The Best Meal Plan for Weight Loss – Do It Yourself (DIY)
Weight loss is one of the most talked-about topics in the fitness industry. As they say – you can’t outrun a bad diet. Meal planning and nutrition become an essential component of your weight loss journey. Understanding the various components of a healthy diet and the ability to make smarter food choices can help you prepare your own successful weight loss meal plan. So, let’s explore the most important aspects of meal planning to help you reach your weight loss goals.
WHY MOST DIETS FAIL?
We all love a ready-made plan that guarantees results in a few weeks. After all, it feels amazing to see results! I believe weight loss diets work like a charm in the short term but are grossly overrated as they do not provide long term benefits. Why? We all love scientific explanations, so let me explain using the principles explained in this book by Daniel Pink:
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Most diets fail because they are unable to provide either of the three things that motivate us:
Autonomy is our inherent desire to be self-directed. We want to be in control of our lives – what we wear, where we go, what we do – even what we eat. A diet plan prescribed by a professional gives us little to NO autonomy to plan our meals. So, we follow them for a few weeks or maybe a couple of months. But beyond that, it feels torturous and we tend to revert to our old habits. It devoids us from our wish to be in control.
Mastery is our urge to get better at stuff. It is probably why some people learn musical instruments or play video games. These are fun and allows us to get better at something. It is the reason why I love calisthenics and movement, coz there are progressions and I can constantly push myself to get better. A weight-loss diet tends to get monotonous and provides no avenues to hone your skills and push your limits.
Typically, the expected outcome of a weight loss diet is to achieve quick weight loss. People usually start a diet leading up to an event such as a wedding or a party, or a sudden reaction when they realise their old clothes do not fit anymore. There is no long term purpose or vision which drives you to trust the process and follow it consistently. There is a reason we have never heard about a 12 months diet plan. It doesn’t exist! Google it and see for yourself.
BEST MEAL PLAN FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Now that we both agree on why most diets fail, let’s talk about what does the best meal plan for weight loss look like.
The best meal plan is the one that allows you to make consistent progress without taking over your life! The one that you chose for yourself through self-education, self-awareness and experimentation.
The one that allows you to modify your eating habits for life making you a happier, healthier and fitter version of yourself.
Most importantly, the best meal plan is the one that you can continue for life.
That’s the key to success – prepare a meal plan that integrates healthy nutrition into your lifestyle, not the other way around. That way you will be able to enjoy your meals and stick to your plan for much longer.
Now, let me tell you six essential components of a successful weight loss meal plan. Using those, you can create flexible meal plans and sustain your weight loss journey to reach your desired goals:
#1 CALORIES IN VS CALORIES OUT
This is an essential component of fat loss or weight loss. You must be in a calorie deficit to lose weight i.e. consume (eat) less energy than what you burn throughout the day.
For starters, let’s keep it simple and use this equation to calculate your daily intake for weight loss:
Daily energy intake for weight loss (kcal) = Goal body weight (in kgs) x 25
So, if your current body weight is, say 85 kgs, and you wish to bring it down to 75 kgs, then you can start with eating 75 x 25 = 1875 kcal/ day
For more details and guidelines, I suggest you go through this:
#2 PROTEIN INTAKE
Protein is the most important macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) to get right. Why? Let’s dive into the reasons:
Reason #1: Protein helps you stay full and eat less
Protein is the most filling of all macronutrients, which means, it helps you feel full longer. It also stimulates the release of satiety hormones in the gut. In essence, the more protein you have in your diet, the less hungry you’ll be throughout the day.
Less hunger = Few cravings, and therefore you are more likely to stay in a calorie deficit consistently over a long period.
Reason #2: Protein helps you build and maintain muscles
In addition to the growth and repair of tissues, protein is essential for the production of important molecules such as enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies. When we are in a calorie deficit and the protein intake is not enough, the body tends to strip off protein from our muscles, leading to muscle loss.
Eating higher amounts of protein will allow you to not only preserve lean muscle mass but may also lead to muscle gain if you are strength training and eating enough calories. More muscle mass also means that you burn more calories at rest and therefore emphasising protein intake can help improve your metabolism in the long run.
Reason #3: Protein has the highest Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
In simple words, compared to carbs and fats, it takes longer for the body to break down protein and therefore burns more calories during digestion. Although it is a small percentage of your total energy expenditure, the TEF can still amount to several hundred kcal each day and so could affect your body composition over the long term.
So, how much protein should you eat?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. It is the minimum you should eat to meet your basic nutritional requirements. For weight loss though, the requirements are higher for the reasons explained above. As a guideline, aim for about 2 gms per kg of body weight. So, if your body weight is 60 kgs, aim for ~120 gms of protein per day.
For more details on how to plan your meal portions and a sample meal plan (based on my calorie requirements), read this:
#3 CARBS TO FATS RATIO
I am not going to waste your time beating around the bush. Here is the TRUTH BOMB:
For weight loss, neither low-fat nor low-carb is superior, as long as there is no difference in caloric intake or protein intake
In other words, it doesn’t matter whether you eat a low-fat diet or a ketogenic diet or a low-fat high-carb (LCHF) diet or whatever new trend interests you. As long as you keep your calories and protein intake in check, you are free to choose whatever suit your fancy.
Don’t believe me? Read this research study and decide for yourself.
I am a big proponent of balance and moderation. So, I would keep an even split and eat a mix of healthy fats, and slow-releasing carbohydrates.
For a sample meal plan (based on my calorie & protein requirements), read this article:
#4 NUTRIENT DENSITY OF FOOD
The nutrient density of food items can be determined by how much fibre, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients does the food have. Now, this can get complex if we try to deep dive into each of these components. But that’s not why you are here. And what fun would it be if one needs to research so much before deciding what to eat? So, let’s keep it simple and follow this simple rule:
Consume more whole foods, choose minimally processed foods and eat fewer refined ones
Think of any food item along the spectrum of whole food to highly processed. Greater the degree of processing, higher the likelihood that the food has:
- Lost essential nutrients such as fibre, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients
- Gained additives such as added sugar, preservatives, sodium, artificial sweeteners, corn syrups, unhealthy fats etc.
So, next time you prepare your meal plan for weight loss, refer to the examples in the below table to make better food choices:
#5 MEAL FREQUENCY AND TIMINGS
Most diet plans designed by a nutritionist or dietician will specify how many meals you should eat and specific time intervals when you are allowed to eat. Some of them may also forbid you to eat outside those hours. This is another reason most diet plans fail. It’s not sustainable to have a rigid rule, set by someone else, around meal frequency and timings.
Some suggest eating smaller, more frequent meals. Others suggest that you should eat less frequently or try intermittent fasting for better weight loss results.
It doesn’t matter when and how often you eat. The only thing that matter is how much you eat throughout the day.
So, it’s up to you whether you want to eat 6 meals/ day or 3 meals/ day or 1 meal/ day. Eating frequency can impact your “perception” of appetite/ satiety. If you are someone who tends to binge eat, reducing meal frequency may not be a great idea. So, decide on something that you can continue for long and stick to it.
Here is some RESEARCH if you are interested.
While meal timing and frequency doesn’t matter, it’s a good idea to stick to a consistent routine (including sleep), the one that you prefer, as it helps regulate your hunger hormones. Also, eating a heavy meal right before bedtime may not be a good idea as it may impact your digestion.
If you have a tendency to binge eat, READ THIS
#6 ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU WILL FEEL HUNGRY
When you are eating fewer calories than what you are used to, it is normal to feel hungry from time to time. You may even have cravings and acknowledging them will mentally prepare you to deal with them.
The fact of the matter is that losing weight is hard! If someone tells you otherwise, they are probably lying or have never been through the journey.
That being said, here are some tricks to help you deal with the hunger so you can be more consistent:
- Eat more proteins to stay full: We’ve already discussed in point #2 that protein is the most filling of all macronutrients. So, try to include protein-rich foods in every meal.
- Eat an orange or mandarin to stave off sweet cravings: For those who have a sweet tooth, controlling the urge to devour chocolates or desserts can be a big challenge. Orange is about 60-80 kcal per fruit, is extremely sweet and is one of my go-to option for sweet cravings.
- Melons are low calorie and incredibly filling: Melons have high water content and serve as a great snack to keep you full during hunger pangs. Half a kg of watermelon is about 150 kcal
- Drink at least 2 litres of water every day: If you prefer aerated drinks during meals, sparkling water (soda) or coconut water might be a better alternative.
- Eat one big salad every day: It is common knowledge that eating vegetables is good for health and it will keep you full longer. But most of us, still don’t do it. I recommend most of my clients to have one big salad every day, preferably before a meal so you eat less afterwards.
THE SECRET INGREDIENT FOR WEIGHT LOSS
The fitness industry will make you believe in fairy tales but you and I know both know their realities. Let me tell you once for all – There are no magic superfoods that significantly boost metabolism. If there were any, I would be the first one to recommend them.
The secret ingredient for weight loss is this – Patience
You obviously have to ‘put in work’ to reach your weight loss goals. But most importantly, you must get comfortable with the fact that it is going to take a long time. It is not a once-off solution but a life long journey of leading a healthier lifestyle. Remember, it takes time. Really long time, sometimes years. There is only one thing that matters in the end – consistency.
Trying to lose weight too fast can lead to a cycle of yo-yo dieting, which can do more harm than good for your body in the long run. It is the reason why so many people lose weight quickly and gain back soon enough. Remember, it takes time. Really long time, sometimes years. There is only one thing that matters in the end. Consistency. So, be patient and stay consistent.
If you have read until here, you should be in a good position to create your meal plan for weight loss. If you need further guidance to learn how to integrate exercise and healthy eating habits into your lifestyle, check out my coaching plan and shoot me a message to discuss more. Keep in mind that it will NOT give you quick results, but if you patiently do the work, you will build lifelong habits that’ll help you keep that weight off forever.
If you wish to read about 6 lifestyle changes to sustainably lose fat and improve long term health, click here
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My recommendations for protein supplements:
Whey Protein – Option 1
Whey Protein – Option 2
Vegan Protein – Option 1
Vegan protein – Option 2
Protein for Women
Other Option – Sattu
Other supplements I recommend (Confirm with your doctor before consuming):
Multivitamins for women
Read these amazing books to learn about mindset, what motivates us and how to form good habits, and break bad ones.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha
7 Habits of highly effective people
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