Table of Contents
1. Skipping meals or undereating
Skipping meals is one of the worst things you can do when it comes to weight loss. Although it may seem as if you are consuming less, you will lose weight, this is not typically the outcome. Undereating can greatly hinder your weight loss efforts and can even lead to weight gain.
Achieving a calorie deficit is the goal in order to successfully lose weight. A calorie deficit happens when you consume fewer calories than you expend per day. You have your own unique basal metabolic rate (BMR), which indicates how many calories your body burns by carrying out normal everyday functions, such as breathing, cognitive function. digesting food, and removing waste. Your BMR does not account for any movement or exercise. This number represents how many calories you would burn if you stayed in bed all day. It depends on age, gender, height, weight, etc. Most adults have a BMR around 1500 calories. Normally, you will burn more than 1500 calories a day as you are up and moving around. For example, if your BMR is 1500 calories and you burn 500 calories through movement, you would need to consume 2000 calories to maintain your weight. If your goal is to lose weight, you can drop this amount to 1500 calories in order to create a calorie deficit, and this will lead to healthy weight loss.
If you start to skip meals, with or without the intention of losing weight, your body may go into “starvation mode.” When this happens, your metabolism slows down in order to conserve the energy that you have as a means to survive, because your body doesn’t know when it’s next meal will be. The slower your metabolism is, the less calories your body burns each day for everyday functions. This can also lead to binge eating. If you go all day without eating, and at 6pm you finally give yourself the time to eat, you might eat those 1500 calories your body needs in one session, versus spreading them out to 3, 500 calorie meals throughout the day. Since your metabolism may have slowed down due to skipping meals, eating 1500 calories will no longer be a deficit, and may even be a surplus and cause weight gain, because the body is trying to conserve any energy (food) it receives.
Create a routine and eating schedule. Stay consistent with this routine. It is not necessary to skip meals or undereat in order to achieve a calorie deficit. Make sure to incorporate healthy protein, carbs, and fat throughout the day. Always go for multiple smaller meals instead of 1 huge meal. Meal prepping can really help with this, especially if you have a busy schedule. This will help prevent excuses when it comes to consistent meal times while also maintaining a healthy diet and not going for a quick fix like fast food.
2. Avoiding carbs
This is something that we hear far too often in the US, and even to the point that most people believe that this is the key to weight loss. But in reality, the real enemy should not be carbohydrates, rather the type of carbohydrates. It isn’t necessary to avoid an entire group of macronutrients in order to achieve weight loss. Incorporating a healthy amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates is essential to a healthy lifestyle and weight loss plan. The more important aspect to focus on is where to these proteins, fats, and carbohydrates come from.
What should we avoid then if not all carbohydrates?
The reason that carbohydrates get a bad rap is because they are a huge part of the Standard American Diet (SAD). According to the 2017-2018 NHANES data, the average American adult eats 2100 calories a day, 16% of those calories from protein, 47% from carbohydrates, 36% from fat and 22% of all calories from added sugars. Many of these added sugars are found in the carbohydrate based foods we consume. According to a 2016 study in the BMJ journals, Americans get 58% of all calories from ultra-processed foods. (1) These are the types of carbohydrates we want to avoid: ultra-processed carbohydrates.
Carbs to avoid:
- White bread (sliced white bread, buns, rolls, all of these store bought highly processed breads)
- Packaged cakes, cookies, pies, pastries
- Highly processed cereals, packaged oatmeal and granola bars
- Chips, french fries
- Ice cream
- Soda, juice, sugary beverages
A typical American may consume multiple, if not all of these foods on a daily basis. These are the carbs we should be avoiding. These highly processed carbohydrates lead to many negative health outcomes. They can spike glucose levels so quickly that the body eventually develops insulin resistance, and it cannot keep up with the amount of glucose in the blood, so this is then stored as fat. It typically is stored as visceral fat, in the waist and stomach areas, which is the type of fat that can lead to other health conditions such as type 2 diabetes. It is very important to avoid these highly processed carbs when looking to lose weight. On the other hand…
Carbs to consume a healthy amount of:
- Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oatmeal, whole grain bread
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes
- Beans, legumes
These carbs should be a part of a healthy diet. Opt for these non-processed carb sources to side with your healthy source of protein and fat. When cooking carbs such as potatoes, avoid using oils or frying them. The air fryer is a great option if you’re looking to make homemade fries, because oil is not necessary to get the crunchiness you desire! Vegetables and fruit are also very important carbohydrates and should NOT be avoided for weight loss purposes. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables every day. Do not be afraid of all carbs, only be afraid of the bad ones!
3. Juicing, “detoxes” or “cleanses”
In the past decade, “juice cleanses” have gained a lot of attention, especially for those looking to lose weight. Some of this fame can be attributed to the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” in which a 300 pound man named Joe embarks on a journey to better health and on his 60 day journey, only consumed fresh made juice. On one hand, it is a beautiful story in the fact that a man is able to change his life drastically and finally start to prioritize his health after many years of junk food and unhealthy practices. On the other hand, it led a large group of people seeking the same goal, that in order to achieve this goal, they must do something as drastic as a 60 day road trip juice cleanse.
Although this type of occasional fasting, when done safely, can provide health benefits, it should not be used as a weight loss tool. Most of the reason that Joe from “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” was able to lose the weight that he did, is because he finally left all of his bad eating and lifestyle habits in the past. It wasn’t specifically the juice that led to the weight loss. It was the absence of all of the junk foods and lack of movement that led to him being overweight in the first place.
Juice cleanses are a very expensive way to lose a couple pounds, but this weight will not stay off if you return to your old eating habits. Instead of a juice cleanse, try a meal plan full of healthy protein, carbs, and fats that creates a calorie deficit. If you need help developing a good meal plan for you, try looking for a medical assisted weight loss program in your area where a obesity medicine trained physician can help you to create a safe and healthy plan. This is also a great option because it is covered by most insurance plans. So save your money, and try a medically assisted weight loss program instead of a one week juice cleanse.
- Martínez Steele E, Baraldi LG, Louzada MLDC, et alUltra-processed foods and added sugars in the US diet: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional studyBMJ Open 2016;6:e009892. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009892