There will never be a definitive answer for the question: What is the best way to lose weight? Everybody has their own idea and they think that they have found the perfect method. Ultimately, it is the efficiency of a plan that will determine its success. If you can get positive results in a short period of time then you will believe that you have found the answer.
The problem is that a lot of different approaches can appear to work, especially in the short term, when really they are not sustainable. You will always see the greatest amount of the change when you start a new plan. Your body is getting used to the change and therefore reacts. This should not be confused for a sustainable long term plan though.
Look at skipping meals for example. The instinct of any dieter is cut down on food from the outset. This belief comes from the idea that food is the cause of weight gain and should be avoided. When is anything that black and white though? Especially when it comes to our health and fitness. There is some truth buried deep in this school of thought though. Calories in vs. Calories out, that is what this is trying to get at. Reduce the amount you eat and you reduce the amount of calories in. If a calorie deficit is achieved then weight loss will occur.
Like I said earlier though, it is rarely this clear-cut. In this case it is because people overlook the other impacts of skipping meals and in particular, nutrient deprivation. If you skip meals regularly then you run the risk of your body going into starvation mode. You never want this to happen, whether you are trying to cut or burn fat. If your body goes into starvation mode it will try to hold onto your stores of fat and use your muscle as a fuel source instead. So not only will you not be burning fat, you will be losing muscle. The number on the scales goes down but your fat levels will be the same.
Just to clarify, this happens after prolonged periods of a low-level energy intake. Missing one breakfast isn’t the end. That doesn’t mean that you should ever plan to miss meals though. If you want to burn fat then you need to get to a caloric deficit, where you are burning more calories than you are taking in. But this can be achieved while eating the same number of meals in a day.
We skip meals for all sorts of reasons: a lack of time, an act of desperation or even an innocent case of forgetfulness. Whatever your reason is, you will still expose yourself to the same risks:
- Starvation mode – muscles used as a fuel source
- Eventual overeating
- Meal replacement snacking
There are things that you can do to avoid having to skip meals that aren’t even that difficult:
- Pre-cook your meals so that you don’t have to spend a lot of time preparing food after work
- Plan your daily food intake so that you know how many calories you are having and how much exercise you should be doing
- Design meals to be quick and easy – there are plenty of recipes online of healthy meals that can be prepared and cooked in under half an hour
Our bodies are extremely clever. Trying to trick them is pointless. Even if you could, it would take something far more sophisticated than skipping meals. So when you are hungry, eat. Your body is telling you that it needs fuel. Reducing the amount you eat can work. But sometimes it isn’t that you are eating too much, it is that you are eating the wrong things. Focus on eating the right foods and you will see long term success.