Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are…
This famous French literature-derived expression explains the entire topic: if you want to lose weight, you have the answer in front of your eyes; you just have to open them!
You move daily between what you eat (calories intake) and your activities (calories expenditure). Losing weight means tweaking this situation, either:
- by reducing intake
- by increasing expenses
NB: Any weight reduction efforts will work better if you work out at least a bit every day, if possible!
It sounds simple, so why isn’t it super easy to lose weight?
Because there are “intimate” enemies with whom fighting is complicated:
Hunger or the feeling of hunger, the irrepressible desire to snack is one of them. These pangs reflect a need for self-reassurance, compensating for a lack, or being overwhelmed… So many reasons that make you go beyond your will!
This is why eating low-calorie foods is not enough; you must eat nutritious foods so you won’t succumb to your (extremely intense) hunger pangs!
Now let’s focus on hunger as your psyche’s reaction to internal or external events (what I called previously “feeling of hunger”). It is essential to work upstream and be prepared for the challenge that you face.
If you want to know more, I refer you to the article Weight loss mental strategies.
Behavioral, strategic bases
This is about creating positive habits and/or breaking the cycle of negative patterns. The purpose is to set up an environment where your weight loss process can develop unhindered. Here are five crucial points.
- Do not buy products rich in sugars and saturated fatty acids (crisps, chocolate, cold meats). There is no point in putting yourself in difficulty if you know you will have trouble fighting against your desire to eat these products! The solution is indeed radical, but it has the merit of being very effective. Let’s make a bet: if you have to walk 20 minutes to the supermarket to buy a bar of chocolate, your interest in doing that will suddenly plummet! On the other hand, if you just need to open a cabinet in your kitchen…
- Put the chocolate or other temptations in a hard-to-reach place! Okay, let’s say you don’t live alone and your partner wants to eat chocolate if they want to. The solution is to store the products in a place that takes effort to reach. For example, place them in the cellar if you have one or at the top of the cupboard where you need a stepladder (in reality, we all use a kitchen chair) to get it. Why? Because when you feel the urge to snack, your brain is in automatic mode, and you can’t objectively consider the situation! Moving away from that chocolate gives you time to “take back” control of the problem.
- Fill your fridge as soon as you have the chance with fresh vegetables and fruits. If possible, store them already sliced. That way, you eliminate all reasons to eat something other than these healthy products (which are also low-calorie, as we will see).
- Use the eight glasses of water a day technique! This is the amount of water necessary for the proper functioning of your body! We can go further, kill two birds with one stone and consider drinking a full glass of water every time you feel the need to binge-eat.
- Apply the ½ – ¼ – ¼ formula for lunch and dinner! That formula entails:
- Vegetables should be ½ of the serving.
- Starches ¼ portion.
- Protein ¼ of the serving.
Knowledge as a primary tool for weight loss
Now that the framework is set, understanding some dieting-related concepts will help you grasp the strategic rules of food rebalancing!
What are calories? And kilocalories? What does Kj on some packaging mean?
So many small details that are important to understand!
One calorie is the energy required to heat one gram of water by one degree. One kilocalorie is the energy needed to heat one kilogram of water by one degree.
Thus, calories and kilocalories define the amount of energy the body can get from a nutrient!
The Kilojoule is another unit of measurement for energy. There’s a formula for converting calories into kilojoules and vice-versa, but inserting it here is useless. A mathematical formula will not help you in your weight loss goals.
What is food made of?
There are three major macronutrients and a few other molecules. All of them have different calorific values:
- Lipids. 1 g of fat = 9.3 kcal (39 kJ). Lipids comprise fat cells. Satiating power is variable.
- Carbohydrates. 1 g of carbohydrates = 4.1 kcal (17kJ). This category includes “classic” sugars and starches/grains. Satiating power is variable.
- Proteins. 1 g of protein = 4.1 kcal (17 kJ). Proteins are found in meat, fish, vegetables (tofu), legumes, and pulses. High satiating power.
- Water. Zero calories.
- Complex carbohydrates. Variable caloric value, but very nutritious.
- Fibers. Variable caloric power and highly satiating.
- Alcohol. 1 g of alcohol = 7.1 kcal (30kJ). Fake satiating power because it makes you feel full without giving you any real healthy nutrients.
Another point often comes up in the weight loss literature: energy needs. This issue entails estimating your needs according to your biological sex, age, physical activity, etc.
There are clever formulas to calculate this information very precisely; the idea is to eat enough high-quality food without exceeding your actual needs.
All of this is very good, very mathematical, but contextually speaking, it is difficult to set up! You certainly have obligations, and you are already running on steam. However, you can go to the basics and establish food associations that promote weight loss, regardless of your energy needs, physical activity, etc. The goal of this article is precisely to facilitate your next steps.
A magic formula?
You should not be restrictive to rebalance your diet: that’s what most fad diets get wrong.
On the contrary, you have to eat everything and know how to enjoy your meals without guilt. On the other hand, it is necessary to set up a framework.
Based on the above, what should be privileged on the plate? The characteristics of the “best” foods:
- Be large enough > For the feeling of satiety.
- Contain a lot of water > This gives volume with fewer calories.
- Being filled with fiber > Increases the feeling of fullness.
- Be rich in protein > Low-calorie content and sensation of fullness.
- Be rich in complex carbohydrates > Feeling of fullness.
- Contain few lipids > Because of high caloric value.
- Be digested slowly > To maintain the feeling of fullness.
A point on alcohol: This is not about discussing its harmful effects but as part of a weight-loss strategy. It must be admitted that regular consumption brings a significant number of calories, which should be seriously reduced. Occasional and festive drinks will not impact your strategy, and I remind you that you must know how to have fun!
Star foods for weight loss
Vegetables are your real allies for weight loss! They are composed mainly of water and fiber (plus lots of vitamins and minerals); their caloric content is ridiculously low compared to their high satiating power!
Tofu comes from the fermentation of soybeans. It is very rich in protein for a derisory caloric value. Dried vegetables are very rich in protein and provide a feeling of prolonged satiety.
Fruits contain fiber and are nutritious. On the other hand, they are variably rich in sugars, which increase their caloric value!
Complex carbohydrates are, for the most part, very high in calories, but they have high satiating power and maintain the feeling of fullness over time. Thus, you can consume them in moderation. Lean fish and meats (chicken, turkey, beef) require long digestion and are also valuable allies. Some cheeses are rich in fat, so favor Fromage Blanc or lean fresh cheese.
How to lose weight?
Now you have all the weapons to answer this question!
- You need three meals a day: skipping breakfast is a terrible habit.
- You have to eat slowly and take the time to chew: this allows better digestion and promotes the onset of satiety. The reason is that your stomach needs time to synthesize a hormone called leptin, informing your brain that your belly is full. It takes about 20 minutes for the information to be transmitted! So if you eat too fast, you’ll still feel hungry and push more food down your stomach! As a result, you’ll have the unpleasant feeling of overeating at the end of the meal. At least now you know why!
- A quick update on seasoning and cooking oils
✔ Use a mixture of oils or olive oil for cooking (be careful when cooking, it keeps its taste but deteriorates above 200°).
✔ Do not use butter.
✔ Season with olive oil, walnut, flax, and camelina. We can consider mixtures, the goal being both the contribution of healthy lipids and pleasure.
- Avoid sweet breakfasts: sugar increases insulin production, lowering your blood sugar level. As a result, you will notice a drop in your morning energy levels and a craving (hunger pangs which entail the uncontrolled need to snack!).
- Breakfast should consist of protein, complex carbohydrates, vegetables, or fruits. Here are some examples :
✔ A portion of red beans + two slices of ham + an apple + a coffee
✔ Two slices of wholemeal bread + butter + ham + an orange + black tea
✔ Cottage cheese + oatmeal + a hard-boiled egg + hot drink (tea or coffee)
✔ Salad: two tomatoes + two slices of ham + fresh mushrooms + a coffee
✔ Lentils + tofu + a tomato + a soy yogurt + tea
- If you feel the irrepressible urge for a morning snack, try to drink a large glass of water first (remember the 8- glass technique). If you cannot resist, choose a vegetable or a fruit!
A vegetable???? Yes, you can eat vegetables at any time of the day; you just have to anticipate this by preparing a Tupperware of delicious vegetables and bringing it with you to work (planning).
- The midday meal is quite simple to imagine: remember the ½ – ¼ – ¼ rule. Half of your plate will be made up of vegetables, a quarter of protein, and the last quarter of starches. Some examples include:
✔ A slab of salmon + green vegetables + a portion of brown rice.
✔ Duo of red and yellow peppers + sardines or tuna + a portion of quinoa.
✔ Carrot peas + turkey breast + two steamed potatoes.
✔ A portion of whole dough + seasonal steamed vegetables + hake fillet.
✔ Stew: beef, carrots, turnips, leek + potatoes.
- The afternoon snack follows the same rules as the morning snack.
- Remember to drink plenty of water: at least eight glasses per day.
- The evening meal should be light mainly for two reasons. First, it facilitates quality sleep because digestion puts additional pressure on your body. Secondly, as a rule of thumb, evening physical activity is reduced and requires little caloric intake. A trap to be avoided is regarding the evening meal as the reward of your working day: “I deserve a bar of chocolate, seeing as I sacrificed myself enough.” This is called emotional eating; we will discuss it later! Examples of evening menus include:
✔ Varied vegetable soup without bread or cheese.
✔ Raw salads, including cabbage (which is very low in calories and very satiating).
✔ A slab of white fish + spinach + brown rice.
✔ Konjac pasta with pesto + steamed chicken + steamed vegetables.
✔ Pan-fried wok-style vegetables + tofu.
- There’s no need for anything more in the late evening or at night! Water at most!
The menus mentioned here are guidelines. You must adapt the meals to your needs, likes, and what makes you happy. In the appendix, you will find a list of the lowest-calorie products. You now know how to combine them to prepare balanced, satiating, and delicious meals.
The table below summarizes the 25 lowest calorie products
Calories are expressed per 100 grams
|Konjac pasta||7 kcal|
|Fresh mushrooms||11 kcal|
|Iceberg lettuce||13 kcal|
|Chinese cabbage||16 kcal|
|Green pepper||23 kcal|
|Red currants||33 kcal|