Losing weight, it’s up to you how much you spend
Just look at all the fad diets that promise you’ll lose weight: Keto, Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, Cabbage soup, Grapefruit, Whole 30. The list goes on.
They promise you the world. Lose weight with no effort at all. You won’t believe how easy it is. Drop 30 pounds the first month. So on and so on.
And they’re all doing what they’re supposed to do, and it’s not to help you lose weight.
What they do is make the authors boatloads of money. Books, magazines, products, meal plans. All designed to lighten your pocketbook, not necessarily your waistline.
Fad Diet History
Fad diets have been around forever, or at least since the 19th century. Bernarr McFadden promoted that most all illnesses were the cause of “toxins” in the body (sound familiar?) and Fasting was the answer to healthy living.
In the 1830s, Sylvester Graham (yes the cracker guy) determined that calorie rich foods were sinful and God wanted us to eat vegetables and “anti-industrial” foods.
The Hollywood diet
Fad diets really took off around a hundred years later though, when the Hollywood diet became popular. With this one, you were supposed to eat a Grapefruit with every meal along with protein rich foods, essentially it was the first low carb diet.
Then there’s liquid diets where you’re only supposed to drink your meals. The one I remember being so popular back in the 70s was where you drank this protein shake every day instead of eating. Yes, protein shakes can be helpful if you’re a bodybuilder looking to build muscle, but not as a meal replacement.
I recall stories of people having gastrointestinal problems from consuming nothing but protein.
Health risks of fad dieting
Most all of these diets ask you to do one of two things: Either eat just this, or never eat that.
We need all of it.
Our bodies are complex organisms, needing not only energy to run, but other substances that help to keep us going.
No, calories aren’t bad. Too many of them can be, but not enough can be also.
A calorie is simply a measurement of the amount of energy something contains. Yes, I know what we call “Calories” in the US is really “Kilo calories” everywhere else, but for the sake of this article I’m calling them calories.
Every food has a calorie count. Some minuscule (lettuce), some contain mega calories (sugar). But once the food is digested , to our bodies a calorie is a calorie.
We need calories like our vehicles need fuel. Calories are our body’s fuel. And we have basically three sources of them
We’ll start with the evil one. The dreaded carb. The one that so many diets limit now.
One gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories. Thus a tablespoon of sugar, which is about 12.5 grams contains 48 calories. All of the calories in sugar come from carbs.
Although dairy products contain carbohydrates, the majority of carbs are plant based, especially grains.
Carbs metabolize faster than other sources of calories, thus they are good for quick bursts of energy, but since they metabolize fast, all of the calories are absorbed with no work from the body to do so.
If you’re trying to lose weight, limiting carbs is necessary , but understand, we need carbs to keep our bodies running. You don’t get better gas mileage by not putting gas in your car.
This is the one that many of the fad diets want you to eat more of.
Like carbs, one gram of protein contains 4 calories. Protein can be plant or animal based. Peas, beans, and nuts contain protein just as meat, milk, and eggs do.
Protein contains the amino acids that our muscles need. Not just to grow, but to exist.
Proteins are harder to digest so they metabolize slower than carbs. You actually burn some calories digesting many types of protein, not a bunch, but some.
When dieting, reducing carbs and adding more protein can be a good thing, but take care not to get too extreme with it.
Fats contain over twice as many calories than carbs or proteins. 9 calories per gram. Like proteins, fat can be plant or animal based.
I’m not going to get into the saturated / unsaturated thing now. this is about losing weight.
Limiting fats is also a big diet fad. Low fat diets were all the rage until the low carb ones replaced them.
But fats have their benefits as well. One of them is that because they digest slowly they allow other nutrients in foods to be absorbed into our system.
Then there’s fiber. Fiber is a carb, so it’s really not a fourth source of calories. But it is a undigestible carb. It just moves right through you without leaving it’s calories behind. There are many health benefits from eating fiber rich foods, but like the other three, there isn’t a benefit to consuming too much. As a matter of fact, too much fiber can be a problem.
Food is not just fuel for us, it also contains nutrients that we need. Vitamins and minerals. Eliminating a type of food from our diet might mean that we’re not getting something necessary for our health.
The best way to lose weight.
For those of you that are following me at my weight loss blog, you’ll know that like you, I struggle with keeping the weight off. I can say that I have experience with it as I’ve done it a few times.
The best way to lose weight? Actually the only way to lose weight is this: Consume fewer calories than you burn, or burn more calories than you consume.
Get off your ass and quit eating so damn much
That should be the name of this article, but then nobody would read it. That’s not the popular opinion. People want to hear that they can eat anything they want and still lose weight. Sorry, ain’t gonna happen. I could do like the weight loss authors do and promise you that you can lose weight by eating this, not eating that, or drinking something else. Nope, won’t work. Eat less and exercise more. That’s the key to losing weight.
So fad diets don’t work?
I didn’t say that. Most fad diets force you to eat less. So yes, they work. You will lose weight. You may have all sorts of health problems from getting too much of something, or too little of something else, but you will lose weight. Plus you’re spending money on trendy foods and books just so they can tell you to eat less.
Plans like WW, which is what they call themselves now, and Nutrisystem can be an option for some. They help you limit your daily calories and steer you to a balanced diet. The biggest issue is the cost. At the time I’m writing this WW was $20 a month. That’s just for downloading their app. More for their workshop. You can do much better that that. How about free?
Make a plan to lose weight
Make a plan. The best plan is to keep a diary of what you eat. I like MyFitnessPal. It’s an app that helps you decide how many calories you need daily in order to lose weight at your desired rate. For me it’s 2 pounds a week, which means that I need no more that 1,500 calories a day. I can earn more calories by exercising, and my Fitbit syncs with the app. I try not to use these calories, but sometimes I do.
The app (it’s free, there is a paid subscription but you don’t need it) will also help you track the nutrients you’re getting as well. You can set your ratio of carbs to fats to proteins and see as you go through the day where you are. You can also log in on the desktop and use it that way. It all syncs together.
(Note: I receive no compensation from MyFitnessPal or it’s parent company, Under Armour for this recommendation.)
When planning your meal day, start with supper. Figure out how many calories you will be eating and then you know what you can have for breakfast and lunch. That way you don’t wind up either not eating much for supper, or going over your limit.
A 700 calorie supper let’s you have a 300 calorie breakfast and a 500 calorie lunch for example.
Lose weight without having to buy trendy health foods.
There’s no need to shop for the expensive diet foods. And you can ignore those woo pitchers talking about “chemicals” and “artificial ingredients”. See my article on that fable. You can eat anything you want. Just log it in the app so you know what you’re eating. Many times we eat blindly and don’t realize how many calories we’ve consumed that day. Just can’t figure out why we’re not losing weight.
The app has a database of foods and what the calorie and nutritional values are. It connects to the USDA nutritional database but it also has foods from users. And you can add your own.
Use that app, or there are others, or just use a piece of paper. It all comes out the same. Just watch what you eat.
You’ll quickly learn what foods will satisfy your hunger and not eat up too much (pun intended) of your calorie allotment. Vegetables do the trick here. And what foods you have to be careful with (sugar for example).
Bottom line – Lose weight your way and save money
Dieting can be easy or hard, it’s all up to you. But I can promise you this: You have to want to do the things that help you lose weight. It’s not enough to want to lose weight, not enough to have to lose weight, not enough for a doctor to suggest or even tell you that you must lose weight or you’ll die. You have to want to do what it takes to lose weight.
If you want to lose weight but don’t want to do those things you will fail. So it’s best to wait until you’re ready. And when you’re ready you will succeed. And you’ll thank yourself for the new you.