I don’t believe in fat loss “secrets”, but what I’ve got for you today isn’t exactly common knowledge and often goes unnoticed in the midst of popular diet trends.
I know that fat loss is hard work and because of that, it’s natural to want to look for the BEST diet or the QUICKEST way to lose weight.
You’ve probably also heard “the best diet is the one you’ll stick to”...heck, I’ve probably said that before, and it’s still true.
How could all of these diets possibly be equal?? One HAS to be better than the other right??
To really understand which popular diet is the best for you, you need to understand one simple principle that literally, EVERY “fat loss” diet has in common. It’s the foundation that makes them all effective if followed properly…
That concept is called CICO, which stands for “calories in, calories out”.
What does that mean? Let me explain…
What Is CICO?
Our bodies burn a certain number of calories every single day simply by just being alive. That’s right, even just laying on your couch watching Netflix, you’re burning calories! Don’t get too excited just yet...
That number is increased when we add on regular exercise and daily activity. But even without exercise, depending on factors like gender, age, height, weight, and body fat percentage, we all still have a baseline number of calories we burn throughout the day. This is referred to as your “maintenance calories”.
To lose weight, we need to eat fewer calories than we burn each day. This is referred to as a caloric deficit.
If we gain weight, it means that we’ve eaten more calories than we burn each day. This is referred to as a caloric surplus.
If you’re maintaining weight, it means that you’re eating the same amount of calories than you’re burning. This is referred to as your “maintenance calories”.
To make this super easy to understand, let’s take exercise completely out of the equation. Let’s say according to my age, gender, height, and weight, my maintenance calories are 1700.
If I want to lose weight, I need to eat less than 1700 calories per day!
So what does that have to do with diets? Well, according to CICO (calories in vs. calories out!) technically ANY diet would help you lose weight as long as you’re eating fewer calories than you burn.
Every popular diet on the market right now helps you lose weight by using a different approach to achieving a caloric deficit. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example:
Keto: Cutting out carbs cuts down on overall calories!
Intermittent fasting: Shrinking the window of time you have to consume food cuts down on overall calories!
Whole 30: Cutting out processed foods and calorie-dense junk, cuts down on overall calories!
Weight Watchers: Uses points to track food and help you cut down overall calories!
Calorie Counting/Macro Tracking: Another way of tracking calories so you can make sure you’re in a calorie deficit!
What Diet Is Best For ME??
Technically, any of these diets could work for you as long as you’re eating the right amount of calories. If you’ve tried one of the above diets before and it didn’t work, it was most likely because you were still eating too many calories, even if you were following the specific protocol. This further proves all of these diets are CICO dependent.
You might find, however, that Intermittent Fasting makes that easier for you based on your schedule and how often you like to eat. Or, you might find that cutting out carbs is totally doable, so that might make Keto a great option for you!
This just goes to show that you should be thinking about your lifestyle factors and which diet will allow you to sustain the requirements for the long term. If cutting out carbs sounds miserable and you know you can’t sustain it for months on end, maybe calorie counting or Whole 30 might be a better option!
They all “work” if you work them because they’re all based on the same foundational principle of CICO.
But The ONE Diet To Rule Them All?
Since we now know that different diets are simply different approaches to being in a caloric deficit, I personally think that calorie counting and macro tracking are the best places to start.
First of all, there are no limitations really. If you can fit a certain food into your total calories for the day, it works.
Will you feel better if you fill those calories with amazing, healthy, whole foods? Yes!
But if you’re craving Taco Bell, just count those calories, stay in your deficit, and guess what? You can still lose weight.
This makes “dieting” extremely sustainable for most people because it allows you to still eat the foods you enjoy while ensuring that you’re still eating the right amount of calories for your body and your goals.
How To Start Using CICO
To understand if you’re in a caloric deficit, you’ll need to first find your maintenance calories. To do that, you can use a number of macro calculators on Google.
Most will ask you to enter how active you are. Be modest with this to be safe, especially if weight loss is your goal. Here’s how I would categorize exercise intensity:
Exercise: 15-30 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.
Intense exercise: 45-120 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.
Very intense exercise: 2+ hours of elevated heart rate activity.
Now you’ll select how many days per week you exercise consistently. Again, better to be modest here as you don’t want to overestimate your caloric intake.
If you don’t exercise regularly, you can select the “BMR” option on the macro calculator above to get the total number of calories you burn during the day without exercise.
Now that you understand your maintenance calories, you can start tracking your food intake whether that means following one of the diets mentioned above, or simply tracking what you eat in an app like MyFitnessPal.
I’m not a paid sponsor but I’ve been using MyFitnessPal for over 5 years and I love it. It’s an easy place to start to learn the caloric value of food, which in my opinion is one of the most valuable skills you can have when it comes to nutrition.
Still not sure where to start or how to track calories? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to explain further and get you on the right track!
Struggled with a diet listed above? Not sure why you’re not seeing results? SWEAR that you’re in a caloric deficit but still not losing weight? Let me know and I’m happy to help.