Keep it simple: Look, losing weight really isn’t complicated even though some diet plans try to make it that way. You may have heard the following: “Don’t eat after 7”, “Eat 6–8 meals a day”, “Fast for 16 hours every day” etc. etc. and the list goes on. In reality, all that it really takes is eating less energy than your body needs in a 24-hour period but not too much less. Avoid the extremes, keep all things in moderation, and steer clear of all the gimmicks.
So many of us have tried dieting. All too often though, many of us lose 10–20 pounds, but we end up gaining it back. Not only is yo-yo dieting unhealthy, it is also demoralizing and makes us feel like giving up. What exactly do we have to do to achieve a healthy body weight and to stick with it forever?
In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve A Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently” we are interviewing health and wellness professionals who can share lessons from their research and experience about how to do this.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ted Kallmyer.
Ted Kallmyer, BA, M.Ed., Certified Nutrition Expert & Coach is the author of HealthyEater.com, The Macro Solution, and the soon to be released Meal Prep Cookbook for Men. His energized approach to weight loss and fitness coaching focuses on the unique needs of each client as he challenges them to feel exhilarated through discovering exciting new ways of eating healthy and still enjoying the foods they love, all the while achieving their fitness goals. Ted provides coaching services and resources through his website and is a sought-after media guest.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in the mountains of Maryland where Southern cooking and obesity are the norm. My family’s cooking style involved a lot of butter and if a recipe didn’t have enough butter, then they’d put some Crisco in it as well! Both my mom and dad were overweight, and I watched my mother try one fad diet after another. Somehow, I decided from an early age that I wasn’t going to be like that and although I didn’t eat that healthy, I tried not to overeat or eat when I wasn’t hungry. I think I also hated the way the “fat kids” were teased at school and I didn’t want to bring that ridicule on myself either. I was also pretty active outside which also helped me stay at a healthy weight. As I got older, I think I thought that I was pretty fit, but my diet was a mess. In my late teens and early 20s I started developing kidney stones regularly and I just didn’t feel good most of the time. I was a biology teacher in my first career, so I was always interested in science, nutrition, and how it relates to the human body and our health. I first started to study nutrition to quit having kidney stones and once I used better nutrition to cut down of the frequency of the stones, I began to realize how powerful the right nutrition could be in my personal quest to be fit and healthy. It was more than just about exercise, it really mattered what I was putting into my body.
In my early 30’s I had a bit of a renaissance and decided to quit my job, sell my house along with all my possessions, and move overseas. After a few months of traveling, I ended up in New Zealand where I decided to stay for a while. Kiwis are a fit people, so I wasn’t long there that I realized exactly how unfit I was. I had to up my game if I wanted to keep up with my new kiwi friends on the hiking trail, in the surf, and on the bike. In general, the kiwi diet is just healthier than the American diet. The portions are smaller and it’s more whole food focused. This really helped me get on a better path nutritionally as well.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
While in New Zealand I became good friends with a guy that was running some health and fitness themed websites. He asked me to come on board and work for him doing research and doing some writing since I had a background in biology. I decided to give it a shot and I discovered that I really liked the platform of the internet as a way to teach about nutrition and fitness as well as continue my love for teaching but in a different format. This ultimately turned into a fulltime career, writing books, publishing content, and becoming certified in fitness nutrition. As my personal nutrition evolved, I learned the powerful concept of moderation and how I could finally have the health and physique I wanted by being consistent with my nutrition opposed to trying one “gimmick” after another. I didn’t have to give up this or not eat that but discovered that all foods can have their place in my diet as small as that may be. In my early 40’s I was in the best shape of my life both physically and physiologically. I’ve been able to maintain that since and I turned 48 this year.
I moved back to the States in 2011 but the lessons I learned in New Zealand will stay with me for life.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I think I owe this to my kiwi friends. They inspired me to become more fit, eat better, and be more active. They never judged me in the beginning when I couldn’t keep up but instead, encouraged and stayed with me until my endurance increased. They gently pushed me to do more and to push myself out of my comfort zone. This is the kind of people we all need in our lives when it comes to diet and fitness and this is the person I try to be for my clients and my friends. Some of my American friends have nicknamed my hikes as “Tedventures” because they tend to be harder and longer than I said they would be. They can thank my New Zealand training for that, pushing people to go a little further than they thought they could go.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
As I alluded to above, when I first started researching nutrition and dieting, I certainly went down my share of rabbit holes. Fasting, low carbs, keto, no sugar, etc. but personally trying all of those “restrictive diets” never got me to my goals long-term and I wasn’t much fun at parties. The lesson I learned is that balance is key to long-term success and wellbeing.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” — Dwayne Johnson
People think that if they just find that “one magic plan” they’ll lose weight for good. That is a fool’s errand. The people who are successful have learned the power of consistency over a long period of time.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
This year I’ve been working on a Meal Prep Cookbook for Men. This is exciting because I think it will really be useful for busy people who have the desire to eat better but lack the time throughout the week to prepare healthy meals.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field?
It really boils down to my experience in the industry (since 2008) and my experience working with clients personally. Yes, I have degrees and certifications in Nutrition and Fitness training etc. But it’s the years of practical experience that mean the most. I’ve seen first had what works and what doesn’t and understand the mindset it takes to achieve lasting change.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about achieving a healthy body weight. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Healthy Body Weight”?
A healthy body weight is determined by a number of factors, but it basically involves having a heathy amount of body fat in relation to one’s lean mass. The body is meant to have some stored fat and it is important for vital life processes. However, when fat accumulates beyond what’s healthy it creates health problems.
How can an individual learn what is a healthy body weight for them? How can we discern what is “too overweight” or what is “too underweight”?
The number on the scale can be a little subjective since there can be a wide range of “healthy weights for a particular height. Therefore, it’s often better to look at one’s body fat percentage. For women, around 30% or less is acceptable and for men this number is 24% or less. Beyond that, women are considered “fit” when they have 24% or less and men when they have 17% or less body fat.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons why being over your healthy body weight, or under your healthy body weight, can be harmful to your health?
When a person has too much body fat, their heart has to work much harder to pump blood throughout the body. Also, in relation to that, too much fat in the body contributes to high cholesterol which causes build up in a person’s arteries and thus causes heart disease. Too much body fat also is linked to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer.
Too little body fat causes problems with hormone regulation and nervous system function as well as the body’s ability to absorb and utilize fat soluble vitamins and minerals.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few examples of how a person who achieves and maintains a healthy body weight will feel better and perform better in many areas of life?
When a person loses weight and maintains it, they feel better because their heart doesn’t have to work as hard and there is less stress placed on their joints. In addition to this, since fat often builds up in the liver, a decrease in liver fat allows this organ to function at it’s best. The liver is responsible for all kinds of functions from metabolism to detoxifying a person’s blood. When people are at a heathy weight exercise is easier and more enjoyable as well. When someone has 30 pounds of extra fat tissue, it’s like carrying around a 30-pound sack or backpack wherever they go. I often think about this when I go backpacking and my pack is around 30–40 pounds. This is why exercise can be so challenging for people with a lot of weight to lose. Gravity is real and more weight is harder to move around this planet than less weight.
Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently?”. If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
- Shift from short-term to a lifestyle mentality: Many people approach weight loss as an “event” or a thing they do to prepare for an event. Like “I want to lose 20 pounds for a wedding”, or “for Summer”, or “to fit into that dress”. This leads to gaining and losing the same 20–30 pounds over and over. Not only is this hard on the body, but it also tends to get harder and harder to do as you age, and people tend to gain even more fat back in each gain cycle. A more successful approach is to view eating less as a lifestyle. Just about everything in or modern culture is trying to make us fat. Our huge portions at restaurants, fast food on every corner, and every social event revolving around food and alcohol. The only way anyone will be able to stay fit and healthy is to commit to working on this pursuit for life. It’s lifework. A healthy lifestyle means that you are making conscious decisions about your health daily. This doesn’t mean you can never splurge and have a good time, but it does mean that the majority of the time you are making good choices and eating the amount of food that’s appropriate for your age and body.
- Keep it simple: Look, losing weight really isn’t complicated even though some diet plans try to make it that way. You may have heard the following: “Don’t eat after 7”, “Eat 6–8 meals a day”, “Fast for 16 hours every day” etc. etc. and the list goes on. In reality, all that it really takes is eating less energy than your body needs in a 24-hour period but not too much less. Avoid the extremes, keep all things in moderation, and steer clear of all the gimmicks.
- Don’t restrict food groups: So many of my clients come to me deathly afraid to eat carbs, eat sugar, or think they should only eat fat if they want to lose weight. After much convincing and trusting the process, they discover that all of what they were told wasn’t true after all. Weight loss is about energy balance, not about restricting food groups. Food group restriction is a method of calorie restriction and it’s for this reason it works. It’s not the food itself that’s doing it. This has been proven over and over again with scientific studies. A new study was just published that looked at this exact thing. People who followed a flexible approach had the same weight loss benefit as people who followed a restrictive approach. But the flexible group had more lean mass at the end of the trial. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-021-00452-2
- Don’t depend on exercise for weight loss: People will never be able to out exercise their mouths, so establish food intake levels that promote fat loss and don’t rely on exercise to create a calorie deficit. Exercise can be fickle because life doesn’t always cooperate. Pandemics happen, gyms close, travel, work schedules, etc. can all thwart your best intentions to exercise. Therefore, establish a healthy diet that promotes weight loss and view exercise more as a way to eat a little more and increase your overall health and vitality.
- Think rationally when it comes to eating instead of emotionally: The last key to lasting weight loss is to remove emotion from eating as much as possible. Yes, we should find enjoyment from eating and this is built into our DNA to keep us alive but depending on food to get us through a stressful time or feeling guilty about eating something is unhealthy. Food is for nourishment and to keep your body going. Food is not needed by the body for emotional support nor are certain foods “bad” or “evil’. Food is food. Yes, the majority of your diet should come from healthy whole foods but having bread or having a cookie from time to time can be part of a healthy eating lifestyle and consumed guilt-free. Food is a horrible emotional support because it gives you nothing but momentary pleasure. Talking with a friend or doing something that’s good for your soul is a much better emotional support because these practices are healing instead of just being a band aide. This does take a lot of positive self-talk and dedication to overcome but thinking rationally about food and why you’re eating is key.
The emphasis of this series is how to maintain an ideal weight for the long term, and how to avoid yo-yo dieting. Specifically, how does a person who loses weight maintain that permanently and sustainably?
This ties into number 1 above. When a person understands that being fit and healthy is “life work”, not a temporary pursuit, then that battle is mostly won. It will never be easy, but it does get easier. It will always be about saying no to some things but yes to those same things occasionally. When people can make that mental shift, they don’t return to their old habits or old eating patterns but instead understand that balanced and healthy eating is part of a long and healthy life.
What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to lose weight? What errors cause people to just snap back to their old unhealthy selves? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?
One of the biggest problems I see is when people start out with the wrong approach. It’s better to start small and build momentum than to start fast and burn out fast. People try to do too much too soon, and this isn’t sustainable. They try to workout too hard and end up in pain, barely being able to walk. They throw away everything in their kitchen and replace it with healthy food, but then end up binging because they feel deprived. Or, they starve themselves thinking this is the key to fat loss which only leaves them feeling miserable. Instead, it’s better to make small changes and build on those changes over time.
How do we take all this information and integrate it into our actual lives? The truth is that we all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
One of the main roadblocks I see is this “all or nothing” mentality. It’s scary and overwhelming. No, you don’t have to give up your favorite foods and no, you don’t have to eat nothing but vegetables if you don’t want to. You can be successful with a flexible and moderate approach. Again, start with just one simple thing like eating 3 servings of vegetables a day and build on that. Marathon runners don’t start running 26 miles day one, they gradually build up to that distance and train for that distance. The same is true with becoming fit and healthy, we apply small amounts of the information we’ve learned at a time and train for a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is born with trail, error, and perseverance. It doesn’t just happen or happen overnight.
On the flip side, how can we prevent these ideas from just being trapped in a rarified, theoretical ideal that never gets put into practice? What specific habits can we develop to take these intellectual ideas and integrate them into our normal routine?
One of the most powerful things a person can do to take charge of their own nutrition is to simply start tracking the food they are putting into their bodies. Most people tend to eat very mindlessly so by tracking the food they eat; it creates awareness of not only how much they are eating but the kinds of foods they are eating. Once this awareness occurs, it is much easier to begin making small changes to their diets in order to reduce the amounts they are eating and balance their macronutrients better. Technology has made this process so much easier and there are many great smartphone apps for food tracking. The ultimate goal of food tracking is to train one’s brain to be a better intuitive eater. This doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen for people who commit to the process.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Make peace with food. So many people have an unhealthy relationship with food. They are either afraid of certain foods or they let food control their entire lives. Food is how we fuel our bodies and food is neither good nor bad, it’s just energy. Yes, certain foods can make your body feel and function better than other foods, but all food can be part of a healthy diet. You eat so you can live, but you don’t live so you can eat. I hope that all people can put food in its right place and make peace with it and with eating.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would have to say Oprah. She is someone who has been tackling this issue for decades, first on her show and now continuing on her network. She’s allowed people to see her use bad methods to lose weight, regain that weight, lose it again, (repeat), and finally come to a place where she is focused on eating healthy, enjoying all foods, and comfortable with her body. She’s a light, not only to those struggling with weight and eating but to the world in general.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can visit my website https://healthyeater.com where I have written a lot of helpful guides and articles on how to eat healthy and lose weight in a sustainable way.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.