The last few cold days of Winter are here. That can only mean that the longer days of Spring are just around the corner. This is ideal time to see how you’re doing with your New Year’s resolutions, especially that plan to lose a few pounds after the holiday food blitz. If you have been having trouble moving your numbers the right way, these three tips may help you re-energize your program.
Quality over quantity
The traditional approach to weight control (dieting) is based on rigorous portion control and counting calories. Eat fewer calories than you expend each day and watch the dial on the scale plummet. But a recent study suggests that it is the quality of your diet, not quantity is more important.
One study was done to see if there were any advantages of recommending a low fat versus a low carbohydrate diet. Both groups were instructed on cooking and eating nutrient-dense, minimally processed whole foods whenever possible. One group was instructed on low carbohydrate foods and the other on low fat alternatives. Both were asked to try to cut down on portion size, but neither was asked to count calories. At the end of a year both groups lost an equal amount of weight. And participants were most surprised that they did not have to restrict or even think about calories to do so.
The conclusion? Losing weight is not as much about limiting fats or carbohydrates as it is about changing your eating habits to focus on whole foods (those you prepare at home and are not pre-processed and packaged ready to eat).
This may require changes to your lifestyle - more cooking at home, no more quick lunches in the car after a drive-thru lunches at McDonalds - but using whole foods (more vegetables, less added sugar, fewer refined grains) will be healthier as it helps you control your weight.
And after you have shed those unwanted pounds, the same whole food approach, once you have changed your eating habits, is easy to maintain.
No white at night
When you eat the balance of your daily calories is as important to any diet plan as your total daily calories
Calories, especially carbohydrate calories (the “white” foods - bread, pasta, rice) eaten early in the day are metabolized preferentially by active muscles over the following three or four hours. And any carbohydrates not used for immediate energy needs are processed into into fat and stored for future use.
Thus, it makes sense to eat the bulk of your calories early in the day (before 2 PM) when it is most likely you will be up and about at work or doing chores and errands. If you make dinner the big meal of the day, a larger percentage of the meals calories will go directly to fat. If you want to minimize that happening, take a walk (it doesn’t have to be a long one) right after dinner.
A good goal might be a 25-50-25 caloric split for breakfast-lunch-dinner.
There is solid science behind fasting. An English study compared a traditional calorie restricted diet with one that kept total weekly calories the same but added fasting two days a week (they did allow 700 calories on those two days). Over the three-month study, the average weight loss of the fasting group was twice that of the traditional diet group. And sixty-five percent of those who fasted intermittently lost weight, compared to only 40 percent of those on calorie-restricted diets.
One fasting approach is to adopt a weekly meal plan that includes five days of a normal diet and two “fasting” days.
A second idea would be to modify your daily routine to extended the fasting period to 16 hours (you already have seven or eight while you are sleeping) and then plan your meals for the remaining eight hours. This has been called a 16:8 plan. This is not an absolute and a few bloggers with work shift challenges have suggested that 14:10 works as well.
For an extended daily fasting period, the meal to skip is the late evening meal. When a morning fast was compared to an equivalent evening fast, equal weight was lost, but blood markers of inflammation increased in the morning fast group.
With the daily fast scenario, dieters that move towards two meals a day with just a snack or salad for dinner. One small study compared two groups of women on similar low-calorie diets. One group ate 700 calories for breakfast, 500 for lunch and 200 for dinner, while the other group reversed that with 200 - 500 - 700. Over three months, the large breakfast group lost twice as much weight as the large dinner group.
The message seems clear, eating fewer calories in the evening appears to prove the adage: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.