Diet 101

29 Oct No Comments Luke Mitchell Fitness, nutrition

Dieting 101: What You Need to Know and Where to Start

online personal trainerWith all the weight loss plans and diets out there, weight loss might seem quite a challenge for many people. Which diet is right for me? What lifestyle changes should I make? How do I stay motivated? These are only a few of the questions running in the back of the minds of those of us planning to lose weight.

Fortunately, there is a set of simple principles of a healthy weight loss plan that will help you weed out the dozens of diets and weight loss programs that are just not right for you. Also, because there’s no universal response to a diet, you should learn how to listen to your body and tailor your weight loss efforts to its needs. So, where do I start?

1. Start with a Healthy Diet

It might sound like a cliché, but a healthy diet is the cornerstone of every sustainable weight loss plan. You cannot shed those extra pounds if you continue to gulp down foods that are calorie bombs or slurp sugar-packed beverages on a daily basis.

But there is one rule that most dieters completely forget about after achieving their weight loss goals. If you are one of those unfortunate souls that tend to gain weight easily, you should turn a healthy diet into a lifetime habit instead of returning to your old junk-food-loving self after losing weight. Otherwise the yo-yo effect will kick in and all would be for naught.

2. Take One Thing at a Time

Changing a lifelong habit like a diet is no cake, so you should take things slow. Start by making small changes in your diet like dropping sugar and replacing it with healthier alternatives like honey. Try not to frustrate yourself when making a change and stay mindful about it.

You can educate yourself on the health risks of the foods you plan to drop beforehand to keep yourself motivated. For instance, there’s a scientifically backed link between added sugar and excess weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

Also, experts recommned not making more than one major diet change in one week. Keep in mind that you will be overhauling your diet and part ways with your favorite comfort foods to lose weight and stay healthy. And you need to make the changes sustainable enough to turn them into lifetime habits.

3. Weight Loss Doesn’t Always Equate to Fat Loss

Yeah, you’ve heard that right. When the scale shows that you’ve lost a few pounds that doesn’t mean that it is fat that you’ve shed. If dieting is not done correctly, you can lose precious lean muscle mass instead of fat.

Bear in mind that the human body is very fond of its fat stores due to issues linked to survival. In other words, the body doesn’t like to be lean because fat can be tapped and turned into fuel when there’s no food in sight. So, when you start dieting, your body will falsely believe that it is at risk of getting starved, so it starts slowing down the resting metabolic rate, or the number of calories it burns when you sit around doing nothing.

So, to dodge this mechanism, you should lower your calorie intake gradually. For the same reason, don’t fall for any diet that requires you to trim your calorie and carbohydrate intake dramatically from the start. Those diets will indeed bring very fast fat loss, but you will hit a plateau in a few months afterwards. A smart weight loss plan will help you lose body fat, not muscle, while steering clear of plateaus.

4. Keep a Food Diary

The secret behind any successful weight loss diet is creating the so-called caloric deficit, i.e. giving your body less calories than it needs to normally function so that you push it into fat-burning mode.

But before you can create a caloric deficit, you should know what your current calorie intake is. So, start by keeping a food diary of all the things you eat for one week. Remember to eat normally and not refrain from anything that you would normally eat. The goal here is to be honest about how many calories you consume on your regular diet, so you know where to start the new diet.

If recording everything you eat and drink for a whole week might be too much, pick one weekend day and two weekdays for the food diary. For meat and other solid foods, use a kitchen scale, and for liquids, use measuring cups and spoons. For processed foods, check nutrition labels on the packaging.

The great thing about a food diary is that it will help you stay on track. For example, if you feel like cheating and eating a hamburger, the sole thought that you’ll have to record that burger in your food journal will keep you from straying from your new diet.

5. Exercise

Working out can help you keep the metabolic rate high, burn tons of calories, and keep chronic disease at bay. Keep in mind that creating a caloric deficit and eating only the right stuff is not enough for a sustainable weight loss plan, especially when you are battling obesity. You will need to work out on a regular basis, too.

But before embarking on a weight loss journey, check with your doctor and show him the eating plan you want to follow. He can give you precious info and insights on weight loss and your body as he knows your medical history.

Also, many experts recommend working out early in the morning to avoid the temptation of not exercising because you are just too tired in the evening.


If done correctly, dieting can bring a slim figure and many health benefits along the way for a new and healthier self. A good meal plan, the right attitude, patience, and perseverance can go a long way. Just remember to make every weight-loss-related change sustainable enough to turn healthy eating and regular exercise into lifetime habits.


Luke S. Mitchell is an MS Undergraduate in Sports Journalism and manager of Defend Your Healthcare. He is interested not only in the mind-body relationship and how motivation shapes our bodies but also in how we draw energy just from one simple yet powerful thought.