How To Diet Successfully
Whilst lots of people go on diets and make good early progress, too often they quickly rebound back to where they started.
When choice is involved, eating a starvation diet isn’t something your body wants to do - from an evolutionary biology standpoint we want to at the very least eat enough to maintain our current weight, if not increase our fat stores incase hard times fall upon us.
So although the benefits of reducing bodyfat to a healthy level are widely known to all, losing weight does work against nature in our current environment (surplus of food), so we must develop effective strategies to do it – here are some:
Find your energy requirements
The easiest way to do this is via BMR calculator, which calculates your Basal Metabolic Rate by just entering your height, weight and age – from there you can use an activity multiplier (Harris Benedict Formula) to determine your average daily caloric expenditure (caloric consumption required to maintain current weight).
Below are some online BMR calculators:
Whilst it is generally a good ball park figure, from there it is upto you to experiment with your caloric intake and see what happens to your weight.
Alternatively, you can use a bodybugg, which measures how many calories you burn via a formula derived from motion, skin temperature and conductivity sensors.
For sustainable fat loss with minimal muscle loss, it is generally recommended you shoot for a caloric intake of 500 less than your maintenance.
Keep in mind when you decrease your weight, your BMR also decreases – the opposite is true if you increase your weight.
Develop effective eating principles
Whilst following a diet meal for meal as per prescribed can be an effective way of doing things as it eliminates choice, it isn’t a realistic possibility for most – the best way around this is developing a set of principles that lead to effective eating, here are some ideas:
- Eat a high protein food source at every meal (protein rich foods lead to a high level of satiety, it is the most essential nutrient and also the most thermic nutrient)
- Eat at least 2 serves of vegetables at every meal or fill 2/3 of plate with vegetables (vegetables are very calorie sparse, not to mention rich in essential vitamins and minerals)
- Only consume non caloric beverages (drinking calories is an easy way to increase your caloric consumption rapidly)
- Eat small bites of food and chew them for more than 10s before swallowing (eating slower tends to lead to less being eaten, it also allows easier digestion and greater enjoyment of food)
- Keep daily carbohydrates under 100g (whilst I’m not of the opinion that carbohydrates are the devil, they are very easy for many to over-consume due to most sources having relatively low satiety).
If you're having trouble, renowned nutritionist John Berardi has laid out his 7 Habits of Highly Effective Nutritional Programs.
Record what you eat
Measure your progress
Don’t just use the scales - use other tools like:
- Circumferences (take measurements of multiple areas of your body including - waist, hips, chest, shoulders, arms, legs)
- Bodyfat testing (skinfold calipers, BodPod, Bioelectrial impedence, hydrostatic weighing)
- Progress photos (I recommend taking photos at the beginning and every 2-4 weeks – keep conditions constant - same day per week, same time of day, same lighting, same pose(s) - for best effect put your before photo up in a prominent place that you visit often)
Find someone who is at a similar level to you who you can battle it out with and see who drops the most bodyfat percentage and/or total inches – perhaps you can have a prize for the winner or a shameful dare the loser has to partake in for good humour.
If you can’t find anyone locally, try online – communities like Bodybuilding.com have a massive amount of members that you can interact with.
Another alternative is to diet for an event whether it be a sports game, big pool party, a friend’s wedding or a pre-booked professional photo shoot (for long term success, make sure you have lots of events where you are on show throughout the year) or perhaps place a bet with a friend or family member.
Take time off
A lot of people make the mistake of eating too strictly and expecting to – whilst for some very headstrong people this isn’t an issue, for many others it isn’t a realistic expectation.
Whether you use the cheat day strategy or incorporate John Berardi’s eat well 90% of the time principle both are valuable from a psychological standpoint.
Using a cheat day strategy also has physiological benefits in stopping the body’s metabolic processes from down-regulating (low levels of leptin) as it does on a low calorie diet and slowing fat loss.
Start with micro changes like replacing soft drinks with water or unsweetened teas – this immediately reduces more than 100 calories from your diet (a 375mL can of coke has 155 calories FWIW) and work your way towards making bigger changes over time.
If you have any other tips that you have found effective for successful dieting, please share them with everyone in the comments below.
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