Is a “low calorie diet” really the way to go?
I have said this in my articles a few times…I am not a big fan of the word “diet”. There are so many “fad diets” out there. Many of them do not teach the person following them how to healthfully balance food intake and unfortunately, many of these “diets” are way too low in calories. Fad diets may result in weight loss at first because of the calorie restrictions. However, many problems arise as the diet continues. If the diet is too low in calories your metabolism will slow down so your body can function with less fuel. Your body may begin to store additional energy as fat because it is not sure when more food will come. Once the diet is over and people start eating normally again, the weight that was lost is usually regained (plus a few extra pounds). In addition to metabolic changes, fad diets are not effective because they generally do not teach people the basics of healthy eating. Many people will return to their previous bad habits once the diet is over, resulting in weight gain. Restrictive diets can also lead to an unhealthy preoccupation with food, which can result in binge eating. They can result in poor concentration, mood swings, and low energy levels.
So, to answer your question, I think the best way to lose weight is to choose a variety of foods (fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, etc.), watch your portion sizes, increase physical activity and make behavior adjustments. I encourage a visit to a registered dietitian to assist you with goal setting, meal planning, and behavior modification. If you want to try this alone first, determine if you are overweight. You can do this by calculating your body mass index (BMI) and there is a helpful link on the Old Orchard website. A BMI >25 is considered overweight. Now figure out how many calories you need to eat to lose weight. This can also be found under the “health calculators” section on the Old Orchard website (choose “lose weight” under the weight goal section). Once this is determined, approximate how many calories you are actually taking in a day. You may wish to start a food journal and check labels for calorie counting. This information will give you an idea of how many calories you will need to reduce per day to help with weight loss.
I find that at the most successful weight loss/healthy lifestyle programs involve both calorie reduction and increasing physical activity. If your goal is to reduce your daily calorie intake by 500 calories per day, begin making healthy food choices (choose a piece of fruit instead of a cookie for an afternoon snack) and increase physical activity (a 160 pound person can burn approximately 291 calories by partaking in an hour long yoga class).
Behavior modification can play a role in making healthy food choices. If you have a tendency to have a “salty” craving in the afternoon, instead of buying/eating potato chips, purchase air popped popcorn or flavored rice cakes for a low calorie substitution. If you buy your lunch every day, begin packing your lunch the night before. Packing a sandwich with whole grain bread turkey, lettuce, tomato and a piece of fruit instead of purchasing two slices of pizza at work can result in a big calorie reduction. Finally, if your typical behavior is to eat when you are stressed or upset, find alternative activities to help improve your mood (bubble baths, brisk walking, and books help!)