We live in a diet culture. Keto, Paleo, blah, blah, blah there are a million and two diets out there. Maybe we’ve given into the idea that a diet something like this. What we eat day to day isn’t the diet but the things we do to lose weight are. Right? Wrong. A diet is what we put in our body. We can have a bad diet. A healthy diet. Or we can eat according to a diet plan that has our rules and regulations already laid out for us.
So maybe that’s our first misconception.
That a diet has to be something from a book. Well, it doesn’t. You’re already experiencing a diet.
We’ll talk more about nutrition in another article but what you need is a balanced diet for you. Carbs. Protein. Fat. You need all of them and they have to be balanced in a way that’s suited for your activity levels.
Which is important too. If you work out for half an hour a day, it’s not going to cut enough out that you’ll have to drastically eat more or look at eating like a job. Even if you are hungrier, your body doesn’t actually need more.
The point of this post is not to talk about what percentage of each macro you need. It is not to discuss how much exercise you should get. We have plenty of time for that. It has one purpose:
To tell you to eat more.
First things first, it’s absolutely necessary that if you are trying to track your calories that you have something to track it with. I’ve used the app MyFitnessPal in the past, but recently have switched over to what I would consider a better app because it doesn’t tell you to drop very low with your calories. It’s called Macros.
The app is really easy to use. There is a free version, which I use, and then a five dollar version which I haven’t checked out. The free version is very easy to use and clear. You can make recipes. You can add meals, for instance I eat five meals a day and can track that. You can manually add in your exercise. You can add your water. And, if you know you need more of something you can manually set your level for that.
The app tracks your macros and your calories. It adjusts based on how much you work out, which formula you chose at the start, and how much you want to lose or maintain or whatever.
It also takes into account your base metabolic rate. Your BMR. TOO MANY diets encourage you to eat below this level. This is terrible. And this is why you need to figure your BMR out.
My BMR is roughly around 1400. What does that mean? It means that’s what my body burns if I don’t do anything. But it’s more than that. It’s what my body needs to perform all functions.
If I eat less than that, I’m starving my body. Some people burn more than me, some maybe a little less. But you have to know how much your body needs to carry out all of its duties.
So our first step to eating more, is learning what we actually need to live. Check out tdee calculator (linked here) and remember that the app Macros will also calculate it for you.
No matter what, you must never go below your BMR.
Okay, okay. So you know your BMR and you’re tracking your food. Now let’s conquer another myth/problem. You must eat in a caloric deficit.
Wait, isn’t that key for weight loss? Yes. Eating in a deficit is important and necessary for losing weight. However, it’s not a free-for-all. You cannot just workout, workout, workout, and then restrict your calories to lose weight. Yes, it’ll work. But it’ll hurt you.
To lose a pound a week, which is reasonable, you need to only be in a 500 calorie deficit. Let’s say 30 minutes of cardio burns you 300 calories, you only need to restrict another 200 calories from there. Now, that doesn’t seem like very much, does it? And that’s where the problem lies. We’ll try really hard to do a bunch of cardio, exercise, whatever and then we just won’t eat enough. It’s terrible for our body. Worse than that, if you’ve been working out hard for a while and you are stuck, there’s a good reason for that. You aren’t nourishing your body.
You need food. You need to eat.
You have to give your body what it wants. It may feel a lot better to drop weight really quickly and look better but all you’re doing is losing fat and muscle and probably water too. You’re depleting your resources and in another month, you’ll gain it all back because it is not sustainable. And that’s a problem.
So quit panicking about carbs and fats and calories. If you’re working out a lot, you’re going to need to eat a lot. That’s the truth of it. If you aren’t working out much, you’ll need less. That’s all. How much and what you eat should be able to be adjusted on a day to day basis.
We live in this diet culture that is encouraging us not to eat. On the other hand, there are huge chunks of society where there’s a “screw it” mentality. Love yourself and eat whatever.
But that’s not right either.
We have to treat our bodies like angry little babies. It doesn’t really know what it wants but it knows it needs something. It’s up to us, the parents of the angry little baby, to troubleshoot and figure out if we need more calories, carbs, proteins, fats, or water. We need food. Eating in a deficit is fine to lose weight, but there’ll come a time where we need to maintain anyway so it’s better and safer to lose weight with a lower deficit every day.
You need to eat. So figure out what exactly you need to thrive.
Again, this isn’t about what to eat as much as it is about just eating. Get your food in. Eat enough and eat often. Don’t shy away from carbs. Blah, blah, blah. But there’s one more little thing that I want to say that’ll help you out. This stuff is optional, but really does help.
Measure your food on a scale. You’ll never really know how much stuff you’re putting into your body until you measure it out. If you have the opportunity or money to buy a food scale, do it! It’s going to help you understand what you’re actually eating. And you might be surprised by how little it is.
Last thing, buy a fitness watch. Something that tracks your calories and steps and activity. I have a Garmin Forerunner 35 which I absolutely love. It gives you a more accurate reading of how many calories you’re actually burning in a day.
Bottom line: we need to eat enough. So don’t go crazy with cutting calories. Keep a good balance of all your macros. And be gentle with yourself. You need to eat and you must give yourself permission to ingest more than you might think is necessary.