By Joseph Agu (MSc) | Nutrition Consultant
When first embarking on a weight loss journey, it’s difficult not to completely cave into temptation and eats everything in sight, and more – especially after getting back to ‘normality’ after a period of indulgence.
No-one wants to end up gaining a significant amount of body fat in as little as a couple of weeks, which can often take a few months to shift with anything but extreme dieting.
For those of you who want to have your cake and eat it (no pun intended), this short article will hopefully give you some tips that will allow you to have a certain degree of flexibility within your diet, without the unwanted fat gain!
How To Lose Weight
What I’m attempting to achieve is to combine some science and a little common sense, to allow people to eat more of what everyone else is having without worrying too much about the consequences.
Contrary to several claims in recent years, ingesting more energy that is expended over a protracted period is basically what fat gain boils down to.
Therefore, the following strategies all work by minimising the chances of overeating!
#1 Stock up on lean protein and veg
Given the satiating power of lean proteins such as chicken, turkey and some fish (e.g. cod and tuna), consuming some protein will curb hunger somewhat before you move on to more calorific mains and desserts, leaving you less likely to overeat.
Adding some vegetables to this protein snack/meal will add to the satiating effects of protein.
✓ This approach aims to avoid any food restrictions which may cause overeating – yet simply aims to fill you up before having something higher in calories, in which you’re much more likely to eat less of this!
#2 Try intermittent fasting
Though there are many approaches to intermittent fasting, the one I talk about here is the Lean gains approach, the brainchild of Martin Berkhan.
His approach involves fasting for 14-16 hours every day, leaving the person with an 8-10 hour window to consume all their food for the day (typically to the tune of 2-3 larger meals).
This would also be perfect for those who say, are attending a social occasion which will most likely involve sugary and fatty treats and panic at the thought of temptation.
✓ An individual could use this approach to fast (or only consume lean protein and veg) during the day then consume all of (or the majority of) their calories that evening if that know that they have a night-time sweet tooth.
✓ If they will be eating the bulk of the food during the day there is no reason not to fast (or just consume protein) for the rest of the day or even the following day.
Using this protocol, unless the person eats everything in sight, it is unlikely that they will consume much more than their maintenance caloric needs, if at all.
#3 Arrange to eat out when applicable
This tip is slightly random, but makes a good point! …And anyway, who needs to be told twice to eat out?
Eating out is in with the last point about damage control. If you’re at a friend’s party it is much easier to eat several pieces of cake or whatever else takes your fancy.
However, if you’re at a restaurant, you can only imagine the awkwardness of ordering three desserts!
#4 Go deplete some muscle glycogen
In addition to increasing fat burning, depleting glycogen prior to a meal will increase the likelihood that the carbs you consume will be stored as glycogen instead of being used for energy – possibly being stored as fat; it’s almost like you are getting those calories for free.
To deplete glycogen, you’ll need to increase your training volume – whether this is leading up to an event/meal out or in general as part of your daily lifestyle. This can be achieved by:
✓ Strength training:
Performing 8-12 reps per set and increasing the number of sets (4-8 depending on how many body parts you’re training.)
Otherwise, you can simply get more running or cycling miles in at a decent enough intensity (two or three extra hard 60 minute efforts should almost empty muscle glycogen stores, assuming you aren’t compensating with food intake.)
#5 Go for the low-calorie option
A lot of these points relate back to social events, as, until you’re assured that you can 100% resist temptation, it’s always best to learn a few hacks for avoiding diet sabotage.
✓ Go for lower-fat versions of cakes and other desserts – e.g, if you’re craving something really sweet, why not try a sorbet or even share a dessert – if that’s possible!
✓ For alcohol, opt for spirits with a diet mixer to consume the minimal amount of calories.
#6 Employ a degree of ‘damage control’
This ties into the previous point about not eating everything in sight, or until you feel like you’re going to burst. Oftentimes, when people eat something they think they shouldn’t, they gorge on whatever they were eating until they consumed the whole thing.
They see themselves as a failure for breaking their diet and somehow rationalise to themselves that “If I ate one piece of cake, I might as well have three”.
If you go to a party or meal eat what you want, but stop eating when you’re satisfied. There is no point going eating beyond hunger just for the sake of it, you’ll probably just regret it in the long run. Basically, eat what you fancy and enjoy it, don’t feel guilty!
✓ However, if you know that you’ll be opening a can of worms, I’d definitely reiterate #1 and carry around healthy snacks – as crazy as this may seem to some, a lot of people do it – be prepared and get out a guilt-free sweet treat when you’re craving it – whether it be homemade snacks or some convenient protein snacks.
Take Home Message
Though each point will work alone, they can be combined to increase their effectiveness. For example, performing depletion work, while intermittent fasting, followed by eating out will almost guarantee that you won’t overeat. In fact, chances are that you’ll lose body fat with this approach.
✓ There are other things you can do, but for the most part, I feel that these are the most effective without being too restrictive.
✓ As a final pointer, it would be best to steer clear of the bathroom scales since bodyweight tends to fluctuate, independent of actual fat mass due to variations in sodium and carbohydrate intakes. This water retention may lead you to believe that you’ve gained 3kg of fat in a couple of days, however, such a feat would require a daily energy surplus in excess of 11,000 kcal!
✓ Respective of the last point, use progress pictures and measurements for motivation and to keep a track of progression!