Before we go on this journey of diets and nutrition and science, let’s sit down, have some hot apple cider, and let me quickly tell you about my life. I’m here writing because over the last 2 years, my life has totally changed.
I learned I was allergic to dairy and eggs about 2 years ago and immediately had to change my diet or else I’d be going downhill real quick. I was super bummed for a while, but then I started doing research about diets, nutrition, and exercise, and found that I LOVE talking about it. Now I’m an Exercise Science major at the College of Charleston. That’s how much I love this stuff.
Since then, I’ve lost about 50 pounds. Losing weight and dieting isn’t has hard as it seems. I lost 50 pounds in about 9 months. And I want that for you, too.
What Should You Give Up?
You’ve heard it before. Maybe you’ve said it before. Something along the lines of “This diet sucks,” “It isn’t working,” or “I haven’t lost any weight.” I hear it all the time. But a lot of people don’t realize exactly what’s going on with their diet. So I’ll try to explain.
Let’s say you’ve been wanting to cut down on fats. Fats seem like a pretty easy thing to avoid. No more greasy food, maybe you start drinking skim milk, and you ditch your morning donut for a banana (great alternative btw).
You’ve been doing this for a week and nothing. You give it another few weeks. Still nothing. “What gives?!” As rage and anger fill your face and smoke bellows out of your ears, I’ll explain what’s going on inside your body.
There are two main things you have to consider while you diet: What you are eating in place of what you gave up and how much energy you expend throughout the day.
You can totally give up eating fats in your diet but still gain weight in fat. Let’s say (or lettuce say) that whenever you crave a donut (or whatever), you eat a piece of bread with jelly on it or a bunch of crackers. It’s filling. Essentially, what you just ate were carbs, or carbohydrates.
Carbs are great for quick energy. That’s why you hear about cross country runners eating a bunch of spaghetti the night before a big race, also known as “carb-loading” (this actually doesn’t work like a lot of people would think but that’s for another day).
Some professional cyclists, for instance, will eat about 4,000 calories (smoothie or juice form) the morning before a long distance race. WHOA. 4000 calories. You’re probably thinking, “That’s more than you need to eat in a day,” which is exactly my point.
4,000 calories is WAAAAAY more than you need to eat in a day. So what’s the difference between a professional cyclist or a cross country runner and an average college student? I think you know the answer. College students have hardly any time to go to the gym and burn 4,000 calories every day.
College students burn an average of anywhere between 1,800 and 2,600 calories a day depending on how active they are. It’s different for everyone. Genetics are a big factor on how many calories you burn at rest.
A student who takes the bus to class will burn less calories than a student who walks or rides a bike to class. So, if you decide to eat crackers to fill you up instead of a high-fat snack but you don’t use up the calories you put in, those carbs will get stored as fat.
Now, there’s a bunch of science behind this and everything else in the universe but here’s what you need to know — calories in = calories out.
What About Protein During Weight Loss?
Here’s a big thing that gets on my nerves. You’ll see people in the gym that are trying to lose weight but are drinking a milkshake called SUPERMAX WHEY PROTEIN with KICK YOUR WORKOUT IN THE ASS written underneath the title. Those people aren’t helping themselves.
They’re giving their body more calories than it can burn. Those protein shakes can have up to 300 calories in the powder mix alone. Add in another 200 calories in the 2% milk this person mixed it in and you’ve got yourself a rather large meal.
These protein shakes are great for building a ton of muscle. But you have to put the work in to reap the benefits of that much protein. And it’s a ton of work.
While protein is really important, if you’re just starting to lose weight and not building a ton of muscle, stick to water and an electrolyte mix if you absolutely need it.
Counting Calories Isn’t Just for Your Mom
You can eat 2,000 calories of salad every day for the rest of your life, but if you don’t get your butt off of the couch, you’re not going to lose any weight. You can eat 2,000 calories of fat but go ride your bike for 8 hours and burn 4,000 calories, and you’ll lose weight.
But don’t eat nothing but fats. Please don’t do that. All the macronutrients are important (proteins, lipids/fats, and carbs/sugars). Protein for muscles and energy (and a bunch of other things), carbs and fats for quick energy and sustainable energy, respectively. The stuff you learned in high school health class should be coming back into your mind.
It may seem simple but it can be pretty tough to keep a good diet going. Whether it’s a no-fat diet, no-carb diet, or a no-happiness diet, you have to be mindful of how many calories you actually use on a day to day scale.
Plus, macronutrient diets are a hard thing to count. I would recommend starting a diet by eliminating a certain type of food (i.e. dairy, oils, red meats, etc) and then go from there. There’s a really cool app you can get called MyFitnessPal that can count your calories for you, determine how many you burn in a day (with exercise AND resting) and a whole lot of other things.
So, let’s recap. Calories in = calories out, unused carbs = fat, and exercise is a big part of dieting.
Easy Things You CAN Do
If you’re at the cafeteria, only grab one plate of food and drink 2 glasses of water a plate. It will fill you up and give your stomach time to tell your brain it’s full. Weight loss is 20% exercise and 80% diet. Not the other way around.
Going to class? Leave your dorm or your house a little earlier and take a walk there. Or ride your bike there. Riding your bike to a class that is 10-15 minutes away can burn up to 100 calories (depending on how fast you go). If you’ve been sitting down and studying/looking at Facebook on your phone at the library for a long time, ask someone to watch your stuff and take a quick stroll around the block. Get some fresh air. Pet a dog. Meet a new friend. Boom. Extra calories burned.