Diet is a four-letter word for many.
That thought alone is enough to make most anyone feel grumbling in their stomach, sense a faint headache coming on and have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.
In a society where the weight loss and diet industry brings in more than $60 billion every year, there’s no doubt that dieting is a norm for a vast majority of Americans.
In fact, 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 4 men are on a diet at any given time.
Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, The Master Cleanse, The Biggest Loser Diet, The Atkins Diet, and on and on.
And, along with these statistics, you’ve heard it before: 98-99 percent of people fail diets.
However, what if I told you that 98-99 percent of diets actually fail people?
Meaning just that: Diets don’t work … or don’t work for long.
Many people start off with good intentions, wind beneath their wings and an extra spring in their step, only to soon find after one to four weeks that they are …
- Tired of trying so hard
- Physically drained and low on energy
If you are on a diet and always hungry, you’re doing it wrong.
Yes, you heard it right. A common misconception among dieters or those aiming to shed a few pounds and/or body fat is that, in order to do so, they must deprive themselves.
While there is certainly something to be said about energy balance (the whole calories-in versus calories-out platform), the key to effective weight and body fat loss is actually about a revving metabolism and the quality of the foods you are consuming.
In fact, many dieters are often shocked to hear that in their efforts to see some movement on the scale, they actually are eating too little.
Somehow, we all got it into our minds that skipping meals and denying ourselves food is a good thing—something to be proud of, and celebrate our “willpower” for sticking to a diet.
But, in actuality, it’s crazy if you think about it.
Our bodies are like machines and require fuel to function. In fact, for body fat loss and/or weight loss, 1,800 calories is a minimum most adults need to see positive results. Without a consistent intake of nutrients throughout the day our bodies go into fat and fuel-storage mode holding on to whatever it is we are consuming, knowing that it needs to drag it out in order to ensure it has enough fuel to get by on throughout our days.
As an analogy: Think about the deprivation of fuel for your body like a bear in hibernation. Your body adapts to prepare itself out of fear that you may not feed it for a while, and wants to store whatever it can get as soon as it gets it.
Additionally, skipping meals affects your ghrelin, also known as the “hunger hormone.”
Ghrelin is a hormone located in the stomach that sends hunger signals to the brain. When ghrelin levels are too high, the brain wants food – even if we are full—and often times it wants food that is not best for our dieting intentions (think: binge episodes, midnight munchies, eating a pint of ice-cream and self-sabotage after trying so hard to diet).
In short: The more we diet and restrict ourselves, the harder that diet is both physically and psychologically for us to handle.
What if there was an easier and better way to achieve the body composition and health results you want —without feeling deprived?
Even without counting calories?
Here are five simple steps for dieting without feeling hungry:
Step 1: The main three. Focus on consuming protein, fat and veggies with every main meal—breakfast, lunch and dinner. Proteins and fats, in particular, help you feel satiated and stick with you longer, while ensuring you get your veggies in will help with digestion. This could look like two to three eggs scrambled in grass-fed butter with spinach and mushrooms and two slices of nitrate-free bacon for breakfast; mixed greens with chicken, avocado, veggies and oil and vinegar drizzled on top for lunch; and grilled salmon, grass-fed beef burger patties or pork chops with a side of roasted broccoli or asparagus and a small sweet potato with a dollop of coconut butter for dinner.
Step 2: Quality not quantity. All calories are not created equal. Getting pizza delivered is convenient, affordable and delicious, however 250 calories of pizza from Dominos and 250 calories of a chicken breast is not the same. While the caloric density is the same, the nutritional makeup and what your body gets out of each of these foods is not the same. Many diets that are strictly calorically based have you eat “whatever” as long as you stick within a certain caloric range (which is typically very low). So, by focusing on the quantity, you can eat the waffles for breakfast, order the Kid’s Chicken Nugget Happy Meal for lunch and nosh on the small slice of pizza at dinner, and certainly reap the benefits of the food tasting good, but that’s about it. Due to the small portion sizes, and the failure to provide your body with the nutrients it needs, however, your body is only going to end up feeling hungry, deprived (of nutrition), fatigued and confused (i.e. you are still restricting it of the energy it needs for optimal metabolic function). So what to do? Instead of counting calories or focusing on small portions, choose to direct your attention instead to your food quality choices. Going back to step 1, this includes quality meats (pasture raised, grass-fed, organic is ideal to negate hormones and antibiotics added to our commercial meat supply), fresh produce (veggies and some fresh fruits), healthy fats, little starch, no sugar and lots of water. Simple and basic. A meal may look something like: 6-10 oz. of chicken, fish, or beef and half your plate filled with leafy greens and a small sweet potato with a small dollop of grass-fed butter. The meal may take up more space on the plate, and even have more calories than say a Lean Cuisine Frozen Dinner or small serving of chicken fried rice from a takeout restaurant…but your body (and metabolism) gets a bigger and better bang for its buck (more quality fuel to distribute for all your metabolic processes). And no, not everything needs to be organic, but do opt for the freshest, most wholesome sources of foods you can find—(your body will thank you).
Step 3: Watch the sugars and starches. If you want to be successful with your diet endeavors, glucose—not fat—is the main culprit in fighting the bulge. And glucose is found most readily in foods such as cereal, bagels, breads, grains, pasta These are the foods that stimulate secretion of insulin the most. (If you didn’t know already, insulin is the main fat storage hormone in the body). When insulin goes down, however, fat has an easier time getting out of the fat stores and the body starts burning fats instead of carbs. By curbing your sugars and starches alone, and opting for more fibrous carb sources (fresh veggies), protein and plenty of fats, it is not uncommon to lose up to 10 lbs in the first week of eating this way, both body fat and water weight. (Note: This does not mean avoiding carbs altogether or going on the Atkins’ Diet. Your body needs carbs. Aim for lots of vegetables, especially leafy greens, and even some wholesome starches like squashes and sweet potatoes occasionally).
Step 4: Drink water. Did you know the same part of your brain that signals to your body that you are hungry is also the same signaler in the brain that signals you are thirsty? The hypothalamus is responsible for both, and sometimes, when you think you are hungry, you are actually thirsty. Help kick this to the curb by ensuring you drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day.
Step 5: Throw out the rulebook. The “rulebook” includes measuring cups, meat scales, calorie counting apps, 100-calorie snack packs, the magazine diets, the standards that claim “you need to eat six small meals per day” and more. It’s time to get in touch with your body’s cues and practice the KISS philosophy (keep it simple, stupid). Your body will ultimately begin to thrive and find your happy place (perfect weight range for your body type) when you make the effort to regularly and consistently feed it nourishing foods that are simple in form (meat, veggies, healthy fats, water); stop fixating on a number (rather a healthy range); and stop counting calories. The fewer fixations on the end result, the less war and the more peace and freedom you can experience in moving toward your goals in stride. Envision and embody yourself as the healthy individual you aspire to be — and are becoming. Make decisions that that healthy person would make on a daily basis and begin to realize your goals become a reality.