You are probably already aware that what you eat plays a part in how you look. What you may not realise is exactly how much of a difference it makes. Your nutrition plan is by far the most important element of your weight loss and fitness plan. You can’t escape it. No matter what kind of exercise you do, you will never get the results you could be getting if your nutrition isn’t good enough.
You may know a friend or have seen somebody in the gym that seems to work super hard, always shows up but never really improves the way they look. I can almost guarantee that person hasn’t paid enough attention to what they are eating.
The big question then, what is it that makes an effective and successful nutrition plan?
Firstly, I should clarify what I mean by effective and successful. I mean a plan that consistently progresses you, pushes you towards your goals, helps you achieve your goals and then helps you maintain everything that you worked so hard for.
A successful nutrition plan certainly isn’t the new celebrity fad diet that has you starving yourself to lose 10 pounds in a week only to regain 15 pounds 3 weeks after you finish.
Here are 3 elements that I feel a successful weight loss nutrition plan must focus on:
It’s a proven fact that calories play the very biggest part in whether you gain, lose or maintain your bodyweight, Yes, there are certain variables that may affect how you look depending on the type of foods your calories come from. However, if you don’t find a way to control your calorie intake first and foremost, you won’t be losing any weight.
There are a lot of different ways to keep your calories under control, tracking your intake with apps like myfitnesspal, intermittent fasting, using portion control methods etc. Each person will find different levels of success with each method so you need to try one out for a period of time and decide whether it can work for you long-term. I recommend keeping as simple as you can whole still seeing progress.
Flexibility and variety
Do not be overly restrictive with a diet. Allow yourself the option to have pretty much any food you desire as long as you moderate the quantity. You still have to show a bit of will power but banning foods completely usually leads to cravings for that particular food and an eventual binge. Have been there many times and the guilt you feel after is never worth it so aim to eat whole, natural foods 90% of the time and you can treat yourself, guilt-free, for the remaining 10%.
Variety is also key in eliminating the monotony of a diet. You should try and eat a variety of different textures, colours and flavours from whole food sources. Not only will this prevent the boredom but should also give you a wider range of nutrients to aid your health as well. This is why I am not a fan of strict meal planning and I instead coach all of my clients on how to make their own good choices that can be maintained long term.
By this, I don’t mean your ability to sustain the eating plan over time, although that is obviously key. What I mean is the ability of your nutrition plan to sustain whatever activities you do on a daily basis.
Too many shorter term diets rely on drastic calorie cutting or maybe even the elimination of entire food groups. Not only can this leave you feeling hungry and miserable, but usually won’t be enough to replace all of the energy and nutrients that are used up during your daily tasks.
This becomes even more important if, as you should be, you are pairing your nutrition plan with a good exercise regime. You simply must replace the energy you use up with enough nutrient-dense foods to keep you going.
Listening to your body is vital here. If you feel a real lack of energy or performance in your exercise or at work, then you might need to tweak your intake a bit. Same goes if you are constantly feeling hungry. A little bit of hunger is to be expected when losing weight but it should be manageable.
There are probably a few others that could be added to the list but I feel like the 3 above stand out as being most important and having the greatest impact.
So if you are on a weight loss journey now or about to start one, make sure that your nutrition plan accounts for each of the 3 elements I mentioned here and you won’t go far wrong. Of course, real success should be looked at as a long-term process.
Of course, real success should be looked at as a long-term process. Improving your lifestyle for the future is the goal and it won’t happen overnight, be patient and make small positive changes over time.
Laine Norton, weight loss coach @ LN Fitness