Secret to losing weight means ditching daft diets and eating ENOUGH calories, says nutritionist

Many of us are looking forward to over-indulging this festive season, and why not?

It’s been a tough year, and we deserve a few treats.

But January will soon come around, with the inevitable regrets about that extra mince pie or double serving of Yorkshire pudding.

Losing excess weight is a great goal to have; it provides a lot of benefits, including improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar.

So if you want to shed the pounds, how long will it take and how are you going to keep it off?

Firstly, let’s get one thing straight – it’s impossible to accurately predict how long it will take to lose weight.

The time-frame for shedding the pounds all hinges on your weight loss goal, for example the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you should aim to lose one to two pounds per week – which means using up 500 to a thousand calories more than your regular intake.

Cynthia Sass, nutritionist and dietician, has shared some insights with health.com into how weight loss works, and why kicking restrictive diets to the kerb are one of the best ways to see results.

Slow and steady wins the race
It’s an easy mistake to make.

Desperate to reach your weight loss goal, it’s tempting to dive headfirst into a diet or lifestyle that promises quick results.

Rapid weight loss is defined as shedding more than two pounds a week.

But a healthy amount of weight loss is actually one to two pounds per week, with the CDC noting that people who shed weight at this rate are far more successful at keeping it off.

Research has shown that gradually losing weight can mean a lower fat mass and body fat percentage.

Losing one to two pounds a week is largely doable for most, and it should never require extreme eating or exercise habits.

‘My friend loses weight faster than me, how come?’
Basically, the more overweight you are, the quicker you will lose it, says Cynthia.

This is partly calorie-driven.

Say you have been eating enough calories to sustain a weight of 170 pounds, and you reduce your calories to a level that will only maintain 130 pounds – you’ve created a calorie deficit.

“The greater the deficit, the faster the weight loss, which is why people who have 40 pounds to lose typically lose weight faster than those who only have 15 pounds to lose. But as you lose weight, the deficit shrinks, which is why the rate of weight loss tapers the closer you get to your weight goal, regardless of where you started,” says Cynthia.

She says the age-old concept that weight loss is ‘calories in versus calories out’ is outdated.

“It’s also a poor predictor of how fast you’ll shed pounds. That’s because the quality, balance, and timing of the calories you take in also play key roles in how weight is lost. For example, simply slashing your caloric intake while still consuming a lot of processed foods, or eating a big chunk of your calories in the evening, may not result in losing weight as quickly”, she told health.com.

Not eating enough calories can stall weight loss
Diets can lead us into thinking we should eat as few calories as possible – but this is a very bad idea, says Cynthia.

Slashing your calorie intake too drastically can ruin your weight loss plan – simply because your body can kick into survival mode, thus actually conserving calories. This is particularly true when you eat fewer calories than it takes to support a healthy weight.

Calories and weight loss is complicated
Your metabolism – the process by which the body changes food and drink into energy – is an important factor when it comes to losing weight, as are the hormones involved in regulating the appetite.

Both can be affected by factors like inadequate sleep, stress, and your gut ‘microbiome’ – the collection of microbes that live in the digestive system.

The latter can impact how we use calories from the foods we eat, and how we burn or store them.

The road to weight-loss is full of ups and downs – don’t lose heart
Your weight yo-yo’s from day to day, this is perfectly normal.

When you set foot on a scale, you’re actually measuring everything that has weight.

This isn’t just your muscle, body fat and bone but also water volume (which can fluctuate wildly), undigested food, and waste in your GI tract. If you’re holding onto water, due to premenstrual syndrome or an extra salty meal, your weight on the scale will be higher, even if you have actually lost body fat.

Cynthia says it’s important not to concern yourself with such temporary or predictable fluctuations.

But you need to be mindful of obvious trends, and if you spot a steady increase in your weight, rather than an up-and-down pattern, or if your clothes are a little on the tighter side, it could be time to take a closer look at your habits.

Maybe you’ve been quaffing down extra calories from a few too many takeaways, or stress has driven you to too many snacks?

If so, these are fixable problems that can easily be rectified – with a little will power!

Take your time and don’t rush

  • Cynthia has compiled these fab five tips to lose weight:
  • Make a commitment to yourself to lose weight
  • Determine your starting points with height, weight, risk factors, diet, and lifestyle
  • Set specific, realistic goals that leave room for forgiveness
  • Find ways to educate and support yourself
  • Monitor and reward your progress over time

She says: “I’ve seen countless people lose weight with quick fixes that resulted in gaining back all (or more) of the weight they lost. That kind of yo-yoing isn’t good for your health, and it’s just not worth the mental agony.

“If you’re on a weight loss journey, the best thing you can do is to focus on the bigger picture, be consistent with healthy habits (which does not mean being perfect), and remain patient.

“You’ll know if you’re moving in the right direction. And even if it takes longer to get there, you’re far more likely to keep the weight off for good and feel a whole lot happier along the way.