Losing weight and body fat is easy. But not in the way you’re thinking.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to weight loss. No miracle pill, no “magic” diet. It’s all about one thing... And that's being in a calorie deficit.
Being in a calorie deficit means you burn more calories than you consume each day. That’s it.
Whether you choose to eat keto, paleo, vegan, or carnivore - it can all work, as long as you are in a calorie deficit.
Whether you eat throughout the day, or choose to “Intermittent Fast” i.e. eating in a small window of the day… Again, it doesn’t matter when it comes down to weight loss, as long as you are in a calorie deficit.
That’s it! It’s really not rocket science.
So why, then, do so many people struggle with losing and maintaining their fitness goals?
It tends to revolve around two things:
- Lack of knowledge
- Lack of consistency
So in this blog post, we’ll help guide you through your weight-loss journey.
We’ll share some common misconceptions around nutrition, how to calculate how many calories you need to consume to lose weight, and some tips to stay consistent with your goals.
On top of that, we’ll throw in a bonus section at the end – a bunch of our favourite yummy low-calorie recipes which you can make at home!
Let’s start with knowledge.
A lot of people are unaware of the amount of food you actually need for your own body. It’s important to know the right type of food, and when.
It’s very common for people to overeat, for a few reasons:
- Eating too fast and not letting the food settle – it’s common to still think you’re hungry after eating. Give it 10-15 minutes, and you’ll find that you’re already satisfied.
- Not drinking enough water – a lot of times, people might think they’re hungry but they’re actually thirsty. Drink 1-2 glasses of water and see if you’re still hungry.
- Not knowing how much of something you actually need – it’s easy to get carried away when you’re actually enjoying the food. But did you know that sometimes, too much of a “good thing” is still bad for you?
For example – if you had a roast sweet potato with feta, tomatoes, and olive oil for dinner, would you consider this “healthy”?
Yes, it contains a lot of good nutrients & fats. However, a large sweet potato can weigh as much as 400g. That’s 80g of carbohydrates, which is almost the total daily recommended amount of carbohydrates for most people! You think that you’re having a “light and healthy” dinner, but the truth is, you’re eating more than what you actually need. Hence, the weight gain.
Quick tip – if you were to have a sweet potato, it’s better to weigh the amount in order to control your portions. 100-130g is classified as one serving, so weigh it and combine it with some protein and veggies for a more rounded meal.
However, don’t write off carbohydrates completely...
Sweet potatoes (and, well, other carbs) are delicious and are part of a balanced diet. Don’t be like other people who see carbs as the devil. Carbs can be super beneficial, especially when you’re training a lot. Your muscles need carbs to repair after some strenuous activity. When you train and left weights, make sure you eat enough carbs to help with recovery!
Now that we’ve got you thinking about your eating habits, let’s figure out how much you actually have to eat.
Here’s how to work out how many calories you need per day.
First step is to figure out how many calories your body needs each day to maintain your current weight. Here’s a quick formula to figure that out exactly.
Take your current weight (in pounds), and multiply it by the following:
- x13 (if you don’t exercise at all)
- x15 (if you exercise a few times weekly)
- x18 (if you exercise five days or more a week).
The number you’ll get is a rough idea of how many calories you’re most likely eating right now.
For example, if you weigh 165 pounds and exercise three days a week, then you would multiply 165 by 15 for a total of 2,475. This is your calorie intake, i.e. if you consume that much calories per day, you will maintain your 165 pounds.
It’s here that we go back to the idea of being in a calorie deficit. In order to achieve this (and lose weight), you need to make sure you consume less than what you actually burn. Or, you burn more than what you consume. Either way, you will be in a calorie deficit, and you’ll be on the way to losing weight!
In order to make it sustainable, it’s better not to go too crazy. There’s a reason why crash diets don’t work – it’s because they’re not sustainable. Adjust your calorie intake depending on how much you burn. Most people recommend reducing your daily calorie intake by between 500 to 1,000 calories as a start.
You can create this calorie deficit one of three ways:
- You can eat 500 to 1,000 fewer calories each day
- You can burn off 500 to 1,000 calories each day through exercise
- You can combine a little of both, eating 250 to 500 fewer calories while burning 250 to 500 calories each day, for example.
Now for consistency.
As you may have figured out right now, you will need to have a rough idea of just exactly how many calories the food you’re eating contain. Use a tracking app like My Fitness Pal, or Cronometer. This is a great way to help you keep track of what you’re consuming so you can figure out how much you need.
After that, it’s about being consistent. It’s cultivating the discipline to help you achieve your goals. Here are three great tips to start building that consistency:
- It’s important not to see what you’re doing as a “diet”, or else it won’t be sustainable. If you eat grilled chicken with broccoli for every meal, yes you’ll probably lose weight. But that’s no fun, and will be very difficult to maintain. Get some variety in your diet, but mind your calories.
- The concept of “cheat days” also doesn’t really help. It develops a bad habit of binging once in a while, and those extra calories add up over time. Instead, why not consider eating what you want, but in regulation. So if you haven’t hit your calories for the day, go for the pizza without feeling bad!
- And finally, it’s all about balance. If you’re going out for dinner, you can always choose the healthier option. Opt for grilled vegetables rather than fries, or grilled fish steak instead of fish pie. If it’s someone’s birthday and you want some cake, go ahead. You can balance those extra calories the day before or after, and eat a little bit less.
Here are a few more quick extra tips:
- If you’re making your own food, prepare them in advance to ensure the right amount.
- Again - make sure you drink enough water! You might just be thirsty. Water is calorie free!
- Get rid of any “non-food” foods in the house, i.e. foods which don’t give you any nutritional benefits. It's more likely that you'll end up eating them if you keep them.
- The amount of oil you use makes a huge difference to the amount of calories you consume. Try to cook with coconut oil, but be sparing. All oils contain a lot of fat and calories. Get a good pan so you need less oil to cook and the light spray oils often contain less calories.
- For fruits; the water and fiber content means that most contain relatively fewer calories. However, make sure you choose fruits with lower Glycemic Index whenever possible (like strawberries, oranges, peaches, and grapes). They’re naturally sweet, and can help satisfy your sugar cravings. We also recommend staying away from dried fruits and fruit juices, as they are sometimes packed with sugar.
It's about portion control.
At the end of the day, it’s about controlling your intake depending on your physical activity. You can either count calories (using the apps that we mentioned in the section above), or you can use this trick to control your portions. The only thing you’ll need – your hand.
Use your hand to figure out the right portions you need each day for proteins, veggies, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
- For proteins – do three, palm-sized portions per day (or one for each meal). That’s roughly 27 grams, for a total of 107g per day. Try it with chicken, eggs, fish, or Greek yogurt!
- For veggies – do 4-6 fist-sized portions per day (or one to two for each meal). Think fist-sized amounts of spinach, carrots, cauliflower, or tomatoes.
- For carbs – do 6 cupped handfuls per day (or one to two handfuls for each meal). That’s roughly 45g per meal, for a total of 180g per day. This is perfect for beans, blueberries, or oats, but try to estimate it with sweet potatoes as well.
- And finally, for health fats – do 8 thumb-sized portions (or 2 thumbs for each meal). That’s roughly 20g of fats per meal, for a total of 80g per day. Use it to gauge how much olive oil to use while cooking or in salads. Try it with walnuts, chia seeds, and avocados as well.
Putting It All Together - Meal Planning
Finally, this section shows you how to create a meal plan that would help you meet your daily nutrition goals, that fits your schedule, and that will keep you on track for success.
A little planning goes a long way, and it’s going to make everything convenient so you don’t have to worry about it that much throughout the week!
- Plan your meals. Decide how many times a day you will eat. If you can, plan out the times. This way, you don’t have to think about anymore, and just stick to the schedule.
- Choose your source of protein for each day. Aim for 25-30 grams with each meal.
- Choose your source of fat. Check out the previous section for some tips! Fat is good (in regulation), but aware of your fat intake. Follow the rule of thumb in the previous section, and you’ll be fine!
- Choose your source of carbohydrates. Prioritise non-starchy carbs, then fruit, then starchy carbs. We recommend having vegetables in every meal per day.
- Make the necessary adjustments. Now that you have planned out the meals, you may need to adjust the amounts to meet your daily needs. When making these final adjustments,
- Aim to reach your calorie goal of +/- 50 calories.
- Try to reach your protein goal of +/- 10 grams.
- Start with the prep, and stick to the plan!
Some low calorie dishes we recommend:
- Protein Pancakes
- Overnight Oats
- Tuna Nicoise Salad
- Oven baked fish
- Chicken stir fry
- Chicken & spinach fillets
Hopefully you learn a thing or two that would help you on your fitness journey. Remember, food is a crucial part of nutrition. You don’t need to starve yourself in order to lose weight. With the right knowledge, and with the proper discipline, you can actually eat in order to achieve your fitness goals!