Losing weight is one of the most common fitness related goals people have. It can also be one of the most challenging, due to the fact that there is no single action that will directly result in weight loss. Most times an individual will need to make several lifestyle changes in order to maximize weight loss potential.
The first thing many people will look to do is start exercising, which is a great way to help lose weight, but they may overlook another option that may actually be more effective.
At the most basic level, losing weight becomes a math equation. If your caloric intake is greater than your caloric expenditure, weight gain occurs. If caloric expenditure is greater than caloric intake, weight loss will occur. While there are plenty of trendy diets to try, this article is going to focus on the simplest form of weight loss through reducing calories consumed.
General dietary guidelines recommend the average adult woman to consume between 1,800 and 2,400 calories per day, while the average adult male should consume 2,400 and 3,200 to maintain a healthy weight. These guidelines are of course greatly dependent on age and activity level, and daily caloric needs will vary based on the individual. Now consider that a rate of weight loss around 1 to 2 pounds per week is considered a effective, as it avoids drastic weight changes that may not be sustainable long term. A pound of fat is roughly 3500 calories, so losing 1 pound per week would be equal to cutting out 500 calories per day. Drastic weight loss diets can be dangerous as they can cause nutrient deficiency, resulting in fatigue and even slowing the metabolism. Slow and steady wins the race right?
The First Step
For starters one of the most important steps to cutting calories is tracking how many you are actually consuming throughout the day. We have another post here on the importance of tracking your daily food intake.
Not just food changes
Another important thing to keep in mind, it isn’t only the calories you are eating, but the ones you are drinking. Some lattes at popular coffee shops can run in the 500 calorie range alone. Popular sports drinks can easily have between 100 - 150 calories, which will be burned off easily if you are drinking them during exercise, but if they are just being consumed through the day, those calories can add up quickly. Switching the fancy latte or Frappuccino for a regular coffee, and turning to water instead of the extra sugar loaded sports drink could account for the 500 calories per day you are looking to eliminate. Keep in mind, you can still have those drinks you like, but maybe they become a treat 2 times a week instead of 2 drinks a day. The days you drink them, you may have to cut calories elsewhere to meet your goals.
Increasing your intake of vegetables during large meals can also help reduce calories, by reducing the amount of less nutrient dense foods being consumed. Nutrient density is a way of describing the nutritional value of a food based on it's calorie count. For example, leafy greens such as spinach and kale are known as nutrient dense because they are lower in calories but very high in vitamins and minerals. Less nutrient dense foods such as processed foods high in sugar will contain significantly less nutritional value, but likely be higher in calories.
This can be achieved much more easily when preparing meals at home, as you will have greater control over portion sizes. When preparing meals it can also be helpful to use smaller plates, as it will prevent over serving just to fill the plate.
Salad is always a healthy meal, right?
Many people look at salads as a diet staple, but it is important to remember that a salad is only as healthy as the ingredients in it. Look for healthier options especially when it comes to dressings. Heavier dressings can add up to an extra 200 or more calories per serving. This can easily turn a healthy salad into something diet destroying.
A game of keep-away
Trying to keep junk food out of the house can be difficult, but it can also be one of the best ways to remove it from your diet. Even the strongest willed people can struggle to stay away from bad foods when they are right in front of them. The pull of these diet derailing items is much less significant if you are driving to the store instead of walking to the kitchen for them.
Small changes make the long term difference
Too many people believe dieting means not ever eating some of the foods you love, and many believe it means not eating much at all. Unfortunately these misconceptions are so widespread they have tainted the word “diet”. The truth is cutting small amounts; per meal, per day, consistently, can have a large impact on weight loss. Finding a few ways to reduce calories that you can maintain for a long period of time will go much further to achieving a weight loss goal than a crash diet or denying yourself foods you love ever will.