Weight loss is a tricky game. The internet is full of dramatic and inspiring success stories, stories like this one from Chef AJ who lost 100 pounds following a low-fat, plant-based diet. But of course, what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. This is why it’s important to conduct mini nutrition experiments on yourself, to see if you’re that someone who performs better on Diet B (or C, or D) rather than Diet A.
The main elements of a healthy diet
The main elements of a healthy diet looks the same for everyone: lots of plants, a decent amount of protein, some healthy fats, some starchy carbs.
I’m always going to promote the power of plant-based diets first and foremost. Fruits and vegetables should form the foundation of your diet, with 50% of your plate belonging to plants. Apples, baby carrots, snap peas, edamame, bananas, grapes: these are the things you should reach for when you need a quick midday energy boost.
Let’s talk about protein, shall we?
Protein guidelines are the same for just about everyone — 0.5-1.5 grams per KG of bodyweight per day will suffice for even the most muscle-bound lifter. Aim for 20-30 grams per meal. Beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan, quinoa are all excellent plant proteins.
(It’s popular to hate on tofu, but those haters are misguided and silly. Most food items taste bland in their original forms (chicken, anyone??). This is one reason why we season and prepare food, to make it more palatable. Here’s a pro tip: freeze your tofu. This will enhance the texture, making tofu more chewy and firm once it’s thawed. Freezing also makes tofu more sponge-like, which is exactly what you want before you marinade your main course.)
Experiment on yourself
Where we need to employ some individual experimentation is with carbs & fat. Some people do very well on high fat/low carb diets. Some people do very well on high carb/low fat. The path you follow — or rather, your success on said path — will be determined by your body.
How do you feel after eating a starchy foods (think pasta, potatoes, rice, bread). How about after eating a fatty meal? Does your stomach start to make loud rumbling noises minutes after your meal? Do you spend more time than most locked in the bathroom? Do you fight the urge to fall asleep after every meal? Or do you feel like you could run a mile and then some?
Step on the scale
And then there’s the scale. If weight loss is a priority for you, it’s important to track your progress daily. Stepping on the scale is the only way to tell if you’re losing weight or not. Yes, the fit of your clothes and your reflection in the mirror can give some idea, but you can’t argue with cold, hard numbers.
Every day, step on the scale. If you don’t like the numbers staring back at you, examine your diet & make a change. Maybe it’s going meatless. Maybe it’s switching from low-fat to low-carb (or vice versa). Maybe it’s starting each day with a super shake rather than a mocha latte and breakfast muffin. This is your life, you’re the one steering the ship. Make a choice.
One change. Stick with that change for a week & see what happens. Make notes, don’t just rely on memory. If the scale doesn’t move in seven days, you know that change didn’t matter so whatever it was, that wasn’t the problem. Slowly but surely you’ll smoke-out the main culprit, and when you do things will start to happen, almost like magic.
This method is simple, but it ain’t easy. All diets require discipline and attention to detail. So does life.
Doing what you’ve always done is what got you where you are. If you don’t like what you see, you have to take action.