(My apologies in advance if this begins to sound somewhat like a rant and less like a conveyance of information. I have a lot of things swimming around in my head and need to throw them up in one massive post.)
Carbs are the enemy. Eat more eggs. Don't the eggs. Stop drinking milk. No, wait! Drink milk, but make sure it's 1%. Better watch out for...blah, blah, blah. Any of this sound familiar? Marketing. That's all it is; people trying to make a quick buck by preying on your fears of not living a long, healthy life. Look, there's good and bad to everything we put in our bodies. Everytime I hear one of these phrases, I just have to roll my eyes and keep on doing what I've learned works best: Moderation (I bet you've heard that one before as well). Why stress yourself out? Stress just makes it harder to lose weight. Happiness keeps you healthy.
Some people will tell you that carbs will make you fat. They say you can't have a six-pack or ripped muscle with carbs in your diet. Well, I call shenanigans! 50%-60% of my personal intake of calories is in the form of carbs. The bottom line is excess of any nutrient (even protein) can make you fat. Once the body has had enough of a nutrient, guess where it goes. Anyone? Into storage as fat. There's nothing wrong with carbohydrates (obviously, complex carbs are preferred; don't go eating eight loaves of bread after reading this). They provide our greatest source of energy in the form of glucose. Without glucose, our body starts stripping the protein off our muscles in order to create energy. Why would you want to lose muscle in exchange for energy when you can have both? Additionally, for every pound of muscle you lose, you lower your metabolic rate which causes you to burn around 50 fewer calories when your body is at rest. Let the carbs take care of the energy you need for exercise and spare the protein to let it do what it does best: build and repair muscle.
So, does all this mean you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight? No. You have to make smart decisions when it comes to what you put in that temple of yours. Take a look at what you eat every week and pick out a handful of items that you know are unhealthy and send them packing. Replace them with something healthy--or even just healthier. When I started my journey, I cut out waffles, muffins, pancakes, donuts, soda, and alcohol (oooh, I can hear the cringing now; especially on that last one). All of that was replaced with better choices to round out my diet and caloric intake. After my initial withdrawl, I noticed a huge change in the way I felt and how I didn't miss any of those things. To this day, I still don't eat them and don't care if I ever do again.
One aspect of nutrition that tends to get overlooked is beverages. It's really easy to down a soda or alcoholic drink without a care or thought to what it does to the body. One beer every day for a year puts on 15 pounds of fat. A person can exercise and still be strong as an ox, but if they want to look like they're in shape, it all starts with the food. To get a six pack, don't drink a six pack. Muscles are built in the gym; physique is built in the kitchen.
Have you ever wondered why someone can't lose weight even though they're drinking diet soda? The sweeteners in diet soda are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. So, the brain is tricked into thinking a huge rush of sugar is on the way and sends a signal to pump out insulin (a fat storage hormone) which layers on more fat. Diet soda has been shown to be damaging to the brain in many ways including killing cells, migraines, and even impairing vision. There's a reason why most
pilots don't drink the stuff. Finally, if that's not bad enough, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition performed studies which concluded that the risk of diabetes was higher with diet sodas than sugared sodas.
It's not just the drinks that are to blame. Science has created tens of thousands of toxins since the 1940's that have invaded thousands upon thousands of food products. We need to understand the labels so we can avoid these toxic foods. It's not that the toxins are making you fat, it's that they are keeping you from losing it. Fat cells wrap themselves around toxins to keep your body from being harmed. So no matter how hard you exercise, they won't let go, and therefore, fat loss is that much harder. Read the labels and if you can't pronounce it, put it back on the shelf.
I know it's not easy cutting out those comfort foods that you know and love, but you have to if you want to make progress to a better quality of life. The next time you see something you know you shouldn't eat, follow this simple plan: Don't think, 'I want that, but can't have it', think 'I can have that, but I don't want it'. This short phrase of positive self talk puts you back in control; it gives you the power over your desires.
All of this said, it really boils down to what works best for you. If you aren't sure what to do or how to start, find a reputable Registered Dietitian and they can help you figure it out. The point is, there is no one right way when it comes to nutrition, but you can't out-train a bad diet. The vegan path works well for some people, high carbs for others, and so on. Just keep your sights on taking care of you, and you'll be able to resist falling prey to fad diets that don't work and avoid peer pressure from those folks who are on them.