Kim: Welcome to episode 66 of the Fitness Simplified podcast. I'm your host, Kim Schlag. Today's episode is a solo podcast covering a hot topic. So many people are confused about the idea of clean eating and weight loss. "If I eat healthy food, I should be losing weight, right? Why am I not losing weight? "
That's what we're talking about today.
Hello, hello. Solo episode here today. I haven't done one of these in a hot minute. I have a topic for you today that I see so many people getting really confused about and so much misinformation is out there about this topic, that my goal today is to just break this down for you and help demystify it.
And here is the topic:
"I eat healthy, why can't I lose weight?"
This is the frustrating situation that many people find themselves in. Whether you use the word "healthy" or "clean," or even something highly specific, like Whole 30, the underlying problem if you're eating in this way and not losing weight is always the same.
And that is this:
Eating for good health and eating for weight loss are not the same thing.
Though they can, and I'd even go so far to say should be the same thing, if you struggle to wrap your brain around how they're not the same thing, let's break this down starting here:
Calories and nutrients are not the same thing.
They're not the same thing. Calories are the energy found in a food. That's it. That's what a calorie is. It is a unit of measure like an inch or an ounce or a mile. Now nutrients, we're not talking about energy, we're talking about the molecules in foods that help us to grow and develop and perform all of our many bodily functions.
To be healthy we need to have both macro and micronutrients in varying amounts. So, macros being fat carbs and protein and micros being things such as vitamins and minerals, and we need to have these things. Total calories are also important to health, which will make complete sense to you if you think about the idea of how a person who has too few calories Can be unhealthy as well as a person who has too many calories. Those can both lead to poor health outcomes.
So, to lose weight we have to follow the principle of energy balance. That's the difference. To be healthy -- when we're talking strictly in nutrition. There's a lot of things we have to do to be healthy, right? One of the things we have to do when we're talking about nutrition is to have appropriate amounts of macro and micronutrients and have an appropriate amount of calories. Not too few and not too many.
To lose weight we have to follow the principle of energy balance. Now, to talk about what that means I want you to picture a seesaw. Do you remember that magical moment in elementary school when you and your best friend would be out on the playground, and you would get the seesaw to balance perfectly so that you were straight across from each other, hovering over the ground, right? So, neither of you are at the bottom and neither of you are at the top. You're both right there looking at each other. I loved that. That, in this example, is weight maintenance.
So, if one side of the seesaw is calories in and one side of the seesaw is calories out, imagine that moment when we're magically at the same spot, that is weight maintenance. Calories in isn't greater than calories out, calories out isn't greater than calories in.
Now take that same seesaw, if the calories in portion -- which is the food you take in -- is greater than the calories out portion, what would happen to the seesaw? Calories in goes down, right? That is weight gain.
Let's go the other direction. Let's put more calories in the calories outside of the seesaw, that comes down, calories in goes up. That is weight loss. That is weight loss. Calories out is greater than calories in.
Now this next sentence can be really confusing, so before you start to argue with me in your head -- don't start muttering yet -- I want you to listen to me explain it, okay? Promise? Here we go:
A hundred calories of apple is the same as a hundred calories of donut.
100 calories of apple and 100 calories of donut are the same. Now the nutrients are different, bit calorie-wise, they are the same because a calorie is always a calorie. Whether it's a calorie of celery or a calorie of chicken or a calorie of chocolate or a calorie of chips, remember a calorie is strictly a unit of measure.
Now my coach, Jordan, Syatt shared an excellent comparison to help visualize how a calorie is always a calorie, though the nutrient composition might change.
Okay, we're going to put your little imagination cap back on. We're off the seesaw and now we're running, okay? I want you to imagine you're running a mile.
Now, if you ran that mile on pavement -- picture that first. Picture of yourself running a mile on pavement. You're out in your neighborhood or on a paved trail and you run a mile. Got that picture? Now I want you to picture yourself running a mile on the sand. You're at the beach and the waves are crashing and you run a mile on the sand.
Now, is the mile you ran on pavement the same distance as the mile you ran on the sand? Yes or no, is the mile and the sand the same distance as the mile and the pavement?
Of course it is, right? A mile is always a mile. Every dang time.
It might take you longer to run the mile on the sand. It might be harder to run the mile on the sand, but the distance is always the same. It's a mile. And a mile is always a mile.
It's the same with calories. A calorie is always a calorie.
Now, this is not to encourage you to eat a diet of cinnamon buns and kettle corn. A diet that is mostly nutrient dense, minimally processed foods has benefits that apply to directly to weight loss. And we'll talk about that, but it is important that you understand these principles so that you don't halt your progress by falling into the trap of eating too much healthy food, because it's healthy, right? Or by thinking that if you eat any of the "junk" foods, that you won't be able to lose weight.
So, understanding this principle of energy balance is really important. Now there was a nutrition professor from Kansas State University who for 10 weeks ate mostly Twinkies. He ate some other junk, like convenience store stuff too, but it was mostly Twinkies.
He did this three times a day instead of eating regular meals and he lost 27 pounds. Let that sink in. Junk food diet, mostly Twinkies, lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks.
The important principle to understand is that to lose weight, total calories in must be less than total calories out. And that's how that professor lost weight. His total calories in was at a level that he was in a calorie deficit.
So how does this explain what happens when people who eat what I would call a standard American diet -- think about highly processed, convenience, food, and fast food -- and then they switched to a healthier diet and they lose weight, even though he or she didn't count calories. How does that work?
Well, that switch involved or reduction of calories. That's always why weight loss occurs. Count the calories, don't count the calories, the calories still count.
So, based on everything I've spoken with you here about so far, can you now on your own answer the question I posed at the beginning? I'm going to read it again and I want you to think and see if you can answer it before I tell you:
If I'm eating healthy. Why am I still not losing weight?
Do you have the answer? It's too many calories.
If you're eating healthy, but not losing weight, you are eating too many calories, even if they're healthy calories. So, the key is to eat all foods -- whether you're talking about super highly processed foods or whether you're talking about really nutritious foods -- all of those foods, to eat them in portions that keep your total calories in check.
So, let's talk about how healthy food can help you lose weight, because it absolutely can. A diet that is mostly those minimally processed, nutrient dense, whole foods have a few things in common: high fiber and high volume -- volume being a lot of food for relatively few calories. And if you play your cards right, a diet like this can also be high in protein.
Those three things: fiber, volume, and protein help you to feel satiated and to stay that way longer than highly processed foods.
Now, when you struggle less with hunger and you feel satisfied, your adherence to your diet will likely increase leading to -- drum roll, please -- better results.
I know this can all feel a little bit mind blowing considering how loud the voices are for the idea that weight loss hinges on eating certain types of food and banning other types of food.
As with all diet strategies, the best way to know if this works is to try it for yourself. And that's what I encourage you to do. If you've had a laundry list of banned foods, I want you to give 8 to 12 weeks of eating in a calorie deficit. Figure out your calorie deficit. If you don't know how to do that, go to my website, kimschlagfitness.com. There on that website, you can click on a link to join my free course. It's my course that helps you set your calories, okay? Look for my free five-day fat loss crash course, I will walk you step by step through how to set your calories. Being in a calorie deficit will be the key to making this work.
While you're in that calorie deficit I want you to include some of those foods that you have previously banned, that you thought, "I cannot lose weight eating these foods," right? Include some of those foods and see what happens.
You take my challenge? Let me know. Message me and let me know.
Now, before we wrap up, I want to end with a quick list of healthy foods that are high in calories.
This is not to say you need to avoid these foods. This is to say: pay attention to the portion sizes of these foods, because the total calories could be way more than you would anticipate.
This list of nine foods I'm going to give you, these are not the items to eyeball. Weigh these suckers, okay?
#1: smoothie bowls.
I know, I know. They are beautiful and tasty. Many of them are also a 1,000 plus calories. That's like three quarters of a day's calories for many women.
I don't care if its store bought or if it's homemade, this stuff packs a calorie punch. It is much better as a topping than a main course.
It is super easy to overeat and is definitely something I'd suggest having a bright line that says "I weigh this out, I seal the package, I put the package away, and only then do I eat my serving." Otherwise you could eat a hundred or more calories easy as you're picking out of the bag getting your serving ready.
#3 trail mix.
And I can repeat word for word what I just said about granola. Do not eat trail mix out of the package.
#4: chia seeds.
Actually, any kind of seeds, chia seeds are just super popular. Seeds are very calorie dense, so a little of them goes a long way. Definitely something that I would suggest you weigh out.
The calories vary by type -- actually, kind of wildly, depending on what type of nuts you eat -- but for all of them, a handful here and a handful there throughout the day could be the things standing between you and weight loss success.
If you are a person who eat super healthy, but you're eating handfuls of nuts and you're struggling to lose weight, that would be the first place I would look. Keeping a bowl of nuts out is not a great strategy. Eat nuts. They're delicious, they have health benefits, but really manage your portion sizes and be clear that you are counting all of those calories.
Gosh, olive oil makes food tasty. And we want that for you, right? We want our food to taste good. Being liberal with your pour could have a big impact, though. Weigh that stuff out.
It is so tasty and so easy to overeat. Decide on a serving size and weigh it out. I'm going to give you a scale hack to try it works well for hummus, it works well for peanut butter, works well for all kinds of things -- put the whole container on the scale. So, if we're talking hummus, put the whole container of hummus on your scale, zero it out, and then as you take the hummus out, you'll see a negative number start appearing.
So, if you wanted 2 ounces, when it says -2, you'd be at 2 ounces. Totally saves dishes. I love that hack.
#8: peanut butter.
It makes me so sad, SO sad. A serving of peanut butter is just not much.
I want a serving a peanut butter to be way much more than it is. And interestingly, if I showed you a piece of toast with one serving of peanut butter, and then I showed you a piece of toast with one and a half servings of peanut butter, you would likely not be able to tell the difference, but it would be almost a hundred calories more.
It's another food you don't want to be licking the spoon or the knife or putting your finger in and not counting those calories because they will add up fast.
Wow. So easy to eat. I could easily eat an entire avocado on my salad by myself, which would also be, oh my gosh, over 300 calories before I've even put anything else on my salad.
Definitely a food to eat in moderation, okay?
I have this whole list on my latest Instagram post. You can go there to save it and refer back to this list. Actually, this whole discussion we've had today is on there in swipe post form. Save that. And whenever you start trying to "clean eat" your way to weight loss, give it a refresher read.
Here are your take home points:
Bottom line for weight loss, you gotta be in a calorie deficit.
Healthy foods can help with that, but eating healthy doesn't, on its own, always lead to weight loss. And that's the thing that just blows people's mind.
Ideally, you'll have a diet that is mostly nutrient dense, minimally processed food, but they don't have to be all this kind of nutrient dense food. You can include some of the more processed foods in your diet and still lose weight.
And the last point is:
Portion size is key.
With whatever kind of food you're eating, portion size is key.
I so hope that this has helped to demystify this myth of clean eating for you. Let me know, send me a comment wherever you're listening and let me know if this helps you.
All right, I'm going to be back here next week. I've got some good interviews coming your way. Talk soon.
Thanks so much for being here and listening in to the Fitness Simplified podcast today. I hope you found it educational, motivational, inspirational, all the kinds of -ational.
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Thanks so much.
I'm a NASM certified personal trainer who is passionate about helping women transform their bodies through strength training and sustainable nutritional habit changes.