Starting A Diet? Here's 7 Things You Should Know Before You Start
Figure Out Where You Metabolism Is At You want to know what your basal metabolic rate (BMR) aka resting metabolic rate (RMR). If you go into a diet not knowing what your calories requirements are, how are you supposed to know how many calories to eat to be in a sustainable deficit? If you diet too much you’ll feel drained, grumpy, and unmotivated to move, which will lead to you not sticking with your diet. If you don’t create enough of a deficit, you won’t see the results you want and you’ll be more likely to change your diet or give up. Give Yourself Diet Breaks When your body requires 2000 calories to function and you consume 1,200 calories you are forcing your body to function at a lower energy level. Calories are energy. When you do that long enough, your BMR lowers and adapts to a lower level than 2,000. As it lowers you see results less and less often and eventually you hit a plateau. Your metabolism adapted and learned to function off a lower calorie level. The reason so many people go on diets, lose weight and then put it back on is for this reason. They’ve adapted to 1,500 calories a day, but go back to eating 2,000. The reasons you give you give yourself diet breaks are: 1. To avoid this metabolic adaptation by spending a week or two at maintenance. That means coming out of your diet and consuming a little more food to let your hormones and metabolism reset. You can dive more into the science here by looking at the Matador study. 2. It also allows you to live a little and have mental breaks from having to be on all the time. Yes, this will extend your diet, but your health isn’t a destination, it’s a journey that lasts your lifetime. There’s no rush and you’ll be more likely to maintain your results if you take the long-term approach. Don’t Be Restrictive If there is a food or food group that you like, restricting is going to cause you to have this push-pull relationship with food which will lead you to bingeing it at some point. There are a lot of diets that restrict certain foods or food groups and that causes people to fear them. Yes, there are 100% foods that are better for you than others. Everything in moderation, but know what moderation is. Eating pizza 4 nights of 7 is not moderation if you want to lose a lot of weight. Having pizza once every couple weeks when the rest of the time you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet is. The stress created from worrying about the foods you’re eating is going to be more detrimental to your mental health than having a cookie or carb. Speaking of carbs. Eat Carbs If carbs were evil then why do nearly all fruits and vegetables have carbs? You need carbs for energy when you exercise and carbs help blunt cortisol which is the hormone associated with elevated stress levels. The reason why low carb diets work is because the person on the diet stopped eating foods (beer, pizza, fries, cake, wine, processed garbage) that put them at a calorie surplus. I go into detail on the benefits of carbs in this blog. Any diet or person telling you that carbs are bad are not people to take advice from. Increase Protein, Fiber, & Water To Stay Full We’ve all been there when we’re in a calorie deficit and we’re starving. The pangs of hunger come right around the time when the donut cart rolls through the office. In order to mitigate the sensations of hunger and cravings, you want to increase these three things. Protein specifically deceases the reduces your level of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Fiber slows digestion, making food stay in your stomach longer. And water is a good buffer to find out if you’re really hungry or just bored. Sober January Is 100% Possible If you are going to an event with alcohol and friends, just let them know at the start what you’re doing. They’ll respect your decision much better when they are sober than when everyone is drunkenly ordering shots. Switch your drink in hand to be things like coffee or sparkling water. Both are calories free. Coffee will help keep you up when you are out with friends and flavorful sparkling water can give you something to reach for when you get done with a stressful day. Lastly, reward yourself with things other than alcohol. If you go two weeks, buy yourself a massage as a reward. So often we reward ourselves with alcohol as a form of celebration. Just switch the feel-good association to something that’s good for you. Stay The Course Don’t give up because you hit a bump in the road for a day or a week. You won’t lose 10lbs in a day and you won’t gain 10lbs in a day. You are trying to turn a cruise ship around. It’s going to take a long time. In the process of turning there are going to be waves that hit you back, but if you stay the course, you’ll get your ship turned around. This is where having a nutrition coach helps immensely. The more often we can audit ourselves, the more often we get back on track. If you wonder on your own, you’ll find yourself off track and won’t realize until you’re a long way from where you started. Maybe you aren’t off track, but instead you hit a plateau. That’s another reason you need someone that can help you adjust your plan so you can continue to work towards your goal.