Let’s face it: Most “diets” are miserable — but it doesn’t have to be that way! Today we’re talking about how to avoid the constant misery while losing weight, but more importantly, how to do it in a way that’s sustainable, satisfying, and will leave you wondering why you didn’t do this sooner!
1) Count your macros – especially protein!
There’s no way around it — losing weight means you need to count your calories. But calorie-counting by itself tends to leave most people hungry (so when you say “calorie counting” people’s minds are filled with visions of hunger and torture).
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Balancing your food to get the right amount of protein, carbs, and fat in your diet isn’t just important to help you lose weight, it’s also the key to not feeling hungry all day long. Protein, especially, is not only the key ingredient to turning your body into a fat-burning machine, but it will stick in your belly longer and keep you feeling full.
As a general rule, you should be eating at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound that you weight. (In other words, if you weigh 250lbs, you should be eating roughly 200 grams of protein per day). Try to divide this up evenly between each of your meals, and you’ll likely never feel hungry.
2) Fiber with carbs – always.
If you’re going to eat carbs, eat the kind that are bundled with fiber. (Most vegetables, for example, are LOADED with carbs, but also packed with fiber). Not only does the fiber stick in your belly for a while (keeping you from feeling full), but it also decreases the glycemic effect of the carbs. (If you’re not sure what that means, it’s a fancy way of saying it eliminates most of the negative effects that carbs have on your body, which ultimately sabotage your weight loss efforts).
In short: Carbs bundled with fiber are GOOD! They’ll give you a healthy boost of energy, without the ‘crash’ that comes afterward.
(And this is why people doing a ‘keto’ based diet can subtract any carbs that are bundled with fiber. Effectively, using the keto approach, the carbs themselves don’t count — although the calories still do).
3) Track what you eat
This may seem strange in the context of taking a weight-loss plan and making it something you can live with — but tracking your food is the single best way to keep yourself honest about the volume of food you’re putting in your mouth. Science has proven again and again that when people know how many calories are in the food they’re eating, they eat less food. And this, in turn, leads to a better chance at weight-loss success.
If you don’t know how many calories are in the food you’re about to eat, DON’T EAT IT UNTIL YOU DO! No guessing. (You WILL guess wrong). With apps like MyFitnessPal, and the fact that almost all restaurants publish their nutrition information, there’s zero excuse for eating something without knowing how many calories are in it.
If it goes in your mouth, write it down. Keep yourself honest an accountable. Do this all the time. Forever more. Even when you’re not in “weight loss mode”.
Being an adult means you have to keep track of certain things. Like where your kids are, or how much money is in your bank account, or when the mortgage is due. Keeping track of the food you eat is a critical way to keep yourself accountable for your health.
4) Push the pause button for special occasions
There is nothing wrong with pausing your weight-loss journey for a special occasion. (A night out with friends, a vacation, or a holiday meal). In fact, if you don’t do this on a semi-regular basis, the long-term effects can be pretty discouraging. The secret is to do it in a responsible way.
First, you should be having a cheat-meal on a regular basis (once a week, twice a month, etc.) — I talk a lot about how to incorporate cheat-meals into your plan here.
But what about pushing the pause button for a more extended period of time? For example, maybe you’re about to head out on a 2-week family vacation.
The answer is simple: During your 2-week vacation, switch to “maintenance” mode. Or, in other words, your goal switches from losing weight to simple not GAINING weight. Return from your vacation with the scale +/- 1lb of where you left, and you’ve won! Typically, this means you will keep eating healthy, keep tracking your food, keep your ratios in-tact, order the healthy choices from the restaurant menu, keep the meals light, etc.. but you’re going to eat more calories, and indulge in the OCCASIONAL treat (for example, you might choose one or two nights to split a dessert).
“But I’m on vacation. I want to be able to eat whatever I want!!” — is a fancy way of saying, “I’m not grown up enough to make responsible choices for myself.” Looking back on vacations I took turing my fat days, I can honestly say I don’t really remember much of what I ate. I especially don’t look back and think, “Boy, that vacation just wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t ordered dessert”. It’s not worth undoing several months of hard-work over a vacation.
Learning to “live a little” without gaining weight is a critical component of being a healthy, normal adult. Find the balance, and you’ll find that you actually enjoy the vacation more without the gut-bombs wrecking your afternoons and evenings!
5) Eating healthy means you can eat more food
It’s true — if the food is healthy, you can eat more of it before you reach your calorie limits. A huge salad, for example, will FEEL like a lot more food than a grilled cheese sandwich, but will probably have half the calories. (although watch out for hidden calories in salads..)
If you enjoy food, sticking to the healthier things on the menu means you get to enjoy MORE of it without the negative consequences!
6) Find a rhythm and stick to it
Once you find a set of meal plans that you’re comfortable with (food and snacks you like that don’t leave you starving between meals), there’s nothing wrong with pushing the ‘repeat’ button and establishing a routine around those foods. If you eat EXACTLY the same meal plan every monday, and it’s food you really like to eat, is that so bad?
Meal planning can be really difficult, but it’s definitely something you have to learn to do if you intend to have long-term success. Even still, most people who successfully lose a large amount of weight find a dozen or so different meals they really like, and just rotate through them. Getting tired of one? Swap it out — but don’t think you need to be captain-creative every day. Find something that works, and stick to it!
This goes for your workout routines as well. Nobody likes getting up early to hit the gym, but if it’s part of your routine, if it’s baked into what you do, you’ll find you’ve always got the time. You don’t skip meals — you re-schedule them. (“6pm works. We’ll just do dinner an hour later.”).. So never skip the gym, either.
“But I hate the gym! I hate eating healthy!”. We all hate the gym, and we’d all love to eat junk food all day. We also all hate going to work, but we do it anyway, because it’s part of being a grown-up and maintaining a certain quality of life.