With all the best intentions in the world, we all find losing weight difficult, and with the vast array of ‘easy’ fixes and miracle diets, it can be a daunting task to work out the best and healthiest way of approaching it. Here is a guide, based on scientific and medical knowledge, which goes back to basics and provides an achievable and healthy way of controlling your weight.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Diet – cut back on sugars and starches
This one might sound obvious, but there is a scientific reason for this working other than just simply counting calories. Both sugar and starch stimulate secretion of insulin in our bodies, and insulin is the main fat storage hormone in the body.
Basically, when insulin levels reduce, fat is released from storage by our bodies and is then burnt instead of carbs. Furthermore, by lowering insulin, our kidneys shed excess sodium and water from our body and this reduces bloating and unnecessary water retention. (1),(2)
It is fairly common to experience weight loss of up to 10 pounds (sometimes more) in the first week of eating this way, both body fat and water weight combined, which is why it is normally easier to lose weight in the first few days or week of a diet.
Research has proven that it is much more effective and healthy to reduce carbs and eat until you are full (reasonably) rather than just reduce fat on a calorie controlled diet and remain hungry. An experiment was carried out with two groups of obese women; one group on a low carb balanced diet and the other on a low fat calorie restricted diet. The low carb diet clearly showed greater weight loss at the end of the 6 month period (3)
It’s a proven fact if you reduce carbohydrate consumption which will in turn lower insulin levels, you will automatically feel less hungry, consume less calories and lose weight almost automatically. In other words; by lowering your insulin levels, you will lose weight on “autopilot.” (4)
Step 2: Eat Protein, Fat and Vegetables
For a healthy life, a balanced diet is essential, and this shouldn’t be forgotten during any diet. It’s important to remain healthy and not fixated on sudden weight loss.
Each meal should include a balance including a protein source, a fat source and low-carb vegetables. Constructing your meals in this way should automatically bring your carb intake into the recommended range of 20-50 grams per day.
For example, protein sources include the following:
- Meat – Beef, chicken, pork, lamb, bacon, etc.
- Fish and Seafood – Salmon, trout, shrimps, lobsters, etc.
- Eggs – Omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs are best.
Just remember, a balanced diet is really important so make sure you eat quantities of each element, ie protein, fat and vegetables which, in the correct amounts, should reduce your carb intake, reduce your insulin levels and keep your body healthy.
The other benefit of this has been demonstrated to boost metabolism by 80 to 100 calories per day, which obviously helps in burning those calories.(5),(6),(7)
Another interesting factor is that research has also shown that a high protein diet can also help actively reduce obsessiveness about food by up to 60%; in other words, by reducing the desire for late-night snacking by half, and make you feel satisfied and full, resulting in about 400 calories less per day consumption, just by increasing protein in your diet rather than carbs. (8, 9)
Just remember, when it comes to losing weight, protein is king of the nutrients and a key player in your diet.
For example, low carbohydrate vegetables include:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Swiss Chard
But this is by no means an exhaustive list, so a little research can turn up all sorts of interesting alternatives! The good thing is that massive amounts of these low carb vegetables can be eaten daily without exceeding the 20-50 grams intake of daily carbs.
Remember, a good balanced diet including meat and vegetables contains all the fiber, vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy. There is no physiological need for grains in your diet, it’s dead calories.
Fat Sources, for example, but again, not an exhaustive list:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
The recommendation is to eat less and more frequently, and not late at night, so start with 2-3 meals per day, but if you find you are still hungry, say in the afternoon, add a small 4th meal.
The important point to remember is smaller meals but more frequently, so that your daily intake is not exceeded and you achieve a balance which stops you from feeling too hungry at particular times of the day.
Mention the word ‘fat’ and we all assume that it is to be avoided, but this isn’t the case. Firstly, don’t avoid fat completely as trying to do both low-carb AND low-fat at the same time is a recipe for failure and will only make you feel miserable and you will be tempted to abandon the plan.
When cooking, the best fat to use is coconut oil, which is rich in fats called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) which are more fulfilling than others and have been demonstrated to boost metabolism slightly in some cases. (10),(11)
Also, don’t fear natural fats as new studies have shown that saturated fat doesn’t raise the risk of heart disease at all. (12),(13)
As a helpful guide to help you plan your meals, try to ensure that each meal contains a protein source, a fat source and a low-carb vegetable. This will put you into the 20-50 gram carb range and drastically lower your insulin levels.
Step 3: Exercise
Although exercise is not compulsory on this diet, it can really help and is therefore recommended.
One option is going to the gym 3-4 times a week, but, if you’re like me and don’t particularly like the gym, make sure you do some regular walking, jogging or swimming as a cardio workout. It doesn’t need to be a huge run, but just some regular exercise which gets your heart pumping a little will help you burn calories and keep your metabolism up. A slowing metabolism when dieting is a common condition and can obviously be counterproductive to weight loss, so a little exercise is important.(14, 15)
Another, and more positive side effect is that some studies have shown that on low-carb diets, you can even gain some muscle while losing significant amounts of body fat.(16)
Step 4: A simple bonus
One final thing in summing this all up, consider dipping into Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz which addresses some issues of visualization, self-esteem, influencing your own success and why setting goals works.
Maltz learned that the power of self-affirmation and mental visualization techniques used the connection between the mind and the body, and so he specified techniques to develop a positive inner goal as a means of developing a positive outer goal.
This concentration on inner attitudes is essential to his approach, as a person’s outer success can never rise above the one visualized internally. Combining this with any diet can help you find the motivation and self-belief to help you succeed. Good luck!