If you’ve been following our series, you know that counting calories can be helpful but also pretty hard if you’re out in the real world. Let’s look at a few helpful tips and how to set up a follow-up plan that will allow you to maintain results long-term.
To start, you will find out your BMR, how much energy your body requires when resting, using an online calculator. Then you will try to estimate how much you burn through exercise and other factors mentioned in the previous article. That’s your energy expenditure. For your energy intake, you will download an app for tracking calories or get acquainted with a nutritional database.
Set a specific target
The next step is setting a target. If you want to lose fat, let’s say 5 kg, then you have to know how much energy that is. One gram of fat has 9 kcal so 5 kg has about 45 000 kcal. Now, if you try for a 500 kcal deficit every day, then, in theory, you should burn the 5 kg in 90 days. Depending on your current body composition and lifestyle, it can be challenging maintaining such a big deficit for that long. You will have to experiment to find out how big of a deficit are you able to handle and adjust your timetable based on that. It helps to consult a nutritionist or a dietitian if you want to avoid a few dead ends.
Have a follow-up plan
If you set a realistic target and stick to your plan, you should lose weight approximately in the estimated time. Unfortunately, the human body doesn’t like losing fat reserves. It will fight against it with increased hunger and metabolic efficiency. That’s why you have to know what to do after you reach your target weight.
Avoid processed foods
You can continue counting calories indefinitely but it is a lot easier if you can transition to a way of eating that is more intuitive and you only follow a few rules. One of these rules should be: avoid highly processed foods. They are very calorie dense. For example, 100 kcal of strawberries will weigh roughly 300 g but 100 kcal of milk chocolate will only weigh 20 g! That’s 15x as many calories per gram in chocolate. Highly processed foods are deceptively small and therefore make it easy for you to eat more them than you need.
Highly processed foods are also often much more attractive. They are all full of sugar, fat, and salt and have just the right texture. Your brain’s rewards centre lights up like a Christmas tree when you eat such ‘hyper-palatable’ foods. This reward (the same you get for sex, alcohol, and drugs) makes you want them more, even when you feel full.
Choose real foods for natural calorie restriction
Studies have shown that people who reduce the palatability of their diet are more likely to succeed and keep the weight off in the long-term. Real foods are much less palatable and much more satiating. Your diet when counting calories and especially your follow-up diet should consist mostly of real wholesome foods. That’s the easiest natural way to eat only as much as your body requires.