While we see a wide variety of clients with a wide variety of backgrounds and interests at AST, there is always one common denominator: everybody who comes in wants to lose fat and look better, but to be perfectly frank, they want to do it with as little sacrifice as possible. There’s no shame in that – it’s simply human nature. And fortunately, if you know what you’re doing, you can be successful with it, and when your friends come over for dinner and complain about how their dietitian has them eating bland fish and less than 1200 calories a day, you can tell them about how you have no idea how many calories you eat as you politely carve up your tri tip and sauteed veggies (cooked in real butter!) and polish off a pint of coconut ice cream for desert. Then you can show them your abs as they leave.
It’s About Math (But Not Like You Think)
Quick, let’s play some word association. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the word diet? Starvation? Low calorie? Weighing your food? Sacrifice? Unfortunately, this is the state of the weight loss industry in America today. Count your calories, count your points, make sure you only eat 3 ounces of chicken, because everybody knows that 4 ounces will make you a fatass. And if it tastes good, there’s no way it’s good for you, so throw away butter, high-quality oils, and marinades; it’s boiled chicken and steamed broccoli for you, my friend – six times a day for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
Or not. Why does it always have to be about what you need to take away? Cut this, cut that; low fat, low carb, low calorie, low sodium, get rid of it, I can’t have that, this thing is forbidden. Deserts? Get the hell out of here with that desert menu, waiter man. And guys, I’m sure your date is going to love watching you pick the cheese off of your salad and skip on the strawberry cheesecake.
What if I told you there was a better way, and it didn’t involve any complicated math, and it might even let you keep eating that cookie you like to get every morning with your coffee? It’s simple.
The body has a particular set of needs, and any time it’s deprived of one of those needs, one of its systems suffers. Those needs can be physical, emotional, or nutritional; let’s just focus on the nutritional. When your body is deprived of a particular nutrient or mineral, it has to find an alternative to sustain normal function; if an alternative can’t be found, things start shutting down. So deprivation is oftentimes one of the worst things you could possibly do to your body, and is why so many diets prove to be ultimately unsuccessful in the long run. Your body simply can’t keep up function in a nutrient-deprived state and the results can be damaging – fat gain, hormonal changes, immune system complications, the list goes on and on.
However, when all of your body’s needs are being met, things function well. Sometimes so well that those little mistakes you might make along the way (that daily cookie, for example) prove to be not that damaging in the scheme of things.
Setting Daily Targets
What we have found to be most successful at AST is to give clients daily goals for certain key food groups or nutrients. While one of the ultimate goals may be to remove poor quality food or unnecessary items, the difference is that we very seldom specifically request that something be omitted entirely (obviously, when extreme results in a short timespan are desired, it’s a bit of a different story). Instead, we keep adding and adding until the offending foods naturally get reduced, because there’s only so much room for food to go. In fact, many clients end up eating two or three times the amount of food they were before they came to us, while still losing fat and feeling better.
What sort of additions are we talking about? While it depends on the individual, we usually begin with a combination of the following: a protein target, a water target, and a meal frequency target. It’s much harder to complain about eating more steak, drinking more water, and eating more often. Combine that with a focus on nutrient-rich foods; i.e. a sweet potato cooked in butter over a bag of potato chips may be very similar in carbohydrates and calories, but radically different in nutritional value.
These targets are variable but not rocket science – most females we have shoot for 3-4 significant servings of protein per day (a serving being roughly the size of the palm of your hand), 3-4 liters of water a day, and eating something every 2-4 hours. Males usually shoot for 4-5 slightly larger servings of protein, 5-6 liters of water, and a similar meal frequency. These are, again, variable, but provide a reasonable starting point to work from.
Am I saying that you never need to cut out junk food to lose fat? Of course not – the closer you get to your goal, the more diligent you have to be and the less room there is for error. The difference is that when you build a solid nutritional base, meeting all of the important things and keeping foods high-quality and nutrient-rich, you have a foundation to work from and can easily transition from an aggressive diet into a moderate lifestyle adjustment and back, depending on your goals.
The takeaway? If you’re tired of being constantly limited and take a food scale and calculator with you everywhere you go, maybe it’s time to take a different mindset and concentrate on the things you’re missing out on, not what you’re getting too much of. Your body will thank you by functioning better and looking better, too.