The definition of “diet” according to the Oxford Dictionary, is:
“Restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight”. What comes to mind is Deprivation.
The only thought of dieting has a psychological effect on many people: if I go on a diet, I cannot eat certain foods, I must give up the things I like, I will only have few leaves of salad and a piece of grilled chicken,I cannot go out and eat with friends…
My first advise is that you should not think about it as a diet but rather as a healthier way of eating. Having said that, I personally believe that we can eat everything in moderation, you can have some chocolate or a slice of pizza, just make sure that you stay within your calorie target and that for the rest of the day you eat balanced meals.
When it comes to loosing weight, there are no magic potions or fancy diets endorsed by celebrities, there is only one truth:
calories eaten < calories burnt = weight loss
calories eaten > calories burnt = weight gain
calories eaten = calories burnt = no change in weight
Unfortunately, there is no way around this: if you want to loose weight, you have to eat less then what you burn.
There are several formulas to calculate how much calories you need during the day. This is called the BMR or Basic Metabolic Rate, it takes into account your age, sex, current weight and the intensity of the activity you do during the day.
Once you have found out what your BMR is, you need to plan your meals so that you do not exceed in calories your BMR. The safest way to loose weight is to consume about 500 calories less than your BMR, so, if for example your BMR is 1800 calories, you should eat 1300 calories a day.
Following this guidelines you can loose about 0.5 to 1 Kg of weight a week.
But remember: don’t cut your calorie intake too much because this can have a devastating effect on your body, you may loose weight quickly but, more often than not, you will soon regain all the weight you lost or even more. I will talk about this in another post.
To calculate how many calories you eat in a day, you can use one of the many applications available for free. I personally like www.myfitnesspal.com but you can also use fwww.fatsecret.co.uk, www.cronometer.com (free to use, but you need to pay a small fee to download the app) etc.
These apps will let you log on the food you eat and will give you not only the calories, but also the amount of macro-nutrients such as carbohydrate, protein, fat, sugar and, in some cases, micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
The downside of this is that you have to weight all the food in order to have a more accurate recording. I know it may sound time consuming and daunting, but trust me, it is worth it, you will realise that the yogurt you thought was so healthy, is actually full of sugar or those biscuits you like so much, are full of fat!
Just invest some time at the beginning of your journey, with time you will learn to judge quantities by the eye and you will be able to identify which foods contain what nutrients.
If you struggle, get help from a qualified dietitian who can design a balanced and safe nutritional program that takes into account your specific needs.