As this holiday season comes and goes and we move on to the new year, we often try to set new and exciting goals/resolutions to achieve the best versions of ourselves during the new year. One of the most common is weight loss.
One of the reasons why individuals do not achieve their weight loss goals is not that they didn’t try hard enough or that they didn’t make significant enough changes to their diet. It’s that the individual may not have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the basics of weight loss. In this blog, I’ll highlight some important concepts of weight loss and provide some actionable tools to achieve weight loss goals. Additionally, I’ll cover some nutritional guidelines to follow this holiday season and onward.
Basics of energy expenditure
To understand how we lose weight, we first need to have a basic idea of Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and the big C that we are weary of saying in front of a thanksgiving dinner table; Calories. Calories are the unit that is used to measure the energy value of foods. Energy expenditure is the amount of energy (in this case calories) needed to carry out physical functions (breathing, digesting food, exercising, etc). This is important to understand as the biggest key to weight loss (and even weight gain) comes from the concept of balancing our calorie intake (energy in) with our energy expended (energy out).
- If the energy we expend out is greater than the energy we take in, the result would net a weight loss (caloric deficit)
- If the energy we take in is greater than the energy we expend, the net result will be weight gain (caloric surplus).
Sounds pretty simple, no?
The question then arises, how do we figure out our TDEE? And what should our daily caloric intake be?
Thankfully, science has given us a measurable estimate of our TDEE. Unfortunately, it involves a series of calculations involving multiple factors and can potentially be overwhelming for some.
Thankfully, for those who are not math inclined (such as myself), there is a useful app that I personally use and recommend called “MyFitnessPal” which will estimate your TDEE based on your height, sex, weight, activity level, etc. The app can also provide you with recommendations of the target calories to aim for given your weight loss/gain and/or maintenance goals. Through “MyFitnessPal” you can track the foods that you eat throughout the day and calculate the calories that you consume during the day versus the calories expended.
Somethings to keep in mind when tallying serving size.
Here you can see that calories can easily be miscalculated by underestimating the serving size, as well as considering the type of foods/drinks being consumed. In order to avoid misrepresenting the true value of calories consumed, it’s important to be mindful of your serving sizes to achieve your goals as demonstrated in the illustrations above.
Sustainable weight loss recommendations
Even though many of us would like to lose 10lbs in a span of 2 weeks, it would require a severe, drastic, and ill-advised change to our weekly caloric intake. Not only would it be painfully challenging, but we’re also likely to bounce back to our previous weight.
As such, if the goal is weight loss then a person should strive for consistency and bear in mind that it is a lifestyle change as opposed to an item to be checked off a checklist. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) suggests a healthy goal is to lose 1 to 2lbs of weight per week. Losing 1lb requires a caloric deficit of 3500 calories per week, translating to a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day (1000 calories per day if the goal was 2 lbs of weight loss per week). This caloric deficit can be reached by decreasing the calories consumed and increasing physical activity. Again you can use “MyFitnessPal” in order to calculate your target calories for a 1lb (or 2lbs) per week weight loss plan.
Setting you up for success
- Create a realistic weight loss goal and come up with a reason why you want to lose the weight
- Use MyFitnessPal as a tool to track your calorie allowance
- Be vigilant with reporting your portion sizes and the type of food to get the most out of MyFitnessPal
- Consuming “whole foods”. These include but are not limited to: Whole grains instead of refined grains whenever possible. Fruits, vegetables, and beans instead of supplements to provide the fiber and vitamins they contain. Chicken breast cooked with healthful ingredients instead of chicken processed with added fats, flavorings, and preservatives
- Ingest foods that are high in fiber and protein. Both have been proven to improve satiety. (Recommended 25-30 grams of fiber daily and 1.6 g/kg body weight (0.7 g/lbs body weight) of protein)
- Be mindful of the liquid calories (coffee, smoothies) that you are consuming as they are sneaky ways to increase caloric intake
- Consistency is key. Create a diet that you enjoy and that fits with your lifestyle while keeping your calories low
Nutrition is the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth. Proper nutrition (an often overlooked and unappreciated aspect of the rehab process) can reduce the prevalence of comorbidities and chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other conditions. Nutrition also can either enhance or negatively impact the process of recovery as it plays a role in inflammation and our healing process.
Inflammation often gets a bad rap when it comes to healing. However, it is important to know that inflammation is a necessary phase of healing from surgery or from an acute injury as it starts the healing process. The issue arrives when inflammation is excessive and persists for a long time as it does not allow our bodies to advance to the next stages of tissue healing.
Foods that are considered pro-inflammatory that may impede the healing process include:
- Omega-6 fatty acids from fried foods and vegetable oils
- Refined carbs and sugar increase markers for inflammation
- Excessive alcohol consumption affects the liver’s ability to detoxify
- Saturated fatty acids
Fortunately, there are plenty of foods that are considered anti-inflammatory which can help with decreasing the ill effects of prolonged inflammation and help advance the healing process. They include:
- Omega-3 fatty acid: from olive, fish, and flax seed oils. Chia seeds, walnuts, pecans, almonds, mackerel, and salmon
- Fruits: berries, grapes, cherries, pineapples
- Vegetables: broccoli, avocados, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and beets
- Other: whole grains, green tea, ginger, garlic, rosemary, honey, and dark chocolate (70% cacao or greater)
In addition to these foods there are natural supplements and minerals that also have anti-inflammatory properties along with many other health benefits:
- Turmeric: Recommended 500mg 2-3x per day
- Tart Cherry Juice: also serves as a natural melatonin supplement. Recommended 2, 8oz servings of regular juice or 2 tablespoons of concentrate
- Magnesium: Recommended 310-420mg (also found in nuts, leafy greens, and bananas)
- Vitamin D: Recommended 400 IU (also found in fatty fish and sunlight)
- Calcium: recommended 1000-1200 mg
One diet that seems to fit well with the recommendations above is the Mediterranean diet. This diet consists of primarily fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains along with lean meats and fish. It is suggested that this diet has decreased inflammatory markers compared to other diets.
The healing process also requires a phase in which we remodel the damaged tissue from the injury/surgery. For this phase, the important macronutrient that we want to explore is protein as it serves as the building block for our bodies and is essential for body repair of muscle and bone. Most common protein sources include eggs, beef, poultry, soy, legumes, and whole grains.
- Understand that certain foods have anti-inflammatory or proinflammatory aspects that can help or hinder the healing process
- Bias your diet by consuming whole grains and foods as opposed to refined grains or processed foods whenever possible
- Your diet DOES NOT have to be the Mediterranean but it should comprise a healthy balance of the aforementioned foods above
- Protein is an important macronutrient in body repair and should be supplemented if not consuming enough in your diet
If you’re looking for a more personalized stretch plan based on your particular job demands or if you have any previous injury or pain with performing any of these stretches, consult with your occupational and/or physical therapist.
In good health,
Giuseppe Demera, PT, DPT