This article will look at not only foods that help you to lose weight, but practical lifestyle suggestions that may help to trim down your waistline. This article will address ways to boost your metabolism if your weight loss has stalled and what foods and meals are best for supporting long term weight loss.
You may ask yourself ‘I have tried so many things, so why cant I lose weight?’. Your weight is a balancing act, and kilojoules are part of that equation. When it comes to weight loss, it’s kilojoules that count. Weight loss comes down to burning more kilojoules than you take in. there are of course other reasons why you may be struggling to lose weight, such as getting too little exercise, genetics and family history, certain medications and unhealthy habits, such as skipping breakfast or not getting enough sleep.
If you want to lose weight, one approach is to boost your metabolism!
Everyone knows that a 3.0 litre V8 uses way more fuel than a 1.3 litre hatch. Just like a car’s engine capacity determines how much fuel it uses, so does your body’s metabolism determine how much “fuel” you use. Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. Even when you’re at rest, your body needs energy for basic functions such as breathing, digestion and repair. The number of kilojoules or calories your body uses for these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is determined by several factors such as your gender, body weight, body composition (more muscle implies higher BMR) and your age. A dietician can help determine your BMR and determine your personal daily energy requirements.
Is it all in our genes? Experts tell us that our genes or genotype may influence our weight up to about 60%. So it may be that your friend’s genes are helping her somewhat but remember: you can always do something about your environment and lifestyle choices. Many people blame weight gain on metabolism when in actual fact it is more likely to be related to consuming too many kilojoules and getting too little exercise! Only rarely is weight gain caused by a medical problem that slows metabolism such as Cushing’s syndrome or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). If you’re concerned about slow metabolism and your weight, talk to your doctor and he/she can check your metabolism or check for rare conditions that can cause problems with metabolism, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome.
Getting past a weight-loss plateau
Have you ever had the experience that for no reason you can identify, the scale doesn’t budge — even though you’re still eating a healthy, low-kilojoule diet and exercising regularly? You’ve hit a weight-loss plateau.
Although hitting a plateau is common, most people are surprised when it happens to them, for they believed that if they just maintained a reduced-kilojoule diet, they would continue to lose weight. The frustrating reality is that even well-planned weight-loss efforts often become stalled.
What causes a weight-loss plateau?
When you first change your diet and reduce the amount of kilojoules that you consume, the body gets needed energy by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate found in the muscles and liver. Glycogen holds on to water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, it also releases water, resulting in substantial weight loss that’s mostly water.
Why can’t I lose weight? A plateau in weight loss occurs because your metabolism — the process of burning kilojoules for energy — slows as you lose weight (muscle). You burn fewer kilojoules than you did at your heavier weight even doing the same activities. Your weight-loss efforts result in a new equilibrium with your now slower metabolism.
If you’re at a plateau, at this point, you need to ask yourself if you’re satisfied with your current weight or if you want to lose more, in which case you’ll need to adjust your weight-loss program.
If you’re committed to losing more weight, try these two tried and tested approaches:
Cut more kilojoules. Reduce your daily calorie intake by 1000 kilojoules provided this doesn’t put you below 4800 kilojoules per day. Otherwise you may feel hungry all of the time, which increases your risk of overeating. In addition, this reduced kilojoule intake should be sustainable. If not, you’ll regain the weight you’ve lost and more.
Rev up your workout. Increase the amount of time you exercise by an additional 15 to 30 minutes. You might also try increasing the intensity of your exercise, if you feel that’s possible. Also try increasing resistance or muscle-building exercises. Increasing your muscle mass will help you burn more kilojoules.
Are there foods that help you to lose weight and boost your metabolism?
Trying to boost your metabolism by focusing solely on eating certain foods such as fruit, chili, drinking green tea, probably won’t lead to weight loss, at least not to the degree that changing your overall diet and lifestyle habits will. Rather focus on the factors you have the most control over and that is energy in and energy out!
To lose weight, you should reduce the number of kilojoules in your diet. But not too much! Slashing too many kilojoules (to less than 5000 kJ or 1200 calories) by missing meals, fad diets, eliminating food groups, taking pills, etc. will deprive your body of fuel and is a surefire way to slow down your metabolism.
Food provides the energy your metabolism needs for digestion in a process called “dietary induced thermogenesis.” Restricting kilojoules too much signals your body that there is no food available, so it tries to conserve stores by slowing down your metabolism. You can’t run your body’s engine on fumes! Just remember that you should always fill up with the best quality fuel available.
The best way to keep your metabolism revved and stoked all day is to start your day with breakfast and to eat regular meals and snacks to give your body a constant supply of healthy fuel.
Keep in mind that, as you lose weight and as you age, you may need even fewer kilojoules.
To lose 0,5 to 1 kg of body fat per week you need to create an energy deficit of 1800 – 3600 kJ per day. This is best achieved through a combination of eating less and moving more.
Foods that help you to lose weight
Eating lower kilojoule foods is important when trying to lose weight. The lowest kilojoule foods are natural fresh produce such as vegetables and fruit. Ideally these foods should make up the bulk of what you eat. In order to help you achieve follow this practical guide will help you eat balanced lower kilojoule meals wherever you may be eating.
STEP 1: COLOUR IN THE FORM OF FRESH PRODUCE (FRUIT AND VEGETABLES)
Half fill your plate (two fistfuls) with lots of colour in the form of fresh fruit, salad or vegetables. This is the most important step of balancing meals.
If you use more than 1 piece of fruit then the fruit will count as STEP 2 as it contains carbohydrate.
STEP 2: STARCH
Add one fistful of starch, ideally one that is low GI or high in fibre such as seed loaf bread, barley, legumes, rice, sweet potatoes, etc. If using more than 1 fresh fruit then the fruit will also contribute carbohydrate.
STEP 3: PROTEIN / DAIRY
Add one portion or the size of the palm of your hand of low fat or lean protein such as yoghurt, cheese, fish, seafood, chicken, egg, lean red meat, etc.
STEP 4: HEALTHY FAT
Add a small portion of a healthy fat such as nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, peanut butter, etc. Alternatively, a small amount of good quality oil could be used in the meal preparation or as a dressing.
Why are fruit and vegetables good for weight loss and health?
Fruit and vegetables are the only foods which collectively have been consistently associated with risk reduction in several diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and age related macular degeneration. Fruit and vegetables are low in fat or virtually fat free, high in carbohydrates moderate in protein and excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. Consuming a diet rich in a variety of plant foods provides a mixture of phytochemicals, “non-nutritive” substances in plants that possess health protective benefits. Fruit and vegetables contain an abundance of phenolic compounds, terpenoids, pigments and other natural antioxidants that have been associated with protection from and treatment of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and hypertension.
So what’s in a serving?
For instance, a serving of vegetables (1 cup raw or half a cup cooked vegetables) provides on average 5 grams of carbohydrates and 120 kJ in energy.
A serving of starchy vegetables (potato, sweet potato, corn, pumpkin, peas) provides on average 15 grams of carbohydrate and 300 kJ in energy.
A serving of fruit provides on average 15 grams of carbohydrate and 250-300 kJ in energy.
What are the best fruits for weight loss?
There are no best fruits for weight loss. The best approach would be to have a variety of different fruits and to aim to have 2 – 3 pieces of fresh fruit daily. Including some natural sweetness in the form of fruit can actually help you to reduce cravings for unhealthy sweet foods such as chocolate.
If you are concerned about the impact of fruit on your blood glucose levels and would like to know what exact portions to have then take a look at the GI and GL guide found at www.gifoundation.com.
Yes fruit is good but can fruit or any other single food group provide all the nutrients needed for good health? No. A position paper by the American Dietetic Association has made the following position statement regarding the best way to eat for weight loss …
“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that the total diet or overall pattern of food eaten is the most important focus of a healthful eating style. All foods can fit within this pattern, if consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity. The American Dietetic Association strives to communicate healthful eating messages to the public that emphasize a balance of foods, rather than any one food or meal.
You may too have come across a little piece of wisdom on the back of a sugar packet: ‘Life is about the journey, not the destination’. Isn’t this so true. When it comes to wellness, longevity, or striving to losing weight, we often focus so much on the end goal that we forget about the journey. The destination, the goal, shouldn’t be the only goal!
Yes, it is important to have an end-goal in mind, but remember that there are many ways to reach that goal. When an aeroplane flies from one place to another it doesn’t fly in a straight line – the pilot is constantly adjusting the plane’s course. Despite the fact that it may be off course many times, it still reaches its destination.
It’s the same with making lifestyle changes or losing weight. Some days will be better than others. Sometimes you will feel confident about your efforts and sometimes you will feel like just giving up. But that’s ok. It’s not about where you are at that particular moment but rather that you keep on moving in the right direction.
So there you have it. Weight loss and wellness isn’t a destination. It is a lifelong journey.
The following, along with the correct mindset, will help you to stick to your weight loss goals and shift the scale reading downwards:
- As with any journey, take one step at a time. Once you have made the decision to embrace wellness, don’t dive in and try to change everything at once! It’s impossible to scale Mount Everest in one go. To give yourself the best shot at success, just make one change at a time.
- Be specific about what habits you want to change, then set an easily-achievable goal for yourself. Developing a habit of eating more fruit may seem daunting, whereas merely eating two pieces of fruit per day is simple!
- Make sure you stay scientific in your approach and be PATIENT. Be realistic about defining your weight loss and don’t lose weight too fast. Most of us don’t pick up the extra weight we’re carrying in 24 hours and that’s why we should be patient in the process of losing it. The truth is that 0.5 to 1 kg weight loss per week, is safe and sustainable.
Before asking yourself ‘Why cant I lose weight’, ask yourself if you are managing your energy balance as well as you could be and if you are doing the right things to boost your metabolism. Don’t strive for perfection along your weight loss journey. Successful weight loss isn’t one big thing. It’s a hundred little things.