Eat & Move

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Food - Pic­tures: Leah Bar­bour

This week I’m ex­plain­ing the sim­plest ap­proach to weight loss. Recipe-wise I’m fo­cus­ing on Hal­loween treats.

The world of weight-loss is a mine­field. With so many diet prod­ucts and nu­tri­tion plans avail­able it can be dif­fi­cult to know where to start.

First, I think it’s im­por­tant to re­alise that de­spite what many mar­ket­ing cam­paigns may tell you, when it comes to los­ing weight be­ing in a calo­rie deficit is key. It’s less about meal fre­quency, food in­tol­er­ances, in­sulin, gut health or sugar and more about calo­ries in ver­sus calo­ries out.

To cre­ate a calo­rie deficit, and hence lose weight, we need to be con­sum­ing less calo­ries than we ex­pend. We can do this by de­creas­ing calo­ries in (from food and drink) or in­creas­ing calo­ries out (mainly through an in­crease in phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity). I would per­son­ally rec­om­mend a com­bi­na­tion of the two from a qual­ity of life and sus­tain­abil­ity per­spec­tive.

To make los­ing weight more con­fus­ing, ev­ery­where we look there is a new diet claim­ing to have found the magic so­lu­tion to your weight-loss is­sues. In re­al­ity all they have likely done is come up with a new method for re­duc­ing your calo­rie in­take. Whether this re­duc­tion comes from count­ing syns, cut­ting out carbs or only eat­ing ‘clean’ foods is largely ir­rel­e­vant. In fact, stud­ies have shown that as long as calo­ries (and pro­tein in­takes) are con­trolled then other vari­ables like the num­ber of meals you eat each day, whether you eat early in the morn­ing or late at night, the type of ex­er­cise you do and even the types of foods you eat have lit­tle ef­fect on fat loss.

Here are some tips that might help in achiev­ing your fat loss goals: 1 ) H i t y o u r p r o t e in tar­gets I would rec­om­mend aim­ing for 20-30g at each meal (a chicken breast, a scoop of pro­tein pow­der or 2 eggs for ex­am­ple). This is im­por­tant be­cause ad­e­quate pro­tein can help pre­vent mus­cle loss and max­imise fat loss when los­ing weight. It’s also sa­ti­at­ing so can help keep you feel­ing fuller. Do­ing a food di­ary for a few days or track­ing your con­sump­tion on an app such as my fit­ness pal will help you get your head around por­tions. 2) Fo­cus on good food sources While you can cer­tainly lose weight eat­ing your calo­ries from pick & mix or McDon­ald’s, it’s a ter­ri­ble idea for long term health. By swap­ping high sugar, high fat pro­cessed foods which tend to be hyper palat­able and easy to over­con­sume for whole­foods higher in fi­bre and pro­tein you may feel fuller for longer and have more en­ergy. This in turn can make ad­her­ence and cre­at­ing a deficit a lit­tle bit eas­ier. Re­ally fo­cus on the foods that keep you full and make you feel bet­ter long term. 3) Aim to move more NEAT (non ex­er­cise ac­tiv­ity ther­mo­ge­n­e­sis) is a key area to fo­cus on. It can ac­count for any­where from 15-50% of our to­tal en­ergy ex­pen­di­ture each day and in­cludes all ac­tiv­ity out­side of planned ex­er­cise like park­ing fur­ther from the en­trance or get­ting off the bus a stop ear­lier. I mon­i­tor this ev­ery­day with my Fitbit. I aim for 10,000 steps a day which is no easy task! 4) Qual­ity of life mat­ters Di­ets only work if you can stick to them. If some­one gives you a plan that you can’t see your­self do­ing l o n g term then it’s point­less. Build in things you love to make the healthy changes more en­joy­able and sus­tain­able. If a diet or a plan is very re­stric­tive on ac­tiv­i­ties you love then you’ll find it tough. I love to eat out so I al­ways work this into my ap­proach to food. 5) Look at the big pic­ture Fac­tors like sleep and stress can have a huge im­pact on how we func­tion. They can make our over­all diet and lifestyle more or less con­ducive to weight loss. These habits can help to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment for in­creased health and a sus­tain­able calo­rie deficit for weight loss. Sleep de­pri­va­tion in­creases hunger lev­els and makes it more dif­fi­cult to make healthy choices when we eat. Stress can trig­ger cer­tain re­sponses to food choices. Keep­ing a food di­ary and record­ing mood around eat­ing habits can be very help­ful to iden­tify your trig­gers.

The take home mes­sage from the above points is that weight loss isn’t an easy road for most. It takes a com­mit­ment to a long term sus­tain­able method. My ad­vice would be do not pick a diet that doesn’t suit your lifestyle or pref­er­ences. The only thing more im­por­tant than a calo­rie deficit is con­sis­tency. Don’t get dis­heart­ened with the process, you’re in it for the long term Fit­spi­ra­tion Mood­watch­ers Shane Martin is a char­tered psy­chol­o­gist and pub­lic speaker. I re­cently shared a stage with him at a health and well­be­ing event. He is one of the most in­ter­est­ing peo­ple I’ve heard talk­ing on the area of men­tal health and the im­por­tance of be­ing con­nected. Be sure to check him out on Face­book and if you ever get the op­por­tu­nity go hear him speak.

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