There are a multitude of diets for weight loss. Among the best known, we find the high-protein diet, the monodiet or the hypoglucidic diets. However, despite the achievement of short-term weight loss goals, these diets do not offer lasting results. Indeed, the best way to lose weight is to combine a high nutritional value diet with regular physical activity.
Characteristics of a balanced weight loss program:
- Weight loss between 500g and 1kg per week
- All food categories must be represented
- Physical activity integrated into the program
- Work on positive body image and self-acceptance
- Must enable the development of healthy eating habits over the long term
The main principles of the regime
Any weight gain or loss is the result of a change in our caloric intake. To achieve what is called the energy balance, we must spend as much energy as we consume. Calories represent the energy value of food. The more calories in food, the more energy we need to spend to compensate.
How does the weight loss diet work?
To lose weight, it is therefore necessary to create a negative balance, that is, to burn more energy than calories consumed. Losing 0.5 kg per week, a reasonable target, is equivalent to spending 3,500 calories more than you consumed. This implies a negative energy balance of 500 calories per day, which will be achieved through a combination of a reasonable dietary restriction and regular physical activity.
Several factors can interfere with the variable of calories consumed. For example, it has been shown that the nutritional value of a food on the nutrition label can be 20 to 30% higher or lower. Can we really rely on the nutrition label to calculate our calories? In addition, the amount of energy a food contains in the form of calories is not necessarily the amount of energy we absorb, store and/or use. Indeed, we absorb less energy from minimally transformed carbohydrates and fats because they are more difficult to digest. It is therefore in our interest to eat as little processed food as possible.
Also, we absorb more energy from food that is cooked because these processes break down plant and animal cells, thus increasing their bioavailability. Finally, depending on the type of bacteria present in our gut, some people have a greater ability to extract energy/calorie from the walls of plant cells than others. These species of bacteria are the bacteroids. In short, not everything is just a matter of calories ingested. Introduction (which food/nutrient families to focus on and which ones to forget)
Why is a fast weight loss diet not a good idea?
In the vicious circle of diets, the basal metabolism is negatively affected by decreasing it. Basal metabolism is the energy used by the body to perform essential functions such as breathing, blood circulation, etc. These functions represent about 60% of the daily caloric expenditure. The higher our basal metabolic rate, the higher our daily energy expenditure. However, drastic diets reduce our basic metabolism. By going on a diet, our body panics and switches to energy-saving mode. As a result, less energy is expended at rest and the risk of gaining weight is much higher. Moreover, age is not on our side. From the age of 20, our basal metabolic rate would decrease by 2 to 3% per year. That’s why the older you get, the harder it is to lose weight.
On the other hand, muscle mass and physical activity levels increase basic metabolism, and therefore energy expenditure. Men usually have a higher basal metabolic rate than women because they have more muscle mass. This underscores the importance of including weight training in our physical activity routine.
What is the best diet to lose weight?
If you decide to lose weight, it is advisable to do it wisely. The drastic methods are too restrictive: very low in calories, complete exclusion of certain foods or food groups and many food bans. This can lead to food compulsions and a sense of loss of control. This leads to a feeling of failure and then another regime is started again. It is the vicious circle that begins. The more we do, the more physical and mental health risks accumulate. There is no such thing as a miracle diet. If it existed, we’d know it a long time ago!
Regimes to be wary of
- images of perfect bodies
- use of so-called “natural” and “fat-burning” products
- no need for physical exercise
- very fast weight loss (5 kilos in 2 weeks for example)
- guaranteed weight loss
- approved by a pseudo-specialist
- bogus and unreferenced clinical studies
The criteria for choosing a good diet according to the Balance Body:
- Do we carry out a detailed and complete assessment of our condition: health status, lifestyle, eating habits, stress levels and physical activity, among others?
- Is it supervised by recognized health professionals: dieticians, kinesiologists, psychologists, doctors and others?
- Does this method propose a realistic weight loss goal (5 to 10% of the initial weight)?
- Does it aim for a moderate rate of weight loss (no more than 0.5 to 1 kg per week)?
- Does it provide personalized advice that takes into account our lifestyle and our psychological and nutritional needs?
- Does the diet provide a minimum daily intake of 1,200 calories for a woman and 1,800 calories for a man?
- Does the diet focus on variety and does not eliminate any foods or food groups?
- Does the diet teach to rely on internal feelings of hunger and satiety?
- Does this method encourage regular physical activity?
- Finally, does the plan encourage a gradual and non-drastic change in our lifestyle?
Did you answer yes to each of the previous questions? This method therefore has several advantages that promote realistic, safe and lasting weight loss. However, if you have answered no to some or most of the previous questions, you may want to explore other options because it does not promote realistic, healthy and sustainable weight loss.
How to set a good weight loss goal?
Your objectives must be Specific/Measurable/Achievable/Realistic/Temporarily defined. These are called SMART objectives.
Write a contract with yourself. By reading it regularly, you avoid losing your way. These objectives must not only be related to weight loss, but also to something more powerful. Establish a non-food reward system. When you reach your goals, treat yourself, buy a massage, a show ticket, etc.
If your weight and/or waist size is normal and you still want to lose weight, what should you do? First of all, ask yourself the question of the reasons for your choices. If it is only a matter of appearance, look for improvement in your body image. If your weight is normal but your lifestyle is not healthy, this may be a good reason to change your diet. Naturally, you would lose weight.
For those whose weight is already in the “healthy” weight category, it is better to try to achieve a balanced weight. The equilibrium weight is the one in which you feel good physically and psychologically. It is specific to each and unique. The “set point” theory, developed in 1982 by Bennett and Gurin, proposes that there would be a control system integrated into each person, a kind of internal thermostat for body fat. For some people, this equilibrium weight would be higher than for others. This may explain why some people have difficulty losing weight beyond a certain point. In short, our weight would be physiologically predisposed around a weight range that the body will try to maintain, even if it is not the “healthy” weight.
Several factors determine this equilibrium weight:
- heredity (a very important factor)
- age (equilibrium weight increases with age)
- basic metabolism
- physical activity
- eating habits
In short, if your weight remains stable, despite all the efforts, ask yourself the question, maybe your body is not made to go any further.
What is the right rate of weight loss?
If you are overweight or obese, losing only 5 to 10% of your weight over a 6-month period significantly reduces your risk of heart disease and other health conditions. The recommended rate of weight loss to stay healthy is 0.5 to 1 kg per week. Losing weight at this rate will help you maintain your weight afterwards and give you time to integrate your new lifestyle. Maintaining moderate weight loss over a long period of time is better than losing a lot of weight and then gaining it back, as it has been shown that when people regain their lost weight, they mainly regain fat tissue (fat mass) and do not return to their original muscle mass. If you want to lose more than 10% of your body weight, wait until you maintain this weight loss for at least 6 months before continuing.
A loss of 5 to 10% of its initial weight is associated with significant improvements in blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, with fewer drugs needed to treat these cardiovascular risk factors. Other benefits include improved sleep apnea, joint pain (especially knee pain), mobility, depression and quality of life.
Prohibited foods and foods allowed in a weight loss diet
In a well-managed weight loss diet, there are no food bans. All foods have their place, only the frequency of consumption is important. Some foods with high nutritional value will be consumed daily while others will be consumed in moderation just for pleasure. Here is a list of some foods to encourage and others to moderate.
|Preferred foods||Foods to be consumed in moderation|
EggsSeafood productsOleaginous plantsGrainsHerbs
, spices and herbsWater
and herbal te
, cream and oils rich in Omega-6
Red meatCold meatsPlatesin
(ketchup, mayonnaise, etc.)
Sugar and sweet
, pastries, biscuitsConfectionerySelFast-foodSodas, industrial fruit juiceAlcohol
Typical day of diet program weight loss
The ideal ratio for weight management would be 30% for protein, 40% for carbohydrates and 30% for fat.
Here is a weight loss program that meets these ratios*
|Morning||2 slices of wholemeal bread1|
cup (250 ml) soy beverage
|Morning snack||Crudités¼ cup (35 g) almonds|
|Noon||120 g grilled chicken|
with olive oil vinaigrette and avocado ¼ 100
g cooked quinoa1
|Afternoon snack||1 Greek or standard yogurt 50|
frais¼ cup (25 g) oatmeal1
tbsp (15 ml/7 g) ground flaxseed
|Evening||120 g grilled|
in olive oil100
g brown rice250
ml vegetable or non-vegetable milk at 1-2% m.g
|Evening snack||100 g|
cinnamon cottage cheese
* This menu provides about 1800 kcal per day.
Advantages and disadvantages
The positive points of a balanced weight loss diet
- Respect for the organization’s needs
- No frustration or food compulsions
- Rare weight regain and weight maintenance facilitated
- Compatible with a fulfilling social life
- Positive body image
- Allows you to develop good eating habits for life
- Reduces the risk of overweight-related diseases
- Enjoying a balanced diet and taking care of yourself
- High nutritional quality food that avoids deficiencies
- A healthy and fulfilling relationship with oneself and food
The health risks of a drastic diet:
- Muscle melting
- Risk of dehydration, falling blood pressure, digestive disorders, hormone disruption, hair loss and muscle cramps
- Risk of deficiencies in protein, essential fats, certain vitamins and minerals (e.g. iron and calcium)
- Risk of disease: anaemia or osteoporosis
- Risk of electrolyte imbalance, cardiac arrhythmia
- Risk of weight gain when the diet is stopped
- Development of an unhealthy relationship with food and the body
- Loss of contact with hunger and satiety signals
- Severe fatigue, headache, difficulty concentrating and decreased productivity
- Decreased self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, feelings of failure and guilt
- Excessive concern about weight, or the development of eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, hyperphagia, etc.)
Recommendations and precautions to be taken
Are there any risks associated with being overweight?
Most people are aware of the risks associated with being overweight. It is even one of the reasons given for losing weight: to have better health. Being overweight can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, fatty liver, kidney disease and problems during pregnancy in women, such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and increased risk of cesarean section.
To assess your weight and associated risks, you can calculate your BMI and waist circumference. If your BMI is above 25 and your waist circumference above 88 cm for a woman or 102 cm for a man, your risk of developing the above-mentioned health problems is higher. Consult a health professional who can make a global assessment of your condition.
The place where there is an accumulation of fat is therefore more important than the total body weight. In addition, a person with a normal BMI but a high waist circumference indicates the presence of abdominal fat (apple shape) and his risk of suffering from health problems may be as high as an individual with a higher BMI but a normal waist circumference. It should be noted that in a person aged 65 and over, a BMI between 23 and 27 has been shown to be more optimal for survival rates than the standard BMI range of 18.5 to 25. The mortality rate would not increase until a BMI of 33 in these individuals.
Are women and men equal when it comes to weight loss?
Men and women are not equal when it comes to weight loss. As mentioned above, men have a higher muscle mass and therefore a higher basal metabolic rate, which is favourable to weight loss. However, men, mainly because of hormones, tend to accumulate more visceral fat, which is dangerous to health. In addition, men, unlike women, underestimate their degree of obesity. Another difference is that women eat more frequently with their emotions (stress, depression, low self-esteem, general mood), which can affect the maintenance of weight loss because we are eating with our heads and not our stomachs. This indicates that there are differences in how men and women view weight loss. This must be taken into account when making lifestyle changes.
How to lose weight after pregnancy?
Most pregnant women would like to see their excess weight melt away after childbirth, so it is important to understand that weight loss after pregnancy varies from one woman to another. Be aware that it is important to maintain the healthy habits you had during pregnancy. Indeed, eating well after pregnancy helps to restore the mother’s nutritional reserves, maintain a good level of energy and of course help you regain a healthy weight. We must therefore forget diets and weight loss diets and prioritize a varied and balanced diet. Remember that the weight of the pregnancy was gained in 9 months, so it is not realistic to lose it in 2 months. One year after childbirth, the majority of women regain their pre-pregnancy weight (within 1-2 kg) while 20 to 30% would have 4 to 5 kg more.
Also, women who were already overweight before pregnancy (BMI 27 and over) or who gained more weight during their pregnancy than recommended are more likely to be overweight one year after delivery. Be aware, however, that limiting weight gain during pregnancy will not help you lose the extra pounds after delivery. If you are breastfeeding, it is even more important not to start a drastic diet because the quality of your breast milk could be affected and thus harm your baby’s development. In addition, studies show that breastfeeding would contribute to faster weight loss after childbirth.
Should sport always be included in a weight loss diet?
This is the best way to ensure your motivation. Staying physically active will help you lose weight and maintain it over time.
The benefits of physical activity
- Reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, breast, uterine and colon cancer
- Strengthening your lungs
- Strengthen your muscles and maintain your joints in good condition
- Slower bone loss
- Relaxation and better stress management
- Building self-confidence
- Better sleep
For overall health and to reduce the risk of disease, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. To help manage body weight and prevent gradual weight gain, aim for 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity most days of the week. To maintain weight loss, aim for at least 60-90 minutes of moderate daily physical activity, you can divide the amount of time you spend on physical activity, such as 15 minutes at a time. If you have not been physically active for a while, then don’t let it stop you. Start slowly and gradually increase your activity. For example, start walking for 10-15 minutes three times a week, then gradually increase to the recommended amount with brisk walking. Do a mix of resistance (strength), cardiovascular and recovery activities. First of all, choose an activity that pleases you.
How can I not gain weight?
According to the National Weight Control Registry in the United States, these are the behaviours that are associated with low weight regain:
- have a nutritious protein-rich breakfast: add eggs, Greek yogurt, cheese, tofu, nuts and seeds or their butter. Proteins help you maintain your lean body mass and increase the feeling of satiety. In addition, the cost of protein digestion is highest among macronutrients (20-30% for proteins, 5-6% for carbohydrates and 3% for fats). It is important to have protein at every meal and to distribute it well.
- having a diet that includes unsaturated fats, this helps to keep sex hormones up to date, stimulates the immune system and adds taste to foods.
- eat as little processed as possible: this reduces the calories actually absorbed and requires more energy from our body for digestion. Eat staple foods, in their most natural state possible.
- eat few fast food foods: they are high in calories, fat, saturated and trans fats, sugars, sodium, etc.
- drink few sweetened drinks and prefer water to hydrate: these are empty calories, without any effect on satiety. In addition, the brain makes few differences between symptoms of hunger and thirst and often people can easily confuse them.
- eat a diet high in fibre: whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes contribute to a sense of satiety. Foods high in soluble fibre are particularly interesting because they form a gel and take up more space in the stomach: psyllium, artichoke, green beans, green peas, kohlrabi, avocado, pear, bran cereals, oatmeal, all legumes and almonds are good sources. In addition, the carbohydrates provided by these foods will prevent feelings of deprivation.
- reduce portions at meals: even if you eat quality food, you can still eat too large portions. Listening to satiety signals and portion control are therefore very important. Learn to eat slowly, enjoy your food in a way that saturates your taste buds with different flavours. You will need smaller quantities to be satisfied.
- have good sleep habits: researchers recommend sleeping between 7 and 8 hours a night, this affects the hormones of hunger and satiety positively.
- limit the screen time to a maximum of 10 hours per week: you move less and eat more when you are in front of a screen.
- develop a positive body image: seeing your body as it is, accepting it as it is in the present moment, accepting the skills and characteristics of your body, trusting your body and your abilities, treating your body with kindness, enjoying your body as it is, trusting your food choices, eating according to your appetite, accepting that your weight occasionally changes are all signs of a positive body image.
- better management of emotions/stress and relaxing activities not associated with food: reading, listening to music, meditating, moving are many activities that have been demonstrated to promote calming. Get rid of temptations in your home: the goal is not to eliminate them completely, but the more you have, the greater your chances of eating them in times of stress.
- have the support of our loved ones and/or health professionals: a dietitian-nutritionist can help you assess your nutritional habits, give you a personalized plan and tools to achieve this, according to your lifestyle.
- weigh yourself regularly without making it an obsession: this would allow you to act quickly if the weight has increased and thus maintain it in the long term.
- keep a food journal: the effectiveness of this tool is scientifically proven. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women who keep this type of journal have less difficulty maintaining their healthy weight.
A few figures to go further
According to a recent study, more than 60% of French people admit to being careful about their weight. This statement applies almost equally to men (57%) and women (67%).
More than 44% of the French adult population has already followed a diet designed for weight loss. People who want to lose weight follow an average of 4 to 5 different diets over their lifetime.
Be careful, however, the figures are clear: the majority of diets for weight loss fail. Indeed, 60% of individuals who have followed a diet are not satisfied with the result. Either because they have not lost the desired weight or because they have regained it very quickly. Despite these pessimistic figures, the French are constantly going on a diet. One-third of the population says they plan to return to the diet in the coming months.