Whatever diet you follow, and however much weight you need to lose, there is one inescapable fact you need to grasp: unless you take in less calories than your body needs to function on a daily basis, you will not lose weight. For every pound you lose, you need to consume 3500 calories less than your body needs, so counting calories properly is essential. Here’s how to get the numbers right.
Establish how many calories your body needs
Everyone is an individual in terms of calorie requirements. Your height, weight, age, sex, and normal activity levels all impact on your body’s needs, so the first thing to do is to establish your personal daily calorie count. The easiest way to do this is to use an online calorie calculator. Once you have the baseline figure, you can set about eating less calories than you need, so you lose that excess weight.
Work out a healthy balance
If your body needs 2000 calories a day and you set your weight loss calorie count at 1500 a day, you should lose at least a pound a week – more if you incorporate some exercise. You’ll lose weight even if you eat 1500 calories of chocolate, but it’s not a healthy way to proceed. For optimal health as you lose weight, and to be sure your body gets the nutrients it needs, your calorie count should achieve a healthy balance.
A good starting point is a diet where 50% of your calories come from carbohydrates, 30% from protein and 20% from fat. This should ensure a healthy weight loss with few hunger pangs. Don’t go too low with the calorie count – the recommended minimum is 1200 for women and 1800 for men.
Watch the weight
This isn’t about your weight, it’s about the weight of the foods you eat. Guessing shouldn’t come into it, especially with high calorie foods. For example, 1oz of Cheddar cheese weighs in at around 114 calories. Guesstimates are notoriously optimistic, and if you serve up two ounces of cheese instead of one, and you do it every day, that’s an extra 800 calories on the bill. Over 4 weeks, that’s enough extra calories to gain 1lb in weight – and that’s just on a single food item, so weight and portion control is vital.
There are some scales that actually count the calories as you weigh the foods. These can be expensive, but you may consider it a worthwhile investment if you get easily bored with counting calories.
Keep a record
Okay, it’s boring, but it’s no good counting calories unless you’re going to keep a record of everything you eat and drink. Back in the day, that involved a notebook and pen, but these days, you can set up a spreadsheet or use an online calorie tracker. to keep a record of your progress.
One advantage of keeping an accurate record is that if you have a special occasion coming up, you can ‘bank’ calories to spend on the day. It’s so much easier than trying to cut back after the event. A calorie tracker will also help you to check that you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs.
Counting calories is a flexible way to lose weight and, if you do it properly, it’s a guaranteed success route to a slimmer, fitter you. As you get into the swing of calorie counting, it becomes almost second nature, so it’s a natural way to establish a healthy eating habit.