“Bridget, how do I lose weight?” is one of the most regular questions I receive. There is just SO much information out there in magazines, books, websites, facebook, twitter, ads on tv – it can be completely overwhelming! I hear you, and I want to help!
Firstly, I will just say that most people don’t really want to lose ‘weight’ as such, but they want to look more toned. There are countless examples of people who have changed the composition of their bodies from soft and flabby to toned and fit and yet they weigh the same, or they could weigh more or they could weigh less. Personally, I am again at my heaviest ever weight and yet my body composition (ratio of fat to muscle) is vastly improved from when I was at this weight several years ago. So forget about the scale pretty much, or just use it as a general guide.
Number one factor in toning up – your diet. Nail this and you are 80% there. Whilst I never profess to have all the answers or that my way is the only way to shape up, here is the way my husband and I put together my nutrition plans and the plans of our clients (WHAT???!!! NO CHARGE????!!! YES – I want people to be healthy and happy!). Please note that you need to stick to one plan long enough to actually give it a chance to work, whatever that plan is, and also remember that if you have been a chronic dieter you will have suffered severe metabolic slow down. This may well make it much harder for your body to respond as it should and may mean it takes waaaaaay longer to see results.
To work out your calories per day, times your bodyweight in pounds (kilograms times 2.2) by 12. Easy! Then proportion those calories out as follows: your protein intake should be about 1 – 2.5 grams per kilo of body weight. Great sources of protein are reputable protein powders, grilled chicken breast, eggs and egg whites, beef, turkey, white fish etc). Good fats (a blend of Omega 3s 6s and 9s, olive and coconut oil, nuts, avocado etc) should make up 20% of your calorie intake, and what is left over is for your carb intake. Stick with this calorie target for at least two weeks while your body adjusts and then do an assessment. If your weight/body fat has gone up, re-do your calculations, but this time times your bodyweight by 11.9, stick with it for two weeks and re-assess. Keep doing this until you are achieving the results you want, remembering that patience and consistency are hugely important. Do not go below a times factor of 11. You require a calorie deficit, but not too much of one or it will have extremely negative results on your metabolism.
Unfortunately, being on a low calorie diet for even a small amount of time can result in our hormone levels changing for the worse. Our Thyroid and Leptin output drops, while cortisol increases, all of which reduces or even stops fat loss.
I would actually only recommend you diet (maintain a calorie deficit) for about six weeks at a time before having a two week break at maintenance calories. This should reset everything and enable you to start losing fat again. You will most probably put on a small amount of weight during this time, however most of it will be water and if your body is functioning well it will come off quite quickly when you resume a calorie deficit.
The same principles of re-setting hormones etc have been used in favour of cheat meals/cheat days, with scientific
research appearing to thoroughly support them. However, I believe a Met Boost Day provides the same benefits without the negative mental and emotional effects that cheat meals can bring about. A Met Boost Day is similar to a cheat day except the meals are still structured, so it doesn’t degenerate into a ‘stuff your face until you want to spew’ free for all.
To work out your calorie requirements for your Met Boost Day times your body weight in pounds by 15. (NOTE – This is also how to work out your likely maintenance calories, so if you are happy with where you are, use this multiplication factor.) So if you are 61kg it would be:
61 (kg) x 2.2 (to convert to pounds) x 15 = 2,000 calories
For protein, times 61 x 2.5g = 152 grams of protein per day. Times grams x 4 to get calories of protein = 608 calories from protein
For fat, use 20% of total daily calories, so in this example 20% of 2,000 calories equals 400 calories. Every gram of fat is 9 calories so that equates to 44 grams of fat per day.
So now you have 608 calories of protein and 400 calories of fat to deduct from your daily calorie total of 2,000 which equals 992 calories remaining. Use these remaining calories for your carb intake.
So, some guidelines for your normal daily meals. Firstly, choose how many meals you would like to have per day. Contrary to popularly held belief, the number of meals you have per day doesn’t really matter! Having more meals does not make your metabolism run faster. The main thing is your calories and then to a lesser extent your macro nutrient breakdown of the day’s meals, so just choose the number of meals that suits you and your lifestyle best.
Eat the majority of your carbs when your body can best utilise them – first thing in the morning and during or after training. If you are having carbs outside of training times go for low GI carbs and not starchy ones. Really limit processed food items and always look on the label to see how much sugar the item contains. Remember though that sugar is not necessarily bad, as long as you have it around times of exercise (during or within 2 hours, immediately post workout is best, along with some protein. Limit fat in your post workout meal.).
Eat lots of the cruciferous kinds of vegetables, and especially broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, spinach, cabbage, capsicum, pumpkin etc.
Drink lots of water; three litres is a good start.
Get enough sleep.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Have either a met boost day/meal once a week, or a couple of boost meals throughout the week.
As a general rule, stay away from unsustainable diets. Remember a diet is short term. If dieting has got you into a mess, the same kind of diet will not get you out. You want to be able to sustain your lifestyle choices.
Prolonged, excessive dieting coupled with huge amounts of cardio produces metabolic damage, and we really need to avoid this as much as we possibly can. It can take many, many years to recover from and it is always a horrible journey to do so.
This is your life, not a grinding monotonous existence, so put as much fun and enjoyment in to your days as possible and don’t become an obsessive stress head who thinks that no-one will ever love them unless they are constantly sporting a 6 pack!
The fun part – training – will be covered in a future blog post! I wish you happiness and health.