For me, diet (and I don't mean some fad but the literal meaning, as in: what you eat) is THE most important factor in fat loss. There is an old saying that says, 'You cannot out train poor nutrition'. There is a lot of old nonsense out there about diet and fitness but that saying, at least I found, is spot on.
If you are a gym member, take a look around. In amongst those that seem to be doing well are those that have been pounding away at the same old cardio machines for hours on end, for weeks, months, if not years, without changing shape at all. This is because they labour under the illusion that they can eat whatever they like as long as they hit the cardio later. They can't. Simple fact. It does not work.
Having said that I am also not one for calorie counting, its pointless. mainly because we all heavily underestimate what we've eaten and measuring portions and weighing stuff out is never going to work for long.
No. What I did was this.
1) Eat consciously and stop eating when you are full even if there is food still on your plate.
This takes some practice, but it gets easier if you just eat slowly and deliberately, thinking about what you're chewing you will soon begin to recognise the signal that your brain sends to let you know you're full. All too often we ignore it because we're watching telly or we feel under an obligation to finish what is on our plate. You'll soon get a feel for your ideal portions and avoid wasting food. but never, ever feel obliged to finish whats on your plate, it is one of the worst habits we get taught by our parents!
2) Eat regularly
Nothing will cause you to fail quicker than being hungry. You must avoid it, particularly at times when your only option is fast food or snacks.
3) Eat protein at every meal
This is a must really. Eggs, cottage cheese, meat, fish anything you fancy.
4) No starchy carbs after lunch.
My rationale for this is purely hormonal. I am no expert but I read a lot of information and tried to understand it as best I could. You can look it up too but i can summarise it this way: Eating starchy carbs causes a blood sugar rise, which in turn causes insulin to be released into the blood stream. Insulin is a fat storage device. Therefore you dont want it floating around in your blood stream at times of the day when you are more likely to be less busy, or even sleeping at night. So keep them to the morning.
5) No fruit after lunch
This is for the same reasons as above but from the other angle, fruit contains fructose which is sugar. fructose is the sugar our bodies find the hardest to process. eat it in the morning, no problems you'll use it for energy. eat it later in the day, you'll store it as fat.
6) Eat vegetables all the time.
Vegetables are carbs! I am absolutely not advocating a low carb diet here, but its the type of carb that matters. Veggies are fibrous, low cal, high in all sorts of micro nutrients and keep you full. much them whenever you need a snack, keep them chopped up in a big box in the fridge, you can eat these whenever you like, great for bedtime snacking, keeping in your bag for on the go snacking. carrots, celery, peppers, cucumber. by loads of them, chope them all up on Sunday and eat them freely through the week.
7) No 'diet' 'low fat' 'sugar free' 'low cal' 'zero' anything.
If it has this in its title throw it away. It is poisonous chemical muck designed by guys whose job it is to make money/profit and to keep you fat. Believe.
8) Give bread and all flour products a miss.
We live our entire lives between two pieces of bread or dipping bread in other stuff. If you make your own bread or buy it from a decent bakery then OK, now and then. But otherwise consider this: Bread is generally made from white flour, white flour is processed by men in factories, it is essentially sugar and processed sugar at that. It not only makes you fat but keeps you fat. Avoid it. When you do it eat it try spelt flour bread or rye bread instead. White flour, in my humble opinion, is almost single handedly (along with diet drinks and products) responsible for obesity in the western world.
This includes pasta by the way, even the 'brown' stuff. Avoid it. It is making you fat.
Now, heres an example of what I ate on a typical day:
6.30am Breakfast smoothie - 1/2 cup skimmed milk, 2 tbsp of greek yoghurt, 1 scoop protein powder, 1/2 tbsp smooth organic peanut butter, 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries. Whizz it all up! Tasteeeeee! (you can add a bit more milk if you like it runnier, the frozen berries make it nice and cold but you can use fresh if you like it less cool.)
9.30am 2 poached eggs and 1.2 cup of cottage cheese and 1 apple
12.30pm chicken breast or salmon fillet with a massive salad, get creative with your salads! a few nuts on them, beetroot, a bit of cottage cheese loads of leaves and herbs and balsamic vinegar dressing, a dash of olicve oil or half an avocado as your healthy fats (see previous post)
3.30pm protein shake, handful of nuts and seeds and veggie snack
7.30pm chicken or prawn and vegetable soup I always bung a chilli or two in to keep it spicy for that endorphin rush!
more veggies as a snack before bed if you like.
See? I ate loads and often so never felt hungry. Enjoy!