The key to any form of weight loss is learning how to reduce calorie intake. To begin with, keeping it simple is the best solution, and we'll look at the easiest way to get started and without the difficulty of counting calories.
First of all, what is a calorie?
If we want to know how to reduce calorie intake, it's important that we know where we get them from. The basic answer to this, and the main one I'm interested in for now is that it's a unit of energy in an item of any food or drink. You can find the more scientific answer to this on the Wikipedia entry.
As a guide, the NHS UK recommends that the average person has an intake 2500 calories per day for men, and 2000 calories per day for women. This figure is for the average person and is the ideal amount to maintain a healthy weight.
How to reduce calorie intake, without counting.
Let's assume that you've never done any form of calorie counting (like most of us), the thought of calculating calories and working out how to reduce them effectively can seem a dauting task.
I would recommend that to begin with, you don't count your calories. You can still reduce your calorie intake, even if you don't know how many calories you're consuming.
Track what you're eating right now. Keep it simple.
Just put this to the test with me for just two weeks, and I guarantee you'll feel better for doing it.
Most of us probably can't remember what we had to eat for the last 7 days exactly, so starting from today just write down everything you eat and drink for the next 7 days from the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to sleep. Good or bad, it really doesn't matter.
Chocolate bar? Write it down.
Bag of chips? Write it down.
Don't miss anything, don't think "I know I shouldn't eat that, so I won't write it down" The only way you can start to drop calories, is if you're honest with yourself.
You don't need to worry about the amount of calories just yet, but it will useful if you write down the portion size. If you went to the movies, and had a large popcorn, write down "Large popcorn". If the bag of chips was 300g then make a note of it.
Write down your weekly physical activities.
If you're reading this post, you may be thinking "Well I don't do any!" but you still do some form of physical activity, whether it's walking from the car park to your office, upstairs to the toilet, cleaning the house, these activities burn calories.
So just jot down the general type of things that you do in a typical week. If you do already go running, then great, jot that down too.
Your list after a week.
So after a week you should have two lists that document a) the food you've eaten and b) typical physical activities you've done throughout the week.
This might be one day from your food diary:
- Frosties cereal with whole milk
- Cup of coffee with two sugars and milk
- Breakfast bar
- Jam Donut at the office
- Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwich with mayonnaise from Asda/Walmart
- Cup of coffee with two sugars
- Bag of crisps or chips
- Can of Coca Cola
- Slice of shortbread
- Lasgane with fries
- Can of coca-cola
- Glass of wine (300ml)
- Piece of toast with butter before bed
- Walked to the shop for newspaper
- Walked from car park up stairs to office desk
- Took a walk to shop at lunchbreak for food
- Walked back to the car from office
- Took the dog for a walk for around 1 mile
- Cut the grass in the garden
You get the idea. It's nothing difficult other than writing down what you did and what you ate and drank for 7 days. Don't miss anything, you don't have to show this to anyone, but if you can't be honest with yourslef, then it's not going to work.
This only started working for me becasue I acknowledged to myself what I was eating. It wasn't great to read, but by writing it all down it was quite shocking to see what I was consuming.
Join the Fat2Fit Club and I'll send you bi-weekly emails full of motivation, interviews product reviews & giveaways.
Dropping the calories - take out just two food or drink items.
Now you have a benchmark. You don't need to know how many calories are there. To begin with you can simply look at the food and decide what you are going to reduce for the following week.
I'm hoping you're going to know which foods to take out, the unhealthy sugary foods such chocolates, biscuits, fizzy drinks and breaded/wheat products which are loaded with sugar too.
Duplicate your list, then put a line through the things you are going to leave out or reduce.
I would recommend that if you have 2 cans of fizzy drink such as Coca-Cola or Pepsi, to leave just one of those out to begin with. A regular Coke has 139 calories, so taking out two cans alone (278 calories) is reducing your recommended daily intake by a staggering 10%! On the whole week that is 1,946 calories alone that you have not consumed.
If you can take out a little more, then great. But start with just a couple of things. The main point is that you're now taking action!
Add in a little more activity.
Now look at your physical activity list.
Let's say you go shopping, and always try to park your car close to the store. Make a point this week of parking further away and walking that bit extra at a brisk pace. Use a basket around the store instead of a trolley.
By doing this you're going to be using extra energy, and by using extra energy you're using... calories!
When you get to work, park a little further away, get to the office doors, and then walk back to the car like you forgot something. Walk at a brisk pace.
WebMD website says that 30 minutes of brisk walking can burn around 130 calories per day! So the walking that you do already, make it brisk to burn off those extra calories. If you already walk the dog, walk him/her a little faster than you normally would and get a little sweat going.
I even wrote a quick article on some outdoor excercise ideas you can do to get you started.
...and plenty of water
We don't drink anywhere near enough water, and I know I'm guilty of this too. (I just got up to ghet a glass of water, see writing things down helps!). If you add to this just 2 litres of water per day, you WILL lose weight in those 7 days. It's almost impossible not to.
Two things will happen:
You will go to the toilet more, this is good and your body will flush away excess water weight. You're feeding it water, so it won't hold on to it like a camel.
And secondly, you'll be burning extra calories on those extra trips to the bathroom!
14 days of making a difference.
Just 14 days to begin with. 7 days tracking what you already eat and do, and the next 7 days changing it. Let's look at a very basic example, which I believe anyone can achieve:
2 cans of coke per day = 278 calories not consumed
30 minutes of brisk walking per day = 130 calories used
So in one day, we've reduced your calorie intake by just over 400 calories per day which is 2800 calories in a week! That's over 1 day's worth of calories, taking away only 2 drinks per day!
You do NOT need to excessively reduce your food intake to reduce calories. To begin with, you need to mindful of what you are doing. You can achieve this becasue you will be focusing on it.
Write everything down. A tiny notebook, a small pad.
Try it, and I promise you will feel better.
There's no "money back guarantee", because this is not a sales gimmick, and I'm not writing this for any other reason than I know it works. Just by reducing your sugary intake, it can help with things like heartburn and indegestion, things that I was suffering really badly from before cleaning up my diet.
Just to clarify, I'm not against eating these kinds of foods at all, but as you progress, it's easier to moderate what you eat and when you eat it.
I tried things previously that were to the extreme, like going zero carbs, and high protein. These things can and do work, but just keep it simple to start out.
Calorie counting is beneficial, knowing exactly what's going in and out of your body gives you total control. The slimming groups are good, but they use a points system based on the calories that foods have so you still won't know how many calories you're consuming.
The fitness experts who are ripped, full of muscle and little fat will likely be counting their calories, becasue the smallest adjustments will make a difference to how they look. If you're just starting out, then the first step is to reduce the calories initially.
Once you can see this works, which you will, you can then step it up further.