Have you ever wondered whether Eating Clean could help you shed a few kilograms? If so, check out those 7 reasons why eating clean can make you lose weight. We’re going to try and explain how a cleaner diet can help you lose a few cms.
First, let’s clarify a few important points.
Long-term eating habits vs. temporary diet
Clean eating tends to be more of a lifestyle than an actual weight-loss diet. A diet is usually aimed solely at losing weight. You stick to it for the time it takes to reach your goal weight or quit, whichever happens soonest.
Eating clean is a long-term choice and is seen more as a journey than an end in itself, with health benefits over the long term.
And because they are set in the long term, your changes, big or little, to a cleaner food intake become habits. And you’re thus more likely to reap their weight loss benefits for longer, without the yo-yo effect that fad-dieters know too well.
Clean food vs. reduced calorie intake
A lot of weight loss plans out there based on clean eating are in fact low-calorie diets. You will be reducing your intake of calorie-dense food, such as sugar and alcohol (good), but also fat (not so good, as your brain and other vital organs need some on a daily basis).
So while those might help you lose weight quicker, you are likely to swiftly come across the usual pitfalls of short-term diets:
- Hunger and cravings (although reduced if you’ve cut down on sugar and refined starches)
- Plateau once the body has adapted to the new reduced-calorie intake
- Lack of essential nutrients, which can lead to fatigue and poor general health
That said, let’s go through the reasons why eating clean can help reduce your waistline.
1. Sugar and refined carbs are out of the window
This is a major reason why eating clean can lead to weight loss. A little biology recap:
Insulin converts ingested carbohydrates, whether simple (sugar) or complex (like whole grains) into glucose. That glucose can then be used directly as an energy source by the body.
But, by and far, we don’t spend enough energy nowadays, so the unused glucose gets stored as fat, in case the body needs it at a later stage. Of course, we’ll consume more carbohydrates and produce more glucose before that fat store is actually needed…
Simple carbs transform into glucose very rapidly to produce energy but don’t otherwise bring many other beneficial nutrients (empty calories). Complex carbs get digested more slowly and contain other vital nutrients, such as vitamins and fibers.
A lot of the products out there containing sugar and simple carbs are processed. By sticking to lesser-processed or whole products, you are cutting out your major sources of refined carbs, and your body will produce less quick-release glucose. This is actually in line with the mostly sedentary lifestyle of today’s average man or woman. Our energy expenditure is basically moving around in a temperature-controlled house, driving in a car, sitting all day in front of a computer and rounding up the day with more sitting in front of the TV.
2. More complex carbs = fewer cravings and crashes
Another side-effect of refined carbs is the “sugar crash”. When large quantities of sugar or refined carbs are absorbed, the body will equally produce a large amount of insulin to deal with it. The insulin will promptly take the glucose from the bloodstream to either send it to the tissues for energy or get it stored as fat. Which then leads to an excessive dip in glucose in the bloodstream. This creates a sense of lethargy, irritation and general discomfort.
When this happens, the body sends strong signals to quickly replenish in glucose, making you crave more sugar and refined carbs. Which is why people are somewhat addicted to sugar, their bodies constantly craving their next “fix”.
But when those refined carbs are replaced by complex carbs, i.e. whole grains, the glucose uptake is much slower, leaving a steady flow of glucose in the bloodstream. This means that you don’t get that sugar crash. It means you won’t go reaching for that packet of sweets or doughnut mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
Check my 2-part post on the benefits of whole grains and easy ways to add more whole grains to your diet.
3. Fewer GI spikes and crashes = day-long energy
Another consequence of the switch to more complex carbs is that you get a steady flow of energy throughout the day. This encourages a more active lifestyle.
It might mean simply walking faster, taking the stairs, spending more time playing with the kids or being more active around the house. But it all eventually adds up in terms of calorie expenditure and muscle toning, both of which contribute to weight loss in the long run.
4. Less processed food = more beneficial products
And as industrial foodstuff tends to be sugar- and fat-laden, they also are calorie-dense, without being particularly nutrient-dense. With those out of the window, you’ll naturally have more space for whole food, which will provide more vitamins, minerals, fibers etc. without the heavy calorie count.
For example, fruits are also a great tool to satisfy your sweet tooth, while not piling up the calories too quickly or getting a sugar rush (and its evil twin, the sugar crash). But while it’s easy to go over 500 calories in a 100g packet of sweets, it’s much harder to eat 500-calories worth of apples in a day (around 5 apples), let alone in one sitting!
One the subject of calories, if you consider that a mere can of soft drink will set you back 150 calories from sugar alone, it’s easy to see how switching to plain water could lead to weight loss.
5. Fewer additives will give your body a detox
By simply removing a lot of the additives in industrial foodstuff, you will give your digestive system a break.
We know that your gut health has a direct effect on your general and mental health. Improving it will have a positive impact on the rest of your body. If your diet consisted of heavily processed food before and you decide to clean up your diet drastically, you might even get some of the typical symptoms of detox, such as headaches, spots, tiredness or even flu-like symptoms.
Once your body has adapted to your new clean food intake, though, you are likely to have more energy and generally feel better. This will go a long way towards helping you stick to your new way of eating and decrease or stabilize your weight.
6. More protein = more energy expenditure and slower energy release
The vast majority of processed meat products does contain a decently high percentage of carbs: those cost less than the actual meat or fish, make for a great crust and are a cheap binding agent and filler at the same time. So switching to plain meat or fish is likely to increase the percentage of protein you eat.
How can it help you lose weight? Proteins take need around three times more energy to digest than carbohydrates. So you’re actually burning more calories through just replacing some carbohydrate by proteins. And that’s exactly what would happen if you choose, for example, roast chicken over the crumbed processed variety, plain fish fillets over fish fingers, or pork chops over pork sausage.
The digestion of proteins is also slower than carbs. They stay in your stomach for longer, keeping you, therefore, full for longer, and will provide a more steady release of energy than carbohydrates.
Proteins play an essential role in maintaining your current muscle mass, as your body will use its amino acids to build or preserve your muscles. They, therefore, help to slow down the muscle loss usually linked with normal weight-loss diets.
7. Full fat products will keep you fuller for longer
Normal, unprocessed foodstuff will contain some fat, more for meat and dairy products, and less for grains, but they will contain fat. Back when fat was touted as the root cause of most health issues, otherwise plain, clean products became processed to make them fat-free or low-fat. With added sugar, starches and other flavor-enhancing additives to make them addictive (think yogurts).
By switching back to these products in their most natural form, you’ll automatically end up eating more unprocessed fat. And this has the benefit of keeping you fuller for longer, as well as reducing cravings and helping you stay away from sugar- or starch-laden snacks.
So, to recap…
The only real way to lose weight to somehow create a calorie deficit, i.e. eating daily less energy than you spend. But one of the side-effects of clean eating might well be weight loss. You’ll be switching from calorie-dense foodstuff to nutrient-dense ones, which typically contain fewer calories.
You’ll also have more energy throughout the day. This is likely to translate into being generally more active and increasing your energy expenditure.
Some vitamin deficiencies can seriously hinder weight loss or even lead you to gain weight. A more nutrient-rich diet will go a long way towards meeting your daily requirements in vitamins and minerals.
And unlike most fad diets, which are unsustainable in the long run, clean eating is sustainable in the long term. It creates the basis for healthier habits, thereby ensuring that your new figure is here to stay.
So yes, even though clean eating should not considered a quick weight-loss solution, it might well lead to a trimmer waistline over time.
Other articles you might be interested in:
Want to understand what Clean Eating is? Need help getting started with eating clean? Could do with some ideas for clean breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks?
Stay a while, we’ve got it covered… And while you’re here, feel free to share in the comments below or with your friends!
Oh, and don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for carefully selected Clean Eating Recipes!