The “Best” Way to Think About Weight Loss is Simple
I’m going to propose three rules for weight loss nutrition, and then I want you to break them.
But only sometimes!
People who want to lose a lot of weight often fall into two groups: one group often looks for just the right diet plan with the right number of calories, etc.
Or, the other group simply doesn’t eat enough.
My goal is always to help people create a more Simple way of eating better and lose weight in the process.
(Notice how I capitalized “Simple” since it’s the name of my company!!)
So if you are a person who likes counting calories, points, or macros, knock yourself out.
This post is not for you.
Losing Weight is Top Priority
By far, the number one reason people hire me as a personal trainer is to lose weight.
And they bring me information about macros, micros, percentages, and calorie intake.
Honestly? All of that makes my head explode.
There is way too much information out there, most of it not worth the virtual ink.
My life is too complicated as it is.
Even as an athlete who burns a lot of calories, I don’t want to think about whether I’m getting enough calories or too many.
I want to eat right to fuel my cycling.
And I want to enjoy food.
Three Rules to Keep Nutrition Simple
First of all, I want to be clear that I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist.
I do, however, have certifications for nutrition, and I’ve done a lot of research.
So I’m not an expert, but I’ve certainly played one on television.
With every client, whether they want to lose weight or get faster on the bike, we talk about the three rules for weight loss nutrition.
(Notice, I said “nutrition,” not weight loss. More on this later. I also put quote marks around “rules,” since I want you to break them sometimes.)
1. On every plate, focus on a protein and a veggie/fruit.
2. Eat less than you used to, but eat enough.
3. Avoid processed sugar, dairy, and wheat.
Rule One: Focus on the Protein/Veggie
Probably the Simplest way to think about healthy nutrition for most people is to put a protein and a vegetable and/or fruit on your plate.
This is a simplified but kind of radical rule for weight loss nutrition.
You don’t need to obsess about calories; just pay attention to your plate and your food choices.
Usually, this approach gets you enough protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake in your daily diet.
If you focus on the protein/veggie, anything else you add, is secondary.
Cutting out carbohydrates (Keto diet) entirely is not sustainable. You will lose a bunch of weight at first, but you’ll plateau since your body requires carbohydrates as fuel.
Vegetables, fruit, and the occasional grain give you enough carbohydrate as fuel for most situations.
Rule Two: Eat Less, But Enough
Portion control is always a challenge, especially if you’ve been one to stress eat in the past.
So adding a 24-ounce steak and a giant pile of broccoli smothered in a butter cheese sauce is probably not going to help!
Most adults, though, have a good idea of what is reasonable for a person your height and size.
A pork chop and a good serving of vegetables is a good meal.
However, a little piece of salmon and a few beans on a dinner plate is not going to work either.
So many studies have shown that if you don’t eat enough, your body, especially if you are a woman, thinks it is in starvation mode, and it will hang on to every calorie as FAT!
I lost a client recently who was making serious strength gains, but not losing any inches. He was a big guy, but because he wanted so badly to lose weight, he was only eating probably a third of his normal calories.
No matter how often we talked about healthy eating, he had a deep belief that if he had a really restricted diet, he would lose more weight.
He got frustrated with not enough progress and quit coming to the gym.
I hope he comes back some day, so we can try again.
Rule Three: Avoid Processed Sugars, Wheat, and Dairy
I’m not trying to be controversial in with my third rule for weight loss nutrition.
The research has clearly backed up that cutting out processed sugar does your body a whole lot of good.
And processed sugar is in most processed food.
That means cooking your own food is the best way to cut out the sugar.
No, this does not mean you have to meal prep. (I’m not even really sure what that means.)
Just cook your own dinner, and make enough for leftovers the next day. (See below for more ideas about cooking.)
Wheat and dairy have also been shown to be difficult for our bodies to process.
And if your body can’t process the foods, the food is more likely to build up as fat. (I know, that’s a gross simplification. I understand the science, but what’s important is to understand the result.)
Still, I understand how a freshly-baked loaf of bread tastes.
Go for it.
Just not all the time.
Caveats, Breaking the Rules, and Pizza
Caveat #1: Working Out
(“Caveat”: not really an exception but more of an extra thing to consider.)
I ride bikes a lot, run, lift weights, and show clients how to do exercises.
I burn up a lot of calories in a day.
There’s no way to get enough carbohydrates in vegetables.
So I eat rice, sweet potatoes, granola, and, sometimes, simply for the convenience, gluten-free bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
I try to eat these extra carbs both as fuel before long efforts and as recovery after the effort.
The U.S. Olympic Team offers some really good guidance on fueling for your training.
Essentially, the harder/longer the workout, the more healthy grains you should consume as fuel.
Caveat #2 Breaking the Rules
For goodness’ sake, people, we don’t live very long in this world.
And food is delicious!
And yes, food that is crappy for us sometimes tastes delicious.
Did someone say flourless chocolate cake?
(I ride my bike out to Wales, Wisconsin to visit Mama D’s coffee shop, just for her peanut butter and chocolate bars. OMG.)
So, please, enjoy food.
If you visit the State Fair in Milwaukee, don’t bother with the cream puffs that really aren’t that good. Go for the chocolate-covered bacon. Or freshly-made grilled cheese sandwiches cooked in real Wisconsin butter.
Don’t worry about “making up” for these treats. Just enjoy them guilt-free.
So follow the “rules” for weight loss nutrition and break them ocassionally.
But also don’t make them a regular thing.
If you start driving out to Mama D’s every day for the peanut butter bars, then we need to talk.
Caveat #3: Pizza
This caveat is closely linked to #2.
Eat your pizza.
I love pizza. And tacos.
I’ve found some gluten-free (which means the crusts are often made with different grains than wheat) pizzas that are amazingly delicious.
And usually, on Friday nights, when my wife is done with a week of teaching, and my daughter is done with a week of school, we eat pizza and watch TV together.
I’m not going to give up the family time and the pizza.
And don’t sweat the occasional fast food stops.
If you find yourself stuck for a meal, and you’re hungry, a chicken sandwich is okay.
What to Cook
I started working with a woman who wanted to eat healthier, but didn’t really know what to cook.
As a person who loves to cook, I jumped on the chance to help!
First of all, my client worked several 12-hour days a week, sometimes in a row.
I recommended an Instant Pot. Cook up a large meal to use as a dinner, then use the leftovers for lunch the next day.
The Instant Pot is also a great tool for my family when I’m working evenings.
I put everything together in the pot and set it to be ready around dinner time.
That way, I know they’re fed when I’m working.
Here are some great resources for recipes and thinking about keeping your nutrition Simple.
Cooking with Team USA
Harvard Public Health Healthy Eating Plate
U.S. My Plate recipes
Also, if you look for recipes based on the Paleo diet, those are typically more on track for healthy cooking.
The rules for weight loss nutrition are easier if you have a direction for your cooking.
Weight Loss is the Result, Not the Goal
We’re not going to talk about the need for exercise in this post.
Nor are we talking about the need for patience since sustainable weight loss takes time.
Nor are we talking about the emotional ties to eating.
We are simply talking about rules for weight loss nutrition and eating more healthy, which, in turn, will lead to weight loss.
Food, first of all, can be delicious. And second, it’s fuel for our bodies.
Put in too much, too little, or crappy fuel, our bodies won’t function as well, and we won’t be happy.
So we look at weight loss as a secondary effect of good nutrition.
If you eat well, eat healthy, follow the guidelines, you’ll lose weight.
I’d love to help you reach your fitness, adventure, and strength goals.
Let’s talk. Set up a Virtual Coffee appointment here