How many times have you seen a headline like “Which Foods to Avoid to Lose Weight”?
From a purely hormonal and physiological aspect, you do NOT need to avoid any particular food or type of food in order to trigger weight loss.
The only benefit to avoiding your favorite foods would be to prevent bingeing on these foods – but avoidance of your favorite dishes is not a sustainable, long-term solution to being overweight.
So if you love warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream…come on, there’s no way you could – or should – avoid this to your grave.
The formula is simple: If you want a smaller body, then eat smaller portions. Period.
Another way of terming this is to eat whatever you want – but in moderation. This means you CAN eat French fries drenched in cheese, and chocolate ice cream drenched in chocolate syrup – but with the caveat of moderation.
It’s All About Thermodynamics
“I am more of a ‘moderation in all things’ person,” begins Susan L. Besser, MD, with Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore; Diplomate, American Board of Obesity Medicine and board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.
“It is really the portion size that is the culprit, not the food,” continues Dr. Besser.
“That said, you must remember that the ‘sinful’ foods are usually higher density — which means they have more calories in a smaller amount; so you will naturally tend to eat more of them to fill you up.
“As an example, think grapes vs. raisins. Same fruit, right? Well not exactly. Raisins are dehydrated, so more concentrated sugar.
“You would probably feel quite satisfied after about 20 grapes (about 40 calories), but not after 20 raisins.
“If you stop at 20 raisins, yes, they have the same calories as 20 grapes. But are you satisfied?
“Probably not, because raisins are more dense, less filling.
“So, bottom line — eat what you want, but control the amounts and be mindful of the density of the foods.”
What does all of this boil down to?
Calories in vs. calories burned
You may be wondering why there’s so much online information about “which foods to avoid to lose weight.”
Either the author is misinformed, or, the author has chosen an angle that he or she knows will generate attention, which is what all writers want for their articles.
When I was a personal trainer, I never told my clients to avoid certain foods to lose weight.
Instead, I’d point out that they can still have macaroni and cheese, pancakes and pizza. But they had to employ portion control.
If you come across weight loss guidelines that preach avoidance of certain foods – in the name of losing weight rather than eliminating toxic ingredients such as sodium nitrate – be very leery about the information.
What about people who’ve lost weight after giving up certain foods for good?
Almost always, the given-up food is bad for the body such as sugary sodas and foods fried in vegetable oil.
In these cases, the soda is replaced by water, lemon water, fresh vegetable juice or tea. It’s actually not that difficult to give up soda for good, though the first few weeks can be trying.
Foods such as fish and potatoes, fried in coconut oil, are actually good choices, since coconut oil offers “healthy” fats.
But if you love a category of food, such as pasta, chocolate or cheese – it’ll be very unrealistic to think you could avoid these forever.
Even to get a jumpstart on weight loss, you should not try to avoid your favorite kinds of foods, as this will be demoralizing.
However…if you’re a chocoholic, for example, you SHOULD make an all-out effort to avoid highly processed chocolates such as Hostess or Little Debbie products, and replace with chocolates with fewer ingredients such as a candy bar, ice cream or homemade cookies.
This switch won’t necessarily make weight loss easier, but it’ll mean fewer artificial ingredients, and less high fructose corn syrup and trans fats, going into your body.
What is moderation?
• This is open to interpretation for foods such as mashed potatoes and pasta, but at least try to keep meat portions to the size of a computer mouse or deck of cards.
• Have one donut, not two.
• Have one cupcake, not two.
• Have only one slice of Grandma’s apple pie, and this doesn’t mean one quarter of the pie.
• Fill a coffee cup, not a cereal bowl, with ice cream.
• Do not eat past the point of satiation.
• You get the picture.
“If you ‘diet’ and deprive yourself of what you really want, you are less likely to stick with it and will eventually overeat what you wanted in the first place or something else to try to control your cravings — so you really won’t lose weight,” explains Dr. Besser.
“Enjoy what you eat — just in moderation.”
Dr. Besser provides comprehensive family care, treating common and acute primary conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Her ongoing approach allows her the opportunity to provide accurate and critical diagnoses of more complex conditions and disorders.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.