOOD WITH EACH MEAL - Dietary protein is energy-intensive to digest, promotes satiety and has a sparing effect on our valuable muscle tissue. All useful from an effective weight loss standpoint. Without becoming a protein-obsessed-maniac we can take advantage of these physiological benefits by including a sensible portion of protein-dense food with each meal. Examples include meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, beans, pulses and plain yoghurt.
RESTORE THE FED/FASTED BALANCE - The modern western diet has done a lot of things to the way we eat often with deleterious effects. One example is the balance between our fed and fasted states. With effortless access to abundant calories many of us now eat from the moment we wake till the moment we sleep. Unsurprisingly this makes it far easier to overeat. By restoring balance between our fed and fasted states we can reduce the total amount of calories consumed whilst simultaneously promoting an internal environment more conducive to the mobilising and burning of stored body fat. Examples include eating your first meal a little bit later in the morning, eating your final meal a little bit earlier in the evening or reducing the frequency of snacks between meals.
Putting These Habits Into Practice
Whilst great in theory these habits are too vague when it comes to taking action. How much more water? How many more vegetables? Without specific details and goals most of us will struggle to create any meaningful change.
Break them down. Create small, relevant and easily measurable behaviours which tie into the larger habits you are trying to install. For example:
- I will drink one glass of water when I wake up
- I will have two eggs with my breakfast
- I will eat a salad with my lunch
- I will avoid snacking between breakfast and lunch
Then task yourself with completing these small habits everyday. You can always do more but strive never to do less. Success breeds success and by setting the bar low you bypass the need for large reserves of willpower and motivation.
Over time little habits snowball into bigger habits until what once seemed ridiculous and unrealistic becomes automatic and effortless. Hey presto a salad with lunch becomes multiple servings of veggies and fruits throughout the day.
In the words of famous UCLA coach, John Wooden “Don't look for the quick, big improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That's the only way it happens, and when it happens, it lasts.”