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How much to eat to lose weight

We’ve invited Nicholas Caracandas from Diabetic Athletic to share his best tips about fat loss and diabetes in a 4 part series. Part 1 was all about motivation and mindset – today Nick shares with us how much to eat to lose weight. Maintaining a healthy weight with diabetes is really important, as we all know.

weight loss for diabetics

Nutrition in a nutshell

How do we figure out how much to eat to lose weight? First we need to understand food quantity, what calories are, why calories matter, how to calculate your own daily caloric targets (including protein), and the difference between low quality and high quality foods.

To best understand nutrition we need to understand: 

  • You are what you eat, breakdown, absorb and don’t excrete.
  • Every time we consume food, our bodies undertake a wide range of physical and chemical processes to extract nutrients and use them properly. 

Food provides information to our bodies. This information depends on two key factors:

Quantity of food

The total amount of food you consume, but especially energy (calories).

Our bodies need a specific amount of energy to function on a day-to-day basis. The amount needed varies from person to person. Our bodies don’t respond well to massive quantities of food and excess energy, which can lead to obesity and all its nasty complications. On the contrary, too little food can result in malnutrition, starvation and eventually death.

The balance of energy must be just right for our bodies to thrive (rather than just survive).

Source of food

The food sources you consume.

Where energy comes from is just as important as how much you consume. Every food you eat has a unique profile of nutrients, all of which serve different roles within the body. These include everything from the growth of muscle tissue right through to the production of hormones. Some nutrients are essential; some are not. But they all provide a unique message to the body.

Understanding calories

Once this is understood, all we need is to figure out is the difference between food quantity and food quality before we are finally able to reach our goals as diabetics. Especially as diabetics wanting fat loss or muscle gain.

  • Quantity in this context refers to the amount of energy you take in via food and drink. The energy obtained from food is measured in calories. Calories are often written as kcal/Cal on food packaging.
  • A calorie is a budget of energy we have per day.  If we have demand for calories (physical activity) we can afford to supply calories (eat more). 
  • We’ve all heard the saying: a calorie is a calorie. This is only half true. A calorie in terms of the amount of energy it supplies our body is the same. A calorie in terms of the quality of energy it provides is where they differ.
  • This means that not all calories are the same. The quantity of calories is what we need to focus on if eating to lose weight is a main priority.
  • We have to focus on the quality of food we consume while being certain the quantity we consume is never higher per day than the amount our body requires. 

This is where most get fat loss wrong. High-quality foods are often also very high-calorie items. This is why Google diets fail the majority of us. 

counting calories to lose weight

Daily calorie requirements for diabetics

So how do you start working out your daily calorie requirements? 

If you take your own body weight as an example and have noticed your weight and body composition (look and feel), staying more or less the same over the past 2 to 3 months, this means that the amount of food and drinks (calories), you’ve been consuming have been equal to the number of calories you’ve been burning through your daily activity. 

Using this information, all we need to do is apply the basic understanding of fat loss. 

There are only 2 ways to lose weight:

  1. Burn more calories 
  2. Eat fewer calories. 

If you note your weight staying the same over a period of time it means what’s coming in and what’s going out are equal. To lose weight, we apply either one or both of these principles. You can restrict the amount you eat or increase the amount you burn per day. 

Ideally, you’d want to shift both slightly, instead of just one, drastically. 

Tools to help

You can use calorie trackers like MyFitnesspal to get an idea how many calories are in your current food choices every day. The app won’t figure out how much you should be eating (trust me on this). How it helps is:

  1. Track your normal daily food over 5 days.
  2. Take the average of those days. This number is the number that has been the cause of your weight staying the same or the cause of you gaining weight. 
  3. All you need to do now is deduct 20% of this number and you have your new caloric budget for your fat loss goals!
  4. Take this new number and consume no more than this amount per day. 
  5. Increase your physical activity (exercise) in a way you enjoy and can sustain and you should notice things starting to shift in the right direction. 

You can then make minor adjustments to the amount you eat and hold each adjustment for 10-14 days to note what’s happening.

If you’d like some help with all of this, please feel free to reach out, this becomes 100% effortless when you have the right kind of help. It saves you time and a lot of effort. If you have time and enjoy this kind of thing like I do, have fun with it and remember its more about the journey than it is about the destination. 

eating the right food to lose weight

High-quality and low-quality foods

To finish off, while you are tracking calories you will notice two different types of foods in your diet. High-quality foods and low-quality foods.

High-quality foods are:

  • Low in calories
  • High in protein and fibre
  • Nutrient dense
  • Fill you up

Examples are unprocessed meats (no ham, bacon or sausages), fish and eggs, wholegrains (wholewheat foods), fruit and vegetables.

Low-quality foods are:

  • High in calories
  • Low in protein and fibre
  • Tasty
  • Don’t fill you up 

Examples are snack foods, sugar-sweetened drinks, white grains (white bread and rolls), sugar, fried foods and high GI foods like potatoes.

None are right or wrong to choose – what you spend your calories on is up to you. Remember that your daily calories are your budget for the day. Just don’t go ‘broke’ by lunchtime or get into too much ‘debt’ by the end of the week. This is how fat gain happens. In my next article, I am going to explain all of this in some detail and debunk some very popular diets. 

Fat loss and diabetes: 4 parts

  1. Mindset and motivation. I am a huge believer in setting a solid foundation and promoting methods that are simple, tried, tested and easy to action.  Read: Fat loss and diabetes.
  2. How much to eat. How to calculate how much you should be eating in order to reach your fat loss goals with better diabetic control. Read: How much to eat to lose weight.
  3. Popular diets for diabetics. Everything you need to know about fat loss and why it does or doesn’t happen. Read: Popular diets for diabetics: why they don’t work
  4. Resources and tools along with four important principles of weight loss for life. Read: What to eat to lose weight.

Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.