Why does this matter? Welll, nutrition plays as strong of a role in your success as exercising does. Its a known fact that to lose weight we need to ingest less calories than we expend through energy use. To maintain, we need to ingest the same amount of calories we expend through energy use. And to put on weight, or lean mass/size, we need to ingest more calories than we expend through energy use. Seems simple, right? Well it is. Sort of.
The more weight you have to lose, the quicker you will lose it. This is great for people just getting starting. The scales show progress quickly! And, usually lots of progress! But then the plateau comes. The scale stops moving so quickly, or stops moving at all. Common sense tells us that we are building muscle. So as fat is lost, it is replaced by muscle, thus making the scale move down more slowly, or not at all. And eventually, in come cases it will move back up. This is why it is important to base health goals on your percent of body fat (body compostition), level of overall health and the way your clothes fits. Not just the number on the scale.
The reason manypeople see a plateau is living in a state of calorie reduction that is too extreme. I cant tell you how many people come to me eating 1000 or 1200 calories a day!! Id be STARVING!! Your caloric intake needs to align with your energy expenditure in relation to your goals. But…. now hear me out. If your calorie intake stays too low for too long, your body adapts. It becomes effecient at running on minimal fuel. It goes into starvation mode (and panics) and holds onto every ounce of fat it possibly can. This then triggers more cortisol (the stress hormone). And we all know cortisole reduces our ability to burn fat and lowers our energy levels. Its the bodys method of self preservation. And makes losing fat almost impossible.
When the body isnt getting enough fuel, basic survival needs set in and the body adjusts accordingly. The body’s job is to stay alive, thats it. So if you maintain a grossly low calorie diet for too long, your body starts shutting down non essential processes to ensure enough energy (calories) for essential bodily function. What does this mean? Hormone function usually suffers first. That doesnt sound like a big deal, but it is. Without balanced hormones everything in the body is off, including metabolism. Moods, energy, health, cravings… everything!
In addition, when you arent ingesting enough calories or have been living on a very restricted diet, your body is not recieving enough nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc) for essential body functions to be working optimally. When we want to shed fat, increase muscle or even just maintain our current weight/lean muscle we must provide the body with enough energy, through calories, vitamins and minerals to be able to stay in balance. When our body is in balance, it does not panic. It does not go into starvation mode, or self preservation mode. It can shed fat easily because the body has what it needs. The body will then more easily release excess (fat), within reason. When we do not provide our body with enough energy (in the form of calories), our body will hold on tight to the excess fat, for emergencies. The body may even start to use muscle tissue as fuel, since it is less essential than fat. Of course if we provide our body with much more energy (calories) than we need we will gain fat. So it is a balance.
It is a known fact that most people grossly underestimate their calorie consumption on a daily basis (even when logging). And over estimate energy expenditure during exercise sessions (cardio machines are not accurate for calorie burn!). When you consider your daily calorie intake you must take everything you put in your body into consideration. The soy sauce with your sushi, the dressing on your burger, the olive oil your roasted your veggies in, etc… These are just a few of the items most people forget to account for. Do you have to record every single little thing? Not if you dont want to. Its a way of life that doesnt work for everyone. But if youre perplexed by seeing a plateau on the scale…. at least start thinking about these things.
So what is the solution? A diet? Nope. I honestly do not beleive in diets. Diets create roller coasters. They arent sustainable.. You have weight loss through restricted intake. Then you have weight gain when you resume normal eating habits. And so starts the cycle. The solution is lifestyle change. Small changes made over time to create new lifestyle habits that allow you to maintain the progress you make, almost effortlessly. How can it be effortless? It becomes habit. It becomes your new normal. You dont have to think about it, you just reach for the cleaner, better for you, food.
So although I encourage everyone to eat clean, you must still always consider calories in and calories out. You will see tons of foodie bloggers online posting “healthy” meals or snacks. What they dont tell you is these clean healthy items are very calorie dense. They are also nutritionally dense, which is great! But, the marketing around these foods often confuses consumers into eating these foods without considering the caloric intake associated with them. So overdoing on these clean foods may still leave you in a calorie surplus. These nutrient and calorie dense foods provide your body with many good things! Just be mindful of the calories. We need fats, we need calories and getting these things from an unprocessed source is ideal. Avacados, Nuts, Olives, Olive Oil, all provide our body with good stuff and should be included in the regular diet! The foods pack tons of nutrients, but also are high calorie by volume. They provide healthy fats, instead of saturated fats.
In an ideal world, for the average person that just wants to be healthy and live in balance, 80% of your food choices should be clean. While considering the caloric density of the foods and how it adds to your whole day nutrition plan. Remember the more a food is processed, the more nutrients have been removed. And these processed foods contain high levels of saturated fat. We need fats. Fats are good for. us. They are essential. We do not need saturated fats. Saturated fats are terrible for us. These processed foods are always calorie dense as well, but typically provide little to no nutritional value.
On a day to day basis we have many choices to make regarding our health and the foods we fuel our body with. Educate yourself on the food you are putting into your body. Remember that marketing has a purpose and it is easy for consumers to fall victim to foods labeled as “healthy” or “clean”. Clean foods are usually found on outside edges of the grocery stores. Clean foods do not have an ingredient label. Foods with minimal processing have a very short ingredient label and you will be able to read and pronounce everything on the ingredient list. Do your research, ask for help or hire a proffesional to help you if you are unsure. Your health is always worth the investment.