Step 1) The first step in starting a new weight loss plan should always be consulting a medical provider and/or nutritionist.
Why see a medical physician before starting new diet
- Identify if you have a medical condition that requires a specific diet
- Rule out food allergies
- Identify if you have any nutrient deficiencies that can be affected by diet
- Gain a better understanding of what a healthy diet looks like
- Identify exercise that is safe for you
- Identify hormone imbalances
Step 2) Take a look at current diet. After you have consulted with your medical provider/ nutritionist, take a look at what you are currently eating. Many providers will suggest keeping a food diary in order to gain a deeper understanding of what and how much you are eating per day. All those little snacks can start to add up if you are not paying attentions. Calorie awareness, as well as fat and carbohydrate intake, are an important part of most diets. Websites like myfitnesspal.com and caloriecount.com offer the calories in various portion sizes of most foods. When eating out it is helpful to use these site as well, meals at restaurants often contain lots of hidden fats and calories.
Step 3) Cut out the empty calories. Empty calorie foods are foods with high calorie content and low nutrient values. Unlike high nutrient foods, empty calorie foods do not keep you full for long. Examples include sweet drinks, junk food, and alcohol.
Sweet drinks and Juices
- Sugary coffee drinks
- Energy drinks
High processed and junk foods (high fat and/or high sugar)
- White bread and pasta
- Baked goods
- Most fast food
Step 4) Understanding what makes food healthy vs unhealthy. Introducing healthy foods into your diet and eliminating unhealthy foods is a key factor to success. Thanks to marketing and hoards of conflicting information in the media it is hard to know what is “healthy” anymore. There are general principles of what makes a healthy diet, but again what’s healthy for one person may be unhealthy for another, so it’s also important to consult with you provider.
Vegetables: High in fiber which helps keep you full, cleans out cholesterol, and aids in bowel regularity by adding bulk to stool. Vegetables are also high in vitamins and minerals and low in calories.
Proteins: the building blocks for muscle
- Lean meats: chicken, turkey, lamb, pork
- Seafood: fish, shellfish, oysters
- Whey protein: from milk
- Vegetable protein such as pea protein
- Soy: there are many conditions in which soy should be avoided
- Fatty meats like beef should be eaten in moderation
Complex Carbohydrates: These digest slowly and keep you fuller for longer. Complex Carbohydrates are available in whole grain bread and pasta, sweet potatoes and yams, beans, starchy vegetables
Good fats. Also known as unsaturated fats belong to the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acid groups. These fats are helpful in lowering the cholesterol level and consequently lower the chances of heart problems. However, one should eat these foods sparingly because fats are high in calories.
- Omega 3: Shown to lower cholesterol and is recommended to consume at least 2 serving of omega 3 per week. Found in fatty fish, avacados, and nuts.
- Canola oil
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil
- Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but studies have proven that it works like a good fat. Still not recommended to consume more than 7% of daily fat from coconut oil
Refined carbs: Foods that have had the whole grain goodness removed such as white bread and pasta, baked goods, chips, crackers, cookies, etc. Refined carbs absorbed quickly, causing spikes in blood sugar followed by sugar crashes. They also contain less fiber so you are hungry again more quickly
- Substitutes: Whole grain bread and pasta, oats, sweet potatoes, beans, starchy vegetables
Bad Fats: Saturated fats, trans fatty acids, hydrogenated are shown to increase bad cholesterol and triglycerides. should be no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake. Found in red meat, full fat dairy, fried foods, packaged foods, etc. Coconut oil is a saturated fat that is gaining popularity due to studies proving its benefit with weight loss, improved heart health, and lowering cholesterol. Most of these studies show short term benefits so it is still unknown the long term effect
Processed foods: Foods that are high in fat to make them taste good and high in sodium so they can stay fresh longer. Include foods that come in packages and typically have a long shelf life such as chips, crackers, cookies, canned soups, etc
- Substitute: Fresh products
Unhealthy “Health” Foods
- Most are high in sugar, fat, calories
- Substitute: oatmeal
- Protein bars
- Most are high in sugar
- Substitute: lean protein jerky, handful of nuts
- Protein Smoothies
- Many are high in sugar and chemicals
- Substitute: buy pure whey or pea protein and blend with ice and fruit (not too much fruit, just enough for flavor)
- Fruit Juice
- High in sugar, low in fiber
- Substitute: eat your fruits instead of drinking them, water with lemon or cucumber slices, soda water
- Fruit Snacks
- High in sugar, low in fiber
- Substitute: a serving of fruit
Step 5) Avoiding foods you are allergic to or have direct impact on health.
- Hypothyroid should avoid goitrous foods and soy ad they have a direct imapct on the thyoid. Also keep an eye on their iodine levels as too much iodine just like too little can cause them health problems
- Lactose intolerance should avoid milk
- Those suffering from Celiac disease should avoid gluten
Step 6) Start an exercise program: physical exercise aids with weight loss by increasing lean muscle, balancing blood sugar levels, and helping to reduce stored fat. It is recommended that patients should perform 30-40 mins of physical activity 4-5x per week. Consult with your medical provider before beginning a new exercise plan.
Step 7) Determining daily calorie intake needs: Cutting too many calories can harm your health, while not cutting enough may lead to very slow weight loss. There are several tools available online to calculate calorie needs based on height, weight, bone size, and activity level. A good rule of thumb for weight loss is to calculate how many calories you are eating now and cut that number by 300 calories a day. Women should have no less than 1200 calories a day and men no less than 1400.
Overview: Weight loss plans should be individualized and based on your own specific needs, preferences, goals, and health conditions. Most weight loss plans will include these 4 key principles.
- Cut out empty calories
- Introduce healthy foods
- Avoid foods that have negative impacts on your health
- Stay active with physical exercise