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Weight Loss & Nutrition Advice from a Dietitian

Christy Zagarella, lead dietitian for bistroMD, is answering common, yet often misunderstood questions about weight loss and offering tips to take your results to the next level.

Weight Loss & Nutrition Advice from a Dietitian

Weight loss is always a hot topic, though there are misconceptions about what successfully losing weight actually involves.

Christy Zagarella, lead dietitian for bistroMD, is addressing those common, yet often misunderstood questions about weight loss.

And these weight loss tips from a dietitian will take your goals and results to the next level!

Questions to Ask a Registered Dietitian

From myths on calories to confusion on dietary fat, find out the truth regarding what it really takes to lose weight with these dietitian tips for weight loss!

Q: Won't I lose more weight the more calories I cut?

A: Most people assume cutting extra calories per day will expedite greater weight loss. While the thought is logical, this is not the case and can be counterproductive.

Losing weight comes down to eating enough calories for your body, and obviously not eating too many calories for your body. Think of it as putting gas in your car. You cannot drive your car on an empty tank, but you also do not want your tank overflowing with gas.

When you eat too few calories, your body will start to feel like it is in famine and will slow down metabolism to conserve energy. This means you will not be burning as much energy, which can put a halt to weight loss.

Keep in mind that you have to eat to lose. And not only do you have to eat to lose, but you also should eat the right proportions of macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats) to do so.

Q: Is diet more important than exercise in terms of weight loss?

A: There is much truth to the statement "Diet accounts for about 80 percent of weight loss and exercise to contribute the other 20 percent." Because when it comes to diet vs. exercise for weight loss, healthy eating tends to trump hours in the gym.

I have had marathon runners before telling me that even though they are running miles and miles a week, they cannot seem to lose weight. I always tell people you can work out until exhaustion but if you are not fueling properly, you will likely not see weight loss results. But once we dial into their diet, they see that weight loss.

On the flip side of the coin, exercising can increase hunger levels and cause some people to fall off track with their diet. Others also turn to high-calorie foods as a “reward” after a hard workout but truly, you cannot outrun a poor diet.

Plus, the food you eat and the beverages you drink account for 100 percent of energy intake. The average person, however, burns only about 10 percent of their daily calories via exercise.

Really, at the end of the day, where exercise comes into major play is when you are trying to maintain weight loss.

Q: Eating fat will lead to fat gain, right?

A: Dietary fats are not created equally. And understanding the differences between them is extremely helpful for not only weight loss, but for good health.

You have saturated fats and trans fats, also known as the "bad fats" that can raise cholesterol levels, which are usually solids at room temperature. You then have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the "good" and healthy fats. that have been shown to lower cholesterol levels and heart disease risk, which are usually liquid at room temperature.

All fats, no matter the type, have 9 calories per gram, and anything that is eaten in excess can lead to weight gain. However, including those "good fats" can and should be a part of a healthy diet. Dietary fat helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K amongst many other vital functions.

Q: Should I cut out carbs to lose weight?

A: Carbohydrates have gotten a pretty bad rap when it comes to losing weight, and unjustifiably so. And unlike popular belief, you definitely do not have to go on an extremely low-carb diet in order to lose weight.

Just like dietary fat, carbohydrate plays an important role in a balanced diet. They provide you with energy, fiber, and are also an important source of nutrients, like calcium, iron, and B vitamins.

Total carbohydrates are further broken up into fiber and sugars. You can see if you have a diet too low in total carbohydrates, you are also likely eating a diet too low in fiber. And fiber has a lot of great benefits to your body, like helping you feel full, lower "bad" cholesterol levels, and keep your blood sugars stable.

When it comes to carbohydrates, be mindful of portion sizes and choose carbs that are higher in fiber. Limit sugary foods, too, that often lack nutritional value.

Q: I know drinking water is important but will it help me lose weight?

Staying hydrated is key to losing weight, as it helps fill you up and, therefore, naturally limits calorie intake. Plus, when you drink water, you help flush out toxins and excess water from the body.

When dehydrated, the body acts like a sponge and soaks up any water you do take in via foods and beverages. This causes your body to retain water, though staying hydrated will help the body not retain excess water. Keep in mind, too, that all of your metabolic pathways work off water. They need water to "complete" their actions, so drinking water can actually help to boost your metabolism.

The general recommendation is to drink about 64 oz of water per day, but everyone is different in how much water their body needs to stay hydrated. All-in-all, though, aim to drink more water and make it the primary hydration source.

Q: How does protein assist with weight loss?

Protein plays a huge role when it comes to weight loss. By eating lean protein you can reduce the hunger hormones while boosting the ones tied to satiety. This can innately help you consume fewer calories during the day.

Protein is also going to take longer to digest, therefore it causes you to feel fuller throughout the day. Eating high-protein meals and snacks every couple of hours likewise helps keep the metabolism revved up and hunger at bay.

Q: How often should I weigh-in?

Many studies have shown that people who weigh every day hold themselves more accountable and able to lose more weight and keep it off long-term.

While you can definitely weigh every day, I always recommend picking one day per week to be a true "weigh-in" day.

Because remember, weight will fluctuate from day to day due to hydration, bathroom patterns, and other factors. Try not to get too caught up in the slight increase and decrease you may see every day but look for trends.

If you pick one day per week to be your actual weigh-in day, this will be most indicative of losing true fat mass.

Bonus Healthy Lifestyle Tips

All-in-all, weight loss is complex and unique from one person to the next. What's more, health is much more than shedding weight and sticking to a solid meal plan.

Aside from making healthy food choices, bonus healthy lifestyle tips to sustain weight loss include:

Regular Exercise

Exercise is helpful to manage weight and improve overall health, even if just now starting an active lifestyle. In fact, studies show that even the most inactive people can gain significant health benefits if they accumulate 30 minutes or more of physical activity daily.

For the greatest overall health benefits, experts suggest 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise most days of the week. Include at least two to three resistance training sessions per week, too.

If you have been inactive for a while, start with less strenuous activities like walking or swimming at a slower pace. Once your body adjusts to regular exercise, gradually increase the pace and intensity of workouts.

Stress Management

While some stress can be motivating, too much of it can derail weight loss efforts. This is largely due to common bouts of emotional eating and heightened cortisol levels.

Eating can initially suppress undesirable emotions, though this continuous pattern can lead to weight gain. To make matters worse, the body releases cortisol in times of stress, a hormone known to heighten cravings. It also stores fuel and energy as fat and slows down metabolism.

Managing stress with positive coping strategies can deter these negative consequences. Exercising, meditating, deep breathing, calling a friend, listening to music, and reading a book are just a few methods to alleviate stress.

Sleep Hygiene

A lack of sleep can cause weight gain in many ways, including by heightening cravings and plummeting energy to be active. It can also exacerbate negative emotions and trigger stress eating.

To mitigate such risk, make sure to ensure adequate sleep on a nightly basis. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults sleep 7 to 9 hours each night, of which these hours should ideally be uninterrupted.

A Continuous Journey

As you start making healthy changes, they will naturally form into daily habits. Likewise aim to overcome any obstacles rather than dwelling on mishaps.

All-in-all, weight loss and maintenance is a continuous journey. Put your best foot forward while allowing yourself to still enjoy life's best moments.