For women, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 1,200 calories. For men it’s 1,800 calories. Anything less than that will work against you. But if you can hit your minimum, you’ll feel better and start to lose weight.
Once you hit your minimum, you can actually shoot for eating a little more to cover your activity during the day. Most women can eat between 1,500-1,650 calories and feel fine while losing weight. Most guys can lose weight around 2,200-2,400 calories. Once you get your quantity under control, the next step is to look at the quality of what you’re eating.
Remember, food is fuel. Sure, it can give us pleasure, but the bottom line is food is fuel. When you get empty, you need to fuel up. But there’s another issue.
If you put the wrong kind of fuel in a car, it won’t run well, or not at all. What you want is high octane foods that help your body work better. Every meal should have three main components: Protein, Starch & Fruits & Greens.
Protein—for building Muscle & Bone:
Meats, Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Low Fat Dairy products like Milk, Yogurt & Cottage Cheese, Nuts, Peanut Butter, some Beans, and Meal Replacement Shakes.
Most people don’t get nearly enough protein in their diet. It’s not fuel, though. Your body doesn’t like to burn protein for fuel as it’s inefficient, and can cause medical side effects.
You should probably eat more Fish, then Chicken & Turkey, less Beef (lean cuts only), and even less Pork. Low Fat Dairy is fine. If you’re lactose intolerant, choose a Soy based dairy product.
Starch—for long lasting Fuel (Energy):
Quality Whole Grains like Cereals & Breads, Oats, Whole Wheat Pasta, Long Grain Wild Rice, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Corn, Sugar Snap Peas, Beans.
Starches are your bodies preferred fuel for energy. Also known as complex carbohydrates, starches take a long time for your body to break down, so you get long lasting energy.
Most people eat too much starch (carbs), especially the bad kinds like white breads, refined flours, and junk foods. Some diets tell you not to eat carbs at all (even the good stuff!). That’s goofy. Just don’t eat too many.
Fruits & Greens—for Vitamins & Minerals, Quick Energy, and Fiber:
Most people don’t eat nearly enough Fruits & Greens and some don’t eat any at all. Fruits & Greens have tons of vitamins & minerals, along with the enzymes needed to use them. They're high in fiber and low in calories. If you’ll start eating more Fruits & Greens, you’ll start feeling better, almost immediately. Go for Fruits early in the day for quick energy, and have lots of Greens at your later meals.
Take a high quality supplement that has a blend of Omega-3 (fish oil) and also Omega-6 and Omega-9 in it. It will help you fight infections, think more clearly, support your metabolism, and make you feel better. Eat more fish and nuts too. Avoid vegetable oils and foods cooked in them. They’ll make you fat. Go with olive oil for cooking.
Avoid Trans Fats. If you see a label that says Trans Fats .5 or more, don’t buy it. Only buy it if it says Trans Fats 0. This type of fat is extremely dangerous. Your body can’t process them, so it coats them with cholesterol and stores them in your arteries. Experts believe they’re the main reason for the increase in heart disease in men and women at younger ages.
Choose low fat dairy products for milk, cottage cheese and yogurt. There’s no difference in the amount of protein, only fat. Go 2%, or even lower if you can. Choose low fat salad dressings, too. This will take you from 140 calories for 2 tbsp down to 50, 45, or sometimes 25 calories!
Try to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), found in pop, ice creams, and many other foods. Unlike fructose (sugars found in fruits), sucrose (simple sugars), or even corn syrup (all of which your body CAN burn for fuel), HFCS can’t be burned for fuel, so your body stores it as fat.
Another problem is that HFCS doesn’t trigger the release of leptin which tells you that you’re full. Many experts believe HFCS is the main reason behind the epidemic of obesity in our kids.
If you want to feel better, drink more water. It helps flush and cleanse the body, and also is critical to things moving in and out of the cells at a molecular level.
When you’re dehydrated, your body doesn’t work as well. Until you’ve been fully hydrated you’ll never really know how good you can feel. Coffee and pop don’t count as water. Quit the pop. Only water counts as water. Drink it.
The government recommends adults have at least 64 oz (a little more than 3 20 oz bottles) of water each day. Even that’s not enough, especially if you’re exercising. Active women may need up to 4 bottles (up to 80 oz) and active men could need 5 or 6 (100-120 oz).
Week One Results
Next week I’ll give you some sample meal and snack ideas. This week’s Biggest Loser was Janet Tyler, who lost 3.1% of her body weight and 5.8 lbs. Shawn Bowers was second, losing 2.3% and 7.2 lbs. Nicole Shaughnessy was third, losing 1.8% and 3.0 lbs. Nicole Clodfelter placed fourth, losing 1.6% and 3.6 lbs, and Mary Pfister was fifth, losing 1.4% and 2.8 lbs.