Eat MORE food to lose weight? Have you lost your mind?
As a registered dietitian and weight loss coach, I cannot begin to tell you how surprised my clients are when they hear me say they’re not eating enough food in order to lose weight properly.
They get this really perplexed look on their face or a super sketched out tone of voice like “wha- what do you mean?”
More often than not, clients come to me with an under-eating problem, not overeating. They’re on the 500 calorie diet or 1200 calories, or they don’t eat breakfast, or they’re doing intermittent fasting, or some other fad diet or “cleanse” that severely restricts calories and slows down their metabolisms.
The truth is that you should be eating more to lose weight, NOT less, and here’s why:
I know you’ve heard the phrase “energy in vs. energy out,” but what does that actually mean?
A campfire is a perfect analogy for how our energy levels and metabolism work. You must put on the right amount of wood, and in the right increments to have a great campfire right? If you don’t put on enough wood or go too long without throwing some wood on the fire, it dies down. If you put on too much at the same time, the fire can be smothered.
Our metabolisms work the exact same way. If we don’t eat enough food or if we eat too infrequently, our metabolism slows down, and our energy levels will be low and unstable. If we eat too much, we feel sluggish and we will likely store more body fat.
My clients are always astonished at the volume of food they get to eat while losing weight when they are following my plans…
It always includes balanced meals that focus on quality whole foods from vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Just think about the campfire when you are deciding what and when to eat, and just remember: To have a fast metabolism, you gotta stoke the fire! So, if you’re looking to lose weight (and keep it off permanently), eat more, not less!
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Start your day with a healthy breakfast, and if you are like most humans and struggle to get out the door on time, try one of these quick and easy breakfast options:
- Try to eat your meals within 4-6 hours of each other, and if you are really pressed for time make sure to have a snack, perhaps some carrot sticks and celery with hummus. That way you can snack and eat your veggies!
- Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables at each meal, this includes breakfast too. I like sneaking my veggies into my breakfast shake.
- Swap out your regular potato chips or candy bar for a piece of fruit or a rice cake with almond butter instead. I know it doesn’t sound as exciting, but over time as you eat more whole foods your taste buds will become more sensitive to the natural salts and sugars as opposed to the processed ones!
What if you are hungry before bed?
Having a light snack before bed won’t wreck your waistline, and can help you get a better night’s sleep which will optimize your metabolism, setting you up for weight loss success.
It’s an old wives tale that eating before bed makes you fat! This mainly comes from the fact that we tend to make poor food choices at night. We have just finished a long day of work, and it’s really easy to grab the wine or the potato chips or that pint of ice cream and sit in front of the TV.
So make sure that you are choosing appropriate bedtime snacks to ensure good sleep and that you stay on track. Something like a handful of nuts or 1 oz. of 70% or greater dark chocolate would work just fine!
Finally, listen to your body! If you’re hungry … EAT!
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when trying to lose weight is they wait to too long to eat. Don’t get to the point of absolute ravenous hunger or (chances are) you’ll overdo it. If you’re hungry at an unusual hour, drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes. Sometimes the body registers dehydration as hunger.
If the hunger goes away, you were dehydrated. If it doesn’t, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry or am I just bored?” If it’s just boredom, keep yourself distracted by getting up and getting in some movement instead. If you are hungry, go ahead and eat something … your body will love you for it!
When it’s time to seek professional guidance:
By the time a client usually gets to me, their metabolism is an absolute mess! They have restricted calories and done yo-yo dieting for so long, that now even the slightest fluctuation in calories or their diet makes their weight go up like crazy.
They have no energy, they don’t sleep, and they feel like nothing they ever do will help them lose weight. This is when I take over and tell them that they need to be eating more food, and we work together to come up with a realistic solution that will slowly get their metabolism back on track.
It’s not impossible, but it is a process that takes time. With the appropriate interventions it’s always possible to bring a metabolism back to life!