Whole foods are awesome, but yes calories DO matter to weight loss!
Weight loss can seem like an elusive topic these days. Everyone has a theory. Low carb, high carb, whole 30, vegan, low calorie. They ALL promise results. Every one one of these special diets have something right. Reminds of me all the world religions. If we would all get on the same page and put it all together we might be on to something. Let’s discuss the top three.
A low carb diet can be as simple as eliminating all grains, legumes, and sugars to as hard as counting every single macro and making sure your “net carbs” are under 20 grams a day while peeing on sticks to check for a purple color representing ketones. Carbs have a bad name in the recent years, and for good reason. As a society, we tend to eat way too many of them. Not the healthy kind like berries and sweet potatoes, but the refined crap like French fries, potato chips, and crackers. If you haven’t heard by now, these foods don’t satisfy. They cause cravings in the brain for MORE. So, you eat MORE, and you get BIGGER. What a concept. How many times have you sat down to eat a sweet potato and ended up binging on them? Probably not often unless it came in a bag and was labeled “sweet potato chips”.
Low carb diets theorize the body turns into fat burning mode and uses up your fatty acids for energy instead of the sugar you normally feed yourself. Whether this is true or not, people tend to lose weight on a low carb plan. At first you will lose a substantial amount because most of it is water. This can be exciting until one “cheat” and all the weight comes back overnight. The jury is still out if you are actually losing weight because of less calories or because of the ketones. You can find blog battles about this all over the internet.
A benefit to a low carb dieting is many find they lose their appetite after a week or two, so it is much easier to stick to the diet! Without cravings, it’s much easier to eat green veges and protein every night. I have done this diet many times and I can attest to the fact that you will lose weight. The problem for me was that no matter how much my appetite was curbed I still ended up wanting something “off” the diet list after a few weeks and it would throw my body out of ketosis. I would have to start the whole thing again. Getting your body into ketosis can be quite uncomfortable. Ketosis diets are used by doctors for people with epilepsy and brain cancer. My brain feels much clearer while following this diet after a few weeks but its not sustainable for me. I still use this diet if I feel like my brain is getting a bit to foggy and I have been eating to many carbs after the holidays.
One downfall is for those prone to mental health issues. Depression and anxiety can get out of control on the low carb diet. Especially women. This happens to me big time! I actually shake inside the first few days on it. My husband can tell the first day I am on it. It's kind of a joke in our house, "Um honey are you low carb again?". I have read it could be due to women needing more carbs to make serotonin or the fact that your stress hormones are elevated. I have to rely on taking 5-HTP especially at the beginning of this program. Not everyone has this issue. Some people even report it cures their mental health problems. If you are someone who already struggles with depression I would not try this diet without being under your doctor’s care.
The Whole 30 Diet has been made popular by a woman named Melissa Hartwig. She has an inspiring story and has overcome many challenges in her life. I have a lot of respect for her. Without knowing it I had been following the “Whole 30 Diet” for many years. Before it was called The Whole 30 Diet. I did this to calm my autoimmune reactions while I was sick with Interstitial Cystitis. You eliminate dairy, all grains and legumes, added sugars, soy, alcohol, and anything processed for a full 30 days. This is not advertised as a weight loss diet, but the secret is out many people loose substantial amount of weight while doing it. It is not uncommon for people to stay on it for many months to continue the weight loss. The first week on this diet can be really tough. You will most likely have major sugar cravings and feel many different detox symptoms. This is a good thing, but it feels terrible. My sister did this diet and felt amazing from day 1, so not everyone experiences this. I am not so lucky. I get headaches, bloating, fatigue, anxiety, and massive cravings when I go on it for the first week. I think our individual gut bacteria plays a major role in how we will respond.
A benefit to Whole 30, much like low carb, is there is no calorie counting. You just eat healthy foods and rely on your body to give you the cues to stop eating. When you eat only whole foods your leptin hormone signals for hunger get balanced and you can trust your body. You are also getting a huge dose of vitamins and minerals, which is never a bad thing!
One downfall to this plan is when you get to your last 10-20 pounds it may not work anymore. At the beginning if you have a lot of weight to lose you will naturally be consuming less calories. Once your energy needs lower with weight loss you will need to watch your calories to lose the last bit of weight. I think the whole 30 diet is awesome for so many reasons but if weight loss is your goal, you might need to also log your intake. I needed to log again to loose my holiday weight gain. I am a woman of average 5’5 height and for me to lose the last 10 I can’t eat more than 1200-1300 calories a day if I am not regularly working out. On whole 30 you might be eating a lot of nuts, butter, and healthy fats which can pack in the calories and prevent you from losing the last 10 pounds. So just be mindful!
Low Calorie Diet
Here we come to one of the most time proven ways to lose weight. The calorie restricted diet. This is still the top way to lose weight in my opinion, science still agrees. No matter what special diet you are doing, it is most likely because of the restricted calories that you are actually losing weight. After I had my children and had 60 pounds to lose, this is the way I did it. I had no idea in my 20s about the low carb diet or any special type of diet. I just used my fitness pal to log all my calories and I did lose all my weight within 8 months. It was not easy all the time due to my sugar eating habits, but I did it. After I got sick with IC is when I started researching all these other diets to help me get out of pain and saw their benefits as well.
You can lose weight eating 1200 calories a day of sugar and crap food. This is not advisable and would be VERY hard to do because of the continuous cravings you would be having due to consuming low nutrient dense food and chemicals. Using a combo of the whole foods diet and low-calorie diet will most likely get you to your goal. People tell me all the time, “But Melissa I am NOT losing weight on this 1200 calorie diet of whole foods”. Then I make them seriously log everything they eat for a week with a food scale and find out they are actually eating about 1800-2000 calories a day. Every bite counts when you are a shorter woman! Often, they don't measure the oil they put in their salad and don’t realize how many calories oil and butter have. The couple of nuts they eat here and there added another few hundred! Eating whole foods (nothing from a package) and staying away from refined sugar while also counting calories with a food scale will not only curb your cravings but you will be feeding your body nutrient dense food and nourishing your body while losing. Allowing yourself a weekly cheat meal not more than 300 calories over your normal daily calories will keep you sane. Just make sure you know your limits. If you are a sugar addict like me, I would keep sugar out of your cheat meals if it has the ability to completely throw you off. I like to use red wine as my cheat. I justify its feeding my good bacteria:)
We are all different when it comes to food preferences and losing weight should not make you crazy! If something isn’t working don’t fight it, try another way. Wellness is not about following a ridged lifestyle of a specific diet and supplement routine, it’s about finding what works for your body and mind! Hiring a coach to keep you on tract and hold you accountable can be the missing piece. Let me help you with your weight loss goals!
Melissa is the Author of Healing Through the Pain How I overcame Interstitial Cystitis. She writes about health (physical, emotional and spiritual) from a vulnerable place, after overcoming Interstitial Cystitis and still battling emotional illness. She is passionate about helping women realize their ability to make changes and move forward from difficult situations in their lives.
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