I have the pleasure today to cover a topic which should be one of the cornerstones in everyday nutrition – Sustainable Dieting and Proper Energy Balance
This starts a new series of articles on ‘The Bigger Picture in Nutrition’ with a new article every week.
Let’s get right into it though! This is a good one 🙂
Why Sustainable Dieting?
So why are we kicking off with this article?
Well, as mentioned above, sustainable dieting should be one of the foundations of how we eat or diet. I say diet, because I can agree there are periods of times in the year where we want to lose weight intentionally for a goal, be it to look good for the beach or even get proper jacked on a mass-gain cycle…
There are great strategies we can use to actually avoid having to ‘diet’ in the first place. Making a healthy, nutritional lifestyle part of YOU will lead to being able, in time, to step away from the word ‘diet’ and just simply use great habits to get the goals you want, without extreme effort like a crash diet.
This is beyond the scope of this article, but I simply want to raise awareness to the idea that if we want to diet, then we need to do it in a way we can manage it for longer than 2 weeks…
This is what ‘Sustainable’ means.
Sure you can lose weight in two weeks with a juice diet where, in fact, you’re actually consuming like 1000 calories a day, but sooner or later your body is going to crash hormonally through such a severe energy imbalance. This is where we’ll find that due to a huge calorie restriction we rebound to junk food as quick way for the body to recover it’s energy supplies.
This is stereotypical crash dieting and also goes hand in hand with yo-yo dieting – bouts of losing rapid weight but putting it all back on, maybe even more, all a result from basically treating your body like utter shit.
Look at it from this perspective and couple of examples. Tell me which one embraces sustainable dieting. Two scenarios – same intent:
It’s Middle of May, you had a holiday booked in June for Ibiza, now 6 weeks away, all inclusive too! 😀 However you realise you’ve left things a tiny bit last minute and you’re not where you want to be with your figure.
You pluck a number out the air and decide to lose a stone (a considerable amount, probably 8-10% of your bodyweight for an average woman).
You go on a crash diet to to get rid of the excess weight, cutting out carbs because you ‘know’ they’re the culprit. You smash the gym too, you’re an animal! It goes great for 4 weeks, you’ve lost half a stone, 6lbs, seeing noticeable progress every week. However, you start to feel shit by week 5, and it somewhat seems that your body is starting to hold onto a bit of weight more. It’s now even harder to lose weight and you’re getting a bit deflated.
You succumb to having a donut and then you think, cause you’ve been so religious for four weeks that you’ve now screwed up your diet. You’re in a very easy place to go on a binge now as the floodgates have opened and that mental craving is so tempted by more junk food. We all of a sudden have a bit of a binge and some significant weight gain back over the next few weeks. Week 7 is around and you’re a bit miffed by you losing some progress. You don’t try as hard although some habits are still there. By the time week 8 is here and we’re ready to go away it ends up we’ve lost half a stone in total and actually feel frustrated by our diet and our effort. You’ve lost some, but you wonder whether you could’ve done it better…
April has come round rapidly, where’s the year gone?! It’s that time of year where you’re now looking forward to a holiday. OH wait, Ibiza in June, 12 weeks away, Jesus, you can’t wait… You have a brief assessment and think you’re not where you could be with your goals so you start to implement a few habits you know you’ve good practice of to get to a better place for the holiday.
You realise you want to lose some weight, you pluck out the air you’ve probably got a stone to lose. You recognize that crash diets have burnt us in the past, so instead look to making thoughtful, powerful changes to help us lose that weight.
On reflection you realise you eat a few too many office treats most days, in fact, it’s roughly an additional 400 calories a day just in that habit. You choose for this to be addressed first and you cut back (not out completely) on the office treats every day. You keep the rest of your diet quite similar but implement a few more whole foods in there to keep you full.
4 weeks go by and through this simple change you can tell you’ve lost some weight, infact you’ve lost about 3lbs of fat apparently!! You notice the difference too. However, you want to step it up a bit. You increase the amount you go to the gym by an extra day a week. 4 weeks later you really notice the difference, you’ve lost another 5lbs, nearly a stone in total! A night out comes up and seems to hinder progress for about a week but you crack on with the habits you’ve learnt and by week 10 you’re where you left off 2 weeks ago.
The last two weeks are where you dial it in a bit more. You cut back COMPLETELY all office snacks and you’re body is a temple. A week of this goes by and you’ve lost another 1lb. Then the week up to it you treat yourself intertwined with these habits, maintaining this weight till ibiza. You didn’t quite manage a stone, but damn that was a bit better.
Both these situations are very probably.
Don’t be under any illusions however that the two situation are completely different. Both made progress simply through calorie restriction. don’t be under any illusion that that’s not the case. The only way to create weight loss is through calorie restriction, or ‘Negative Calorie Balance’, either through diet or training.
However Scenario one did it the crash diet way, perhaps one we’re all too familiar with… That frustration of most likely slashing around 1000 calories a day. It works wonders for four weeks but the lack of energy available for proper hormone environment leads to a body which needs a lot more energy than it’s currently getting. In fact, the mental and physical restriction is too much and you just can’t help but succumb to treats and more energy to recover energy levels, offsetting our diet.
Scenario two however felt much more comfortable didn’t it. Sure there’s a stark difference but the difference is obvious towards someone who knows what they’re doing or is simply not restricting out of sheer hope. This is where making it part of your lifestyle is important to build habits like this. In this scenario we still created a negative calorie balance through cutting back on office treats, not completely, and then creating more negative energy balance through an additional weekly workout.
The difference? Scenario two was WAY more sustainable. In fact, calorie wise, scenario two was only consuming about 300-400 calories less a day through removing some treats. Across the week that’s 2100 calories. 8400 across the month, that’s 3lbs of fat nearly…. There was enough energy still available to fuel the daily happenings as well as sustain healthy hormone levels necessary to allowing you to burn fat and continue as you need to.
Scenario one just used massively unsustainable methods and ended up being the victim of a body needing more energy to fuel this state of fat burning.
Embracing sustainable dieting isn’t just good for satisfying you physically, but mentally it’s SO much more easier!!
We’ve gone pretty heavy on the examples. But I hope this highlights that how sustainable a diet is, is generally the dictator of how successful you are.
In fact, I used to track my calories and, through monitoring my weight, managed to keep myself in a 100 calorie deficit on average for 5 months up to my holiday. I looked the best I ever have when I went on holiday. And it wasn’t even hard me trying to stick to that overly.
Quite simply, energy balance is the term used to describe whether you’re in a surplus of calories or a deficit.
If you eat more calories than you burn, you’re in a calorie surplus (positive energy balance) and will be putting on weight.
If you eat less calories than you burn, you’re in a calorie deficit (negative energy balance) and will be losing weight, or in extreme restriction, slowing down bodily processes to reserve energy.
Dieting for our goals of either gaining mass or losing weight requires one of the two above. And obviously you can only achieve this through mindful nutrition or altering how often you workout. Working out more will contribute to burning more calories, and less will contribute to you burning less calories – therefore making it easier to put on weight.
There’s no need to go all out on this topic, but it’s important to realise that the energy balance you are in dictates your goals.
Both go hand in hand.
Both of these concepts go hand in hand together.
There’s a MUCH bigger picture to nutrition which we’ll cover over the next 6-8 weeks with articles every week.
But dieting sustainably for your goals is generally the best way we can achieve our goals. Consuming a 200 calorie deficit every day is SO much easier than a 500 calorie deficit. IT’ll take you a bit longer to get your goals but sadly, this is how it needs to be to have a healthy body and relatively healthy lifestyle and mental welbeing.
Same with putting on weight. By consuming a 200 calorie deficit a day you will end up putting on minimal body fat than if you went on a bulk with dirty fries. However good they are, you can limit fat gain by slowing down your weight gain as long as possible. Sustainable Dieting!
Its my opinion that the slower you choose to tackle your goals, and the intensity you can drive it, that you’ll have more success.
Making a diet as sustainable as you can allows you to make it last longer and healthier.
We’ll cover this in next articles but slow and progressive dieting like this also protects our hormone balance as well as allow our regular physiological processes by giving enough energy to function. Not too much energy, or not too little.
Too negative or too positive energy balance can detrimentally affect certain hormones, again we’ll cover this in the next article.
Can you hold your diet for a number of months doing what you’re doing without feeling like crap?
If you answer no, then the way you’re going may not be sustainable and you may end up in a worse position than where you left off.
Get mindful, sustainable dieting. There’s no need to rush.
You know what they say:
“Patience is a virtue” – Long time proverb.
If you’d love help to get sustainable or learn to create more fulfilling dishes that actually allow you to drive your diet better, check out this FREE PDF HERE I made showing you exactly what to do in your meals.