Carefully track your diet for 2 weeks
First, we need to find out exactly how much you’re eating and drinking. That will show us how many calories you’re taking in. We can then compare that to your calorie expenditure and see the deficit or surplus you have. The most important thing is to be really honest here. Everything needs to be counted, every random bite, even the secret snacks you pretend don’t exist.
Here are a few common places where people make mistakes in counting calorie intake. This can help you get a more accurate number at the end of the 2-week period.
Tasting while cooking – If you cook a lot for other people, you need to count this in, even little bites, licks and sips add up over time.
Alcohol – Yes, some alcoholic beverages have fewer while others have more calories but all need to be counted.
Sweet beverages – It doesn’t matter if it’s freshly squeezed orange juice or a Pepsi, count it.
Eating out – Some restaurants will show calories on the menu; with others, you may have to ask to get to a number.
Weekends – Unfortunately, weekends are often when people eat extra because of the extra free time, so pay heightened attention to Saturday and Sunday.
Condiments, dressings, cooking oils, butters – All of these items are rich in fat, which is high in calories, even a spoonful can make a difference.
Finishing your kid’s meal, tasting your colleague’s dessert – Even meals that aren’t yours count.
Cream in your coffee – The coffee alone has nearly zero calories but cream is high in calories.
Make sure to weigh food, just guessing or eyeballing is not accurate. Even experienced nutritionists are bad at estimating caloric values that way. This will be hard work. Counting every calorie eaten is time consuming and will probably get annoying. But the data you get will reveal a lot, so it’s worth the hassle.
Review after the 2 weeks of tracking
After two weeks of hard work, you will definitely find out something interesting. There are a few possibilities. The best possible outcome is that you paid close attention to food which helped you see all the calories you didn’t see before. This allowed you to cut them out, create a calorie deficit and start seeing lower numbers on the scale.
A much more common outcome is that you missed tracking several meals or even days during the 2-week period. That’s also OK because this helps you see something else. You can think back and reflect on what was going on those days when you didn’t track your intake. Whatever the reason, the important thing to take away is that it’s really tough to maintain such a big calorie deficit and maybe it’s time to try something else, an experiment!
Try eating more
If something hasn’t been working, it’s always worth giving something else a try. Try adding an extra 300-400 kcal to your daily calorie target and keep this up for 2 weeks. Yeah, it may sound scary to add that much after being on a low-calorie diet. But remember, if it doesn’t work, you can always go back. This experiment is just to test if a smaller calorie deficit would be more tolerable and sustainable.
Try tracking without a low-calorie target
Another experiment you can try is to forget about a calorie target and simply focus on tracking your regular diet without trying to reduce low calories. Sure, you may not get results for these 2 experimental weeks. But you will build the skill of tracking accurately and consistently. If you do this right, you will also learn the caloric value of all of those foods that were missing from your tracking previously. At the end of this experiment, you will also have a true baseline calorie intake that can help you define a realistic calorie deficit going forward.
Try a completely different approach
If you’ve done a variation of the above-mentioned already, maybe it’s time to take your experiment somewhere completely different. Maybe calorie tracking is not the method that works for your personality and lifestyle. The good thing is there are many ways to help create a calorie deficit and lose weight. You can focus more on the quality of your diet instead, getting more protein and vegetables and less processed food. You can also give hunger and fullness metrics a try. Or you can ease up on dieting completely and invest your energy and focus on increasing energy expenditure through exercise and improving your sleep and stress management.