Just like one sunny day doesn’t mean it’s summer, one unhelpful meal won’t make you fat/destroy your gainz. Successful weight management is down to what you do most of the time, over time.
For most people, most of the time, if your weight’s going up, you’re taking in and storing more energy/calories than you expend.
Good vs. Evil
There are no inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. There are simply foods that help you get where you want and those that don’t.
Calories (yes, again)
If you’ve never tracked your calorie intake, try it. Don’t stress about it or agonise over what the numbers mean, or worry about how accurate it is. Just get a ballpark idea of how many you’re consuming. Most people’s estimates are off by around 600 calories a day, which is a lot if that’s happening daily.
Don’t focus on calories to start with unless you’re on a deadline (wait, what?)
Yup. Unless your body comp goals are on the clock, once you have a rough idea of what you’re eating, focus on improving the value of your food. Eat more foods that are helpful for your goals and less of those that aren’t.
You need it, you probably aren’t getting enough. As an absolute minimum, aim for 1g of protein per kg of bodyweight. Every. Day. Ideally, try and get between 1.5-2.0g per kg. Most of the people we coach fall drastically short of this.
Most people believe carbs are a problem. If the bulk of your excess weight is around your waist, then for you, they are. For now, at least. If not then as long as your protein and fat and overall calorie requirements are being met, you can eat as many or as few as you like. That said, we'd recommend that the bulk of your calories from carbs come in the form of veggies, fruits, peas, beans and legumes. Keeping refined sugars to a small percentage of your total carb intake has a number of health benefits that will make your life easier in the long run.
There is no ‘perfect’ split. Assuming you’re meeting your basic protein and fat requirements, the rest of your calories can come from whichever group you want, with pretty much no difference in outcome.
Exercise (yes, this is still the nutrition section)
Exercise does not burn a lot of calories from the areas you’re likely trying to shrink. If you bust your ass at the gym and burn 600-800 calories (hahahahahaha), only about 15-30% (at best, by the way), will come from stored fat. The rest will come from the energy readily available in your blood stream and muscles. Exercise is good for health and body composition, not weight loss. What you do and eat outside of the gym will have more impact on your weight than any workout program.
Activity (still nutrition related)
General day to day movement on the other hand, can make a massive difference to your calorie expenditure. To the tune of anywhere between 400-1000 calories a day. One study showed that people who took less than 5000 steps a day found it almost impossible to lose weight without drastic reductions in calories.
Food vs. Calories
These are not the same thing. For weight loss, your goal is more bites per calorie. For weight gain, you want more calories per bite.
Getting there vs. Staying there
Once you’ve lost weight, it can take your body 3-6 months to ‘re-set’ your new weight to ‘normal’. If you’ve lost over 10% of your total bodyweight in one run, this is one of the reasons your progress can stall. Your body is redefining what it thinks it should weigh. This is a good thing. Otherwise your body would constantly be doing everything it can to get you back to your heaviest. Once you’ve normalised at a given weight, you should start to have a little more freedom in what you can get away with nutritionally.
This is really complicated stuff and the smartest people on the planet still disagree about it regularly. The bottom line is that every day you use a certain amount of energy. No-one knows exactly how much that is. No-one. Cutting calories can slow your metabolism and help you lose weight, but eating more food can increase your metabolism and help you lose weight. (explosion emoji) MIND. BLOWN. (another explosion emoji) This is why coaches get paid to help people. This stuff is complicated.
Keep it simple
If you’re trying to lose weight, make sure your nutrient needs are being met (protein, fats, minerals and vitamins) and keep everything else under control.
Whilst I don’t think people should live to eat, I do think there’s little benefit to making food too utilitarian. Herbs and spices and a little education go a long way here. Learn to cook. Food will taste better. You’ll find eating helpful foods easier and life will improve. You’ll also avoid that pinched, martyr-like look so many foodies get from the altitude sickness that comes from being on such a high horse.