There are several ways of using diets to lose weight. A calorie deficit diet is one of them. Calories represent the energy provided by the intake of your food. When you eat food, it is digested and broken down to be utilised by your cells for energy. Energy is required by every cell in the body, and energy that is not used is stored as fat.
A calorie deficit diet is an old approach of controlling the amount of calories taken in versus what your body actually needs based on your individual needs. This is the general approach used by most people even today for weight loss.
How do you know how much you need to eat based on this approach?
In order to understand how to create a calorie deficit, you need to know your body mass index, or BMI. There are many calculators online to do this, but it is interesting to know this for ourselves. Even if the calorie deficit diet is not your approach, BMI can be useful just to look at health parameters.
To calculate your BMI, you would need to divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. If my weight is 52 kilograms and my height is 1.63 metres, then my BMI would be 19.57. A BMI of 19-25 is considered normal. Anything below 19 is usually considered low and anything above 25 is considered high.
There are several aspects to consider when you look at calorie deficit diets. Let’s run through the key aspects.
1. Calorie deficit diets versus fasting mimicking diets
There is a world of difference between a calorie deficit diet to lose weight, and a fasting mimicking diet where you eat limited calories to derive the physiological benefits of fasting. A fasting mimicking diet may be used for five days in a row, or a couple of days a week, where you limit calories to 500 or more on those days. This makes your body think that it is fasting, where benefits include programmed cell death of old cells, gut healing, brain healing, and hormone optimisation.
A calorie deficit diet may continue for a long time, where someone is eating much less calories than what their body needs, and several nutrient dense foods may be off the radar, as they are considered high calorie foods. Over long time, this can impact metabolism, and lead to both binge eating after coming off, and excess weight gain as well.
2. All calories from foods are not created equal
This is an important aspect of low-calorie diets. I see many weight loss plans avoiding healthy nutrient rich foods such as coconuts, avocados, nuts, seeds, and coconut milk. Different foods have different effects on the body, and not all calories are the same in terms of satiety, and systems support. The same number of calories may be found in a huge bowl of leafy greens versus a muffin, however healthy it might be labelled.
Many people on calorie deficit diets are eating small amounts of their favorite foods like these. Neither will you feel satiated, nor will your blood sugar be stable to support stable mood.
A better approach is to choose foods that are nutrient dense and high in fibre.
I have personally seen very healthy people who would rather eat small amounts of foods they crave and restrict calories, than eat more of healthier options where they feel satiated and calm.
Also remember that counting calories is an unhealthy approach and it can get very fixative and stressful. There is always a danger of people saving their calories for foods that cause health problems and not eating enough. If you are wanting to look at this approach, do consider satiety and mood as keys to deciding what you eat.
3. Create calorie deficits the right way
When eating foods, look at whole foods versus processed foods in cans or boxes. A cup of cereal that claims to be low calorie can be full of hidden inflammatory ingredients versus eating a balanced meal at home. Many of these foods have empty calories and lack all nutrients.
In terms of losing weight, counting all the calories you are eating and knowing exactly how many calories you are eating is always less important than just eating calories that are nutritious. If you just focus on eliminating empty calories from nutrient poor foods, that is more than enough. You do not need to fall into the trap of measuring and counting everything. Calories with nutrients will always be used appropriately by your body, and not turn into fat. Nutrient dense foods are also high in fibre which will support healthy digestion and elimination, a key part of weight loss.
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4. Add this simple practice of eating
In many ashrams around India, people staying there for a long time will rarely carry excess weight. This comes down to three key points.
The first is sitting on the floor and eating, which forces you to keep bending to pick up your food and bring it to your mouth. This supports digestion. The second is eating mindfully, without attention on television or talking, which makes you chew slowly and release more enzymes. The third is always moving and remaining active after meals. Usually, people will sweep, mop, clean, walk, and work after all meals, which makes you use food effectively.
All these are simple tools to add where you will end up eating low calories the right way, without feeling deprived. Just stop eating in front of stimulating shows is a way to naturally eat less calories.
5. Be monitored for nutrients and labs
A calorie deficit diet is not something to be taken lightly. If you are someone who want to go down that route, always keep in mind that losing weight is not the only sign of your diet being effective. I do know people who claim to have lost weight with a calorie deficit diet, and they have also had their levels of iron and B12 crash.
It should only be considered short term to lose some weight, and then you must always focus on eating nutrient dense meals which provide your body with a range of nutrients. This is more important if you are anti-supplements, for you will rarely meet your micronutrient requirements for optimal health from reducing calories to lose weight. Work with your nutritionist to ensure safety.
To sum up, calorie deficit diets are an outdated approach to lose weight. Use some of the key takeaways form this article to make sure that you lose weight the right way.
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Read More:What is calorie deficit diet and how to follow it?