There are a lot of questions and concerns that surface when talking about dieting in general. Then once you start talking about eating foods you enjoy in moderation while dieting it seems like people can only see that concept in black or white. Well, that’s the exact problem. Moderation is not black or white.. it’s a combination of both.
Dieting for fat loss is fairly simple. The basic principles are as follows:
- The key to losing weight is a caloric deficit.
- The key to better body composition is eating the right food.
Let’s make a definition for “right food” first.
An assortment of foods that gives your body an adequate amount of macronutrients and micronutrients that are not able to be produced on it’s own in the body. Once the two requirements of adequate amounts of macro and micronutrients are met any additional food that is consumed may be deemed acceptable as long as the rules of the desired direction of body composition (fat loss, muscle gain, etc) are adhered to.
What does that definition say in it’s simplest (although this requires extensive explanation) form?
The “assortment of foods” for better body composition that should be consumed fall into these three rules:
- Protein for the building and repair of body tissues plus it produces enzymes, hormones, and other substances the body uses. It regulates body processes such as water balancing and nutrient transportation. Prevents one from becoming easily fatigued by producing stamina and energy and also is beneficial in the health of skin, hair and nails.
- Fats to keep hormonal balance, protect organs and absorb nutrients.
- Carbohydrates to provide body with extra energy, fiber and to protect muscles.
Once those three goals are met if your desire is to lose weight then your goal should be to adhere to a caloric deficit that is under your TDEE [total daily energy (caloric) expenditure]. However, if the caloric deficit is too steep muscle loss can happen as well as unwanted developments in hormonal levels and metabolism efficiency. If the desire is muscle gain then the requirement would be a caloric surplus over your TDEE without pushing the surplus into a degree which can cause rapid fat gain. However, small amounts of fat gain often occurs with any caloric surplus when building muscle, but the degree at which fat is gained varies person to person.
At this point you might have a few questions. I will do my best to answer what I feel would be the most common to surface.
- What is a TDEE and how do I calculate mine?
Let me explain that your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is also referred to as your maintenance caloric intake level. Oftentimes you will hear someone say to make sure to eat below your maintenance level when talking about weight loss. What that means to make sure you are eating less than you are outputting. It’s the classic energy in versus energy out.
There are so many different ways through calculations, graphs, charts, formulas and methods for obtaining this information. The simplest way I have learned to get a good estimation for your TDEE, or what you know now is also called your maintenance calorie intake level, is to take your bodyweight and multiply it by 14 to 16 calories. This range of values will give you your estimated TDEE.
- Where does the calculation of multiplying bodyweight by 14 to 16 calories to get your estimated TDEE come from?
Instead of just copy and pasting the full article that is comprised of scientific detail that Lyle McDonald has written on why those are the most accurate values for ESTIMATIONS of your TDEE, I would ask that you actually go and read his article yourself titled: How to Estimate Maintenance Caloric Intake - Q&A
Are you feeling overwhelmed with calculations yet?
If no and you are wanting to follow a more detailed approach to your diet where you would track the details like calories and macronutrients so that you could fit some of those “dirty” foods you love into your diet then you should head on over to http://www.thespartanwarrior.com/iifym to spruce up your knowledge on the If It Fits Your Macros philosophy to dieting.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by calculations and details then I assume this would be your next statement and question:
- I don’t want to track my calories or macros. What do I do?
This might sound easier to you since you won’t have to do any calculations, but in reality this can actually be harder. The reason for this being a more difficult process is due to the degree of variables that you will now be experiencing. You will not know exactly how much you are eating each day. You will not know how much of what macronutrient you are eating each day. You will not be able to determine your proper TDEE based on the amount of food you are consuming and your weight changes. Without tracking your intake and how it effects your body you are going to put yourself in the position to rely solely on guesstimations.
Trust me when I say that I don’t blame you for not wanting to track every detail. Honestly, sometimes even I get tired of tracking everything I eat, but I do it because it’s what I’ve become accustomed to and I enjoy understanding the fine details.
Okay, so you still don’t want to track your calories or macros, huh? Well, that’s fine.
Let me introduce you to what I have named, Easy Mode Dieting.
Easy Mode Dieting
1. Consume an average amount (think just a little bit bigger than the size of your fist) of lean protein at each meal.
2. Get 2-3 servings of fibrous vegetables each day.
- dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc)
3. Get 1-2 servings of fruit each day.
4. Drink 1-2 glasses of water with each meal and in between meals.
5. Include small amounts of food that contain starchy carbohydrates, fats, protein, fiber, etc.
- sweet potatoes
- white potatoes
- brown rice
- cottage cheese
6. Include small amounts of “dirty” foods that you can enjoy in moderation.
WARNING! This is the step that is by far the easiest and most frequent for a person to mess up when trying to diet without tracking the details. What I mean by small amounts and moderation is that if you consume the things you enjoy in small portions on infrequent occasions then you’ll be just fine. It really is that simple. The problem resides within one’s ability to practice moderation.
What is a small portion? Think a serving size. Look at the nutritional information on the side of the box and look at what it details out as a serving size. With your best judgement follow that guideline for the amount. It may seem small at first compared to how you’ve been eating it before hand, but believe me.. down the road when you are sticking to a diet that is better for your overall health then those small portions become big and incredibly important. The following are examples of what many in the nutrition and fitness industry have deemed “dirty” foods.
- bowl of cereal
- Ben & Jerry’s ice cream
- baked lays chips
- anything that basically tastes like you shouldn’t be eating it all the time
Are you getting the big picture yet?
As long as your diet is comprised of 85% whole, nutrient dense foods then it will not matter what you eat for the other 15%.
The Easy Mode Dieting guideline is:
Eat what you should eat, when you should eat it. Eat fibrous fruits and vegetables. Drink enough water to stay hydrated. Fit in small portions of those “dirty” foods you enjoy on infrequent occasions. Moderation are king.
The title of “Easy Mode Dieting” comes from the concept of being easy to understand, easy to follow and easy to see results as long as a moderate approach to dieting is kept in mind. For anyone that would like to try another style to dieting with alternative philosophies and other details besides EMD or IIFYM then I would highly recommend checking out either LeanGains by Martin Berkhan or Cheat Mode by Kurtis Frank.