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Why Cutting Calories May Not Be Enough

Eating salad

Yes, caloric control is required for fat loss. Anyone who says otherwise isn’t credible.

But calories are not all created equal, and when it comes to weight loss, and in particular fat loss, anyone who tells you that it doesn’t matter what you eat so long as you stick to a hypocaloric diet isn’t credible either.

There are two things required for sustained fat loss: an energy balance deficit (through diet, exercise or both) and a balanced metabolism.

Anyone can exercise like mad or drastically restrict caloric intake and lose weight for a period, but if you are losing weight the WRONG way, or losing the bulk of that weight from the wrong source (muscle versus fat) you not only risk gaining all the weight back (like most dieters do), but you also typically wind up gaining more fat than you started with.

Sure- the Twinkie diet generated weight loss- but the wrong kind. Long term, this is going to have a negative impact. That’s because losing weight isn’t just about watching the numbers on the scale go down. It’s about losing the right weight in such a way that health and metabolic efficiency improve, rather than worsen.

This is why balancing the metabolism becomes important and why it’s my primary focus as a coach, even before cutting calories.

I always require a dietary intake from new clients. I do this for several reasons, one of which is that I want to see the types of foods the client tends to flock towards.

Is their diet mostly comprised of processed low nutrient foods?
And if so, are they always hungry?
Struggling with low energy?
Fighting off cravings?

I know it’s not trendy, but rather then ensure they’re eating a hypocaloric diet, the first thing I look to do (if applicable) is clean up food types to help balance the metabolism.

The rock eating

Cutting calories provides a short term benefit, but things like examining the nutrient density of their food choices; selecting foods that satiate, prevent cravings, and promote energy; and ensuring there are no glaring nutrient deficiencies will help guarantee that the metabolism works with the client, rather than against them. And THAT sets them up for long term success.

And if hunger, energy, and cravings are all in check, it becomes easier to adhere to a calorically restricted diet.

It’s not that calories in/ calories out doesn’t apply, it’s that I think it works best to balance the metabolism first by prioritizing food choices and THEN address a caloric deficit if needed. Often times, I have found, it’s not even needed and if it is, a small deficit works just fine.

250 calories from a doughnut might equal 250 calories from chicken breast but which do you think will provide energy, promote satiety, and supply essential nutrients? Not to mention which one do you think will prevent cravings? Trust me (and science supports it) eating that 250 calorie doughnut will not only make you want to keep eating doughnuts, it’ll cause you to crave them later. This is how cheat meals turn into cheat days, even cheat weeks- when you eat these types of foods it makes it harder to regulate energy, hunger, satiety, and cravings.

Chicken breast, on the other hand, will supply essential nutrients, increase energy, promote satiety, and prevent cravings- not to mention lead to greater weight loss, more fat loss, greater muscle maintenance, and less chance of weight regain.

If you’re constantly hungry, battling low energy, and warding off insatiable cravings you’re NOT setting yourself up for long term success. Foods are not all created equal. Weight loss is not created equal. To lose the RIGHT weight, the RIGHT way, it’s not just about sticking to a calorically restricted diet. It’s also about consuming the right types of foods in the right ratios to help balance the metabolism

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