Weight-Loss Diet: A Beginner’s Guide – Part II
So it’s Week #3 and if you were with us last week, you’d have spent the last 7 days counting your calories. And if you did that diligently, I’m certain that by now you know what the source of your weight-gain problem is.
Is it that evening snack which pushes you over your daily limit? Or is it the heavy dinner which you always finish off with a desert? Or is it that late night binge while you Netflix and chill? (Or is it all three!)
Where are your calories hiding? Why is it that, even with a seemingly ‘healthy’ diet, you can’t seem to lose weight?
Once you know the answer to this question, the solution becomes so apparent, that you can’t help but act on it! So let’s act!
Your Deficit Target
From the last post, you would’ve also calculated the calories you expend everyday. Say that number is 2100 calories (BMR of 1800 + 300 calories burnt through some exercise). So now, mathematically, to start losing weight, you need to net under 2100 calories.
*Remember, no matter what you do (Keto, Paleo, IF or whichever fancy diet), if you’re consuming more than you expend, you will NOT lose weight.
But how much deficit?
Start with 20%.
So in our current example, you should aim for about a 400-450 calorie deficit. That’s about 1650 calories consumed everyday.
Beware that at the start, when your enthusiasm and motivation are prone to be high, you shouldn’t go for a very large deficit. Anything above 25% of your calorie need is too large, and will probably leave you feeling hungry or low on energy or both.
More importantly, a very large deficit might make your body go into starvation mode (we talk more about this when we discuss Weight-loss Vs Fat-loss) and give you results that are exactly opposite of what you want. And most importantly, such a stringent, sudden cut, which might not give you desired results, will break your motivation to go on. Going on large calorie cuts is hard. It means skipping meals and being hungry and controlling yourself at all times. In the absence of BIG results, such a push is unsustainable.
So remember, start small and keep that motivation in reserve. I guarantee you we will use it all up.
Ok. So now you know how much you are eating and how much you need to reduce. But what do you reduce? The simple answer is reduce calories. But that can be done by reducing any of the 3 Macros. Which one should you target first?
Which brings us to step 2 of beginning the weight-loss diet.
Step 2: Cut Carbs
Mathematically speaking, Fats seem like the first, obvious port of call. At 9 Cal/gm, they are the best ROI when it comes to cutting out something from the diet. Also, if you’re at a 3500+ Calorie diet and want to go Sub-2000, there is no way you are getting there without reducing Fats.
But if you put a gun to my head and ask what’s the first thing to cut – I’d still point to Fat’s relatively innocent looking cousin – Carbs. And within that too, Simple Carbs. To understand why, we need to understand how the body processes these two Macros.
But I won’t do that. Not right now. Not when you are just starting out.
The most complex, jargon-heavy and confusing part of the weight-loss-science-world resides in this one question. Which also makes it the point where the science overwhelms a new reader and they just go away with some half-baked info that sounds fashionable – like ’unsaturated fats are better than saturated’ or ‘having any carbs at night is bad’. All of which might be true in certain contexts, but maybe not for you.
In a few weeks I’ll do a full Carb Vs Fat lowdown. But this early in your fitness journey, I’d advice against getting muddled in this topic.
If you still insist, here is a simple article that lays down the basics well.
Also, for the more visually oriented here is a fun infographic that de-mystifies the carb vs fat debate.
Now, grant me a little trust, and let me give you a simple thumb rule. You need to start by doing just 4 simple things:
Cut Refined Carbs
How do you identify these? Simple – White rice, White Bread, White Sugar – anything pure glistening white is most probably refined. Cut it. Also, anything with ‘Added Sugar’ on the back of pack – Cut that too. Natural sugars like the ones in fruits and dates and even palm/jaggery, to begin with, are fine.
Cut all packaged beverages
This actually is a resultant of point 1, but it still needs to be made as a separate point. I’m sure you know about Colas. But even the ‘Real Fruit Juices’ and ‘Paper Boats’ of the world have a TON of added sugar. Even the ones that proudly call out ‘No Added Sugar’ (which is a BIG scam and we will talk about it soon in an article about reading Nutrition Labels). But as a thumb rule, just replace everything with water or shakes/juices prepared at home.
Cut Added, Obvious fats
The butter on your parantha, the ghee on your daal, the cream in your soup – anything you add post cooking for taste (you know what I’m talking about), cut it.
Don’t cut any meals
The age-old wisdom of having atleast 4 meals and spacing them out and not skipping any, still works. I won’t belabor the point.
All of this sounds like a lot. Sounds like too much to do at one time. Don’t worry. Remember the first ever FITSHIT post. Start on these lines and do what you can. And then do more of it tomorrow. You’ll be fine.
Step 3: Drink a LOT of Water.
Another one of those oft-said things that actually deserves the repetition. For hundreds of reasons, from hydration to digestive health to blood nutrient flow – adequate water intake is absolutely essential. But especially for you, the weight-loss-diet-beginner, it’s a boon like none else. Because apart from all its other benefits, a regular intake of water will help you fight the hunger that comes with cutting calories.
Water will make you feel full.
So without wasting a second, get a nice bottle (Not plastic. Glass is good. Copper is great.) and keep it on your desk. Whenever you look up from your computer, train your hand to go straight for the bottle.
The trick is to delink ‘Water’ from ‘Thirst’
- Always having access to clean water is the first step to getting there. Half the time, we don’t drink because it’d mean getting up and going to the cooler and filling a cup. Remove that barrier.
- The second step is to train your mind to seek water first. And you can start by forcing the matter. For example, I am most prone to drinking sugary-beverages when I’m traveling. Especially at airports or if I am on the field. And generally, if I let myself get too thirsty, my mind shuts off and I end up making the wrong choice of beverage. So I never let it get to that. The minute I enter the airport, the first thing I buy is a bottle of water. Same for when I am on the road. Once it’s there, there is no longer a choice to be made!
- The last step is to watch your urine. It’s the best, biological indicator of dehydration. So just aim to ALWAYS have white, transparent, glistening urine, and you’re done. No need to be counting water intake. This one test will do.
So that’s it. Count calories & define your deficit goal. Start by cutting refined carbs, packaged beverages and added fats. And pee white.
3 Simple steps to get started on your weight-loss journey.
But wait a second. Is it weight loss or fat loss that you’re after? Is there a difference?
Well that’s what we (un)cover in next week’s post. Till then, keep cutting!
How I did it
Before I sign-off, let me share how I lost weight the first time I did. When I went from 105kg to 70kg in 10 months flat. Well – I just stopped eating and started running. That simple. I didn’t know any of this science back then. All I knew was that both diet and exercise are needed to lose weight, so I just went nazi on both fronts. I didn’t even know how to count calories, but in hindsight I can see that I went from about 4000 calories to about 1200 a day. I was basically starving myself. And on the exercise front I just started running since I heard it burns the most calories.
Am I proud of what I achieved. Hell yeah. Do I think it was the right approach. Definitely not.
I was just focussed on weight loss – didn’t matter if it was fat or muscle or genitals that I was losing to get there. Also, I had what I call an ‘Intervention Mindset’. One where you power through a few months of extreme discomfort, assuming that once solved the problem would be gone forever. As we know, that clearly isn’t the case. And I talk more about this in a future article titled ‘Fat loss Vs Weight Loss’.
But the point still is, I lost all that weight by just keeping it simple. With the benefit of hindsight, I am now trying to bring the same simplicity to your kick-off plans, while ensuring you don’t make some basic mistakes that I did. But even if you end up implementing 50% of this, you will see GREAT results. What matters is getting up and DOING.
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