Nutrition | POSTED September 20, 2023

Our Top Strategies to Lose Weight

Weight loss is a ubiquitous goal. As of the latest release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 67% of adults are overweight or obese [1]. But why does that matter? According to a task force guideline from the American College of Cardiology and Heart Association, even a modest weight loss of 3-5%, which effectively reduces body fat, can substantially lower the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease [2]. We know that managing overweight and obesity can have positive health effects. Weight loss, specifically fat loss, although mechanistically simple, is anything but that in practise. Today we will dive into our top strategies for those looking to lose weight: a sustainable calorie deficit, setting up your food environment and prioritising preferences.

A calorie deficit is key to lose weight

There’s no two ways around it. You can’t lose weight without being in a calorie deficit. Often when people think of weight loss, images of carrot sticks and apple-cider vinegar are conjured. However, it doesn’t need to be that dramatic. The aforementioned task force guidelines emphasise the importance of tailoring the choice of a calorie-restricted diet to each patient’s preferences and health status. The recommended reduction of 500 calories per day from a current intake is a great starting point. To begin with however, what would constitute a “regular” number of calories from which to calculate a restriction? The Australian Government has a fantastic resource named Eat For Health which provides references for nutritional intake, as well as convenient tables and calculators to indicate individual intakes. A standard is somewhere between 1800-2400 calories for females and males respectively. With this in mind, although this reduction seems significant, it’s worth noting how easily 500 calories can creep into your daily intake. Foods such as peanut butter, as well as beverages like coffee with added milk and sugar, and alcoholic drinks, can all significantly contribute to daily calorie intake.

Your environment helps facilitate weight loss

The food environment is a critical variable to facilitating weight loss. Our advice is to not make things harder for yourself. It’s likely that hyper-palatable (taste good!) and energy dense (packed full of calories) foods within your reach won’t last long. We call these foods “obesogenic” not because they are inherently bad, but instead because they, have low nutrition value for the energy cost. Although the discussion of food environments at large is outside the scope of this article, it’s important to recognise that the home food environment plays a role in attempts to manage bodyweight [3]. The home food environment is where many individuals make their eating decisions. These decisions are often performed with little cognitive effort and therefore, it’s important to make decision making as simple as possible – ideally the decision is between a couple of different fruits rather than chocolate or a packet of chips!

To help you walk away with some practical takeaways, here are some recommendations to help you set up a better food environment:

  • Your favourite fruits to snack on, ideally in a visible location.
  • A freezer draw of healthy ready-made meals and additionally, your favourite easy-to-prep vegetables.
  • Some lean sources of protein stored in your fridge or freezer.
  • If you find yourself regularly indulging in energy-dense treat foods, it can help to not keep a supply in the pantry. It’s a lot easier to reach for a more nutritious snack when the alternative requires a trip down to the shops!

Preferences matter when losing weight

We know an energy deficit is key to weight loss. Managing the environment simplifies decision making to drive the deficit. Weight loss strategies should be personalised, based on patient preferences [4]. No universal diet exists for weight loss and maintenance. This means it’s not so much about an entire overhaul (usually), but instead compliance to intelligent adjustments. Compliance drives change. It’s not a free pass to indulge, but there’s room between indulgence and strict control. Don’t think you need to jump onto any particular diet, especially if you’re worried it won’t work for you. Our modern food environment offers options: zero-sugar beverages, non-alcoholic beers, low-fat dairy. Leverage them. Preferences matter, so choose foods that nourish and maintain a deficit. There are ways you can include dairy, carb sources and healthy fats and the occasional treats in a health-promoting diet.

Leveraging personal choice is key to success. For us as trainers it’s no different. For instance, Rachael still loves having 15-20g of Nutella on toast a few days a week and a low-calorie dessert after dinner, like a Paddle Pop. Tom loves his zero-sugar soft drinks (Pepsi Max > Coke Zero in his humble opinion). I myself have been known to indulge in a couple slices of banana bread a few days a week. Additionally, I’m a bit of a dairy man myself. When working through a weight-loss phase, I don’t remove dairy, but instead substitute full cream to reduced cream or skim variants.

We’re here to help you lose weight

We understand the process can be daunting, but you don’t need to go at it alone. We’re here to help you find sustainable health-promoting strategies to drive lifestyle change. Although a calorie deficit is key, we don’t want individuals to crash over insufficient nutrition. We also recognise that not everything is within your conscious control, so it’s important to ease the decision-making process by managing your food environment. Lastly, don’t forget to prioritise compliance by still enjoying foods that also meet your dietary needs and body composition goals! If you’re looking for more guidance, you can contact us here.

References

  1. Overweight and obesity, 2017-18 financial year | Australian Bureau of Statistics (abs.gov.au)
  2. 2013 AHA/ACC/TOS Guideline for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults | Circulation (ahajournals.org)
  3. Associations Between Weight Loss Attempts, Food Planning, and the Home Food Environment – PubMed (nih.gov)
  4. Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance – PMC (nih.gov)