I hear people say this often: “I’m trying to lose fat”.
And when I ask. “And what’s your current diet like? Are you working on this?”
They’re like: “Yes, I’m working on this.
I have started eating more healthy foods and I’ve cut out a lot of unhealthy foods. I try to not eat junk.”
When I add: “Can you be a little more specific about it?”
Usually people respond with: “You know, I’m eating more of oats. I’m eating more of whole grains.
I’ve started eating more nuts and seeds in my diet.
I try not to eat fried food. I try not to eat out.”
So that is the general consensus among most people. That “I have started eating more of these good foods such as nuts & seeds. And I’ve tried to eliminate foods like chocolate, cake, fried food, fried snacks.”
These are bad foods. Those are good foods.
So if I’m eating those good foods, it must mean that I’m on the right path. Which you’re kind of correct about.
But at the same time, you have to realize that when it comes to just fat-loss. The only thing that matters really is energy in vs energy out.
It’s that simple.
If you are eating less energy than what you are expending, you will lose fat.
And you will lose weight.
One of my friends had a very good analogy for this.
He was explaining to another friend of mine. So this friend. His name is Akshit.
And he gave this analogy of a graph. And he said. If you imagine a graph where the Y-axis. With the top being weight gain and bottom being weight loss.
And imagine the X-axis with healthy foods and bad foods.
You could be eating healthy foods and be losing weight or gaining weight.
You could be eating unhealthy foods and be gaining weight or losing weight.
So gaining weight or losing weight is independent from what you eat in terms of healthy or unhealthy.
It’s a whole different ballgame.
If for the next one month you pick your most unhealthy snack. Say you pick pizza.
And you eat just one slice of pizza everyday for the next 30 days. You would lose weight; you will lose fat.
Because pizza is a “bad” food per se. But if that is the only thing you ate; one slice of pizza for the next 30 days.
You would drop weight because that is too less of energy for your body to survive on every single day.
But at the same time it won’t be good for your body because pizza is not nutrient dense. So you may end up with other bad stuff happening to your body.
But will you lose weight? Yes, you will.
So you can see that it is not the nutrition in the food that determines whether you lose weight or not.
It is the energy composition.
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But there are other nuances to it as well.
A lot of people tend to get misled by the fact that since energy quantity is the only thing that matters. They can just eat unhealthy snacks and still lose weight.
There are two extremes to this.
The other day I was on a forum for people who are losing weight or people who have lost weight. And there was this story of a woman who had lost weight over a period of two to three years successfully and gained a lot of it back.
She was narrating her whole experience. And she said that:
“The first year that I dropped weight I cut out all of these foods from my life; the so-called bad foods. And I cleaned up my diet completely.
So I would eat very healthy and I would not touch anything that would be considered, you know, unhealthy. And I lost weight successfully.
But what happened is that I ruined my relationship with food.”
After that, she just could not go near unhealthy food or eat unhealthy food without experiencing guilt.
And every time she would eat an unhealthy snack, it would start a cycle of feeling guilt and then bingeing.
And feeling guilt again, and then bingeing. And she gained back the lost weight.
That is what happened over the next two years.
This is more common than you’d realize.
A lot of people feel that losing fat is very difficult. But let me tell you this. Losing fat is actually super easy.
What is difficult is keeping it off. Because you can go hop on any diet plan or meal plan and lose that weight.
What do you do after you are done with that? How do you maintain it?
How do you keep that off?
Because unless and until you are thinking long-term, you won’t be able to do that.
As soon as you categorize foods as good and bad. And you try to remove the bad stuff from your life.
You’re inherently causing this psychological damage to your relationship with food. Because the kinds of foods that you actually enjoy are usually the ones that you would categorize as bad.
And as soon as you do that, you have removed the element of enjoyment that you have with food. This is not sustainable long-term.
The right approach is a middle ground.
Because a lot of people, when they realize that energy is all that matters. They tend to fill their diet with a lot of unhealthy foods and they keep track of their calories.
They lose weight. But that is not the way to go about it.
The right way to go about your weight loss is to understand that you need to consume whole foods as well as soul foods.
All foods that you find enjoyment in are soul foods. And whole foods are foods that are nutritious. Foods which people consider “good” in a general sense.
Whole foods are foods that you get directly from the source; whole grains, fruits, vegetables, animal products, plant products.
Foods that are single ingredient that you have to actually cook to consume.
These should make up 80% of your diet. And 20% of your diet can always be soul foods; foods that you enjoy. This could be pizza, fried foods. It could be anything.
As long as you maintain this balance, you cannot go off track from your goals.
It is only when you try to do a hundred percent of clean eating. That is when you cannot maintain this long-term.
So if we think of foods just from the perspective of fat loss. There are no good foods or bad foods.
But if you think of foods as a source of nutrition for your body, there are foods which are nutritionally dense. And there are foods which are low in nutrition.
Foods which are directly sourced from plants and animals are highly nutritionally dense. These are full of vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
But foods that are highly processed are very low in vitamins and minerals.
So if your diet is full of processed foods. You’re not getting enough of those micronutrients that your body needs to run efficiently.
Nutrition is one part. And fat loss is a whole different thing.
The right way to approach this will be to incorporate both of them so that you can have sustainable, good health. And you can lose fat without putting your health at risk.
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Another thing people tend to overlook is their psychological behavior when it comes to food.
When we get food from outside; food which is very flavorful, very tasty. We cannot stop at one
You might think: “I’ll just have that one cookie”. “I’ll just have that one piece of chips.”
And that never happens.
Because those foods are so engineered to perfection to appeal to your taste buds. It’s hard to stop at one.
You have to consume the whole pack. You might have noticed this.
And this is why you have cravings. After you’ve finished one pack, you’re like: “I want more.”
But this doesn’t happen if you eat whole foods. How many boiled potatoes can you eat for one meal?
But if the potatoes are instead in the form of French fries with a serving of mayonnaise, you can go on and on and on.
The problem is the psychological component of it.
If you are eating these so-called “bad” foods, it is not the food itself that’s the problem.
It’s that you cannot be satisfied with less. And also these foods don’t fill you up.
So when you’re eating. Although you’re eating a lot of energy, you don’t feel satisfied.
You feel hungry even after that. And that leads to overeating. That leads to bingeing. It’s the behavioral consequences which causes weight gain.
But this does not happen when you’re eating nutritionally dense foods.
If I’m to just summarize the whole thing. There are no good foods or bad foods for fat loss.
Because the only thing that matters is how much you’re eating compared to how much you’re expending in terms of energy. But there are other things that come into play such as the nutrient density of foods.
Are your foods actually rich in vitamins and minerals?
Because if they’re not i.e. most of your diet is processed food. Then you should shift a little bit towards eating more of whole foods.
But if you do an extreme shift and you decide that: “from today onwards I’ll eat only whole foods, only nutritionally dense foods. I’ll never eat a piece of cake again.” This extreme shift is going to ruin your relationship with food.
So there needs to be a balance. Because humans are not just machines but we also have an emotional connection with food.
Food is a cultural thing. Food is something that you derive pleasure out of. If you completely ignore that aspect, it’s going to be very difficult for you to maintain this long term.
And it can lead to a similar kind of guilt-binge cycle like that of the woman in the forum (from the story that I was telling earlier).
You want a balance of 80%-20%.
80% of whole foods. 20% of soul foods. I don’t know where I read about this, but it was really good. You should try to incorporate it.
And also remember that whenever you’re eating foods which are very tasty. You usually won’t feel full because they don’t satisfy your hunger cues.
And at the same time, you cannot stop at one. You’d want to keep eating more and more and more. That is one thing that you have to consider.
So if you’re really hungry, instead of settling for that bag of chips. Find something that is filling.
And ask yourself this question: “Am I actually hungry?”
“Or am I having a craving for something snacky?”
“Is it an emotional thing or do I have a physical hunger?”
How you can figure this out is by asking yourself: “Am I hungry enough to eat an apple?”
“Am I hungry enough to eat some broccoli?”
Because if you’re actually hungry, you would be satisfied by eating something very clean or bland.
But if you are not actually hungry, you might say: “I don’t want to eat an apple. I will only eat something super tasty right now.”
That is not hunger. That is just a sign of food craving. There’s an emotional component attached to it. You have to be a little aware of these things.
But otherwise having the dichotomy of good food and bad food, when it comes to fat loss is highly damaging. It can ruin your relationship with food.
So try not to think of food in these terms.
If you have been trying to reach your weight loss goals for a while now, but are struggling a bit in the process.
It’s probably because of a lack of consistency, a lack of guidance or a lack of support.
If you’d like a 24×7 support system to hold your hand and guide you through the process till you get to your goals, you should consider 1-on-1 coaching with Workday Physique.