Eating 'healthy' but still not losing weight?

First things first, I'm going to keep referring to foods as healthy. Which is a term I don't really like to use as this suggests there are good and bad foods. I don't believe any food is inherently bad, but for the sake of this article making any sort of sense the word healthy will be used, but really what I mean is 'more nutritious'.

Have you started eating healthier, yet not losing the weight you had planned? Well that's because there's a huge difference between eating for health & eating for fat loss! Although your health should always come first, if you're trying to lose weight a calorie deficit is realistically the ONLY thing that matters. Regardless of what you're eating, if you're not in a deficit you won't lose weight - it's that simple.

Healthy foods, albeit are obviously great for your body & health, still contain calories

Everything you eat, your body digests and decides what to do with it from there. If your goal is simply to supply your body more nutritious foods, then sure, eating more lean meats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats is the way to go. However, if your goal is to lose body weight/fat in the process then you still need to ensure you're controlling your calorie intake

It doesn't matter if all you're eating is lean meat, healthy fats & plenty of fruit & veg if you're not in a calorie deficit.

Fat loss is all about calories in vs calories out. Everything we eat contains energy (calories), if you're supplying your body with too much energy, it will store it for later use as body fat. It doesn't matter if this energy comes from chocolate or broccoli, if you have too much, you will store it as fat for later use (thank evolution & survival for this). Similarly, if you supply your body with just enough energy (calories) it requires to survive, it will have no reason to use up it's energy stores (body fat) regardless of the foods supplying the energy.

Energy in vs energy out will always dictate your weight/fat loss progress regardless of the foods you're eating.

So, this picture isn't permission to ditch your hummus for a cheeseburger, but it will hopefully give you an insight into what I mean. Just because something is deemed healthy or unhealthy, does not mean that the calories will always correlate. I mean, off the top of my head, I know that Brazil nuts are extremely healthy. But if I'm trying to lose weight will I eat them? No chance. Why? There are 200 calories in 6, yes 6... Brazil nuts!

So why do a lot of people start eating healthy & suddenly drop loads of weight without ever counting a calorie?

Eating healthy will often result in weight loss for most people as they're reducing the amount of calorie dense processed foods from their diet. However, just using the healthy approach does not always guarantee weight loss in all cases. It really depends on the quality of the persons diet before they start eating better, just think if you've suddenly gone from eating donuts for breakfast, burgers for lunch & pizza for dinner & turn to yogurt, salad & fish your calorie intake is highly likely to decrease naturally.

This is is no way to say eating healthy is a waste of time. Your health after all, should ALWAYS be your main priority.

In fact, most often with weight loss clients I will suggest this is exactly where they begin. It's less complicated & creating healthier eating habits is essential to long term success. Your appetite will also begin to drop once you start feeding your body what it actually needs & your digestion will also improve. Once you start making eating healthier a priority, your body will be in a much better position to start focusing on creating a calorie deficit (if required). People are often looking for some advanced strategy to losing weight, yet they're eating burgers & chips for lunch and eating no vegetables. Baby steps people!

Healthy habits > calorie deficit > long term fat loss

There are many foods that you would often consume on a 'healthy diet', but are also extremely calorie dense.

Foods to look out for are things such as

  • Nuts - nuts are extremely calorie dense, they're extremely nutritious just be cautious over your serving sizes!

  • Seeds - similar to nuts, although often serving sizes will be naturally smaller

  • Nut butter - measure your peanut butter! 1tbsp should be 18g but most people use closer to 40g when guessing

  • Granola - extremely calorie dense, an actual serving size 30-40g, however most people use 80-120g when guessing

  • Avocado - the holy grail of Instagram health contains lots of calories!

  • Smoothies - calories can range anywhere between 50 to 1000+, be cautious

  • Oils - a 'glug' of olive oil is on average 2tbsp worth, equaling a bonus 240 calories just to cook your food!

  • Cows milk - although milk isn't that high in calories, it can add an extra 50 calories to your coffee or ~150 to your cereal, which isn't all that.. But it's most often not counted at all

  • Red meats that aren't specifically 'lean cut' such as 20% mince - 100g lean mince = 130kcal/100g, 100g 20% mince = 250 kcal. Nearly double the calories for the same amount of the same food

  • Salmon & oily fish - although I encourage you to eat oily fish as much as possible, remember it's a protein source that contains fat, so don't add too much extra fat to this meal

  • Dried fruit - dehydrated fruit is just smaller fruit that contains the same calories but you'll often eat much more!

  • Wholegrain, seeded bread - can often be 150kcal per slice, so 300kcal to make a sandwich - before you've put anything in it

  • Dark chocolate - yes, dark chocolate is good for you - but it actually contains more calories than regular chocolate

  • Cheese - calorie dense & often 'sprinkled' on top of foods, extra high uncountable calories - problem!

  • Whole eggs - eggs aren't that high in calories, but similar to oily fish, as they contain both fat & protein, you should avoid eating anything too fatty along side them

  • Full fat yogurt - full fat yogurt often has double the calorie content of the exact same zero fat variety

  • Salad dressings - salad dressing aren't healthy as such, but they're often turning peoples 300 calorie salad into calorie dense monsters, yet still 'just a salad for lunch'!

  • Rice & pasta - often cooked from dry which we are all guilty for and thinking 'oh that's not enough' yet when it's cooked we've made enough to feed a family of 10 (and eat it all anyway), weigh before cooking!

If you'd like to understand how many calories you need to reach your goal, regardless of the type of food.. Check out my calorie calculator here

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me anytime! I'm always happy to help

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