In theory, losing body fat and building your perfect physique shouldn’t be complicated…
Eat natural, whole foods, avoid the junk, and move more, right?
But, as anyone who’s struggled with weight loss will be more than aware of, life isn’t always as simple as it should be.
Even going into a ‘diet’ or lifestyle change (the latter being preferable) with the best intentions can sometimes go awry without you even realising it.
It’s one thing to know you’ve made poor food choices. To look down at the scale after a two week holiday binging on anything and everything and already be acutely aware that the number won’t have gone in the ideal direction.
But when you think you’re doing everything right, and you don’t get the results you’re after?
That’s another thing entirely.
One of the leading causes of plateaus and weight gain is misleadingly calorific foods. Overeating foods you think of as ‘healthy’ could actually be setting you back in your weight loss endeavours because of their energy density (high-calorie value).
Let’s examine the most common calorific culprits, and make sure we’re taking the actions we need to take in order to harness their health benefits without allowing them to negatively impact our waistline.
Commonly used as a healthy alternative to crisps and less nutrient-dense salted treats. And, when compared to the processed crisps and packaged items, they do contain a lot more in the way of potential health benefits.
Full of healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein, and nutrients such as magnesium, selenium, vitamin E and more.
They are, however, also far more calorie-dense than the less healthy alternative.
(As an aside, whilst calories in vs calories out aren’t the be-all and end-all of nutrition as we discuss here, it’s still an equation we need to be aware of should weight loss be our goal)
For example, if we were to look at a handful of unroasted, unsalted almonds, vs a handful of salt and vinegar crisps?
The small handful of almonds would be around 170 calories and the crisps around 40.
The key to making sure you don’t overindulge and go off the proverbial calorie deep end with your nut portioning is to portion those bad boys out beforehand.
They make for a great snack (possibly alongside a protein shake?) and are a fantastic choice for on the go nutrition.
So to make sure you aren’t accidentally munching on 500 calories worth from a kingsized bag, buy yourself some small Tupperware containers and have only a single serving size (around half a handful) with you, as opposed to lugging around the entire package.
For nutrient purposes, I’d also advise switching your sources every day or week, going from walnuts, almonds, pistachios, brazil nuts etc (and avoiding the overly processed salted and roasted peanuts – they have more calories and similar nutrient density to the crisps: a lose-lose!)
2) Coconut Oil
Everyone loves a ‘superfood’, right?
And the latest hipster-adored food given such a title? Coconut oil.
The logic being that it’s high saturated fat and MCT (medium chain triglyceride) content makes it safer to cook with due to it’s high smoke point, and may help contribute to fat mobilization.
And the health benefits aren’t unfounded.
Adding coconut oil to every single meal you’re having?
Is going to add up.
Even if the MCT oil is encouraging the use of body fat for fuel, the benefits aren’t enough to offset the calorie impact if such consumption pushes you into a surplus.
Cooking with coconut oil at higher temperatures is a great health choice.
Mixing coconut oil into your coffee and having it with every single meal is less so.
A single tablespoon is around 120 calories. So by all means use it as an ingredient, but if fat-loss is your aim? Don’t allow it to become a large percentage of your intake.
3) Salad Dressings
Now we should probably add a caveat immediately…
This isn’t true for all dressings. In fact, it’s quite possible to make a lower calorie health-boosting dressing, which we’ll shortly delve into.
This is referring to the super calorific dressings that often get layered atop what would have otherwise been a ‘light choice’ at a restaurant.
It was in fact, highly published in years past that the Caesar salad at a highly popular fast-food chain (we’ll call them… ShMcbonald’s) actually had a higher calorie count than their.. uh… ShMig Mac.
Is this true for all salad dressings? Of course not.
However, making the choice to have a light salad and then drowning it in creamy or oily sauces may be the mistake you’re making that is causing the scales to stay the same week after week.
Instead, consider a simple balsamic vinegar or mustard-based homemade dressing, over anything too heavy in cream or oils.
(Again, a caveat, if it’s part of a balanced lifestyle and you’re really craving that creamy dressing? Then do it. This advice is all intended to inform you, rather than dictate your behaviour. You are, after all, meant to enjoy your life, not only focus on the number on the bathroom scale!).
Right up there with coconut oil, avocados have been recently crowned a superfood.
And, right up there with coconut oil, they also need to be addressed with a hint of caution if you’re trying to drop body fat.
Firstly, yes, avocados are awesome. They’re chock full of healthy fats, fibre and energy-boosting nutrients.
But a single medium avo? Contains between 250 and 300 calories.
If you think of it as a fruit, then that’s over double the average banana.
Once again I think it’s important to state that avocados, alongside everything on this list, can be a part of a healthy diet. And in fact, I’d encourage their consumption!
But, as with all of these foods, if you over-consume them because they’re healthy? You may be sabotaging your own progression.
Yes, guacamole is delicious. But, if the guac adds up to 3 avocados eaten in a single ‘snack’? That’s up to 900 calories.
Eat an avo a day as part of a balanced diet, but if it’s a mainstay of breakfast, lunch and dinner? You might want to address the quantity and acknowledge its calorie impact on your physiques’ progression.
Ok I’ll admit this is a fairly broad spectrum of choices… and I suppose doesn’t really count as a ‘food item’.
But, they need to be acknowledged. Because, for some odd reason, more than one client in my 10 year+ career in the fitness industry has forgotten that liquid calories matter.
They’ll eat well, listen to their hunger and fullness cues and consume a balanced diet…
And then just forget to mention they’re having 3 caramel frappuccinos a day.
Liquid calories add up. Whether they’re syrupy coffees, sodas, juices or booze, they have an impact on your energy intake, and therefore your weight loss efforts.
Ideally, the majority of your liquid intake should be from water (more than two litres per day), herbal teas and black coffees. Read more on the importance of water and weight loss here.
Can you still lose weight by having a latte and some fruit juice? Of course.
But if you’re washing down every meal with a glass of full-fat milk and having elaborate coffees between times? It’s going to have an impact.
From a fat-loss perspective, it’s hard to say whether there’s really ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods.
There is however, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ balance.
And whilst everything on this list is a great nutrition choice in moderation? They can all easily be over consumed and cause your weight loss to stall.
Eat whole foods, listen to your hunger and fullness cues, and practices sensible portion control.
That way you can put yourself in the best possible position for weight-loss, and reduce the chance of you scratching your head at the lack of progress when all you’ve been doing is eating ‘healthy’.
Getting your head around what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat and when it’s OK to have treats (and what kind) can be very confusing.
Believe us when we say we completely understand how difficult weight loss can be. The Luke Bremner Fitness team have worked with hundreds of clients who initially found weight loss challenging, as you may be now.
If you are currently struggling to lose weight and are unsure where you’re going wrong, perhaps we can help. Our professional team provide both in-person personal training which you can read about here and online personal training which you can read about here