The benefits of a balanced diet
There is no escaping the reality weight loss can only be achieved by reducing total dietary energy intake. However, there are a number of principles to follow:
1. Sufficient intake of protein
A sufficient intake of protein is an essential component of any low-calorie diet. The goal is to lose fat and not muscle mass.
Proteins are essential for the human body, playing a critical role in many of the chemical reactions involved in metabolic processes: immunity, hormones, digestive enzymes, etc. They notably provide the building blocks for the manufacture of the body’s principal tissues, namely those which make up the “lean body mass”: muscle, bone, connective tissue...
When the intake of calories is restricted, the quantity of proteins provided must be sufficient to preserve all the existing lean body mass and let the body operate under optimal conditions. Moreover, proteins are effective in suppressing hunger.
2. Reduction in carbohydrate intake
The amount of carbohydrate in the diet must be reduced, particularly carbohydrates with a high glycaemic load which promote the storage of fats.
If the consumption of carbohydrate falls below 50 grams a day then the body enters a state known as “ketosis”. Ketosis is a physiological process which lets the body draw its energy from its reserves of fat.
3. Re-balancing the diet
Re-balancing the diet also requires a reduction in the intake of fats and particularly of poor quality fats such as saturated fatty acids (saturates) which are present in unhealthy quantities in modern diets. These fats are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
4. Drink sufficient water
The human body contains more water than anything else, and requires sufficient replenishment, at least 1 and a half litres a day.
To find out more about proteins, carbohydrates and fats, have a look at the section entitled Fundamental principles of a healthy diet.
Once these fundamentals are in place, the following principles must be adhered to in order to lose weight without developing a deficiency in micronutrients:
- consume approximately 1.2 g of protein per kg of healthy weight so that the production of energy is not at the expense of muscle mass, and more generally of “lean body mass”,
- limit the carbohydrate intake and choose foods with a low glycaemic load (such as legumes and wholegrain cereals),
- restrict the intake of fats, while maintaining and even increasing the intake of “good fats” such as omega-3 fatty acids, which lower inflammation and protect against cardiovascular disease,
- maintain an optimal intake of micronutrients, both in terms of quality and quantity, notably through the consumption of fruit and vegetables which provide fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Consider when and how meals are eaten
Eating a meal in front of a screen or while reading makes it difficult to be truly aware of what is being eaten. This masks the feeling of satiety and results in more food being eaten than is needed. The same is true for snacking, which leads to an increase in the overall calorific intake.
Numerous weight problems are caused by disordered eating patterns such as this.
The rhythm of three meals a day plus a snack is essential since it prevents the tiredness and hunger which can trigger the urge to snack on fatty or sugary products.
Rediscovering the pleasure of eating
Meals are pleasurable times of the day, providing the opportunity to socialise and catch up with family and friends.
Following a nutritional weight-loss programme is not incompatible with enjoying meals and eating in general. The diet should not impose foods that the individual does not like, but instead should prioritise foods with a low glycaemic load. Moreover, the process of choosing foods with more care and learning how to cook differently, helped by a nutritionist, can reveal a whole new world of flavours.
Taking more time over a meal and eating calmly and mindfully ensures greater appreciation of the meal and an awareness of what is actually being eaten.
This mindful attitude ensures that the feeling of satiety sent by the body is recognised for what it is – the indication that the body has eaten all it needs.
So, rather than snacking on high-calorie food, it is better to eat a small portion of some healthy food and to take the time to appreciate it, enjoying it mindfully, but without forgetting the goals set. Motivational interviews and support aids and techniques are essential in learning to resist snaking. For more information, go to the section on Individualised behavioural nutrition.
- Website (in French only) of the French Medical College for Behavioural Nutrition: https://sites.google.com/a/cmnc.fr/college-medical-de-nutrition-comportementale/home
- Eve Villemur (2018) Maigrir grâce à mes 3 cerveaux. Published by Leduc.s