What you don’t want to do
A cleanse diet is designed to lose weight fast. I am sure you have heard the “Lose 10 pounds in 10 days” headline before. It seems attractive, but this is why it’s a trap. All that is happening on a cleanse is a loss of water weight. Once the cleanse is over and the old way of eating returns, the water weight gets put right back on.
Whatever new diet all your friends are doing is for sure the one you want to avoid. Keto, Atkins, Low Carb, High Fat, Low Fat are just a few examples of “Named” diets. They all have one thing in common, restrict this and add that. Whether it be Carbs, Fats, or Protein, none are the enemy. There is no magic diet; there is only the one that works for you.
Trying to lose too much weight in too little a time is sure to fail. Your steely determination is going to crumble when faced with prolonged hunger pangs. The longer this type of diet continues, the stronger the drive to eat becomes. Eventually, 99% of us will succumb to this, and then it’s binging time. Don’t try to beat evolution; work with it instead.
The Master Rule
Calories in, Calories out. We have all heard this phrase before, and for a good reason. It is easy in concept but takes some work and planning to execute properly.
First some definitions:
- BMR = Basil metabolic rate. Pretend you are lying in bed for 24 hours. Your BMR for this 24 hour period is the amount of energy(calories) that your body needs to stay alive and perform its basic functions. If you have eaten nothing, your fat and muscle stores will be converted into energy to keep you alive. If you ate food during this time, it would pull from that instead.
- Activity Level = the amount of time and intensity level of activity you perform weekly.
The Simple Math
So, therefore, BMR + Activity level = Daily Caloric needs. To find out your daily caloric needs, go to this BMR Calculator. If maintaining weight is your goal, then daily calories in and out should match. To lose weight, you should be in a deficit and to gain a surplus. All the other bullshit diets are exactly that. We are not breaking the laws of thermodynamics here. It’s simple energy in vs. energy out formula. What this balance sheet looks like over time determines whether you gain or lose weight. Check out this post to simplify the concept even further; The Simple Math Behind Being Fat.
To lose a pound of real body weight per week, you should shoot for a 500 calorie deficit per day. There are around 3600 calories in one pound of body fat. This works out to about 1 lb of body weight per week or around 4 lbs per month. Think of it like this; if you can sustain this consistently over 6 months, you will have lost on average 24 pounds. That’s a shit ton of fat. I have worked with 100’s of people as a weight loss and muscle building coach. In my experience, this is a sustainable level of fat loss. Too much more and you will feel starving all the time. Too little, and progress will be demoralizingly slow.
The Diet you SHOULD be on to lose weight
If your goal is losing weight, you need to combine a diet in which you are in a calorie deficit with foods you are willing to eat for the rest of your life. A “diet” is usually thought of as a temporary and dogmatic way of restrictive eating to lose weight rapidly. This is not sustainable and inevitably results in yo-yo dieting. You will lose temporarily and then gain the weight back in a neverending cycle and never be happy. My definition of a diet is a healthy way of eating sustainable for the rest of my life.
First, choose the foods you enjoy and want to include in daily eating. Second, eat fewer calories than you need every day until you reach your goal weight. Lastly, once in maintenance mode, increase daily calories to match your current daily energy expenditure. A calorie counting app is essential to success and must be done religiously, especially at first. Check out these calorie counting apps, one for Android, the other for Apple.
This guide gives you the formula to lose weight. It does not account for how to do it healthily. I mean, you could lose weight on a diet of Twinkies, for Christs’ sake. Calories in calories out, remember? It also does not account for how to keep muscle and lose more of it from fat. In a future post, I will talk about how to lose weight and eat food from healthy sources and food prep strategies and tips to maintain muscle while losing fat. Keep an eye out for that.
- Determine your daily caloric needs (BMR + Activity)
- Use a calorie counter (Android; Apple) and make sure you are 500 calories under those daily needs.
- Be consistent; don’t beat yourself up if you mess up. Get back on that horse the next day and kill it.