In part 1 and 2 of this series, we went on a crash diet weight loss journey, during which we lost 5kg of body weight and had a closer look how and why crash diets are bad for your health and possibly could ruin your metabolism. If you haven’t read
What you’ll learn at a glance throughout the article series:
- we analyze how any crash diet works in part 1
- in part 2 we focus on why the crash diet is potentially bad for your health and your metabolism
- next, in part 3, I’ll show you how to lose weight in a sustainable way and
- finally, part 4 will provide you with all the tools you need to create a successful weight loss protocol for your personal lifestyle
How to lose weight the right way
After having discussed in length the downsides and risks of a crash diet, it is time to let you know how to lose weight the right and sustainable way.
While a diet is the nutrition protocol you’re on, which strictly speaking means you’re always dieting, the only way to achieve sustainable weight loss is by changing your lifestyle.
The Inconvenient Truth Of Weight Loss
You have to change your lifestyle for one simple fact: your current lifestyle made you gain extra weight in the first place.
The logical deduction from this, and that’s not what people like to hear, only a lifestyle change can inflict lasting changes.
Negative Caloric Balance
There is no magic powder for weight loss. We discussed the urgency of our body to stay in homeostasis and if we want to change the status quo, we have to shake our body out of this state.
For the purpose of weight loss, the only tool of choice is a negative caloric balance. But contrary to the approach of a crash diet, your caloric deficit will only be around 10%-20%. For most people that would mean a deficit of 200-400 calories a day (25).
This amount puts your body under enough stress to be forced to adapt, but not under so much pressure that your health will suffer of it.
We saw that crash diets usually are very extreme. They reduce calories dramatically and usually are extremely restrictive when it comes to food sources.
Find the right diet
In a well-planned weight loss diet, nutrition is very important. You have to establish a diet protocol that is part of your lifestyle. Otherwise, you are bound to be unsuccessful.
Did you find a diet that looks great but you aren’t sure if it’s a crash diet? Or maybe you want to create your own weight loss diet and don’t want to fall into the crash diet trap. Get my free “Crash Diet Worksheet” with 8 red flags to watch out for!
Focus on homemade food and micronutrients
For most people (i.e. generally healthy), a diet should aim to be high in (green) non-starchy vegetables, with good sources of protein and fats. Your general carb intake should in most cases be low and adapted to your physiological needs.
The main reason why I advocate a low carbohydrate diet as a general baseline is because
- most people tend to eat too many carbohydrates and
- many carbohydrate-rich dishes are loaded with (questionable) fat sources that aren’t visible.
By going low carb, you cut out
This means if you are a rather sedentary person, that you simply don’t need to eat as many carbs on a daily basis. If you’re playing basketball a few times a week and lift weights, you might want to add a few more carbs to your diet.
Focusing on vegetables has the added benefit to getting plenty of micronutrients and fibre in your diet. These are important for a well functioning body (26, 27). The fact that you’re already in a deficit will make it difficult enough to reach the daily needed intakes already.
That’s why you really should skip refined foods and highly processed meals too. They are very high in calories and low in micronutrients (more about this here).
If you aren’t sure how to add enough vegetables to your meals or think this is hard or daunting, then read up on this article. It explains why and how eating your colours will lead to a diverse and healthy diet.
One of the best things for your overall health and your weight loss goals that you can do is to cut out refined sugar as much as possible. I am not saying having some sugar here and there is a terribly bad thing, but it is one of the worse things you can do to your body. Sugar is known to promote inflammation in the body, which can cause all sorts of problems. Besides that sugar consumption seems to impair both glucose and fat metabolism while also increasing leptin (28).
Time & Patience
The marketing highlight of any crash diet is time. You can lose a lot of weight in only a few days. People love these statements, but we saw that it’s not a great way to lose weight and definitely not the right approach to losing fat mass. It’s also not a good way to minimize loss of lean body mass either.
That why another inconvenient truth about sustainable fat loss is that you need time and patience. Depending on your overall weight and fat mass, losing 0,5kg of fat mass each weak seems to be a very healthy and sustainable way to approach a weight loss diet.
It gives your body plenty of time to adjust to changes that happen (especially your skin), but it’s quick enough to get results. That being said, you need patience, because 500g a week isn’t very visible at first.
This can get frustrating. Even though, on the right dietary program, you’ll see your results later on. You simply need to learn to trust the process.
Being more physically active is a great addition to our sedentary office lives. Our bodies have developed over time to be used and move. I, personally, believe that being sedentary is one of the biggest reasons for the uprise of the metabolic syndrome and similar health issues.
The absolutely best way to be more active is to simply move more. Go on walks, maybe with a friend, family member. If you ever thought about getting a dog, this might be a great moment.
You could go on a short walk after every big meal you had. That’s great for your digestion too and it helps you to disconnect from your daily stress for a moment.
The best part about increasing your NEAT is that it has virtually no negative impact on your BMR. On the contrary, as this activity is so low-impact, your body rightly thinks that this is part of the normal activity.
You will slowly increase your everyday fitness on this path (muscles, tendons, ligaments slowly get stronger, your metabolism will slowly improve). Any form of low-impact
If you really want to exercise and get in great shape and overall healthier, the best way to achieve this is with resistance training. Yes, lifting weights will make you help lose fat mass quicker but also make your weight loss diet easier (30).
I wrote extensively about why resistance training is great for weight loss in this article. The cliff-notes version is, that by stimulating muscle growth, you’ll build muscle with a decent diet (31, 32).
We discussed how muscle tissue is expensive tissue. This means your body needs energy to build muscle. Once these muscles are built, you increase your lean body mass and your metabolically active tissue mass. In short, with more muscle mass on your body, your BMR will increase (33).
As a diet tip: if you start to build up your body with muscle mass, make sure to go on a high-protein diet (34). Your body needs enough protein to really get your muscles growing. Furthermore, you don’t need to buy any powders, bars or supplements. In most cases, it is fairly easy to get your protein from real food.
Besides that, studies constantly show that a high-protein deficit diet is the best way to keep as much lean body mass as possible but also weight in general (35, 36). Don’t be afraid to eat a high protein diet.
There was the belief that it might hurt your kidneys. Luckily more and more recent studies show that there’s no impairment in renal function markers (37). If you’re uncertain, check your renal function with your medical doctor and drink enough water.
Even if you suffer from a decreased renal function and are ordered to live a low-protein diet, make sure to add resistance training to your lifestyle (38).
Here’s part 4 of the series: “How To Create A Successful Weight Loss Protocol“