One of the most common questions I get is, “What is the best diet for fat loss?”
You’ve probably heard this a million times before…but it’s the diet you can stick to.
That means it needs to be individualised instead of following a prescriptive diet which tells you exactly what to eat.
The only “rule” is that you must be in a calorie deficit.
You can achieve a calorie deficit in myriad ways…Paleo, Vegan, Weight Watchers, Cabbage Soup diet, etc.
I can invent a new diet if I want, e.g. the sausage, beans and chips diet where you eat 1000 calories of those three foods every day. And I can just about guarantee you’ll lose weight. But:
- Is it healthy (and do you care?)
- How do you feel, e.g. energy levels, concentration, hunger, digestion (and do you care?)
- Do you enjoy your meals? (And do you care?)
I ask, “Do you care?” because lots of people really don’t care about anything else on a diet as long as they lose weight.
How you choose to eat will depend on things such as likes, dislikes, food availability, and your values around food.
But what’s the point of following a diet there’s absolutely no chance of sticking to after the weight loss phase? That’s just a recipe for putting all the weight back on. I’ve had a version of the following conversation more times than I care to remember…
THEM: “You should get people to try the X diet, it worked brilliantly for me. I lost 3 stones on it.” ME: “That’s great, and did you keep the weight off?”
THEM: “No, I gained it all back, but the diet works brilliantly.”
Individualising your diet
It is perfectly possible to lose weight on a diet which:
a) Is based on healthy foods.
b) Ensures you feel great.
c) Is built around foods you actually enjoy.
How do you do that?
Let’s say that to lose weight, based on your height, weight, age, and activity levels, we calculate that you need 6 portions of protein, 6 portions of carbs, and 3 portions of fat. In my nutrition system, that equates to about 1500 calories per day.
Let’s focus on the carb element of that for illustrative purposes.
We can individualise the diet by choosing foods you enjoy and are healthy (if you want) from a long list of carbs, for example:
- sweet potatoes
Your six portions could come from the following:
- 6 portions of fruit
- 2 portions of cereal for breakfast, 2 slices of bread with lunch and 2 portions of rice with dinner
- 2 portions of potatoes for lunch, 2 portions of quinoa with dinner, 1 piece of fruit for a snack and 1 portion of chocolate for a snack
- etc, etc, etc
You get the idea. There are almost endless ways to get your six carb portions, and there will be similar flexibility for your protein and fat “allowance”.
Some ways are healthier than others. Some will make you feel energetic and give you mental clarity. Others will make you feel bloated, sluggish and grumpy.
In order to individualise the diet, you need to pay attention to your body and work out which foods work best for you. (You should be doing this whether you want to lose weight or not).
You also have to factor in how much importance you place on health, which foods you like, which foods trigger you to eat too much, etc.
But your weight loss results will be very similar whichever path you choose.
Prescriptive diets don’t allow you this flexibility and the ability to individualise the diet to your specific requirements.
Compare the following meal instructions:
- Eat 25g of brown rice, 30g chicken, 1 cup of broccoli with 7g butter.
- Eat 1 portion of protein, 1 portion of carbs, 1 portion of fat and 1 portion of veg, all chosen from a list of foods you like.
I get that some people might prefer Option 1 where all their meals are mapped out for them. It takes the thinking out of it and might be a little easier.
But Option 2 really doesn’t take too much thought and is vastly better as it gives you the flexibility to create meals you actually want to eat.
The first thing I do in my nutrition coaching programme is provide a personalised Quick Start Guide which gives you a long list of foods which are high in protein, “smart” carbohydrates, and healthy fats. There’s also a guide to how much to eat for your individual requirements, without having to weigh and measure everything.
It might take a little more thought than following a prescriptive diet, but it allows you to create a personalised diet you can follow long-term, ensuring you maintain your weight loss and healthy-eating habits for a lifetime.