Weight loss, or more specifically fat loss, can be a minefield of seemingly contradictory ideas. There are thousands of “diet” books and eating plans out there, and for the average individual it can be a little bit overwhelming.
The thing to remember is that almost all of those eating plans have worked for somebody at some time and achieved the desired results. In my opinion, problems arise when the people who are pushing a particular “diet” insist that their way is the only way to look good and be healthy.
So then, which eating plan/system is actually the best?
From my experience a healthy eating plan will meet the following criteria:
- Calorie Control/Reduction: Yes, in most cases it really is that simple. If you eat more calories than you require you’ll gain body fat, if you eat less than you require, you’ll lose body fat. Calorie reduction is best achieved by a combination of diet and exercise: Eat Less, Move More.
- Allows Daily De-toxification: De-toxification is similar to the little puppy – it’s for life, not just for Christmas. With a healthy lifestyle, nutritious food and clean water, the liver will be able to de-toxify efficiently and body fat is burned as part of this process. When we fill our plate with processed food, artificial ingredients and chemicals, the liver can’t cope, and often the offending toxins are stored in fat to prevent further damage to our bodies. This results in weight gain and poor health.
- Controls Insulin: Insulin is known as a fat storage hormone and is one of the very few hormones over which we have conscious control. When we eat a diet high in carbohydrate/sugar, we activate insulin to bring that sugar to the working muscles. However if we’re not moving, that sugar is more likely to be stored as fat. Therefore, the best way to control insulin is to limit the rush of carbs to a short period of time during, or immediately after, a tough training session or alternatively, to avoid meals containing a lot of carbs.
- Achieves Health, Body Composition And Sports Performance Goals: In my opinion, there’s no point having six-pack abdominals or fitting into a size zero dress if your cholesterol levels and blood pressure are through the roof, and you barely have the energy to get out of bed. Your eating plan should let you drop body fat in a way that allows you to preserve muscle, have abundant strength and energy, and keep your blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure within the healthy ranges.
- Sustainability: Often, I start working with new clients weeks or months before special occasions when they want to look their best: usually weddings, christenings or summer holidays. These clients are usually highly motivated and will overhaul their food and exercise regimes – often to an excessive degree. There are even instances where I’ve had to tell people to take a break from training or go have some carbs!
However, on too many occasions, as soon as the goal has been reached, it’s back to business as usual: junk food and minimal exercise.
The problem tends to be that they see their regular routine as “normal” and the healthy lifestyle as short-term and “being on a diet”. Although there are certainly times when a severe elimination diet can be justified on the basis of identifying foods which cause an allergic reaction, or when a more radical de-toxification is required, it should be noted that these situations are the exception, not the norm.
What I propose to all clients is to think of food as being part of a long-term, sustainable lifestyle which, as stated above, will allow improvements in body composition, health, fitness and strength. This means that 80—90% of the time the individual will eat clean, healthy, nutritious food, while still allowing themselves some “treats” that they can enjoy guilt-free. The long-term effect is that healthy eating becomes a habit and there is no sense of restriction or deprivation.
If your current eating plan falls into the above categories, congratulations, you’ll reap long-term benefits. If it doesn’t, consider making some changes!