Losing weight is extremely simple in theory: eat less calories than you expend and over time you will lose body fat.
In practice, however, eating telling yourself to eat less calories can be similar to just telling yourself to learn another language. Both are extremely simple to do in theory, they just take time… and adherence.
That’s the tricky part; the adherence. There’s a myriad of reasons why people fail to adhere to eating less calories than they burn. Some simple ones are:
- They are trying to lose weight too aggressively and can’t will themselves to overcome the cravings, which usually results in binging.
- They don’t understand ‘calories in, calories out’ and instead focus on specific macronutrients (usually carbs or fat) or types of food (bread, and some people go as far to say veggies are bad for you).
- They try to will themselves into only eating “healthy” food, which just so happens to exclude all the food they do like. It doesn’t matter how many times you watch Rocky, this won’t work 99% of the time.
- They wing it day to day and don’t have a plan for how they’re going to respond to various life events, such as parties, tight schedules, or shopping while they’re hungry, which is honestly a nightmare waiting to happen.
So, I decided to throw together a set of tips that should help you stay on track. The beauty of it all? They’re both simple in concept and in practice.
When talking about food volume, I mean how dense the food is physically compared to how many calories are in it. Some great examples would be chicken and broccoli.
Four ounces of cooked chicken has 32g of protein and only ~130calories. For comparison, Lucky Charms has about 120 calories per 1oz of cereal, and olive oil has about 120 calories per 0.5oz or 1tbsp. Potato chips are another great example, usually having about 120-160 calories per 1oz of chips.
Broccoli has about 30 calories per 3oz of broccoli. That’s about 10 calories per ounce of food, compared to chips coming in at ~140 calories per ounce of food on average.
I eat an ounce of chips while deciding if I want to eat chips! When a bag says “8 servings” I take that as an appetizer!
Have you ever tried to eat 8 servings of broccoli or chicken in one sitting?
And that is my point – when you eat food that is very high in volume with low calorie density (calories per ounce) you will have a very hard time overeating, which leads to my next tip!
Prioritize Lean Proteins and Veggies
As you can see, lean proteins and veggies like chicken breast and broccoli go a long way when it comes to making you feel a bit more satisfied while not being high in calories. So use this information to your advantage!
Build your meals around lean proteins and veggies. A lean protein is just a protein that is low in fat (i.e. chicken breast, lean ground turkey, shrimp, etc.). As a general rule, make your plate 1/3 lean protein, 1/3 veggies, and 1/3 your choice. As long as you’re not loading up on pure olive oil, you should be fine. This will not only help you keep your calorie count in check, but you’ll be nourishing your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs via the veggies. Also, quick shoutout to fruits, they make great snacks (not super low in calories, but still phenomenal to eat due to the micronutrients. Just mind your serving sizes).
Be mindful of cooking with oil and butter (not bad, just calories you might not be aware of)
I’ve recently gotten into fancier cooking lately. Being at home and having little to do led to me watching Master Chef and trying to recreate some of the recipes, many of which are heavy on oil, butter, and heavy cream.
These taste great, and are fine in moderation, but oils will add a TON of calories to your meals. If you’re going to use oil, measure how much you use and record it.
If you’re already having a difficult time keeping to your diet goals, I would recommend using an oil spray that uses substantially less oil to coat your pan when you cook. There will still be some calories (it only says zero calories on the can due to labeling loopholes), but it should be minuscule enough to where it won’t interfere.
Avoid Drinking Your Calories
This is a simple one – if you’re having trouble losing weight, look for calories you consume via drinks. This could be fancy Starbucks drinks, sodas, fruit juices, beer and other alcohol, and probably 100 different drinks I’ve never heard of.
All of those things are fine occasionally, but I would recommend not including them as regular staples. Build your drinks around water, tea, black coffee and maybe a creamer or two. Just remember, when you drink your calories, you’re basically not going to satisfy your hunger hardly at all.
Drink your calories rarely, and when you do, let it be in moderation.
Stick to water and zero calorie drinks like carbonated water, diet sodas (no aspartame is not going to kill you, you will literally drown before you see any ‘poisonous’ effects), and black coffee.
Eat On a Loose Schedule
Another big stumbling block I see for people is not having a set eating schedule. I’m not saying this has to be ultra-rigid, but try to have meals within 30-60 minutes of a regular time. This will help you avoid going too long without eating, which can sometimes lead to binging episodes AKA your eyes were bigger than your stomach. An example layout would be:
7-8am – Breakfast
10-11am – Snack
12-1pm – Lunch
3-4pm – Snack
5-6pm – Dinner
Once again, this is just an example. Your times can be whatever you set them to, the idea is just that you stick with it. Hunger is, in large part, a biological clock telling you it’s time to eat. It can be conditioned, making it both predictable and manageable.
Don’t Think In Black and White Terms
No foods are evil, some are just impractical for your goals.
Like I’ve been showing throughout this list, everything comes down to whether or not it fits into your goals. Pizza, cookies, ice cream? Not necessarily off the table, but there are ways to including them into your diet that are and are not conducive to your success.
Having pizza and a beer at your annual football party? Probably not going to affect much in the long run.
Going out every weekend and gorging yourself on beer and fro-yo? Yeah, that’s likely a behavior that needs changing.
It’s okay to go off diet and consume some extra calories occasionally, especially if you’re not a competitive lifter and have no obligations to hit a weigh-in!
What you need to understand is this: losing weight happens over long stretches of times, usually months. Just like eating well for one day won’t get you your dream body, eating poorly one day will not destroy your body either. If you have proper habits in place, then enjoying other ‘junk’ foods every so often should just be… enjoyed!
Thus, look at food not as good or bad, but rather whether or not it fits the current situation and goals you have in mind. Sometimes weight loss can take a temporary backseat. Treat each day like a new day and get back on track.
Find Food You Like
Finally, we’re at the end. At at the end, I’ll leave you with a simple tip:
Find food you enjoy!
So many people fall off the bike by sticking a rod in their own wheels. I personally enjoy eating chicken breast, roasted veggies, and rice on a pretty much daily basis.
You do not have to eat like that.
There’s plenty of ways to hit your caloric goals. But none of them are worth entertaining if you can’t at least moderately enjoy the food you eat. If you absolutely abhor cauliflower… don’t eat it! There’s plenty of veggies in the world for you to choose from, just try a different one! Don’t like chicken? Then try lean beef, turkey, shrimp, pork, you name it!
If you’re going to succeed, then you’re going to be in this for the long haul. You cannot rely on willpower alone; you have to work smart as well as work hard. Set yourself up for success by eliminating any stumbling blocks you can. Find food you enjoy and build your diet around that.