Exercise is just one part of the weight loss equation. What you eat and how much you eat are important too.
Consider this typical scenario: you got serious with exercise because they told you it would help you lose weight. But after 30 days of continuous, and sometimes gruelling workouts, you haven’t noticed any change. In fact, the scale has just shown that you have added some kilos.
In part one of this series, I explained what you should do to maximise the benefits you get from your exercise program. In this concluding part, we will look at the food part of the weight loss equation because this is where many people get it wrong.
Let’s dive into it!
Why people are getting the food part of the weight loss equation wrong
According to researchers, “there is a compounding factor associated with exercise and weight loss: exercise may boost caloric intake by up to 383 calories a day.”
Some people have taken this to mean that exercise increases appetite. But that is far from the truth. The increase can be attributed to the fact that a lot of people tend to overestimate how many calories they burn during exercise. So they rationalise the need to reward themselves with extra food.
How you can get it right
Losing weight is not hard, but it does require that we change the way we do things. And that includes how, when and what we eat. Food is important because we wouldn’t be able to lift a finger without food, but we should not be eating like elephants if we are working like ants.
Therefore we need to pay attention to the nutrition part of the weight loss equation.
Whether you like to count your calories or not, calories do count. You can’t just eat all you want, when you want and still expect to see any change in your weight.
Four tips for eating right
Know your daily calorie need
How many calories you need per day depends on many factors: your gender, age, weight, height, and activity level. As a rule of thumb, someone who is trying to lose weight should not eat more than 1200-1500 calories per day.
Find a way to account for your food intake
It is common for people to underestimate how much they eat. That is why it is important that you find a way to track your calories. Like someone rightly said, “what can be measured can be managed.” If you can track your food, it will be easy for you to know when things begin to go wrong.
There are different ways to track your calories:
- You can use a calorie counter app like MyFitnessPal
- You can do it manually
Whichever calorie tracking method you use, just be sure it’s close to accurate.
Follow a realistic diet plan
You need a diet plan you can live with forever not a punishment plan that leaves you feeling depressed and miserable all day. Some diet plans are so drastic that when people finish them, they are so eager to go back to the normal way of eating.
Not following a realistic plan can leave you in a perpetual yo-yo cycle where you are always losing weight and gaining it back.
Yo-yo dieters are quick to jump on every new diet plan without thinking about the long-term effect of the diet. Successful losers have good nutrition habits. They are consistent with their eating pattern. They don’t jump on the waggon of every new diet plan that is trending.
Beware of “zero-calorie” foods and drinks
Why would anyone want to eat a zero-calorie food? If it has no calories, then it’s not food. Therefore it shouldn’t be eaten!
I have observed how people are so eager to eat anything that is labelled “low-calorie”, and I have come to this conclusion: many of us eat for pleasure and not for nourishment and energy. If food is meant to supply my body with nourishment and energy, why would I want to eat a thing that doesn’t fulfil these important roles?
Everything costs something. You may not be paying for that zero-calorie food in calorie currency, but have you ever stopped to think about the wreckage some of the ingredients in that food can do to your health?
It’s time we begin to look beyond calories and start paying attention to how what we eat affects our health.
Balance is everything
Finding the right balance between food and physical activity is the best way to lose weight and keep it off.
It’s your turn to get the weight loss equation right. Make it work
Reference: The Energy Balance Equation -IDEA Fitness Journal, March 2012.