When it comes to weight loss and health, there’s enough conflicting information out there to turn even the brightest of us inside out with frustration from time to time. Why is this the case?
We’re all different, and find success with different approaches. There’s no standardized formula.
Our understanding of how the human body works (even amongst medical professionals and leading scientists) is still limited.
Too many people calling themselves Health and Fitness Professionals promote simple fundamentally flawed weight loss solutions in the name of mass marketing and profit.
As a diet agnostic, I’m going to put things in context for you. In concise instalments written in plain English, I’m setting aside talking about things like triiodothyronine and hypothyroidism and instead will talk about the art of weight loss starting with a conversation about chocolate!
Chocolate is delicious and helpful... Helpful in the sense that it’s about to help me illustrate some fundamental weight loss principles.
We’ll start with the whole “dark chocolate is good for you” thing. Whether or not dark chocolate is a good option for you depends on context;
In many cases, dark chocolate is very similar in its calorie count to milk chocolate. We’ll get to the point about milk chocolate having more sugar than dark chocolate in a second, but when comparing the calorie content of 100g of dark chocolate, and a 100g of milk chocolate from the same brand (Lindt in this case) this is what we’ll find
Dark 70% Cocoa
Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate
The bar of Extra Creamy has an extra 20g of sugar over the 70% Cocoa bar, and the 70% Cocoa bar has 4g more fat as well as a few more grams of protein than the Extra Creamy option. So the calorie content of each bar is the same give or take a few calories per 100g, which isn’t much given any nutrition information about calories isn’t an exact science anyway.
The whole “a calorie is a calorie” debate rages on in the implications of this. If we’re aiming for a calorie deficit to lose weight, why does it matter where calories come from? Isn’t it better to have the bar with 20g less sugar and the higher antioxidant content of dark chocolate even if the calories are the same?
My simple answer to this is a question - Are we eating chocolate as a primary source of nutrients, or for enjoyment?
Sure dark chocolate contains antioxidants, but so do berries and green tea. Am I saying “Stop eating chocolate”? Absolutely not. What I’m getting at is this:
If a 25 - 50g serving of chocolate contains about the same number of calories regardless of whether it's dark or milk, wouldn’t it be better to just have a piece of our favorite chocolate rather than trying to go for an “almost as good as” option?
If we focus on getting our vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from wholefood sources rich in fibre rather than persisting with telling ourselves that we can have dark chocolate because it has antioxidants in it, we can enjoy a bit of our favorite chocolate while still hitting our targets when it comes to calorie intake, micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) intake, and macronutrient (fat, protein, carbohydrate) intake.
As far as the extra sugar is concerned - it takes 100g of *chocolate to create a discrepancy of 20g of sugar between milk or dark, and whether you’re eating dark chocolate or milk chocolate 100g isn’t a recommended serving size… I know, I know, I’ve finished a 100g block in one sitting too, but it’s important we find ways to make that either a very occasional thing or have the rest of a day when that happens filled with food that has a very good micronutrient:calorie ratio. Feel free to contact me about how to make this possible and we can schedule a time to catch up and chat about strategies.
In summary, I recommend getting your nutrients from wholefood sources with a great micronutrient, macronutrient, and calorie profile so you can tick those boxes and enjoy a serving of your favourite something on the side rather than settling for a consolation prize. Not being completely satisfied in the name of eating the “healthy version” of our favourite foods isn’t an ideal way to live, and is a flawed approach to sustained weight loss. Deprivation leads to blowouts.
The other thing to consider is whether or not a serving of your favourite chocolate will result in the block being finished, or whether you can put it back in the cupboard after having a few pieces. This is something I struggled with myself for many years and can safely say that there are solutions. If you feel you can’t have certain foods around because one portion leads to a blow out of some description, I’d love to hear from you.
In summary when it comes to successful long term weight loss plans i don’t often recommend finding the “healthy version” of treats and attempting to leave our favourite foods in the past for good. Sometimes it can be useful as a short term solution for a specific situation, but I’ve never seen it work as a long term strategy… and remember most short term strategies require a transition back to a sustainable balance, and in most cases that transition phase is rocky and negates the benefits of the short term strategy. It’s a case by case scenario thing!
What I do recommend is ticking all our essential nutrient boxes with whole unprocessed foods we enjoy and doing it in such a way as to leave a bit of space for what we might call our favourite fun foods. This requires some strategising in the short term, but results in a much more sustainable and enjoyable process in the following months and years.
With my best wishes,
*I’m always using Lindt chocolate as examples for nutritional content here