The 4 Most Surprising Lessons I Learned After One Year of “Dieting”
October 10, 2021 // Nutrition
Back in September 2020, I showcased the most technically-sound static lunge position and surprised my girlfriend with a diamond ring to ask her hand in marriage.
After many celebratory dinners and drinks, I decided to take the next 12 months to really learn my body’s relationship with certain foods, as well as my true caloric ranges for weight management. I’ve always been fascinated with determining which foods makes me both look and feel the best. I certainly have a strong understanding of the science of nutrition and have spent almost two decades helping yield metamorphosis in many individuals, but learning my own body has been quite an interesting journey.
To begin, I utilized a year subscription with Carbon Diet Coach to guide me using the most advanced calorie-management algorithm available to the general public. The creator of the tracking software is Dr. Layne Norton, an industry leader with a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and a big proponent of evidence-based recommendations. It was important for me to use a system that was “nutritionally agonist” – one that had no bias nor agenda to any particular eating preference. If I was to truly learn and discover what [foods] worked best for me, I needed to not demonize any particular food group.
As we all can attest, there are so many conflicting nutritional ideologies that are pressed upon the general public that it is very easy to unknowingly follow a “rule” that creates a negative relationship with a food group (i.e. fitness experts that will actually tell their audience that “fruit is full of sugar and to avoid at all costs”. Terrible).
So, with my Carbon Diet Coach all set-up, I spent the next 12 months both gaining and losing weight during this self-discovery exploration. Along the way, I learned 4 surprising lessons that changed my view(s) on certain foods:
- (Dietary) Fat is everywhere, and is by far the biggest contributor to excessive caloric consumption. Dietary fat is the most calorically-dense macronutrient, yielding a whopping 9 calories per gram consumed. When we flip over a nutritional label and see “12g of Fat” in a spoonful of almond butter we may not think much of it, but that’s 108kcals from fat in one serving! We are often taught to overlook the fat’s caloric profile and focus on the fact that it’s “healthy” (I see/hear this all the time with avocados or olive oil). Weight management is not based upon healthy or unhealthy – it is simply a management of energy yields. Numbers matter, and dietary fat must be managed if a yield is desired.
- Just because a particular food has many vitamins and minerals does not mean it won’t cause you to gain weight if eaten in excess. Is it possible to gain weight if you only eat salads and avocados? Yes, absolutely. As outlined above, weight management is a byproduct of energy yields. No one food is omit from the overall caloric intake measurement, no matter how “healthy” it is for a person. The same principles and laws are applied for 500 calories of salad and 500 calories of chips. This isn’t to say that healthier foods aren’t valuable and preferred for everyone (think improved GI, increased energy and overall satiation), but if weight management is the goal, you must focus on total energy intake throughout the day.
- Fruit is by far the most misunderstood food group. I’ll admit- it took a lot of work to teach my brain to default to reaching for a piece of fruit instead of a junk snack or bad decision. For whatever reason, I would worry that I was consuming too much sugar if I had fruit multiple times a day. This line of thinking is pretty shortsighted, as fruit packs such a powerful nutritious punch in such a low amount of calories. Yes, fruit has sugar, but this sugar is also offset by the fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemical properties that make fruit a sensible choice for anyone.
- We think we eat a lot of carbohydrates- we in fact tend to be low on this macronutrient intake. There’s this idea that originated in the 1990’s (Atkins Diet, to be specific) that still lingers today: the average person is eating far too many carbohydrates, and that this carbohydrate consumption is the culprit in our ever-growing obesity epidemic. Well, this is not entirely true according to recent research (I can post the unbiased studies if interested), and I also learned this firsthand when I started tracking my calories. I would have thought that I was eating a large portion of carbohydrates, when in fact, I was struggling to even meet my recommended carbohydrate intake. Most of the foods that I thought were high in carbohydrate are actually high in dietary fat, and that explains why these comfort foods, such as pizza, french fries and ice cream are so high in calories (see #1 above).
After months of experimenting, I (along with the app) found my true maintenance calorie range that kept me at a healthy set-point: 2,900 kcals/day. This range is really my sweet-spot to look and feel my best. This has been and will continue to be my default range for my daily food intake.
I strongly advocate that every one spends at least a few months tracking their food intake to learn their body and their relationship with food.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions – there’s so much to discuss on this topic!