In the last month, I have had no fewer than three friends tell me they’re feeling a little tired, depressed, or hungry because–and this is true–they’re trying to lose weight in time for bikini season. Putting aside my very-strong feelings about that phrase (and the crash dieting that often comes with it), this mini-trend concerned me–do women really think you need to be depressed, tired, and hungry to lose weight? And, perhaps more importantly, is it true? I asked registered dietitian Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of Nutritioulicious, to help clarify some things.
After doing a bit of Googling on various dieting and fitness message boards, I found that this notion was getting traded around with startling frequency. Even those who weren’t dramatically slicing back their caloric intake (a terrible idea that we’ve already established doesn’t work) seemed to be trapped by the persistent idea that, if a woman is trying to lose weight, she will always feel at least a little tired, hungry, or even depressed–after all, she’s got to be depriving herself, right? And to win the ever-present “calories in/calories out” battle, she’s got to be bobbing up and down on the elliptical for hours at a time, right?
Wrong, says Levinson, who helped me understand what it is about weight loss that many women get confused–they’re picking the wrong kinds of food, doing the wrong kinds of exercise, and generally dragging themselves into that tired, depressed, hungry state. And they don’t need to be.
“I use the following analogy with my clients: Your body is like a fire. If you put in too little wood, your fire won’t burn strongly…if you’re tired and hungry, then you are not fueling yourself appropriately,” says Levinson.
According to Levinson, who has helped many, many women get fit, lose weight, and feel awesome, it is possible to not only eat a normal amount, but to feel energetic, happy, and yes, even full while working toward a weight loss goal. But, she told me, it’s all about making the right choices.
I encourage my clients to maintain a healthy, balanced diet while trying to lose weight. This means making small, manageable changes that can be sustained over time. For example, instead of eating a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, which does not contain any satiating protein or fiber, I would suggest they enjoy a whole-grain waffle with peanut butter and a piece of fruit.