Nicole Sanders is the founder and CEO of Ladimax Sports and Fitness, a women’s only gym in Westchester County, New York.

Dear Nicole,

I am 37-years-old and have not worked out in three years. I played sports in college but have been out of shape since I had my daughter more than 11 years ago. I am now ready to focus on me;  I have joined a gym but realize that my diet must change too. With so many diet plans out there, what should I be looking for?

Signed,

Overweight Olivia

 

 

Ooh Olivia, this is a hot topic for me! I am going to drop a lot of knowledge on you but at the end, you will have the answer you are seeking. There are several diet plans to choose from. All of them are not created equally and sadly, many will do more harm than good.

 

Low Carbohydrates / Low Calorie Diets

This introduces 800-1000 calorie plans with many of the meals being nothing more than 100-calorie shakes and one real food meal each day. You will, among other things, miss out on important nutritional staples due to the restrictions .This category eliminates the very thing the body requires for energy, carbohydrates. Carbs have gotten a bad rap over the years but they really are necessary for the body to function. Cutting them results in what I call ‘pseudo weight loss’. Initially it is water weight that you are losing. Your body then begins to hold onto your fat stores because you are not consuming enough calories for optimal energy levels, thus causing your muscle mass to decrease. Since muscle is more dense on the scale, the scale shows a reduction in weight. But in the meantime, your fat pounds are higher, resulting in a decrease in overall fitness and perhaps good health. This is a major misconception in this industry.

 

Low Fat Diets

This group tends to incorporate many processed foods that contain added sugars to make them taste good. Manufacturers have to put something in to replace the good tasting fats that we have come to love. Another issue: people tend to overeat these foods because they think they are calorie-free. The catch here is those low fat foods are pretty close in calories to the foods that you were trying to avoid. So what do you think happens here? Yup, you still gain weight. The other problem is that we NEED fat in our diets.. Fat helps us feel full, which eliminates snacking. Removing the fat leaves us hungry, therefore foraging for more.

 

High Protein

Now you will always hear me say, ‘eat enough protein”, but like everything else, overdoing it is not good either. High protein diets can be tricky because we know we need enough to build muscle. But how much is enough? How much is too much? Strictly high protein diets can cause high cholesterol and heart disease due to too much dairy and fatty meats. Also when you are on high protein diets, your body may eliminate more calcium, putting you at risk for osteoporosis. Additionally, if you take in 120 grams of protein each day but your body can only use 60 grams, your body stores the excess as fat. So that is about 240 calories of stored fat that you are getting extra each day, for a whopping 6,720 extra fat calories in a month! So you add that plus missed workouts and a few social occasions and you have added about 8-10lbs of fat in that same month.

 

Balanced Diet

This is my personal favorite. Choose the protein sources you enjoy (the leaner, the better), eat five meals each day, add green veggies as your staple, limit your fruit intake to once a day (if you must) and stick to quinoa, brown rice or sweet potato as your carb choices. Create your own plan based off of the above. Focus on 1500-1800 calories each day, a strength training program 3-4 days a week and a cardio program 3-4 days a week. Done.

 

Remember, when these diet plans say ‘weight loss’, what they really mean is ‘muscle loss’. Based on my 20-year experience training women and helping them completely transform their bodies, I know that women need to eat more, lift heavier and balance their cardio. Society and the media have left an indelible mark on how women view and accept their bodies.And that has many of them feeling ugly, hopeless, shameful and less than. So here is the fast, simple and effective answer to your question…choose a balanced diet aka a healthy eating plan. It’s not really a diet and it is one you will be able to stick with.

Good luck to you!