Lets talk about portion size
A real food Banting (LCHF) diet is a wonderful way to eat. It provides all the nutrients your body requires for good health and vitality. It can help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar. Many people even experience improvements with regards to their allergies, arthritis, auto-immune conditions and skin issues. BUT, if your goal is weight loss, Banting doesn’t offer an automatic guarantee. This doesn’t mean it isn’t a great option for weight loss as it most definitely is. It just means that you need to be aware of a few potential pitfalls that can prevent you from losing the flab or, heaven forbid, gaining even more weight.
As much as some experts would have you believe that calories don’t matter on an LCHF diet, you need to know the truth – they actually do. Does this mean you need to count calories and track everything that goes into your mouth? No, you don’t. That would be tedious and a throwback to old school dieting methods, which just isn’t fun or sustainable. So how exactly does the “calories do matter” issue come into play when trying to lose weight on a Banting / LCHF diet?
It’s simple. If you eat less than your body needs for metabolism and your day to day activities (including exercise), your body will turn to its body fat stores for fuel to make up the deficit. The result – weight loss. If you eat more than your body actually requires, the surplus fuel consumed (i.e. calories) will be stored as fat in your fat cells. The result – weight gain. Eating just the right amount that your body currently needs for metabolism and activity will result in you staying exactly as you are, whether that is overweight or underweight.
Essentially, to lose weight, you need to eat in a calorie deficit, i.e., less than what your body requires so that the fat stored in your body can be broken down, used for energy and got rid of. Put another way, assume your body needs 2000 calories per day and you consistently eat 1600 calories each day, your body will take 400 calories worth of fat from your body to make up the shortfall and, voila, you would get slimmer. Granted, there are lots of factors at play when it comes to weight loss but we are trying to keep things simple and focused on what you can do to succeed with your weight loss eating plan.
The reason Banting is such a powerful dieting approach is that; for most people, it allows them to eat less than they were before, without being too consciously aware of it. It also avoids the pedantic calorie counting and hunger usually associated with weight loss diets. By eliminating sugar and processed food, lowering carbohydrate intake and eating sufficient protein, veggies and healthy fats, cravings and appetite are naturally reduced. This has much to do with the regulation of blood sugar and insulin that occur on an LCHF eating plan.
Imagine, you get to eat delicious, satiating food while watching the fat melt off your body as if by magic. Except for some people the magic doesn’t work as well. Whether it is due to a lack of knowledge or for physiological or psychological reasons, they still continue to eat too much food despite following an LCHF diet and fail to lose weight or even gain weight. Does this mean that Banting doesn’t work for them? Not necessarily. What it does mean however, is that they will have to rethink their portion sizes and become more conscious of the quantity of food and perhaps even the number of calories they are consuming. Are we back to calorie counting then? For some people it may be a worthwhile exercise to work out their calorie needs. An easy online calculator to use for this purpose is available at https://tdeecalculator.net. Having determined their calorie needs, they can then track their calorie consumption using an app like MyFitnessPal. This can be done for a few weeks to get a realistic view of what they are actually eating. It won’t be an exact science, but it can be quite an eye-opening exercise if done diligently and honestly.
If calorie counting is just not for you, try adhering to the following portion size guidelines to hopefully get the weight coming off.
Protein portions of chicken, beef, pork, lamb and eggs for each meal should be about the size and thickness of the palm of your hand (no fingers). Ladies, if you are dishing up for your husband, go with the size of his palm, not yours. Portions of fish can be a little larger for both men and women. While fatty meats are approved on LCHF, eaten in excess could mean an excess of calories are being consumed. On the other hand, don’t eat too little protein either. You must make sure you are getting enough protein as it is important for retaining muscle mass and satiety. If you are very active, pregnant, injured or elderly, you could benefit from a little more protein.
The easiest way to measure your fats and oils is using a tablespoon. Women should add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of fats and oils to each plate of food. Men can add 3- 4 tablespoons. This could be olive oil over your salad, melted butter over your veggies or the coconut oil you cook your scrambled eggs in. The rest of your daily fat intake should come from foods that contain fats such as meat, eggs, olives, avocado, nuts etc. If weight loss doesn’t happen or stops after a few weeks or months, try lowering your fat intake slightly to allow your body to access more of your stored body fat for fuel. Excess consumption of fats can be a major hurdle to effective weight loss since they are high in calories. Have enough fat to feel satisfied between meals, but not too much that you negate the calorie deficit you require to lose weight.
The amount and type of carbs at each meal depends on how well your body tolerates them and how active you are. Some people can get away with more carbs than others, without it affecting their weight loss or health. If you have blood sugar issues like insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, it is best to keep carb intake low and for them to come mainly from green leafy and cruciferous veggies, salads and other low carb vegetables. If your blood sugar and insulin are normal, you can experiment with including a portion of starchier veggies like carrots, sweet potato and butternut a few times a week (half a cup for women and a little more for men). People, especially women, with hormonal imbalances, thyroid problems or adrenal issues feel better when they include some starchy veg into their eating plan. Those who are very active generally seem to perform and feel best when portions of starchy veg are included, i.e. they don’t go too low in carbs. Weight loss can still happen when “orange list” starchy veggies are eaten in moderation.
At least half of your plate should be filled with low carb vegetables and salads. Try and do this for each meal of the day. The fibre and water content of these foods will help you to feel fuller for longer and the nutrient density of these foods will greatly enhance your overall health. If you need more veggies to feel full – eat them.
Another key point that must be made, is that if you don’t learn to listen carefully to your body and what it NEEDS versus what it WANTS, you will forever struggle with your weight. Yes, second helpings taste good but do you NEED it? Snacking throughout the day on biltong and nuts might just be nudging you into a calorie surplus situation. Banting cheesecake or LCHF chocolate mug cake might get you through some challenging times when cravings hit hard, but do you need those high calorie treats every day? Banting or LCHF is not a license to eat as much as you want, whenever you want – even when eating all the correct foods or foods made with Banting approved ingredients. This is not something that is often spoken about but it can make all the difference in the world to your success.
Sustainable weight loss requires a deep sense of self-awareness and being honest with yourself. Are you eating to live or living to eat? If you can’t do it alone, get help and work on developing a healthy and positive relationship with food. When you strip it all down, food is fuel for the body. It’s when we make it something else, and get lost in all the other reasons why we eat, that problems with over eating and weight arise.
Article written by Nicky Perks for Lose It magazine (Volume 32)