“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” –Albert Einstein
In Part 1 of Weight Loss 101, I discussed the importance of creating a calorie deficit over time.
In this post, I’m going to discuss tips on how to create a calorie deficit. I’m a big fan of finding loopholes or hacks, if you will, in all aspects of life. Weight loss is no exception. There are definitely easier and harder ways to lose weight and I’ve migrated towards the tactics that are easiest for me and that make the most sense for me to implement into my lifestyle. For example, I like to eat big, satisfying meals. This is something that I enjoy immensely and that I’m not willing to sacrifice. So I’ve designed my personal calorie deficit program around this. The approach won’t be the same for everyone, but hopefully these tips will either help you directly or help give you some ideas on what will work best for you. There’s no one size fits all approach, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try different things.
Tip 1: Find a way to start tracking your calories.
I use MyFitnessPal because it’s free and easy. It takes only a couple of minutes per day to log your information and if you’re not willing to sacrifice a couple of minutes per day to lose weight and get healthier then I have nothing more to say to you. The most important thing tracking your calories does is increases awareness. Most people have no idea how many calories they are putting into their bodies or how many calories they are expending. But since weight loss is a numbers game, these are things that you must know if you want to win the game. I think a lot of people avoid tracking their calories because they don’t want to be held accountable for their numbers. If they don’t know their numbers, they have an excuse for not losing weight. Take responsibility, get your numbers right, and you’ll start to see results.
Tip 2: Get used to fasting.
People need to learn to stop being scared of going without food for periods of 12-24 hours. Our hunter gatherer ancestors did this all the time and they are leaner and fitter than we are. I now eat only two meals per day almost 100% of the time (skipping breakfast or replacing it with a cup of coffee) and I love the kick start it gives to my net calorie burn. It gives me so much more flexibility to enjoy a much larger meal later in the day and still achieve my calorie deficit. It has also dramatically improved my appetite control. These days I don’t even get hungry until around noon or later sometimes. Finally, I feel more alert and productive and less sluggish during the day. If you’re not used to fasting, don’t start out by fasting daily. Start out fasting once a week and see how it goes. Then build your way up. I started out once per week and it took me about three years to work my way up to daily fasting, so be patient.
Tip 3: Eat satisfying meals that are low in calories.
This is easier said than done, but the best way to do it is to eat whole foods, not unprocessed junk. The other day for dinner I ate a large spinach cobb salad, two tilapia filets with garlic, and a heaping pan of homemade vegetable fried rice and this didn’t even crack 1,200 calories. Not to mention, I was stuffed. On the other hand, I could have eaten a medium Dunkin Donuts Frozen Mocha Coffee and a blueberry muffin. This would be over 1,000 calories and almost 200g of carbs (not the good kind either) plus I’d still be hungry. See my point? Today, food companies and restaurants have made it ridiculously easy for us to eat over 2,000 calories in one sitting. But if you just eat whole foods, you’ll be full way before you hit an embarrassingly high number. Just be sure to watch the fats and oils. Even the healthy ones pack in about 2.5 times more calories per gram than protein and carbs.
Tip 4: Find an activity you enjoy and do it regularly.
Controlling your diet is the most important factor in creating a calorie deficit simply because it’s way easier to not eat a few hundred calories than it is to burn a few hundred calories from exercise. However, exercise is still important because every time you move and engage your muscles, you’re burning more calories than you would if you were sitting on your butt. This adds up over time so you may end up with an extra 2,000 calories or more per week to play with that you wouldn’t have if you were inactive. Think of it as a nice dinner at your favorite restaurant! You haven’t earned it until you’ve burned it! You’re not going to stick to an exercise routine if you hate it, so pick something you like. It can be anything. Walking, running, jump rope, climbing, soccer, basketball, golf, swimming, CrossFit, Wii Fit, I don’t care. Just do something.
I’ve summarized these four tips in my video (4 minutes, 45 seconds):
Next up in the Weight Loss 101 series is Part 3 (for those of you ready for the advanced class) where I will get into some more detailed number crunching and macronutrient calculations targeted more specifically towards fat loss and ideal body composition rather than just weight loss. Stay tuned!