Weight Loss is 80% Diet – 5 Tips for Mastering the “80% Rule”
More and more these days, we’ve begun to hear the adage that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise. In fact, more trainers and experts have begun to talk about it and are starting to recommend this strategy for weight loss and weight maintenance. For those of us that have spent most of our adult lives as firm believers that exercise is the true key to weight loss or that more exercise can make up for a non-optimal diet, it can take some time before we come around to the idea that more exercise is NOT better, and in fact, nutrition is the key.
It’s time for us to start paying attention to this 80% figure. Most of us are really striving for lifelong weight maintenance, and for those of us women who’ve been back and forth on the weight loss yo-yo a few times, it’s important to realize that going on a ‘diet’ is very different than nutrition. Diets are temporary, so they don’t allow for the weight maintenance that we all want. What we really need is a lifelong nutrition lifestyle change – one that doesn’t make us feel deprived so that we can stick with it for life.
So, if weight loss and weight maintenance are 80% diet, what’s the purpose of exercise? I used to be one of those 2 hour cardio marathon girls…and despite repeated muscle and tendon injuries, old habits die hard. But, when I accepted the “80 % diet” rule, I was actually relieved to discover that I could meet the ‘fitness’ side of my health goals with a whole lot less time at the gym.
It’s helped me a lot to think of exercise as having the purpose of giving my body the ‘shape’ I want, and the strength and stamina that help me feel healthier overall, rather than thinking of exercise as the vehicle to weight loss. For example, my focus now is that exercise will get me the lean strong legs and flat belly I want. It will also help me to feel better, since I’ll have more energy , feel stronger and be stronger. But weight loss? That happens in the kitchen.
Here are a few tips to help you maximize the 80% diet rule and shift your nutrition goals AND your fitness goals.
1) Eat Small Frequent Meals
This is key, because these smaller meals spaced about every 3 hours throughout the day help you feel full throughout the day. No more energy dips or sugar spikes that will have you reaching for the nearest unhealthy snack. Eating small frequent meals also helps boost your metabolism. If you go too long without eating your metabolism actually goes into fat storage mode, because it’s not sure when the next meal is coming – so it’s got to conserve those calories rather than burn them, right? The worst case scenario is skipping breakfast, because you have already gone 8 hours not eating while you sleep, and then tack on 5 – 6 more hours not eating until lunch time. Eating small, frequent meals also has an effect on hunger and weight loss hormones .
2) Fill Up On Vegetables
Once a person begins to eat more veggies, they find themselves actually craving them. Vegetables are not only super nutritious, but their fiber and water help you feel full, too. If you can, make fresh cooked veggies or salad half or more of your plate, meal or snack. I like to challenge myself to include two vegetable sides and some protein at every bigger meal. A snack can be a single fruit or veggie plus a lean protein.
3) Get Your Protein In
Protein is the building block of your muscles – so if you’re working on that ‘shape’ with a fitness plan, protein will help you create it. Protein powder can help supplement your intake if needed. Protein’s help in satiety is also unmatched – every meal and snack should contain some protein to help keep you full. A protein snack within 20 minutes of finishing your workout helps with fast muscle recovery.
4) Don’t Skip Meals or Restrict Calories
As mentioned above, skipping meals is the fastest way to slow your weight loss progress, because it sends the signal to your metabolism to ‘conserve’ calories rather than burn them. Instead of skipping meals, eat smaller meals more often. Be careful not to overly restrict calories too, which has a similar effect on the metabolism as skipping meals does. Once your metabolism begins to realize you aren’t putting a whole lot of ‘energy’ (in the form of food) in, it’ll go into conservation mode.
5) Don’t Overtrain – It Won’t Help
While training overtime might burn more calories, it has some side effects that make it not worth your while. First, over training, and the associated extra calorie burn will make you feel hungrier – lots hungrier – and more likely to overeat the wrong things. It also leads to elevated cortisol hormone in your body which will cause muscle loss, inflammation and signals your body to ramp up fat storage. Over training also leads to injuries – and often times those injuries keep you from working out AT ALL.