By Elliot Fisher MS, CSCS, PES, NSCA-CPT
It’s common sense that healthy foods are important to lose weight. However, the simple idea of only eating healthy food will lead to weight loss is not accurate.
Fat loss is dependent on being in an energy deficit primarily.(1) Being in an energy deficit means that you are consuming less energy (eating less calories) than you are utilizing (calories you're burning during exercise, daily activities, or living). This means watching your calories consumed and being mindful of your activity level throughout the day is actually the key to fat loss. You can lose weight eating healthy foods or unhealthy foods.
Most myths are based on some truth. Nutrient dense foods are super important for your health and wellbeing. Also, when trying to lose weight, it’s even more important to eat healthy foods because you are eating less overall food and need to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc. from your diet. Additionally, the average diet is full of junk food like potato chips, soda, and fast food. These foods are both very high calorie and hyperpalatable. This means you want to eat more despite the foods being more calorie dense. While you can lose weight eating fast food, it’s going to be a lot harder to eat a small quantity of fast food than a larger quantity of healthier higher volume foods. Because of this, if someone switches from an average diet to eating almost exclusively healthy foods, you’re likely to lose a lot of weight and be more satisfied with your meals. Eating healthy foods is very advantageous to helping you lose weight.
The reason I’m writing this blog is not to detract you from eating healthy foods to lose weight. The purpose of this post is to highlight that just because you’re eating healthy foods does not mean you will lose weight. There are a lot of foods that are very healthy and very high in calories. If you eat vegetables and cook them with a couple tablespoons of olive oil the calories will add up fast. Nuts and avocados are also very healthy but high calorie. If you snack on nuts all day you can easily gain body fat while eating almost exclusively healthy foods.
In conclusion, it’s important to prioritize healthy foods. You do need to be aware of how much you’re eating despite if you’re eating all or mostly healthy foods. You also don’t have to feel like you can’t have anything that is unhealthy, but you should be aware you won't be able to eat very much of it and still lose weight.
Strasser B, Spreitzer A, Haber P. Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(5):428-32. doi: 10.1159/000111162. Epub 2007 Nov 20. PMID: 18025815.