Are Healthy Foods Hindering Your Weight Loss Goals?
You eat a healthy balanced diet, undoubtedly healthier than most. Your lunchbox is meticulously packed and “instagrammable” making it the perfect #fitlunch goals. You eat “clean” and everyone knows about it. Yet, the scale ignores all your efforts so you start questioning yourself. How is it possible to gain weight eating such a healthy diet? Perhaps, you’re going wrong somewhere but not sure where. But relax, is all easy to fix! Today’s blog post will explain why eating healthy doesn’t equal weight loss.
It is true that in order to lose weight is essential that the calories burned are more than the ones consumed. Healthy and long lasting results are best achieved by combining a calorie controlled diet with exercise.
So, let’s look at exercise. Exercise alone will not lead to weight loss. ANY form of exercise is a form of expending calories which will help achieve a calorie deficit. Staying active everyday and engaging in regular exercise is a very important step towards working on achieving that calorie deficit so move your body more and move regularly!
Diet wise, there’s a huge misconception out there regarding nutrition and that comes from people mistakenly believing that by only eating ‘healthy’ foods – in whatever quantity they like – will cause the pounds to drop off. This is far from the truth and we will explain why!
FOOD SOURCES MATTER
We should all aim to eat a diet that is nutritionally dense. This means eating a wide variety of whole foods, and ensuring that we get enough protein, fats and carbohydrates to suit our individual lifestyles and fitness goals. If you want to lose weight, you need to balance this against creating a calorie deficit.
Let’s look at fats for example. Including some fats in our diet is important due to the role it plays in regulating our hormonal system and body temperature, as well as the energy it contains. Fat also helps the body absorb vitamins A, D and E. These vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they can only be absorbed with the help of fats.
Fats from natural sources are better than processed fats and generally speaking fats from plant sources are better than animal fats. Plant fat sources such as avocado, olive oil and nuts are rich in unsaturated fat which can help lower cholesterol – this is where the idea of ‘healthy fats’ comes from. It’s not that they contain fewer calories, but rather that they deliver a wider range of nutrients and health benefits than saturated fats found in fatty cuts of meat, sausages, pies, biscuits, cakes and pastries.
The problem with healthy foods is that people assume that they can eat an unlimited amount because they’re ‘good for you’. This is not the case. Eating more calories than you burn will lead to weight gain – regardless of whether they’re calories from fast food or whole foods. While healthy foods are good for you, they’re only good up to the point that your body has what it needs. After this, they don’t continue to benefit you.
Some of the most common pitfalls are nuts, avocados and extra virgin olive oil because they’re espoused as being superfoods, i.e. having a superior nutritional profile and/or health-giving properties as discussed above. While it is true that a diet that includes foods like these is likely to be healthier than one that doesn’t, this doesn’t mean that you can eat them to your heart’s delight. They’re all rich sources of fat and high in calories, so they should be eaten in moderation. Any fat not used by your body’s cells or to create energy is converted into body fat. Likewise, unused carbohydrate and protein are also converted into body fat.
UNHEALTHY ‘HEALTHY’ FOODS
There are foods that have gained a reputation for being healthy, but if you examine them you’ll find no evidence to support this. Gluten free foods are an example. Gluten has received bad press for triggering digestive problems, especially bloating, leading to a rising number of people claiming to be gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive. The reality is that only a very small percentage have a medical condition.
The bloating that is reported is, more often than not, just fullness or caused by an overconsumption of starchy foods. This is why it’s important to think about your diet in context. If you’re eating toast, sandwiches and pasta in one day then you’re overloading your body with one food source. This will inevitably lead to problems, as it would with any food.
Unfortunately, people don’t recognise this and self-diagnose as having a problem, which they then ‘treat’ with gluten free foods. These are made by extracting the gluten proteins from flour and using chemicals to create the binding effect that make mixtures stick together and become doughy. If you don’t have a real medical condition, eating such products introduces unnecessary chemicals into your diet.
LESS HEALTHY ‘HEALTHY’ FOODS
Fruit juices are another example of a food that has received an undeserved reputation for being healthy. Whole fruits are good for you, there is no disputing this. Yes, they are high in sugar, but these don’t cause a spike blood sugar levels in the way that other sugars do. The World Health Organisation recommends a maximum sugar intake of 25g per day for optimal health. Because of the way that whole fruits are digested, they do not go towards this daily allowance. Fruit juices, on the other hand, do count. And they count for a lot! The recommended serving size of juice is a 150ml (!!!) and this contains over 13g of sugar.
Why is this? Juice is made by stripping whole fruits of their beneficial fibre content. The sugars are then metabolised faster and cause a spike in blood glucose levels, just like you’d see with refined white sugar. Stripping also removes the satiety that comes with whole fruits, so you’re more likely to over consume calories. When your goal is to lose weight, fruit juices are something to be closely monitored and enjoyed as a treat.
If you want to lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit. It’s as simple as calories in, calories out. To go about this sensibly, you should look at your nutritional needs and plan your diet accordingly. Choosing healthy foods will help you to achieve your weight loss goals without sacrificing your wellbeing, but remember that calories from these sources are still calories. They all ‘count’.