The first and foremost... the key issue here is this: I've been there. Swearing blind I'm on a 1000 to 1200 calorie diet and I don't know why I'm not loosing weight/toning up/getting lean. I'm eating hardly anything so why on earth am I not shifting any weight!? 'They' say, its all about a calorie deficit. So WTF?
The thing is. When we say we are eating low cals, consistently, really, we are not. Why? Because what we do Monday through to Thursday. Even Friday day is, stick with very low cals, but then it gets to Friday evening and we've been so good. So strict. So on point that we either feel we deserve a treat, or we are so hungry because our body and soul want more feeding and so we go 'faaaaaak it' one meal out won't hurt. One glass/bottle won't matter. And in the long run. It won't. Matter. Or hurt. But results come with consistency and the consistent trend has to be that we are creating a deficit, and a plan that can work, consistently over a continuum of time and not just over a few days. Low cals won't create consistency of a deficit big enough to create fat loss for long enough if we cannot stick to it.
For this post I am going to specifically talk about calories. There is alot more to being healthy, and calries are not the key to being healthy. But in terms of fat loss, calories in vs calories out is still very much important. I have lost fat upping my calories, but this was because I assumed my maintenance calories were lower than they were. Without counting calories please note that you can get healthy, trim, leaner without dropping cals so low that you feel you are on a diet, but essentially, we want to burn more than we put in. There are grey areas all over the joint in the fitness industry, believe me I have been suffocated by blanket grey areas a lot. It is not black and white. BUT, from experience, of my own and with the clients I have trained... I am going to talk numbers for the means to an end for this point I am making!
You create a deficit (the space between what you eat in calories and what you use in energy/calories) by upping your exercise/lowering your food intake. Lets say you burn an extra 400 calories 3 x per week in exercise. (by Friday afternoon you have created a 1200 calorie deficit. You also have created a deficit in what you are not eating. Say your maintenance is 1800 and you reduce your cals to 1200. You have now created a 3600 calorie deficit by Friday! That should create a 1 to 2lb weight loss.
Friday night comes and you have a few prosecco and maybe a shot or two.
*600 cals... (and we often forget to count the booze)
A meal out... maybe we skip the starter and just have a slice of wholemeal French bread out of the bread basket, with olive oil NOT BUTTER(because we are being good)
We have the fish or chicken (for protein obvs) and some fries (it's weekend obvs)
We share a pudding cos, we couldn't possibly have a whole one, we are on a diet...
TOTAL=1600 plus your brekki and lunch in the day (lets say 500 to be conservative.
The next day a cheeky carby brekki
To nurse the hangover, or just because its a Saturday and you should get to LIVE YOUR LIFE. This may even lead to Saturday night indulgences because... yolo
*1200 cals for the rest of the day to be conservative
We haven't got to Sunday yet, where it's highly likely we will wait till Monday to 'get back on it' You skip brekki cos you slept in. You and the boyf have a cinema trip where you share popcorn (which is better than ice cream, it's basically air right?) You head home and have a normal dinner, nothing crazy. You might have a sweet treat after because... it's Monday tomorrow and you won't be having any chocolate again as you'll be on it like sonic.
Popcorn shared 400 cals
Dinner 500 cals
Sweet treat 250 cals
TOTAL including Friday and Saturday: 4850!!!
That deficit you created being soooo good Monday to Friday has now been cancelled out, and that is with us being (sort of) mindful.
*Not everyone will do this, but I know a lot can relate to this pattern. It was my pattern week in week out for years and I was adamant I was a low calorie queen who could not possibly eat more than 1200 cals or I would get fat!
I'm not saying 1200 wont see fat loss, it will, if sustained over a good period of time. Calories in vs calories out, matter. I'm just saying that 1200 doesn't accommodate for much spontaneity, fun nights out, normal life enjoyment. And no one wants to be that person that says "I'm not coming out, I'm on a diet" You want to create a life you can enjoy. Yes, sacrifices may need to be made. 2 slices of pizza rather than the whole pizza, may be the sacrifice you make. Some events, some nights out, some foods, may cause triggers to over indulge/binge, especially if we have deprived ourselves for 5 days. Even if we manage the 1200 cal diet for more than a week. Often what we lose, is not just fat. We lose muscle and water too! And that never results in us seeing results we want (skinny fat) and we decide diets don't work and we forget it all and resign ourselves to the fact that we will never get the results we want! Because diets don't work!
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK:
1200 cals doesn't really create much room for LIFE! Once you've gotten in your correct protein carbs and fats for utilising these nutrients, (protein for muscle repair, carbs for energy and transporting protien to muscles, fats for a good hormone balance) You're not left with a lot of fun food excess to go live that life you want to live and therefore you feel deprived of eating for fun. When this happens, as per above, binges happen, splurges become more often and your in a cycle of cancelling out the deficit you created.
Often people aren't even aware of whats in what foods and we end up eating very calorie dense things. An example of NOT getting a lot of bang for your buck IE little to no nutrients or substance for a heap load of cals... is booze *A glass of prosecco is 100 cals you use these calories as carbs because booze IS carbs (sugar). Divide the calories by 4 to get how many carbs you are consuming in one drink. 25g carbs in one proseco. 40g carbs in one small whiskey sour. UGH! Booze IS able to fit into your journey, but we just have to be aware of how to fit it in.
Another example of calorie dense foods are things like Marks and Spencer mini bites. 50cals for one salted caramel bite (not too bad) but in comparison to a small apple with same calories (with far more nutrients) Also, I defy anyone who can eat ONE bite! You cant, and if you can, you are not human and you should be on Mars and not reading my blog post for research to take back to your planet!! A bite is just that. A bite. Therefore you NEED more than 1. I ate 10 the other day! Yup TEN! That is 500 calories (are you reading that you Extra Terrestrial from Mars. TEN!) Where as very rarely do we need to go back for 10 or so helpings of whole apples. Again, if you do, I think you and I can't be friends. (only kidding, I'll be friends with you. Please teach me your ways)
The thing is, a brownie when your only allowed 1200 cals leaves you with about 8 to 900 cals for real whole foods. A brownie on 1800 cals still leaves you with 1400/1500 cals to get in whole nutrient dense foods. It makes sense to me to give ourselves as many cals as we can for all aspects of the journey, whilst still seeing results and still feeding our souls.
I was a mindless eater. Not noting what I was eating. I'd pop to the shops for a quick bag of crisps and they are gone before I had even plonked my bum down on the tube. I'd grab some sweets from the loo in the restaurant I do my admin in and forget I have even consumed them. We butter our toast and don't count it or even more to the point we are unaware of the calories in a spoon of butter. A medium tub of cinema popcorn is around 800 cals. A large dominos pizza around 1500 cals. To manage to eat a days worth of cals is easy when we are unaware of what is in what. No you do not have to cut out the butter, and I encourage you, go take some free sweets from the toilet... Just be aware that these are not free calories and they do add up! On a low calorie diet especially.
HOW TO MAKE DEFICITS (diet is a dirty word) WORK:
CHANGE WHAT YOU EAT: First off, don't even worry about lowering your calories. Stick to your maintenance calories daily.
Start of at around 1800 calories (maintenance will be different for some) but change what your eating for the amount you think you already are.
Instead of crunchy nuts have oats and fruit, instead of a ploughman's sandwich at lunch with crisps, have a salmon fillet sweet potato and aubergine salad with some posh popcorn. Instead of 3 biscuits at work, have some homemade oat and date balls.
Find healthier alternatives to what you may already eat. Mainly because eating more whole foods (non processed, nutrient heavy based foods) will give you a lot more bang for your buck. Doing this will leave you with way more calories left come 5pm than you did with what you were previously eating. Leaving you room for a (good for the soul) snack somewhere down the line. Knowing you have the calories for it will make you feel less guilty and less deprived, but also you will have gotten all the good foods you need for the body to function well.
DON'T CUT OUT FOOD GROUPS ENTIRELY:
If you want ice cream, know that you can eat it, if you want some crisps, trust that you could have them and still see results... but 1st make sure you get what you need...
Make sure you eat your protein 0.8 to 1.5g protein per lb of weight (as a rough guide) allocate this and stick to it daily. Then get your fibre in with portions of fruit and veg. Once these have been put into your daily diet (200g gram veg a day and 1 piece fruit per day minimum), you can use the rest of your calories in a more imaginative way. Get your good fats (for hormonal balance and glossy hurrr) and carbs in (for energy and help with getting protein to muscles and filling muscle with glycogen so they are nice and full). But for me, having something I love most days, tickles my soul. Popcorn? A piece of chocolate? a slice of pizza? Feel healthy. Feel full. Feel satisfied. And then feel sane. This does test control. Yes. This will mean that if you order pizza with your mates, are you going to be able to have just a couple of slices rather than the whole thing? Only you know. BUT, there are ways to manage this too. See below!
I know I know, the fear is that we will stick to a good amount of calories, say 1800, during the week, eat those treats in the week that I mention, but still go splurge at the weekends anyways, creating a increase in calories. Yup, there is a risk factor, but giving yourself permission to eat some foods, means that the likeliness of a binge is far less.Some may say it is counterproductive to tell people they can eat pizza when trying to lose weight. I will tell you what is counter productive. Telling them they can't, have them think about all the foods THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED, to have them go splurge on ALL THE FOODS every weekend, to then go and avoid ALL THE FOODS AGAIN for a short while. If you have a treat a day it may keep you from a crazy over indulgence of 4000cals plus come a work event, or come a night out, then in no way is this detrimental to your results. Yes you may drop the pounds slower than someone who never eats the pizza, if said person who never eats the pizza, really, never ever eats pizza! Again... go back to Mars :)
I save things I class as extra yummy, like pizza, for a night out, an experience, an event. And I use my weekly treats on smaller things like homemade deserts made with wholefoods. I call it picking my fights.
PICK YOUR FIGHTS:
Choose what is worth the sacrifice, and what is not. Pizza mid week with work colleagues... I can sacrifice. I'll have the salmon and veg that day and use the extra soul food experience for a night out with the boyf. I might not have a croissant mindlessly walking to work on a weekday, but I may go to brunch with some friends where they do the best pumpkin donuts ever, (Pedlar if you must know) and enjoy that.
Decide where and when the sacrifices are worth it, because there will be some sacrifices. If you want change, you have to change something. Often it might just be how we think and feel. Sometimes it may mean making alternative healthy treats to your fav comfort food eats. Make mac and cheese more healthy by using Philadelphia light and a measured amount of cheddar, or make an alternative to cheese with butternut squash and sweet potato, trust me... Go here... Try wholemeal wraps with homemade tomato sauce and 30g cheese and loadsa veg for an alternative to pizza. Make some banana bread out of oats/banana/yogurt for a healthier alternative to the sweet gooey cake.
It may be that you need to address triggers that lead to binges or over obsession with some foods.
FIND THE TRIGGERS:
For me, heading to a news agent and buying a chocolate bar is a trigger. Going to an all you can eat buffet, is a trigger, ordering cake in Starbucks, is a trigger. The triggers takes me back to when my lifestyle meant I couldn't seem to say no to these things. It takes me back to when I made choices less healthy for my body and soul. I am not saying a choc bar a day is not doable with results. I truly believe it is if everything else (including a deficit) is on point... (See Soheefits comp prep on "a snickers a day" here)
But for me, the action of going and buying a choccy bar, leads me to other, unhealthy, thinking. It leads me to bags of crisps and dips and mindless over indulgence. These triggers do go. I can probably go buy a Twirl and not fall apart at the seams, but its ingrained in me now, I have built up habits different to those of my past, and instead of a Twirl, I make chocolate pudding or vegan cheesecakes with (better for me ingredients) If someone buys me chocolate, I'll eat it. I am just talking about finding those emotional triggers for you and avoiding them at the beginning of your journey, because they will lead to better choices down the line. Change your habits and routine and it will become second nature.
CHOOSE A REGIME/ROUTINE THAT YOU WILL SUSTAIN:
If avoiding carbs is not something you can do forever. Don't do it. If 1200 cals isn't a lifestyle choice you can do continuously, consistently. Don't do it. If eating at set times, or eating 6 times a day or never eating dairy, or never having pudding out, or only eating greek yogurt as your treat, is something that you will not implement for a good while, don't do it.
Find ways that will incorporate better choices into a deficit so that you will stick at it for longer. Choose a deficit that is manageable. Get in the foods you need for a healthy body. Make room for foods that will give you a healthy soul. Remember that 0.5lb weight loss per week over 16 weeks is better than 5lb in 2 weeks of strictness that means you stop the diet short because it is too dam boring and hard. You do not have to have the worlds best will power or be the best at "clean eating" You are not a failure if you go to a buffet and you cannot stop eating. You are not wasting your time trying to get on the fitness journey if you have plateau'd. It's a massive learning curve. One that I think we make harder for ourselves, but also one that some will never understand is not just as easy as (EAT LESS DO MORE) There is so much more to fat loss/weight loss/transformations.
Remember calories in vs calories out is over a continuum of time. Not a day. Even a week. You may gain half a pound one week, lose 1 pound for 2 weeks running and stay the same the next week. You have still lost 1.5 pounds over the month.And do not forget. the weeks you gain or you stay the same, may be because you have gained lean muscle mass, it may be because you are holding water. This journey is not all about weight loss, but say for something like prep, or for people on a fat loss journey, or in a battle with daily calorie in take...a week is a good way to average out your calories. Working weekly will allow for some indulgences. It will even allow for big ones. A date night at the local Italian, or your best friends wedding. Give yourself the time, find the routine that works for you, allow yourself room for soul feeding. I have to have pudding every night! So I make one. I also need to know I can eat out at least once or twice a week. So I balance my cals over the week not daily, allowing me higher calories out and then I will cut back in the week by eating more whole foods.
Now this doesnt mean I cut meals or calories so I can splurge at the weekend. I stick to the fundamental rules.
I get in my alloted protein.
I eat a good amount of veg and fruit for fibre.
I get a minimum of 15-20% fats for hormonal balances.
I feed myself so I feel full.
I choose cod and veg and less exciting oats and less exciting pudding, if I know I have a more indulgent event ahead.
On the day of the event, I fill up ob veggies and protein and then relax at said event.
There is a major difference in starving ourselves to over indulge come the weekend, and balancing out our nutrition. I know that balance is the hardest thing to find, but when you do find it, when you do have control, when you find yourself making better choices, not feeling starved, not feeling guilty for eating some ice cream, not obsessing over every meal, life truly becomes better.
I literally could go on for 18 pages... front and back (if you know you know)
But basically my point is... don't try and be so strict. Don't starve yourself. Don't deprive yourself. Don't make it painful. Don't make it harder than it has to be. Find support. Find alternatives. Find pinterest and pin the shit out of easy, helpful, nutrient friendly treats. Don't feel like you are having to give up your whole life just to lose a few pounds, but also be aware of the changes you do need to make, if you want to see change. Find the in between, one day at a time.
For help and advise, coaching, food guides, some support, e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find my Instagram: freefannifitness