They say that weight loss is anywhere from 65-80% diet and 20-35% exercise. There are varying studies on this but, it seems, that diet inevitably always outweighs the exercise aspect in the journey to losing weight. It’s no secret that diet and exercise are both crucial to your well-being and your waistline. That being said, you can lose weight by changing your diet for the better sans exercise, however, that does not ring true for exercising without making any changes in what and how you eat (i.e. eating a healthy, balanced diet). A good rule of thumb to stick to is that you need to restrict calories in your diet to lose weight—and you need to exercise to keep it off.
It is, however, quite amazing how one hour a day of working out can enhance your efforts toward losing weight or getting lean. However, there are 23 more hours in the day to worry about. All that hard work and working out for an hour can be erased in an instant simply by eating a piece of pizza, delving into a bag of chips, throwing back a few cold ones with friends, having an ice cream sundae or ordering a frappuccino. One poor eating choice could undo the benefits of any progress made during that tough hour-long gym sesh. On average, people who dieted without exercising for 15 weeks lost 23 pounds; the exercisers lost only six over about 21 weeks. It’s much easier to cut calories than to burn them off.
One more thing to take note of is whether you might be doing this after your workouts. Known as compensatory behaviors, these are unconscious adjustments we make after a workout in order to “slow down” and use less energy on non-gym activities to offset the calories we have just burned. Have you noticed you plop down on the couch after a workout and take a load off, take a nap, take the elevator, or something similar rather than getting home and immediately meal prepping or some other activity on our feet. While you are absolutely entitled to rest, and should, notice if you are compensating and resting more than usual due to fatigue from the workout. This is just one more reason to keep your focus on maintaining a balanced diet and finding an appropriate diet and exercise plan is crucial to getting on track toward a solid weight loss plan.
Now, all that said, it should go without saying that the many benefits that exercise has to offer are immeasurable. Proven to help in preventing cancers, improve blood pressure and cholesterol, aid in sleep, promote a better attention span, increase energy, boost mood, reduce stress and so much more, exercise is no doubt the cure for many ailments and will lead to an overall better quality of life. It just may not be the primary way to aid in weight loss which is why we want to focus on foods and diet plans that will.
One of the most challenging parts of keeping on a clean and healthy eating plan is the planning and prep work that go into it. It will take some getting used to and discipline in the beginning, but the more you stick with it, the easier and more natural it will become, and it will have results to show for it. If you are dieting for a specific occasion (let’s say you want to lose 5 pounds for your wedding in a month), then you need to stay strict with yourself for that length of time.
Clean Eating Tips to Lose Weight
- Stick with water as your drink of choice. Completely cut our soda (diet and regular), alcohol and even low-calorie or sports drinks. Stick to hot tea and water and drink at least a gallon of H2O per day in order to stay hydrated and flush your system of any toxins.
- Striving for a more balanced meal plan that focuses on fresh, clean foods that are as unprocessed as possible. Examples include fruits and veggies, lean proteins and whole grain carbs.
- Avoid cutting calories too low (this causes your metabolism to slow, and you can start losing muscle mass). For a healthy daily calorie count, allow at minimum 10 calories per pound of body weight (i.e. a 200-pound man should shoot for a 2,000 calorie target).
- Eat at least 1g of lean, high-quality protein per pound of bodyweight, daily in order to avoid losing muscle in addition to any fat. A high-protein intake helps to preserve lean mass during your dieting phase. The diet provided here contains about 150g of protein daily, fine for a female weighing 150lbs. Up your protein only if you're heavier than 250lbs, or you're very hungry and need to adjust the diet accordingly (give yourself some time to adjust to this). Examples of healthy proteins include egg whites, poultry, lean red meat, protein supplements or a protein shake.
- Low-carb diets tend to offer the fastest results, but they can be difficult to sustain. Keep your carbohydrate intake low to moderate (100-200 grams) when trying to lose weight and rotate between the two in order to keep energy up. Stick to clean, fiber-rich carbs such as oats, potatoes, rice, and whole-grain bread.
- After following the carb and protein guidelines, stick with a primarily plant-based diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and heart-healthy fats, like olive oil).
- Try to cut out processed foods altogether (frozen meals, deli meats, and refined carbohydrates such as pastries and white bread). These foods contain empty calories in the form of sugar, unhealthy fats and salt.
So there are the main tips to focus on when it comes to what to eat and how much but then there's the big question of how? How do I get myself to stick to it? How do I avoid caving in when I see a box of doughnuts at the office or "accidentally" walk down candy at Target or drive past the 50th fast food restaurant in a mile stretch?! As mentioned above, unless you are on a strict timeline where you must reach a goal in a certain period of time, allow yourself to ease into any diet changes you make and give yourself some grace.
It will take a couple weeks to start getting the hang of these new eating habits, much like any habit you are trying to implement into your life. One of the best pieces of advice that you can take is to schedule a "cheat day" or a “reward” in order to feel satisfied, avoid boredom and incentivize yourself. A reward does not have to be food related but maybe you allow yourself to go shopping (just set a budget or this could definitely backfire 😉 ) Just be careful here and stick to a set routine such as scheduling this cheat meal for the same day each week. Sundays work well because then Mondays offer a fresh start to the week. You may still wish to avoid sugary foods as these can be addicting, but get creative.
Another thing that will help with sticking to clean eating is careful planning and purposeful prepping. See our previous blog post on the benefits of meal prepping (including a how-to guide) and implement this in your day to day life to take meals with you on the go.
Finally, take a few photos of yourself to keep your motivation up. Before you begin the new diet, take front, side, and back pictures and post the photos somewhere that you are sure to see them. Take photos as you begin to progress to motivate you to stick with the clean eating plan and when you are feeling discouraged, go back to the original photos and focus on your progress from that point.
Great Food Choices for Clean Eating
Here are a few foods that are not only good for healthy eating and general weight loss but that also enhance your athletic abilities. These are all options that can be found year round and that enhance athletic performance, speed recovery, and build muscle mass.
- USDA Certified Organic Raw Honey- acts as a time-released fuel to boost power, speed, and endurance. Add to tea, oatmeal or eat straight.
- Pea Protein- delays muscle fatigue and enhances immunity, among other various benefits. Add to a smoothie.
- Blueberries- to reduce inflammation and boost immunity levels. Eat fresh, dried or freeze-dried.
- Pomegranate- for muscle strength recovery and to enhance brain activity and memory. Add to oatmeal, plain greek yogurt, salads or a smoothie.
- Beet Juice- a great alternative to caffeine and excellent for stamina. Beet juice can be bought bottled and added to a smoothie or consumed straight or juiced yourself.
- Watercress- counters the wear and tear effects of exercise to reduce DNA damage. Eat it as a salad or add to smoothies.
- Salmon- fights heart disease and type 2 diabetes, builds muscle, etc. Include in meal plan at least a couple times a week and start taking fish oil vitamins.
Dieting may seem like an impossible feat, especially when you're trying to do it for long periods of time. It is, however, the surest way to lose weight. Just be sure to maintain a balanced lifestyle where you are working out regularly, and eating clean, healthy foods that will support your change in diet.