If you go out to eat at restaurants. Or enjoy the occasional fast food meal. You might have been told that you can’t get healthy and lose weight eating fast food, and the like. In this article I answer the question can you lose weight eating fast food?
But the fact is if you eat fast food or any other so-called “unhealthy food” in moderation. You absolutely can stay healthy and still reach your goal weight and body fat percentage.
Why Does Fast Food Get A Bad Reputation – Can You Lose Weight Eating Fast Food?
It’s easy to see why fast food and other delicious foods get a bad reputation. This is because foods like a McDonald’s hamburger and fries are very highly processed.
And because of this, they contain lots of calories but not much in the way of nutritional value.
If you eat too many of these foods. It can be very easy to overconsume on calories.
And if you’re a usual reader of my stuff you’ll know that no specific food makes you fat.
It’s having too much food, that makes you gain fat.
You Can Have Your Cake And Eat It (Within Reason) – Can You Lose Weight Eating Fast Food?
As long as you focus on getting the majority of your calories through good, healthy, nutritious foods then fitting a McDonald’s hamburger and fries into your diet can be easily done.
It might even improve adherence. Which is defined as the ability to stick to a long term plan.
Black & white thinking is very common when people think about their nutrition. They’re either on the ball and hitting their nutrition to a T or their not.
The key is to strike a balance of eating “fun foods” and “whole foods” but you should be eating the majority of your diet through whole foods.
Here is a graphic to show you what I mean.
Your Diet Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect
If you’re eating a diet full of highly processed foods such as chocolate, crisps, biscuits etc it’s not doing you any favours.
Even if you have a small number of veggies.
This is because most highly processed foods aren’t filling at all and extremely high in calories.
This leaves you hungry and coming back for more. The end result is that you overconsume on calories.
And because these foods are nutritionally bankrupt.
You are much more likely to develop micronutrient deficiencies.
On the other hand, if you only eat healthy foods this might seem like the most ideal option.
But It isn’t very sustainable.
And you might only do this because you think ”fun foods” (chocolate, cookies, candy, fast food etc) are bad for your health. Even in moderation (you can eat these foods in moderation and be completely fine).
But the best option is to limit your whole foods to 80% of your diet and ”fun foods” to 20% of your diet.
This is because including some of your favourite foods in your diet makes the diet easier to stick to.
You can do this in a couple of ways.
Say for example you ate 2000 calories per day. You could eat 400 of these calories through ” fun foods every day “.
Another option is to eat healthy foods for your whole diet Monday through Friday and by this point, you would have accumulated 2000 calories worth of calories for ”fun foods”.
And say on Saturday you had something planned where you knew you weren’t going to be eating healthily all day.
Then it would be okay to have a majority of fun foods because you’ve eaten healthy the other days of the week.
If you can just eat whole foods for 80% of the time.
You’ll do great.
If You Eat Out At Fast Food Restaurants This Doesn’t Make You Gain Weight All By Itself
You need to understand that there aren’t really “bad foods” rather they’re bad diets.
I’ve already mentioned that these foods aren’t extremely nutritious foods. But if you eat the majority of your diet through whole foods then eating a bit of fast food is harmless.
The Reason Why People Gain Weight When They Eat Out ( When Eating Fast Food Or In General) Is Because They’re Eating Too Much Fast Food Or Total Food
The absolute one reason why people put on weight eating fast food is because they eat too much fast food.
As you probably know the main reason for weight gain is from being in a positive energy balance or a calorie surplus.
Eating A Diet Full Of Mostly Highly Processed Foods Such As Fast Food, And Candy Increases The Likelihood That You’ll Go Over Your Calories – Eat Out In Moderation
These foods (although not bad) when comprising a small part of your diet. Can wreak havoc upon your health when you over-consume them.
Because if you overeat on your calories and get to an unhealthy body fat percentage. This can have many unfavourable consequences.
Why Getting To A Healthy Body Fat Percentage Matters
To give you an idea of what a healthy body fat percentage is. A body fat percentage of roughly 10-20% for a male and 20-30% for a female is a great range to be in.
The undesirable consequences of being at an unhealthy body fat percentage obviously affect your physical health. But the more subtle consequences of being overweight go beyond the surface.
Being overweight also affects your mental, social and spiritual health.
Some specific areas that being overweight has a big impact on are:
Physical health: Cancers, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, strokes and more.
Mental health: Low self-esteem, mood disorder, eating problems, motivational disorders and more.
Spiritual health: Lower spiritual well being, impaired eating behaviours.
Social health: stigma, rejection, ridicule, social bias and more.
As You Can See, It’s Important To Get To A Healthy Body Fat Percentage To Minimise These Undesirable Consequences – When Trying To Get To A Healthy Body Weight Save Eating Out For Special Occasions
This is my main concern with the body acceptance movement. Who preach body acceptance. But is it right to accept anything other than your best self, physically and mentally?
Or would you rather someone told you the hard truth about your health, and that if you do make the change necessary. No matter how hard it is. You’ll become healthier in your physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health?
I believe that it’s the truth that we should strive to understand. No matter hard it is to deal with.
Because we can work with truth.
But what we can’t work with, is a delusion.
The One Secret Lean People Know – Can You Lose Weight Eating Fast Food?
If you want to know the one secret that lean people understand. That helps them combat against seemingly inevitable weight gain.
There are no bad foods. Yep, that’s right. I’ll say it again. There are no bad foods.
When you understand this. You can literally go on holiday. Not eat at all optimally. But because you understand energy balance. You can ensure that you at least hit your protein target, and at least try to stay at around your maintenance calories on most days.
Practical Advice To Eat Out And Still Lose Weight
If you want to watch the video that I made on this topic click the above video.
1. Check The Menu Before Eating Out
By checking the menu before going out, you can get a good idea of how many calories are in many different meals. And depending on how many calories you want to use up when you go out to eat. You can check the menu to assess your options.
When you decide what meal you’re going to eat, you can very easily allocate this number of calories into your calorie intake for the day.
Or if you don’t know how many calories are in the meal you’re planning to eat. Do your due diligence and have a look around at the calories of similar meals. This is very easy to do on an app like my fitness pal. It doesn’t have to be perfect. it doesn’t matter if your 100-200 calories off the mark, on one occasion.
All that matters is that you take an educated guess regarding the amount of calories that’s in the meal.
Then just get back on your plan and get right back on track the next day.
Consistency is much more important than perfection.
2. Try Intermittent Fasting
If you’re going out for a big lunch or dinner. You can try intermittent fasting. This will allow you to eat bigger meals in a shorter period of time.
For instance, this is how a day of eating might look if you wanted to try intermittent fasting to help you eat a decent-sized helping from your favourite restaurant.
Say this individual has a calorie target of 2000 calories per day. And they wanted to eat a 3-course meal. This is what a day of eating may look like.
A Day In The Life Of Intermittent Fasting
07:00 – Get up and fast (not eat till 12:00)
12:00 – Eat A chicken salad, for instance, 200 grams of chicken breast (raw weight) cooked in the oven, then put on a bed of 50 grams of spinach and 150 grams of tomatoes, and 15 grams balsamic vinegar, total calories = 272 and 47 grams of protein.
16:00 – Eat 200 grams of fat-free greek yoghurt mixed with 50 grams of blueberries and a scoop of casein protein powder. Total calories = 270 and 38 grams of protein
Total calories so far = 542 calories 85 grams of protein this leaves you with roughly 1500 calories to eat when you go for your meal.
7 PM – You could potentially have a pizza with a starter or a dessert and not put on any fat. So let’s say that you opted in for a pepperoni pizza and a dessert. That would roughly be 1500 calories.
You would then, not eat anything else for the night and follow your diet as normal the next day. This is one of the reasons why I love intermittent fasting. Its because it gives you the freedom to eat big meals while only eating 2-3 times per day. And still reaching your goals.
This equates into less time thinking about and preparing food.
For my article on intermittent fasting click below.
3. If You Can, Limit High Fat Creamy Foods
Not that there’s inherently anything wrong with high-fat and creamy foods. You could say pizza falls into that category. But you’ve just seen how it can be fit into almost anyone’s diet.
If you were going to an all you can eat buffet and say you ate numerous courses. And say each course was extremely high calorie and high-fat per portion. It would be very easy to rack up the calories and overconsume on total calories.
Remember you absolutely can eat your favourite foods while losing weight. But self-control and moderation are still important.
If you can just eat your favourite foods in moderation you really won’t have to worry much about going over your calories.
Limit Fast Food & Take Out To Once Per Week – Can You Lose Weight Eating Fast Food?
If you want to lose weight. You need to consistently be in a calorie deficit. And one of the easiest ways to do this is working out your fat loss calories and sticking to your numbers.
Check out this article for a detailed description of how to work out your fat loss calories.
And if you’re weighing out your food and you’re putting in some effort to get your portion sizes right to make sure that the calories you think are in those meals, are actually in them. And you’re consistently hitting your calorie deficit.
You will lose fat. Period.
But If you’re haphazardly guessing your calories consistently. Although you might make progress. You’ll reduce the chance of getting your portion sizes right and putting yourself in a calorie deficit.
This is why I recommend that while you lose fat, you should only eat out once per week.
Because if you estimate one meal marginally wrong. Over the course of a week. It’s not going to sabotage your progress.
3 Tips For Eating Out That Will Make Eating Out Effortless – Can You Lose Weight Eating Fast Food?
Although I’ve already mentioned the 3 steps I recommend you to take when you eat out. These 3 tips will greatly help you lose weight while eating out. And they can even make eating out support your weight loss goals. If you plan your meals into your diet correctly.
1. Recognise That They’re No Good Or Bad Foods
When you recognise that they’re no good or bad foods and that they can all have their place in your diet as long as you’re eating a majority of whole foods.
For instance, say that you were going to a family birthday party. And there was some delicious Victoria sponge cake. But because you’ve planned in advance that you’ll have some cake at the party. You’ve got enough calories for that piece of cake.
And because you’ve got enough calories for that piece of cake and you’re already at or near your protein target for the day. Eating that piece of cake can actually help you get to your calorie target for the day.
Essentially In This Context, Eating Cake Helps You Lose Fat – Can You Lose Weight Eating Fast Food?
Yep eating cake helps you lose fat. How about that. This is contrary to what dieting dogma has to say. But it’s all got to do with energy balance.
And if you’re smart about your nutrition.
You too, can eat cake and lose fat.
2. We All Enjoy Our Food, But There’s More To Life Than Delicious Food
Years ago I used to go out, just to stuff my face. And essentially if you use flexible dieting you can still do this to a certain extent. Especially if you fast.
But in my opinion social occasions, like going out to a restaurant with friends and family, or going to a birthday party.
Your main priority should be to spend time with your friends and family and enjoy each others company. Of course, you can enjoy your food while doing that.
But stuffing your face should never be the primary goal for eating out. Obviously the odd indulgence isn’t a big deal. But making it a habit to go out and stuff your face, won’t be helping your fat loss goals.
Gluttony is the reason why people find themselves in the predicament of losing weight in the first place. That’s why developing a healthy relationship with food is of the highest importance.
And if you overindulge consistently. Especially when trying to lose fat. It will make this goal almost impossible to achieve.
” Eat To Live Not Live To Eat ” – Benjamin Franklin
Food Is inevitably an enjoyable part of life. And if you’re smart about your nutrition. You don’t have to have an all or nothing mindset towards it.
But your main priority, when eating should be health. And that means that most of your food should come from healthy sources so that they nourish you, and improve your overall health and longevity.
3. You Don’t Have To Finish Everything On Your Plate, Especially If You’re Full, You Don’t Have A Gun To Your Head
Yes most people don’t like to waste food. And I get that. But you can only eat so much. And if you’re full. You’re actually doing your self a disservice If you keep on eating while full (unless your goal is to build muscle), especially if your goal is fat loss.
Because if your actions don’t align, with your goal, this, in turn, leads to cognitive dissonance and a lack of integrity.
In layman’s terms, it’s that feeling you get when you know you’ve eaten too much and you’re annoyed about it.
But obviously, not every day is perfect and you will have the occasional slip up during your weight loss journey.
But all that matters is that you start fresh tomorrow and not let one bad day bog you down.
As long as you keep on going, even when you’ve had slip-ups you greatly increase the likelihood that you’ll get to your goal.
Because as long as you stay consistent, and don’t quit you’ll eventually succeed.
The Bottom Line On Can You Lose Weight Eating Fast Food?
- You absolutely can lose weight and still eat out. You Just need to to be smart about it. As long as you stick to your calories and protein you’ll still make progress towards your weight loss goal.
- Whenever you’re eating out, whether it’s at a birthday party where you’re eating some Victoria sponge, or at an Italian restaurant where you’re eating a crunchy cheese pizza with pepperoni delicately placed on top. Or eating at a fast food joint eating a greasy cheeseburger. What matters the most is that you make an educated guess for the calories of these foods. And make room In your calorie intake for them.
- To be able to eat the aforementioned tasty foods, you must make sure that you cover your nutritional bases. Do this by making sure you’re eating 80% of your calories from whole foods. But if not, try to just eat clean for the majority of the week and have a bigger cheat meal on the weekend.