If you were to ask most Americans about losing weight, they’d likely talk to you about eating less. This is a fair point, as weight loss often boils down to calories in against calories out. Bring in fewer calories than you burn, and you’ll lose more weight.
But many people will likely cite the inability (or unwillingness) to eat less as a reason for not losing weight. For whatever reason, they simply can’t find the personal disciple to eat half a burger or a smaller order of fries. That second helping of pizza is so easy; just drop it on your plate and off you go. An extra spoonful of pasta is hard to pass up when there are plenty of leftovers.
But what if you could lose weight without significantly cutting back on the amount you eat? What if you could maintain a filling, satisfying diet without cutting back on your portions? You can, but it all comes down to what you eat as well as how you eat…
How to Eat Well, Be Healthy, and Look Great
Breaking the Less-Food Myth: Choose Quality Foods Instead of Lowering the Total Quantity
There is little doubt among the scientific community that the quality of your food is just as, if not more, important than the quantity. For example, a study from researchers with Stanford University found that people who focus on eating vegetables and whole foods, and are not necessarily concerned with portions, are more likely to lose weight. Calorie counting and portion sizing have their roles in overall fitness, but this study suggest that they should take a back seat to the simple principle of eating quality foods. Interestingly, this strategy worked for people regardless of whether they were focused on low-fat dieting or low-carb dieting.
Dietary guidelines may have changed since you last looked at them, especially if you were in school twenty, thirty, or forty years ago.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, while calories matter, it may be time to focus on quality over calorie counting. So what constitutes quality foods? The article says that high-quality foods are generally minimally-processed and usually unrefined. This includes fresh produce, such as fruits and veggies, as well as whole grain breads and cereals. Healthy fats and healthy sources of protein should also be considered when creating a diet plan.
Lower-quality foods, as you might have guessed, are the ones that have, in general, gone through the most processing. For example, highly-processed snack foods, high-sugar beverages, white grains, and fried foods often go through a long process, and generally don’t resemble their original state.
One study cited by the Harvard article included over 120,000 men and women who were studied over the span of 20 years. The researchers found that weight gain was most commonly associated with eating potato chips, sugary beverages like soda, and red meat. On the other hand, veggies, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt were associated with weight loss.
The Low-Carbs or Low-Fat Battle: A Draw?
One of the articles we looked at above referenced the debate between low-carb and low-fat diets, which are often viewed as the solution to weight problems. However, research is starting to demonstrate that, from a weight-loss perspective, neither one has a particular advantage over the other.
According to research, which once again comes from Stanford University, neither the low-carb or low-fat diet is significantly superior over the other. The study was actually an effort to see if any specific biological factors impact the effectiveness of either low-carb or low-fat diets. In other words, researchers wanted to know if certain diets are better for one type of person than another, and if so, what are the factors that impact results.
The collected data showed many results, but most notably, it implied little difference for weight loss between a low-carb and a low-fat diet.
Lose Weight and Eat Your Fill by Heading to the Produce Section
Of all the foods we’ve talked about, is there one specific type that should be the foundation of our diets? While there is certainly a lot of healthy reasons to consume meat, it’s becoming clear that limiting meat consumption may be an effective way to reduce overall weight.
Studies now show that vegetarian diets are more effective for helping people lose weight. The study found that vegetarian diets are better for reducing fat content in the body than simply reducing calorie intake through other measures. Using a vegetarian diet can be twice as effective at helping you lose weight than maintaining regular meat consumption. Vegetarians not only lose weight, they reduce the amount of muscle fat in the diet, meaning their metabolism gets a boost too. The study focused on the implications for people with metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes, but the findings are important for the general population as well. The implication seem to be that if you can reduce meat consumption and have a vegetarian meal on occasion (or often), you’ll be more likely to shed the pounds, all without reducing the amount you eat.
Is there a Right, and Wrong, Time to Eat?
So we know that eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits is better than eating lots of meats and highly-processed foods, and we’ve seen that there is little difference between a low-carb and low-fat diets (for weight loss, at least), but what about the time of day? Assuming we eat the same amount, does eating right after you wake, before you sleep, or in the middle make a difference in overall health? Is there a best time to eat? According to the research that we’ve seen, yes there is.
A study grouped participants into two basic groups: early and late eaters. They looked at when the people in the study chose to eat the largest meal of the day, which in this case is the midday lunch, and studied their weight-loss rates for 20 weeks. The results found that people who ate late lunches (who were also more likely to skip breakfast) lost more weight. This suggests that, in addition to other strategies, the timing of your meal could impact overall weight loss.
There is also a debate of when to eat your biggest meal of the day. Should it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Another study found that consuming a larger meal early is often better for your overall weight loss. This study looked at two groups who consumed a 500-calorie lunch, but one had a 700-calorie breakfast and a light supper, while the other had a light breakfast and a 700-calorie supper. Despite the fact that the nutrient content was exactly the same, the results showed that the big-breakfast group shed over twice the weight (8.7 lbs vs 3.6) and reduced their waistline by over 4 inches.
Eating Frequency: Is there a Right Amount of Meals?
You’ve likely heard the theory that eating five smaller meals, instead of three regular meals, is more effective for losing weight. It’s been passed around so often, that many of us simply take it for gospel. But is there any truth behind this theory?
According to a study from the Harvard Medical School, there is a connection between more meals and less weight. The article says that there is scientific research verifying the theory that eating four or five meals a day could bring better weight loss results. Benefits to a high-frequency meal plan include a decrease in regular hunger, which prevents overeating. It also increases your chances to eat healthier foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads. However, if you choose low-quality foods, such as sugary snacks or fatty, salty chips, you won’t benefit from the high-frequency plan.
Final Thought: You Can Lose Weight, No Matter Who You Are!
Whether you come from a family of large or skinny people appears to be irrelevant, or, at least, less relevant than you might think. Unfortunately, some people blame genetics for their heavy bodies and inability to lose weight. While there are certainly genetic factors that may make it harder to lose weight, research shows that genetics plays a small, virtually insignificant role in weight loss.
The study that we discussed earlier, which addressed low-fat vs low-carb diets, also found that genetics plays a small role in determining weight loss. This runs contradictory to the messaging of some business that sell genetics-related approaches to weight loss. However, it appears that many in the scientific community are disputing the thought that there should be an entirely different weight loss plan for different types of people.
So while you may come from a family of large individuals, you can always lose weight. You don’t need fad diets, you don’t need specialized coaching, and you don’t need to starve yourself. As science and the experiences of many will demonstrate, it’s possible to lose weight by simply adjusting your daily routine and, more significantly, eating healthy, wholesome foods.
With the right approach, you can create a happier, healthier, more active you!