Can I lose weight if I'm not in a deficit of calories?
Can I eat more and lose weight?
Why do we all wanna lose this weight so much anyways? (I guess that's a whole other blog post) but for now, let's discuss the confusion.
Oh whyyyyy is it all so bloody confusing?
So, of course, with like many things health/fitness/mindset, there is a lot of grey area, lots of things taken out of context and lots of shite flying around the internet. Which makes what shouldn't be, but is, ultimately a minefield for brain farts and confusion.
Before we go any further, I want to make a point... the only way to lose weight/fat, is to be in a calorie deficit. To eat less than we are burning. Without a doubt.
But I said I was eating the same calories if not more than before and I lost weight?
Well here's they grey area that isn't grey, but the industry has made it this way!!!
Technically... I "thought" I Was eating more or what I thought was maintence cals was in fact still deficit calories. As I said, esentially, to lose weight, we must be taking in less energy than we are burning.
So, did I diet?
I guess we start with the question. What do you define as a diet? This will determine very quickly the answer to this.
If you define a diet as this restrictive, boring, one dimensional meal plan that doesn't allow for chocolate, dinners out or a glass of red wine. If you believe diets to be all about the numbers and tracking the last gram of fat consumed down to a tee, if you see it as a temporary way of eating that you will quit as soon as you hit a "goal weight" Or a way of eating that leaves you hungry, restricted and grumpy on low energy and wishing we could just eat one more pea at least... then nope... I 100% did not diet.
Ok, so I didn't diet, but I was In a calorie Deficit? I must have been to have dropped weight (fat) but I had actually, intensionally, begun trying to eat more, and in fact was even tracking to see that I was consuming more than I had previously been doing so.
so whats the catch?
As you continue on I need you to know this is not where I tell you going #plantbased is a "diet" btw or a way of eating to lose weight. This is not that!
You can very easily gain fat when you have a #vegan diet. So this is not an ad to tell you being vegan is going to help you with your fat loss struggles. Dont prescrive to a way of eating that does not suit your lifestyle, ethics, values, habits, just because you think you will "lose weight"
In October I went plant based for ethical and environmental reasons. It was not to do with my health, or weight. Yes I had come off of the back of a tour around the US and Oz and I was a bit "fooded" out. I was looking forward to home cooked meals and bowls of veg that I had been lacking whilst touring, but the decision to change the way I ate completely, came after a conversation with the B'iancè about our food choices and what we wanted to do to help the environment etc... (in no way are we doing ALL we Can, but it's a start)
I know that with a few popular fitness pros going vegan, it looks like it is this magic pill to losing fat *Please please please know that it isn't a magic pill. Please know that there isn't one. Please also know that if you're not up for educating yourself on diet/nutrition, choosing a plant based lifestyle may not be optimal for health. It takes a lot of research, time, effort, and I still don't know all there is to know and struggle to have my nutrition as perfect for my health as it can be since eating this way. So please. Do not decide that eating plant based is a sure fire way to eat more and lose fat. Being vegan is not the causation of my weight loss. It is just a correlation. Ie I have not lost weight because I am eating only plants, I have lost weight because of what other things come into play when I eat plants (the coincidences if you like)
Ie) a calorie Deficit happens more easily, one because you have cut out food groups like dairy and meat. But also because of some things I'll go into detail on, below.
Again, this is NOT a sales pitch on becoming vegan. BUT it has proved to me the magic of eating whole foods prodomenatnly in my diet.
Do I still eat processed food? Yes. Do I still eat ice cream (dairy free) Hell yeh. But eating 80 to 90% of my diet from whole foods has been a part of the reason I have become slightly leaner the last few months.
But please do not confuse this with thinking that clean whole foods equals (get lean) You can and will gain weight because of one thing only. Eating more than you burn. A surplus of calories will cause weight gain (food intake in relation to what you are burning/doing) So believe it or not you can gain weight on veggies alone. (It's just a lot harder)
The thing is, eating whole foods the majority of the time means a few things.
*Being fuller for longer because grains and complex carbs fill you up, take longer to digest and generally make you feel more satisfied.
*Veggies are high in volume and low in calories, meaning the space it fills in your gut is a lot, for the little calories that come from them. See below 1000 cals in junk and 1000 cals in veg. You will be physically fuller by eating mainly veg.
*If eating lean meats and fish for protein, this is satiating. Leaving you feeling fuller and satisfied for longer.
*When tracking what you are eating it is very easy to "track" wrong. If using macros on the back of processed food or fast food places, you can't garuntee how much food you are really getting as not the one same person packages that food. You could buy a cookie and it says that the 380g cookie is (this much calories and macros) And you could weigh that cookie and in fact it is 430g cookie. Meaning there is more calories than you thought. Plus a lot of guesses get made by yourself when tracking and it's easy to be unable to find particular products and guess at what they are if they are ready made pre packaged items. With veg and grains etc all the whole foods, what you get, weigh and track will be far more specific meaning the margin for error is far smaller.
*Snacking has become less. (I am not saying snacking is BAD or will make you gain weight) as I said, a surplus of cals will do that. But if those snacks you eat take you over your maintenance calories then Yes, this could be detrimental to any weight loss progress if that is your goal. By naturally having less snacks since eating far more whole foods, this means I have naturally been having less calories than previously. The reason I have been having less snacks is for a few reasons. Mainly I have been focusing on listening to my body and eating when hungry far more so than when I'm emotional, bored or in the habit of. That's been a work in progress for a while, but it's a note worth taking. Listen to YOUR body. I got very hung up in this fitness journey, eating 6 small meals per day, mainly because I was anxious I would become hungry if I didn't do that. And, everyone bangs on about breakfast being the most important meal of your day... Turns out that eating 2 to 3 big meals per day actually keeps me full so much so that I don't find I am feeling peckish inbetween and on the go. And, I can have breakfast at 1pm if I want. Because I'm a grown up. Hurrah. I have discovered I am not hungry in the mornings which has also closed my eating time window. Instead of eating between 7am and 10pm I eat between 1pm and 10pm. Don't get me wrong. I eat ALL my micro and macro nutrients and focus on being full, but naturally I am giving myself less time to eat an excess of cals. (This is not a tip... again, please don't try and eat in a small time window or skip meals of this doesnt suit how you live or feel) This just turns out to be how I naturally like to eat most of the time and it plays part of my role perhaps in what people have been calling "progress" ie losing fat.
Which leads me back to... If I wasnt dieting, if I wasn't intentionally trying to drop fat, is this progress and was I on a diet?
This is a fundamental in why I encourage my clients not to see how they eat as a diet but to change how they view food. Focus on eating for them, how they eat, what they like eating, being mindful, times they are hungry, enjoying food, the nutritious as well as the not. If we can focus on just simply eating, and listening, balance becomes far easier and weight gain less of an issue and weight loss may happen it may not, but essentially what makes a diet shite is that we think of it as shite, because we do it shitley since reading crap magazines and listening to crap info.
We need to eat. We need to focus on our hunger cues. we need to get enough protein carbs and fats for essential health. We need to enjoy food. We need to not feel guilt when eating food. We need cake. We need greens. We need to stop caring about weight Or fat or our bodies in the way that causes us heart ache. We need to find happiness in our skin and come away from diet culture. Is being a coach or writing about this stuff or putting pics up of "fat loss" helping or hindering? I question it daily. But it hink the best thing we can do is talk, chat, ask questions, explain the grey areas and learn from each other. So... I hope this has helped.
A round up.
Did I diet to lose this 5 to 6kg? No.
Was I in a deficit? Yes.
Was I eating more than I had been previously when I had been cutting in the summer? (I went from 63 to 60kg purposefully cutting on what I thought was 1600 to 1700 calories when I wasnt eating 80/20 wholefoods/non nutritious and it was more a 65/35 split)
I then decided to maintain (whilst going plant based) and add in more food and upped my volume to match more cals) I have been eating what I track as 2000 cals. And have dropped another 2.5kg. So technically this was a deficit stil... but...
This is another factor.
Adding in some more volume of training (by either upping sets/reps by exercises per session or adding in another day of training) means I have upped my energy output. So where it seems I am eating 300 to 400 cals more, perhaps I am just burning more thus still having the same energy match?
I think it's a mixture of both. As I said above, my food intake being more whole foods means Its harder to snack of junk, being vegan means I have less option to eat more processed foods on the go, all the veg fills me up, the complex carbs keep my digestion in check, I'm always getting my fibre which also helps, I am possibly not eating as much as I think I am and I am doing a teeny bit more in the gym. And whilst also all of these are pointers, it could also be the simple fact that 2000 cals for me is still a deficit.
No magic has happened. I have not reversed dieted and lost weight eating more or the same as previously. It's finding that energy balance, eating foods that help you eat balanced and (this does not have to be plant based) just see this as a pointer as to why eating the majority of your foods as whole foods, helps.
But please please know that ice cream, cake, pizza, chips, fries etc can all be fitted into your diet *way of eating and still allow you to make "progress" whatever that may be.
If you have any questions please comment or slip into my DMs on Insta, or even e mail me and I will try and answer what I can.
Sending you all the love and warm fuzzy stuff.