Written by: Tom Lyonette
Counting calories can be effective for some, and not for others. And that’s okay! It’s difficult to capture everything, and it can create feelings of anxiety and guilt. Yes, losing weight requires burning more energy than is consumed. But it’s not always necessary to weigh and calculate everything you eat!
Observing Your Calorie Intake
Start by tracking your eating habits. Write down your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. And don’t forget your beverages! After a couple of weeks, look back at your tracking and see where you’re consuming extra calories.
Did you upgrade to the large fries with your takeout? Skipped your healthy packed lunch to eat out instead? Grabbed another soda instead of some water? Tracking this way makes it easy to see what you’re consuming and where you can reduce or adjust. And you won’t have to do any calculations!
Weighing yourself is a simple way to measure changes to your body composition. If the scale isn’t your thing, then take monthly measurements of your waist, arms, and legs. As a very general rule, if your scale/measurements are going up, then you are in calorie excess. If your scale/measurements are going down, then you are in a calorie deficit.
Consuming ‘Sneaky Calories’
I hadn’t experienced a ‘double-double’ before moving to Canada! For many people, having a high-calorie hot beverage is how they start and end their day. If you're drinking two or three double-doubles a day, try taking one of those double-doubles out. With that simple change, you're cutting out up to 2000 calories a week. That's 8000 calories a month, which is the equivalent of eating a 12lb turkey -- this is an extreme example, but the principle of it applies wherever you’re at right now.
Often, a client’s alcohol intake is a good first place I look for those easy-to-cut calories. On average, a pint of beer or a glass of wine will carry 200-300 calories. We don’t think about the sneaky calories in the glass or two we have with dinner, but they add up quickly.
Now, I’m not here to take away your coffee, alcohol, or the other treats you enjoy. As a coach, I rarely suggest removing something completely. Simple adjustments and reductions are often enough to bring about significant change!
Overindulging at Social Events
Whenever I talk to my clients about social events, I always ask them the same question: ‘What are you looking forward to the most about that event?’. And the answers are generally the same; they’re looking forward to seeing their friends and celebrating the day. It’s the people that you’re truly going to a social event for, not the cookies, crisps, or alcohol. When put into this perspective, it becomes a lot easier to approach avoiding the overindulging and consuming of extra calories.
Think about what you normally consume at an event -- Do you have seconds? Is having dessert a must? Or that extra beer after dinner? Now consider how important these things are to you. If you love a second helping of a friend's famous BBQ, then skip dessert. If alcohol isn’t that important to you, then skip the drink and have some dessert (Want extra incentive not to drink that isn’t calorie counting related? Offer to be the Designated Driver at the event!). Focus on what is most important to you, and reduce or remove what isn’t.
Skipping Meals and Intermittent Fasting
We are awake a lot longer than our ancestors thanks to electricity making our “daylight” hours last as long as we want, and as a result our eating window has increased. We’re eating throughout the day and snacking late into the evening. This puts extra pressure on our digestive system because it rarely has the 8-12 hour rest it needs.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t require skipping meals, only adjusting your eating times. Try reducing your eating window to 12 hours and take note of how you feel. If you're always forcing yourself to eat breakfast, then try skipping it. If you’re a late-night snacker, then try to cut off your snacks earlier in the evening. Everyone is different, and you need to listen to your body and do what feels good for you.
Skipping meals and intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Medical conditions, eating disorders, and mental health can all play a role in how we interact with food. Always consult with a professional before making any extreme changes to your diet.
Setting Yourself up For Success
These days, it’s become difficult to avoid the fridge when our office is set up right beside it! Kitchen islands and coffee tables have become our desks and break rooms. But even if you’re not working from home, grabbing a snack can feel like a great boredom buster. So how do you set yourself up for success when you get snacky?
My first recommendation is to change up your environment. Getting outside every day is important. It makes you aware of the world beyond your four walls; you get a dose of vitamin D; and you get some exercise. So rather than grabbing a snack out of boredom, break the monotony and go for a walk outside. You’ll avoid the extra calories while benefiting your physical and mental health.
My second recommendation is meal-prep. If I’m hungry I’ll eat whatever is there. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, or that I’m a personal trainer. Preparing meals ahead of time is what makes me successful with my eating habits. When I’m hungry I can go to the fridge, grab a healthy precooked meal, and pop it in the microwave. Set yourself up for success each time you open the fridge by finding a simple meal-prep method that works for you.
You Don’t Have To Do It Alone
I say this a lot because it’s important: Each person is different. We all have our own preferences, needs, and goals. Minor dietary changes can be simple enough to do on your own, but for an entire overhaul of your diet, find a coach to guide you. You can reach your goals in a way that’s right for you by working with a coach that is dedicated to your success.
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Tom Lyonette is a former soccer player and endurance athlete specialising in lower back pain recovery, weight-loss and endurance sports. He will help you through the process of change, challenge you to improve, and support you by keeping you accountable.