When it comes to losing weight, you’d automatically think of the various challenges it might present like having to exercise too much, limiting your meals to salads and completely cutting off carbs. However, this myth about losing weight is why many are too scared to even try.
If you are trying to lose weight and do all of the above, will you lose weight quickly? Yes. Will you be healthier? No.
Personal trainer and life coach TJ Mentus gave TMS the perfect analogy for explaining why starving yourself is the worst possible way to lose weight. Mentus has been a personal trainer for six years. Fitness had been a huge part of his growth as a person and his goal is to use fitness as a vehicle for others to also improve their lives overall.
Mentus says to think of losing weight like budgeting your bank account:
“If you have more income (calories consumed) than expenses (calories burned), then you end up with a surplus (plenty of expendable energy for the future). If that income becomes less than your expenses, then you go into a deficit and have to tap into your savings (stored calories i.e., fat) in order to keep going. But if this goes on too long or is too much of a deficit, then you go into debt and need to find money quickly, which could mean selling things that are valuable to make up the difference.
“In the body’s case this would mean taking resources from places where it’s needed such as the breakdown of muscle. This is why when someone diets in a deficit for an extended time they can have brain fog, get fatigued easily, etc. This is the body’s way of diverting resources to where it feels it’s most needed, which is the basic bodily functions in order to survive.”
Not only does starving yourself mess up your hormone levels, you are more likely to gain weight while crash dieting since it is so difficult to maintain. The whole reason food is considered a necessity is because our bodies need it for energy.
When you follow a crash diet, you will experience low energy levels. When this occurs, your body will crave foods high in sugar. Suppressing this craving will be nearly impossible, and when you finally give in, there is a high chance you will end up eating more than you should. Lastly, while you will be able to shed fat while losing weight on a crash diet, you will in the process also be losing muscle, leaving you looking skinny and unhealthy instead of lean and healthy.
Losing weight essentially comes down to one factor: being in a caloric deficit. This means that you are consuming fewer calories than you burn throughout the day (this includes the calories you burn while sleeping). Once you have figured out how many calories you burn in a day (your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE), all you need to do is consume less than that to lose weight. There are several online calculators available for calculating your TDEE.
How to eat more and lose weight
Eating more while losing weight seems counterintuitive. However, the idea isn’t to continue eating junk or highly processed food. Instead, you should consume foods rich in micronutrients and macronutrients that are both high in volume and low in calories.
You do not have to eat only salads and soups to achieve weight loss, as that isn’t a sustainable diet for most people. If you want to lose weight sustainably, the most important factor is that you do not feel like you’re dieting.
If you create an enjoyable meal plan that is high in volume, low in calories and rich in micronutrients and macronutrients, you are more likely to sustain that diet over a longer period of time. We’ve narrowed down five low-calorie alternatives to popular high-calorie foods that you can incorporate in your diet to stave off hunger while losing weight.
White rice → cauliflower rice
This is probably one of the biggest food hacks for how to eat more and lose weight. ½ cup (100g) of raw white rice contains around 345 calories, 77g of carbohydrates, 1g of fat and 7g of protein. In comparison, the same amount of cauliflower rice contains only 14 calories, 3g of carbohydrates, less than 1g of fat and 1g of protein.
Although the protein content in white rice is higher, you can achieve the same amount by consuming 3.5 cups (700g) of cauliflower rice in a day – and you would have only consumed around 98 calories, 21g of carbohydrates, less than 7g of fat and 7g of protein. While the taste might be different from regular rice, substituting cauliflower rice for any high-calorie food like rice or pasta is going to be a game changer when it comes to losing weight.
Peanut butter → powdered peanut butter
If you think you have to give up your favorite foods to lose weight, think again. Peanut butter lovers can still enjoy eating peanut butter on toast or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches everyday by incorporating powdered peanut butter instead of typical out-of-the-jar prepared peanut butter. Below is a side-by-side comparison of the nutritional content in the two products per serving (i.e., 2 tbsp. (13g))
Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter
Opting for PB2 can save 130 calories per serving while still satisfying your peanut butter craving. All you need to do is mix the powder with water and your peanut butter is ready. Don’t worry – the taste difference is so minimal that if you are really determined to lose weight, this is one switch you can easily accept.
Whole milk → skim milk (or almond/cashew milk)
If you’re someone who isn’t willing to give up dairy, then opt for a lower calorie version like skim milk. If you are diabetic and wanting to lose weight, then try unsweetened almond or cashew milk. One cup (240 ml) of unsweetened cashew milk contains only 25 kcal, saving you an extra 100-120 calories. So switching to either skim milk or almond/cashew milk is an easy fix for you to lose weight without having to sacrifice on flavor.
Any pasta sauce → tomato sauce
Most non-tomato pasta sauces like pesto or Alfredo tend to be high in calories and fat. Consuming these while trying to lose weight will be challenging unless you are blessed with a high metabolism. If you consume these sauces regularly and are struggling to lose weight, try choosing a tomato-based sauce instead.
While the sugar content in tomato sauce isn’t particularly low, it is lower in calories and fat and goes well with most foods. Incorporating tomato sauce into your meals is a convenient way for you to eat more and lose weight simultaneously as long as you are still burning more calories than you consume. It is still possible to lose weight while eating other pasta sauces, however you would need to expend more energy to achieve the same weight loss than if you choose tomato-based sauces.
Sugar → sweeteners
This is the most difficult part for most people when it comes to losing weight. The thought of giving up sugar is a nightmare for many people who can’t resist having a Coke with their meals or have a sweet tooth for candies and chocolates.
Although you have to give up most sugary foods to lose weight, one way to satisfy your cravings is by using sweeteners. They are almost zero calorie alternatives that you can use in creating your own desserts to satisfy your sugar cravings. Also, most sweeteners require a smaller amount than sugar due to being 200-700 times sweeter.
Sweeter than sugar, lower calories – this seems too good to be true! If this is the case, why is sugar still used in the majority of our favorite snacks and desserts? The main reason is that sweeteners are meant to simulate the taste of sugar on your tongue, however their chemical structure makes them unsuitable to be used in many desserts.
Pay attention to your cooking methods
While these five low-calorie alternatives are easy to incorporate into your lifestyle, an additional tip is to buy a spray bottle for oils. Many times when people claim to be eating healthy and are still unable to lose weight, they forget to include the calories they are consuming from the oil used to cook their food.
Although you may feel you are using a tiny amount (like 2 tbsp.) of oil to cook your food, that’s 240 calories added already. Believe it or not, you do not need a lot of oil to cook your food. As long as your oil is spread out on the pan, your vegetables will be cooked properly. So next time you use oil to cook your food, think about spraying oil throughout the pan for 1-2 seconds instead, and you will be saving hundreds of calories in the process. A spray bottle is also useful for oils used on salad in place of high-calorie dressings.
Apart from ensuring you are in a caloric deficit to lose weight, make sure you are also consuming enough protein to retain muscle mass. The recommended amount of protein to ensure muscle retention while cutting is 0.8g-1.2g per pound of body weight.
If you’re struggling to see improvement in your weight loss journey, try incorporating some of these tricks into your lifestyle. With these adjustments and enough exercise, you will finally see the pounds shed off your body.
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