So many of us don’t have the time, desire or energy to do the rigorous amount of exercise required to lose weight as quickly as we’d like to and so often we turn to fad diets or quick weight loss programs that we read in magazines or see on TV. Now if you’re already shaking your head, you or someone you know has probably done one or both before and maybe even frequently! To tell you the absolute truth as a nutritionist, I’ve pretty much heard of every diet there is (good and bad), but as I tell my clients, if there’s a diet plan that sounds too good to be true, and offers an extremely rapid amount of weight loss in a very short amount of time, it probably is.
So starting today, I want all of you to promise me that you will steer clear of any quick weight loss programs that promote pills, laxatives or extreme fasting.
Speaking as a nutritionist, I will never endorse any program (unsupervised) that recommends you to eat less than 1,200 calories per day (unless under a physician or dietitian’s care). The truth is that cutting calories below 1,200 per day is very counterproductive, because you need strong, healthy muscles to be able to exercise effectively, and by increasing your lean muscle tissue this will in turn assist you in burning more calories even at rest!
When you eat too few calories you’ll lose weight but mostly it’s your precious lean muscle as well as water, which is the worst thing you could do because it will slow down your metabolism, making it more difficult to increase exercise intensity or duration. Since your body needs energy to function, if you go on a very low-calorie diet, you’ll cannibalize your lean muscle tissue while storing body fat (adipose tissue), which is why if you jump on the scale it may say you’ve lost weight, but your clothes are fitting tighter! Also, when you finally start eating “normal” again, you will GAIN the weight back AND MORE!
The reason is because you have less muscle mass to burn calories and less muscle means a slower metabolism. So even if you eat the same amount of calories as you did before, you will start gaining weight. It’s really a double-edged sword when you make the decision to go on a crash diet that drastically reduces your overall calories and puts your body in starvation mode.
While there are some good supplements that can increase your results in losing weight and body fat, you still need to get your eating and overall nutritional plan under control and always read the labels! The bottom line is to never let those commercial or photo-shopped pictures convince you that taking a “fat-burning” supplement without changing your diet or exercising is going to give you that banging sexy body!
Laxatives are a straight no-no, unless you are under a physician’s care and have been advised to take them (and this seldom happens).
Okay, so what’s the bottom line? Most weight loss experts, nutritionists and personal trainers all agree that any rapid weight loss diet should be identical to a long-term, sustainable plan and not a fad diet or quick loss program. And fasting or cutting calories below 1,200 per day is not appropriate for the long-term unless you are under a physician’s care.
To get the great results that you want, make sure you:
1. Set your goals in writing and look at them several times a day, especially if you’re feeling discouraged. Remember its going to take some time, but the results are going to be so worth it!
2. Eat 4-6 small meals a day every 2-4 hours (think of this as breakfast, lunch, dinner and 1-2 snacks each day).
3. Consume a wide variety of foods including:
- Vegetables: greens, reds, oranges, yellows and whites (cabbage, spinach, carrots, eggplant, squashes, peppers, cauliflower, etc). Consume fresh, frozen and if not available, canned (but check the label and try to purchase with less/no additional sodium).
- Fruits: Berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries), bananas, oranges, melons, kiwi, apples, lemons, grapefruits, etc. Fresh first, then frozen and finally canned (make sure no additional sugar has been added).
- Lean Protein: fish, turkey and chicken (then lean cuts and skinless if possible), lean beef.
- Other Sources of Protein: beans (black, navy, black-eyed peas, pinto), quinoa, legumes, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or regular yogurt (look for low or nonfat varieties).
- Nuts and Seeds: walnuts, sunflower seeds, Chia, almonds (remember to read the labels for correct servings).
4. Decrease or eliminate all fast, fatty and or fried foods.
5. Drink plenty of pure water. Do cardio 4-6 days a week, 45-60 minutes a day.
6. Strength Training: 2-3 days a week (make sure you hit all muscle groups at least 2 times a week).
7. Start or continue to journal your daily nutritional intake as well as your workouts.
Now that you’re armed and ready to take your nutrition to the next level, bon appetite!