Diet plus exercise equals the key equation to stay in a caloric deficit and, therefore, to lose weight. You can try losing weight without exercise, but working out will help preserve your muscle mass and keep your metabolism up. Likewise, if you tried to maintain your caloric deficit through workouts alone, it would be incredibly difficult, as experts have explained to us in the past.
Registered dietitian and NASM-certified personal trainer Alix Turoff, MS, knows that finding the right workout and eating plan for weight loss is easier said than done; results are different for everyone. Plus, there are other factors that come into play like genetics, as well as stress levels and sleep.
Alix, whom we've interviewed in the past, posted the Instagram seen here to indicate that oftentimes people tend to focus on everything on the left to lose weight — intermittent fasting or keto, fasted cardio, or even apple cider vinegar. While some of these can absolutely work — she pointed to intermittent fasting, as an example — it isn't sustainable for everyone and it's not actually necessary to see results.
Alix told POPSUGAR via email that the main point of that post was to indicate that the only thing required for weight loss is a caloric deficit. "For some people, intermittent fasting can help them achieve a caloric deficit more easily," she explained. "It creates rules and some people do well with that. For other people, stressing about intermittent fasting can actually make matters worse."
Keto too, Alix said, can yield results. "That said, it does require a very controlled carbohydrate intake, and for most people, that's not going to be sustainable long term," she explained, adding that keto is also much different from just a low-carb diet because you need to be strict about eating precise carbs and protein. She explained, "Protein can be converted into glucose, which could take the body out of ketosis. So to really get in to ketosis, you won't be able to have an off day or a day where you eat some extra fruit, which makes it very hard to be flexible."
While Alix has recommended the keto diet for people with uncontrolled blood sugars, she typically doesn't advocate for cutting out specific foods to lose weight, but rather limiting them. Plus, while intermittent fasting, for instance, does work for some people, other things on the left side of the graphic she shared, such as supplements or adaptogens, "really have no research to support their use in weight loss," she noted. And, Alix wrote in her Instagram caption that oftentimes people don't even have the fat-loss basics down before they try those left-side strategies.
Weight-Loss Basics Alix Wants You to Remember
Alix told POPSUGAR that these fat-loss basics begin with understanding calories and macronutrients. If you skip that part, you won't learn how to balance your food, she said. Here's how to calculate how many calories you should be eating in a day for a healthy caloric deficit. And, here's one way to calculate macros for weight loss. She said you should also look at your exercise routine, too — here's a four-week workout plan for weight loss — but try to pick workouts you enjoy since that's what you are more likely to stick with. And, you should be focused on your sleep, mood, and relationships, Alix said. "If you're on a diet and you're losing weight, but your sleep is terrible or you're in a bad mood all the time, it doesn't matter how much weight you're losing because you're prioritizing weight loss over general health," she stated.
Alix concluded in her post that you should focus on the big picture, and get the basics down first. Then, you can experiment and see how you feel. As the graphic she made states, she wants people to find a way to eat in a caloric deficit while still choosing nutrient-dense foods that don't sacrifice what these people actually want to eat. Diets may work, but relying on something that isn't sustainable in the long run isn't sufficient for long-term weight loss.
The Best Way to Know If a Diet Is For You
Alix told POPSUGAR that working with a registered dietitian, if possible, can help you make sound decisions about what lifestyle changes are right for you. It's important, too, even without a dietitian, to be honest with yourself. "If you find yourself starting and stopping or getting on and off track, it's time to look at why that's happening," Alix said. "Does the diet cut out foods that you love? Is it too restrictive? Are you trying to be so 'perfect,' and then having it backfire?"
Alix continued on to say that slow and steady wins the race when it comes to weight loss. That's why it's important to be realistic with your expectations. "Healthy weight loss might be anywhere from half a pound to two pounds per week, depending no how much weight you have to lose," she said. So, if a diet promises you'll lose weight faster than that, it's a red flag.
Forget About the BS, but Don't Forget About Your Mental Health
An effective weight-loss regimen that's safe won't jeopardize your mental health, Alix noted in the graphic and further told POPSUGAR. Here's how to tell if a diet is affecting your mental health, according to Alix:
- Feeling any sort of guilt or shame around eating is a sign that your relationship with food is probably not healthy.
- Having a list of foods that you're scared to eat
- Overexercising or purging in other ways to compensate for eating
- Not going out to eat because you're afraid it will mess up your diet
- All-or-nothing thinking (black and white thinking) around food
Lastly, Alix wants you to unfollow anyone who promotes unhealthy ways to lose weight. "Remember that anyone can call themselves a nutritionist," she said. "Sure, there are some non-RDs that are great sources of information, but I would be very careful about who you follow." She continued on to say that you should look into their education and credentials, and you should question everything. (Here's a good place to start for creditable sources.)
"Understand that there are NO QUICK FIXES," Alix wrote to POPSUGAR via email (we're a big fan of the all caps she used here). "If there were, I'd be doing it. There's no one diet that works for everyone, so if someone is claiming that they have the answer for everyone, run the other way!" Remember all of this, and for more on strategies to lose weight, here's our expert-approved guide.