Elise Miller of Performance Fitness LLC dishes up some TOUGH LOVE, and it’s exactly what we (all) need to hear. Listen up!
Give it up—“Everything in Moderation” is NOT an Effective Weight Loss Method
Are you trying to reach your fat loss goal by the maxim, “Everything in moderation?” If so, I’ll bet you a king-size Snickers bar you’ll still be struggling with the same 10, 20, or however-many pounds this time next year.
The problem with moderation is that it includes no definable limits, and limitation is EVERYTHING when it comes to losing weight. We can define moderation as not living an extreme lifestyle, with anorexia at one end of the spectrum and eating contest gluttony at the other. But beyond that, it’s a pretty vague plan to follow as a weight loss program.
One person’s moderation might mean two glasses of pinot noir a night. Another person’s might include a big brunch every Saturday and Sunday. Then there’s the small bag of chips, the cookies, the gummy worms, snacked upon daily by people who proclaim to want to lose weight. But know this: while nibbling, if you’re telling yourself that you are practicing moderation, I got news for you. You’re not. You’re overindulging.
Moderation is the most convenient excuse for eating excess calories. After all, it sounds sane, logical, and downright healthy. It can insulate you against being seen as obsessive or extremist. People might think you’re carefree and cool, eating whatever you like, in moderation. And that’s fine if you don’t have weight loss goals.
But you cannot lose weight if you do not restrict your calories. And you can’t restrict calories with a laissez faire attitude. You have to know your calorie requirements and aim slightly beneath them daily. You might not hit your mark exactly, but if you are going for it every day (barring medically diagnosed metabolic issues), you will be able to shed pounds.
And just in case you think you can game the system, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t restrict once and see results overnight. And you can’t nail your calorie count Friday night and then use that as your excuse to indulge Saturday morning. You have to restrict day in and day out for months. Years maybe.
Which means you have to make it into a lifestyle you can sustain, without being miserable. For some of you this will be as simple as giving up your nightly dessert, soda, or making a commitment to not eating your children’s leftovers. For others, it will mean shaving your meals down to size with the aid of a calorie tracker and a food scale. Still others will benefit from cooking more meals at home and drinking less nightly wine.
I’m not saying you can’t have dessert. Once a week have dessert, sure, but plan for it by tracking your calories, and maybe foregoing the snack you usually eat, or substituting that dessert plus a simple protein drink for one of your meals. Or have a smaller lunch. In other words, budget for it, the way you would for a trip you want to take.
You’ll note that this is not a moderate way to eat, but it is an effective way to reach your weight loss goals. This is not a life of deprivation. This is about empowering yourself to reach your goals with the only true method that works.
The people who marvel at their lack of ability to lose weight are the same ones who don’t track their calories, know their requirements, or who avert their gaze from the indulgences they consume. Perhaps they say things like, “Life is too short,” “You only live once,” and so on, sometimes with a chip on their shoulder, because they feel they “deserve” the very morsels that keep them from shedding the weight. If that’s your true philosophy of life, then by all means, enjoy. But be honest with yourself. You can’t be lean and consume all those tempting foods and drinks whenever the opportunity arises. It’s simple math. Eat fewer calories than you burn and lose weight. Eat more calories than you burn and store fat.
Want to lose 10 pounds? Then you’ve got about two and a half months of caloric restriction ahead of you. But throw in a few “moderate” nights a week where you drink two glasses of wine, indulge in chips and salsa plus dessert, and you’ve turned 10 weeks into months of setbacks and disappointments.
The best way to empower yourself is to stop bullshitting yourself. Caloric restriction hurts…mildly, annoyingly, but…OUCH. Filling your tummy, on the other hand, feels good, and with moderation as a convenient justification, you never have to feel hungry again. Because your definition of moderation, if you were to sit down and really hash it out, might very well equal the exact of amount of french fries you just ate. You’re not going to lose any weight but at least for the time being you’ve shielded your ego from your lapse in discipline.
Discipline. Dedication. Commitment. Refocusing every day on your goal. Having a goal—a specific number of pounds, inches or percentage of body fat. A date in mind to reach your goal, or a specifically stated lifestyle goal. That’s what is required to lose weight. It’s a skill that you practice. I’ve been practicing it with effective tools for a few years now—tools like My Fitness Pal, where I track my calories and macronutrients; a food scale, so I know exactly how many ounces of rice, potatoes, meat, etc. I am actually consuming. And calorie calculators like this that help me determine how much I should eat each day.
My mental game is a skill as well. For one thing, I know from experience that I will not starve to death or suffer nutrient deficiencies from mild caloric restriction. I will not miss out on the fun at a party if I don’t try all the desserts or drink the fancy sugary cocktails. I will remain alert, happy and able to perform my workouts because I am choosing nutrient-dense foods. For me, crackers, beer and bagels are poor food choices. None are nutritious, most are calorie-dense, and all can lead to overindulging.
By avoiding processed foods and most alcoholic beverages, I make it easier to stick to my plan. I also eat at home most nights of the week and keep ample supplies of protein on hand, in the forms of whey powder, eggs, tuna, and assorted meats. Protein, of course, is the key to feeling satisfied, and it helps to build and maintain the muscle mass I work so hard for.
I’ll never give up ice cream, but I don’t eat it nightly the way I used to. Now when I have it, it’s a rare treat, and it’s never nearly as good as I anticipate. What feels even better is seeing the results of my commitment to getting and staying lean. Being able to see musculature in my legs that I never could before, or witnessing my shoulders broaden fills me with a sense of achievement. A night of gastronomic debauchery on the other hand, only fills me with bloat and regret. No thanks.
Call me a party pooper. Tell me to relax and live a little. I’ve heard it all. And I’ve tried it that way, the “moderate” way. And guess what? I was unhappy with my body and my life. I guess I’m not much of a moderation girl. That’s okay with me.
If you’ve tried and failed to lose weight with the “everything in moderation” bogus, non-program program, give dedicated, mild calorie restriction a whirl. Don’t starve yourself. Simply eat a couple to a few hundred calories under your requirements. Give it two months. I bet you’ll like the results.
Bonus recipe—Summer Cherry-Kale Smoothie
1 cup milk (or nut milk of your choice)
½ cup frozen kale
½ cup frozen cherries
1 TBSP peanut butter
1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
a sprinkle cinnamon
a handful of ice cubes
Layer ingredients in a blender (preferably in the order given if you have an old blender like I do).
Sometimes this shake gets INHALED in two minutes. Other days it gets split into two mini meals. It all depends on my hunger and activity level. In any case, according to MyFitnessPal, using whole milk, this shake is 463 calores, 39 grams of protein, 18 grams of fat and 43 grams of carbohydrates. It’s packed with vitamins and protein, and fills me up for HOURS.
Elise Miller has been a trainer with Performance Fitness since 2013. She is an ACE-certified personal trainer, qualified TRX instructor, SFG II Kettlebell instructor, and has a Level 1 certification from Precision Nutrition. In addition to her wicked fitness chops, Elise is also a published author, including two novels, and lives on Philadelphia’s Main Line with her husband, two kids and two teeny rescue dogs. You can find more about Elise’s writing here.