When people start dieting to lose body fat, or “cutting” as it is called in some circles, people often follow this same schema where they employ several strategies that they believe will help them. Here I will shed light on the reality of doing these things and some sensible alternatives to create balanced and sustainable progress.
Zero calorie/calorie free foods.
When dieting and facing the idea of deprivation people often turn to foods that taste sweet but they feel are without guilt. Calorie free or Zero calorie foods and drinks such as coke/sprite zero, sugar free candies, or zero calorie sauces are full of artificial sweeteners and/or sugar alcohols. No, I’m not going to say that this causes cancer or some other formidable illness, but what it can do is produce a laxative effect. Even if you feel that they are “okay” for your stomach consuming a large amount of these products could be causing malabsorption of other food in your diet – which is probably at a very low calorie level to begin with if you are hungry enough to be consuming these products. This is not good as you will be missing out on vital nutrition to support your body and your weightloss. Having less food/nutrients/calories is not better and could be detrimental for your overall health and wellbeing – and is definitely not sustainable.
Another factor is that there is evidence that suggests that these sugar alcohols whih are found mainly in the sugar free candies and sauces actually cause a comparable spike in insulin levels to sugar itself. Being on a diet is usually about wanting to control your insulin levels to promote the mobilization of fat stores, which happens primarily in the absence of insulin. This is part of the reason why you have so carefully planned out meals with specific carb amounts or containing carbs protein and good fats together. These alternatives often have around half the calories of normal candies, so believing that they are okay to have on a diet may mean consuming more than your normal amount of candies if the sugar free versions weren’t around, actually leading to a higher calorie consumption. If you are so hungry that you are reaching for these every day or as a crutch then you really need to reassess your diet and approach and add some real food back in like an extra small meal or snack ith protein, carbs or fat. This, at least, will have good nutrients to fuel your body and help your weightloss and recovery from exercise. In my book it is actually better to have a small amount of real candies – along with some protein and good fat (for example a protein shake and peanut butter). Than to just have these low calories but insulin promoting fake treats that give you no nutrition and could even be detrimental to your digestion of other food. Of course these foods are okay in moderation but they should not be a go-to
For some reason when starting a diet people seem to think that fruit is better than having other carbohydrate sources and that it can be in unlimited, guilt-free amounts. Sometimes people will consume fruit instead of taking in real starchy carbs or grains as they believe it is better for their weight-loss or diet. This is not the case. If this is you then look at the amount of carbohydrate is in the fruit you are consuming and cut down your fruit servings to 2-3 serves per day and replace the carbohydrates you have cut out from fruit with other carbohydrate sources such as pasta, rice, bread or potatoes. Fruit is touted as healthy because of the vitamins and micronutriesnt that fruit contains, but grains and carbohydrates also contain vital micronutrients such as B vitamins and iron that are just as important – if not more than those in fruit. You could be missing out on these and that could be negatively effecting your weightloss and health. It’s all about balance and cutting out starchy carbs and replacing them with fruit is NOT a balanced or effective option in the long run.
So we’ve all heard “water helps you lose weight”. But did you know that this isn’t entirely true? Drinking water itself will not help or make you lose weight. Although water is paramount to survival there is no mechanism in the body in which drinking more of it helps weightloss. The only evidence our there only suggests that drinking water will stop you consuming high calorie drinks like sodas or sugary tea/coffee. Again, If you are so hungry that you have to be married to a water bottle and are drinking a lot of water to try and “curb your appetite”, then you need to stop this and look into your nutrition and add in some more balanced snacks and meals. Drinking when you feel thirsty is the best way, for most, to approach hydration.
Substituting/creating versions of your favorite foods out of other foods
This is a massive trend on Instagram and Facebook at the moment. Cakes made out of protein powder, burgers or pizza made from cauliflower, along with the inclusion of artificial sweetners mentioned above. I have looked into these recipes and a lot of the time the alternative recipes have just as many calories as a decided amount of the real treat. For example i came acorss a “chicken burger with cauliflower bun” which had just as many calories as would a home made beef patty with a small bread bun. A lot of the time they trick you by pulling out the carbohydrate but adding in more of other source of fat along side guar gums and sweetners. Again, it is okay to have these if you like them or have them in moderation. But there is no benefit to having them compared to having a small amount of the real treat along with some protein and good fats if needed.
From a psychological perspective it does not promote self awareness and aims to convince yourself that this “clean pizza” is guilt free and a replacement for your craving for real pizza. You need to listen to your craving, acknowledge it and why it might be and if you decide to indulge in any treat – be that a “clean treat” or jut a small amount of the “real treat” – then you need to be fully aware that is what you are doing . There is also a danger with these products, for example things like “protein balls” made of peanut butter and protein powder rolled in coconut (or something along those lines) that even though they are promoted as containing only a low amount of calories you will end up eating lots of these themselves, or mimicking a binge behavior, but not recognizing it because you think these are “clean”. It would be a much better approach to allowing yourself to have an agreed amount of real chocolate truffle, or burger, or pizza and then including a protein shake or real meat afterward or in another meal if required. This will be just as good for your diet and weightloss – maybe even better.
So now you know the ins and outs of some of these common themes in “diets” you can hopefully work towards being honest with yourself and creating a balanced, healthy and realistic diet plan. Use the resources in our nutrition section to help