Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on December 1, 2020

How to Plan for a Healthy Diet for Weight Loss

How to Plan for a Healthy Diet for Weight Loss

Amid a million diets, it leaves many people wondering: what does a balanced and healthy diet for weight loss look like? Is it better to eat high fat? Keto? Paleo?

While there are many different diets out there and it is true that some work better than others, there are a few staples to weight loss that rings true across the board!

If you have been wanting to lose weight for quite some time but are done with short-term and fad approaches, then this article is definitely for you.

Be prepared to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way while claiming back your energy like never before!

1. Know the Basics

I know you’ve heard the term before: calories in vs calories out.

While I don’t believe that is all there is to weight loss, it does play a part! If you are eating 3000 calories and burning only 2000 throughout the day, you will lose weight. But how exactly do calories work and how do they play into weight loss?

The first thing you need to know is this:

3,500 Calories = one pound of fat!

That means if you were to eat 500 calories less than you burn, you would lose roughly 1 pound a week. If you were to eat 1,000 calories less, you would burn 2 pounds of body fat a week.

Obviously, this isn’t all there is to it. If so, it would mean you could eat 1,500 calories of sugar and still lose weight, which is entirely untrue. However, it is important to understand!

A lot of people will eat healthily and think calories don’t matter. But that’s not the truth. If you are eating handfuls of nuts every day, you probably won’t lose weight very easily.

If you meet most people who say they eat healthily and don’t worry about calories, I can almost guarantee you that there are some secrets that they might not even know they are following that help them lose weight effortlessly. I’m about to show you some of those secrets in this article, but make sure you always remember this key.

Calories do matter, but the trick is to feed your body in a way that you feel satisfied off of fewer calories so that your body won’t trick you into craving more.

Advertising

2. Understanding Macros

The number one thing I tell people when they want to lose weight is to understand what macros are and how they affect your body.

First, what are macros? “Macros” is short for the phrase macro-nutrients. Unlike micro-nutrients (which are the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function), macros are the building blocks your body needs. Each one has a different function.

Protein

Protein is probably one of the most essential for weight loss, for several reasons. First, it boosts your metabolism by 15-30%[1]In addition to that, the more muscle you have, the higher your BMR (how many calories you burn at rest). Since protein is the direct “building block” for muscle, it can help you lose weight more long term.

In addition to those benefits, protein is digested slowly, which helps balance your blood sugar and reduce cravings throughout the day.[2]

So yes, protein is extremely important! However, if you are vegan or vegetarian, don’t lose heart. There are still plenty of high-protein foods you can enjoy while on a meat-free diet.

Carbs

Woah woah woah! Don’t go carb bashing just yet! As it turns out, carbs are an essential part of daily living![3] The problem, however, is that most people don’t know how to eat carbs while maintaining stable blood sugar.

More on that later. But for now, let me just state: carbs are not the bad guy.

Carbs are the body’s main source of energy, meaning they can actually improve your workouts and help you burn more calories overall.

In addition to that, carbohydrates contain fiber, which is essential for good digestion. And yes, fiber can help you lose weight as well by keeping you feel full throughout the day. Vegetables, which are comprised mostly of carbs, can contain many essential micronutrients that are necessary to lose weight long-term.

That being said, carbs are notoriously bashed for causing weight gain and that is true IF you are getting them from the wrong sources. However, carbs from the right sources can be extremely beneficial to weight loss.

Fats

Fats, much like carbs, can sometimes have a bit of a bad rap, although diets like keto and Atkins have slowly been changing that.

Fats are much higher in calorie density than any other macro, which means that a little bit can go a long way. Just four tablespoons of oil contain 480 calories, which is the same as 10 cups of watermelon! You can see how fats can easily get out of control on a weight loss diet. However, they also contain a lot of benefits, which means we shouldn’t cut them out entirely.

Much like carbs, the types of fats have a lot to do with the effect it will have on your body.[4] However, don’t underestimate powerful healthy fats. Omega-3’s, for example, are powerful anti-inflammatories and have a range of other health benefits.

Advertising

Fats are actually an essential part of hormone balance as well, which is key for most women on a weight loss plan.

These three Macronutrients are all essential. While you can easily cut out one of them for a while, cutting out any macronutrient long term can cause a lot of harm!

Know Your Right Balance!

Now that you know what each macro does and how it benefits you the most, the key is finding out what actually works the best for you!

For instance, some people tend to do better on fewer carbs while others thrive on more. However, as a general rule, when trying to lose weight it’s best to amp up your protein while slightly reducing both carbs and fats.

In other words, fill up on veggies, have healthy fats in moderation, and load up on carbs, like vegetables that have a low caloric density, which leads me to my next point.

3. Eat Foods at Low Caloric Density

I love this point! In fact, when I’m cutting out food, it is the rule of thumb that I live by. Why?

The most simple way of explaining it is that I enjoy food! Having a healthy diet for weight loss doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. I don’t like feeling like I’m walking around on an empty stomach all day. Another pro is that low-calorie foods tend to be full of nutrients, which make me feel amazing!

The easiest approach is to sub a few things out of your favorite meals. If you like pasta, for instance, try using veggie noodles as a base instead! You will very likely cut the calories of that meal in half while still eating the same portion size!

Go back to my reference of fat: 4 tablespoons of oil has the same amount of calories as 10 cups of watermelon. But which one will help you feel more full?

Adding more low-caloric dense foods, like vegetables, will help you feel full and satiated while still helping you get to the results you want!

4. Master Blood Sugar Balance

If you really want to become a fat-burning machine, it means mastering your blood sugar!

What is blood sugar? Blood sugar is the main source of energy (or sugar) found in your blood.[5] It comes from the food you eat, and it is essential at certain levels.

However, spikes in blood sugar can cause a huge problem! Foods that are absorbed quickly will cause blood sugar spikes and trigger an insulin response. This response will trick your body into storing more body fat and will create a sudden “drop” in blood sugar making you feel tired and hungry.

Advertising

Think of a time when you were a little kid and overdid it on the sugar! For a while, you had a surge of energy and felt unstoppable. But soon after, you felt tired, lethargic, and emotional. You just wanted more sugar!

The same thing happens in our adult bodies when we have sugar, white bread, or other high glycemic foods.

To keep it simple, it’s best to avoid sweeteners, white flour, white rice (any white food really), and other high glycemic foods entirely. Instead, get the majority of your carbs from vegetables and whole grains (like quinoa, brown rice, or whole oats).

To become a powerhouse, make sure you add plenty of protein and moderate amounts of fats to each meal. Since these foods are digested slowly, they will release a steady stream of glucose and keep you feeling good until lunch. Just using these techniques alone will create a healthy diet for weight loss that you can easily follow!

I always tell my clients that this is the number one staple for any type of weight loss. If you have cravings, I can almost guarantee you that this is a primary reason why!

5. Let Water Do the Heavy Lifting

Did you know that if you were to follow a diet high in protein while balancing blood sugar and drinking tons of water, you would most likely lose weight naturally? It’s as simple as that, and it’s key to a healthy diet for weight loss.

Water can help do a lot of the heavy lifting for us by reducing cravings and boosting our metabolism. However, where most people struggle is remembering to drink water throughout the day. After all, we all know it’s good for us. Why don’t we do it then?

For those reasons, instead of telling you to drink more water (you already know that) I’m going to share some of my secrets on how!

Find a Good Electrolyte Mix

Electrolytes are essential minerals in our body, such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, etc. When we drink plenty of water or workout, our body can get easily depleted of the electrolytes we need and making us feel thirstier.

I can’t speak for everyone on this, but I can say that for myself when I’ve depleted my electrolytes, drinking water feels unappealing. Adding electrolytes is a quick and easy fix that makes water feel more quenching.

My trick is to add some electrolytes to my water bottle before I leave for the day. That leaves me craving water MORE, and it makes water more satisfying. Of course, this naturally leads to me drinking more water throughout the day.

One key is to make sure you find one without sugar. There are plenty of good brands out there that sweeten theirs with Stevia or are even entirely unsweetened. My favorite type comes in a bottle and is unsweetened.

Find a Large Water Bottle With a Straw

If it’s easy to access, we’re more likely to have it! This principle comes into play when we try and keep the candy trays off of our desks. However, the reverse also comes into play with things we should have!

Advertising

Keeping a large water bottle nearby with a straw will make it easy to sip throughout the day without keeping you from your work. My favorite ones are about a gallon in size, making it easier for me to sip without even realizing it!

Step up Your Water Game

I’ll be honest, I don’t really like to sweeten my water because it tends to make me crave more sugar. For this reason, I recommend using simple water flavors to give your water a boost.

If you have a good cold bottle of water with some electrolyte drops and cucumber, you probably won’t want to stop sipping away. You can even make flavored water with berries, lemon, mint, and plenty of other great additives!

I’ve found that staying away from sweeteners entirely has made my fitness progress way more successful.

If you absolutely HAVE to, I recommend using only water flavors that have stevia and monk fruit in it. Sugar and most artificial sweeteners will most likely send you down the wrong path with your nutrition.

6. Eat Frequently

Starvation diets don’t work. They will leave you hungrier at the end of the day and will only slow down your progress.

Make eating healthy meals a priority! That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to follow the 6 small meals rule of thumb, but it does mean that you should be careful not to eat skimpily throughout the day only to binge at night

7. Lastly, Track Your Progress

Wait, isn’t this an article about a healthy diet for weight loss? Absolutely! But one thing to remember is that psychology plays a huge roll in reaching your goals!

If you really want to get to where you want to be, it means keeping yourself motivated! Set a goal for yourself that excited and motivated.

What is the one thing that excites you? What would change if you reached your goal? How is not being at your goal affecting your life?

These are the questions you need to ask yourself and always remember before starting on your journey.

Keep track of where you are but in moderation. The best way is to track your body fat percentage once a week. This will keep you from getting discouraged and will show you how much body fat you are losing, even if you might be gaining some good weight from muscle.

Final Thoughts

I’m excited for your journey to health! Making a decision to live a healthier lifestyle is a pivotal part of most people’s lives. I can promise you that you won’t regret it!

More Tips for Weight Loss

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Katelyn Delaney

Owner of Revifi -- Fitness Training & Life Coaching

How to Find Weight Loss Meal Plans That Work for You 8 Weight Loss Tracker and Exercise Apps for Your Fitness Goals 20 Easy Smoothie Recipes for Weight Loss 20 Delicious and Healthy Breakfast for Weight Loss how to start exercising How to Start Exercising Right Now (And Stick to It)

Trending in Diet & Nutrition

1 Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide) 2 Intermittent Fasting Diet for Beginners (The Complete Guide) 3 10 Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas That Fit Your Busy Schedule 4 21 Healthy Dinner Recipes to Lose Weight and Gain Muscle Strength 5 9 Meal Planning Apps That Will Help You Eat Healthier

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement it into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8 PM one evening to 12 PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

Intermittent Fasting Schedules

There are several different fasting schedules you can choose from when you start an intermittent fasting diet. Here are some of the most popular.

Advertising

The 16/8 Method

This method of fasting involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours and eating during an 8-10 hour window. Many people who are getting started with intermittent fasting will find this the easiest schedule to keep. You can eat your last meal around 8 PM and not eat again until noon the next day, for example. This sounds simple, as you’re really only skipping breakfast, but you’re actually fasting for 16 hours in this case![2]

16/8 Method of Intermittent Fasting

    The 5:2 Method

    This fasting method involves eating normally five days each week and restricting calorie intake to 500-600 calories for two (non-consecutive) days. On fasting days, women should eat around 500 calories, and men should eat around 600 calories.

    5:2 Diet for Intermittent Fasting

      Alternate-Day Fasting

      As its name suggests, this type of intermittent fasting involves fasting every other day. As with the 5:2 method, some people find it easier to eat 500-600 calories instead of going on a full fast each fasting day.

      Alternate Day Fasting
        The Warrior Diet

        This type of fasting is considered by many to be the most difficult and follows a 20/4 eating schedule. For most of the day, you limit your food intake to small amounts of fruits and vegetables (low-calorie foods). For four hours each day, you eat large-portioned meals to get in your day’s calories.

        Because of the intense nature of this method, it’s only recommended for those who have been on an intermittent fasting diet for a while and feel comfortable with it.

        The Warrior Diet

          Tips to Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

          1. Drink Plenty of Water

          Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

          2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

          The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge, as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

          3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

          One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[3] like a drink that contains sugar and causes you to overeat.

          4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

          The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

          To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

          Advertising

          5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

          While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

          Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

          You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

          How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

          Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. After several hours of not eating, your body will use up its sugar stores, which will cause it to start burning fat for energy, a process known as metabolic switching. 

          Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins explains this effect in simple terms:

          “Intermittent fasting contrasts with the normal eating pattern for most Americans, who eat throughout their waking hours…If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores.”[4]

          Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

          This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[5].

          Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

          Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[6].

          The influence intermittent fasting has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

          Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

          Advertising

          Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

          One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[7].

          This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fat-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

          Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

          Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

          Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

          Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

          How Much Weight Will I Lose?

          The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors.

          One study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that average weight loss on an intermittent fasting diet was around 9lbs after 12 months, and weight loss was most successful in those who strictly adhered to their chosen diet[8].

          Can I Work out While Fasting?

          Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

          If you are a hardcore athlete who often exercises for an hour or more each day, intermittent fasting may not be the best choice for you as this amount of exercise requires fuel to keep you moving and build muscle. However, light to moderate intensity workouts 2 to 4 times a week should work with intermittent fasting.

          The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are strength training workouts. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts. Combine these with lighter forms of exercise like walking, jogging, or yoga.

          You could also try this 30-Day Resistance Band Workout Challenge alongside your intermittent fasting diet. It will help you get into an exercise routine while easing into your new eating routine.

          Advertising

          Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

          Remember, exercising can increase hunger, so try working out in the hour or two right before you are scheduled to break your fast[9]. Your body will be primed for a meal, and your hunger won’t get the best of you.

          Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

          First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen.

          If you’re trying to build muscle while fasting, you’ll need to ensure you’re getting enough calories, especially through protein, at each meal between fasts.

          Is Fasting Safe?

          As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting diet.

          I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when you aren’t able to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

          Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

          As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to make sure your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branched-chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

          For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

          The Bottom Line

          Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly and safely. If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with your lifestyle, and give it a go.

          More About Intermittent Fasting

          Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

          Reference

          Read Next