Finding a food philosophy that allows for successful weight loss can be a baffling prospect for some. It doesn’t make sense, we switched from white to whole grain bread, we eat oatmeal every morning instead of Lucky Charms, drink fruit juice instead of soda, and if we have Ben & Jerry’s, we go with the frozen yogurt variety instead of traditional ice cream. We’re making healthy changes, eating healthier, why aren’t we losing any weight?
The source of this confusion may come from a misappropriation of a term that sometimes is implied to be synonymous with a weight loss tool: “health food”. Whole grain pasta or bread is often considered the healthier alternative the more processed alternatives. Gluten-free or lactose free food selections are often healthier than keeping those ingredients in their day to day food intake. But there is nothing about health food that necessarily implies that they will be useful for losing body fat.
Health food is great for improving or maintaining our health. In short, it’s great for helping to keep us alive. Which is pretty important. But we can carry extra body fat while arguably still maintaining a relatively healthy body. Just take a look at the average NFL lineman. They are carrying more body fat than perhaps the average person would prefer, but their bodies perform at a high level. They are usually healthy people.
I think we could benefit from a new genre of food classification. My working title: Good-Body-Composition Food. Food that is useful for decreasing body fat levels, while maintaining or improving lean muscle mass levels.
The good news is that most Good-For-Body-Composition food is also health food! But not all health food is Good-For-Body-Composition food. For example, if you are someone who, when trying to decrease body fat, responds well to low starch intake, it won’t make much of a difference to your progress if you have a sandwich with whole grain bread versus white bread. You may be overall healthier, but your progress may stall if you’re eating the bread too frequently, regardless of the type.
This doesn’t mean you should never have a sandwich. Sandwiches are delicious! But perhaps if you’re concerned about your overall health, you’ll opt for the whole grain bread. Or if you’re really interested in fast tracking your results on a low starch plan, perhaps you’ll skip the bread, regardless of whether it’s whole grain or not.
Ultimately it comes down to informed decision making: deciding what your goals are, and deciding to eat foods that help you attain those goals at a pace that is safe, maintainable, and effective. Knowing the effects the foods we chose to eat have on our body is essential to this process.