More Living, Less Carb Counting: Weight Management
Diabetes is caused by the interplay of a variety of factors including genes, environment, and lifestyle choices. Being overweight is one factor that increases your risk. But the good news is that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight has a major impact on diabetes management, and the even better news is that you don’t have to drop a ton of weight to see a positive effect. In fact, rapid weight loss caused by drastic calorie restriction is NOT recommended.
If you are overweight, you can see a big improvement in your blood glucose and A1c (as well as other important health indicators such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels) by losing just 10% of your current weight.
For someone who weighs 200 pounds for example, that means a weight loss goal of about 20 pounds. But try not to focus solely on the number. The benefits of weight loss go beyond the scale, and you can start to feel them even before you’ve reached your target weight.
Understanding Calories: While you don’t necessarily need to count calories for successful weight loss, you do need to understand how they work. Calories are simply a unit of energy. Whether you eat salmon and kale or pizza and ice cream, weight loss comes down to energy balance.
To lose weight, you need to be in a negative energy balance, in other words calories in (food and beverages) must be less than calories out (Resting Metabolic Rate, Activities of Daily Living, and Planned Exercise).
Your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the amount of energy, or calories, that your body expends in 24 hours at complete rest. It covers basic functions like your heart pumping and breathing. When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important not to consume less than your RMR. At that point, your body starts to perceive it as a threat and can go into “starvation mode,” where you risk losing lean muscle mass and slowing down your metabolism permanently.
Healthy weight loss is a process, and slow and steady is the name of the game. One to two pounds per week is generally considered safe, and can be achieved with a calorie deficit of 500 to 1000 calories per day. Where do those numbers come from? There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, so a 500 calorie daily deficit over the course of seven days would result in one pound of fat loss per week. A 1000 calorie daily deficit would result in a two pound loss.
But remember, less is not more when it comes to calorie restriction.
The easiest and safest way to achieve a calorie deficit is through a combination of diet and exercise, which means making adjustments to your eating pattern to consume fewer calories and increasing physical activity so you’re burning more.
Once you’ve determined your calorie needs, the next step is translating that number into food.
What should I eat for weight loss?
That’s the million dollar question. And the truth is, beyond the necessary calorie deficit, there’s no one-sized-fits all approach. That said, a simple dietary change you can start making today that will promote both health and weight loss is eating more vegetables and fruit. That’s because these fiber-rich foods are naturally low in calories and high in nutrients. For example, include berries with your breakfast, add baby spinach or arugula to your sandwich at lunch, roast or grill veggies with a little bit of olive oil to enjoy with dinner, and nosh on baby carrots or an apple for a snack.
We manage what we monitor. Research shows and experience confirms that self-monitoring is a highly effective tool in successful weight management. If you’re tech savvy, try keeping track of your food intake using an App such as My Fitness Pal, Noom, Lose It or Weight Watchers. An old-school journal works, too. Be as honest and accurate as possible, and don’t forget to include beverages. Keeping a food log not only provides accountability, it also offers insight into the eating habits that are working for you, and those that may be working against you, thus allowing you to focus your efforts on making impactful changes.
Ultimately the best “diet” is the one you can stick to long-term, and provides an adequate amount and balance of key nutrients. Avoid fad diets, cleanses and detoxes, which are typically unsustainable. Short term diet=short term results.
Achieving, and then maintaining, a healthy weight means making adjustments to your eating pattern that you can maintain long-term as a lifestyle.
For more individualized support developing a healthy weight loss plan that fits your needs, goals, food preferences and lifestyle, schedule a free 10-minute nutrition coaching phone call with me, Alissa Palladino, MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-CPT.