I’m currently working on two seemingly contradictory goals – trying to lose a bit of weight while developing a healthier, more relaxed attitude towards food. So how does one create the requisite calorie deficit for weight loss without turning into a crazy person? Here are my tips:
1. Estimate your calories – it’s difficult to calculate your exact caloric intake unless you spend hours measuring and weighing your food, researching nutritional data on the Internet and avoiding situations where you’ll have to eat food you didn’t prepare (I’ve veered in that direction before and it’s not pretty). If you want to continue to lead a normal life while losing, you need to be comfortable eating food without knowing its nutritional content. Try to eat as many home-cooked meals as you can but in situations where you have no control over your food, make reasonably healthy choices, estimate the number of calories consumed and move on.
2. Give yourself some wiggle room - rather than aim for an exact number of calories per day, aim to stay within a certain range. For weight loss, 1400-1700 usually works for me so I plan my meals and snacks to total about 1450 calories. This gives me a little buffer in case I feel like eating something else or something unexpected comes up that interferes with my plan. It also makes up for some of the guess work that calorie counting entails.
3. Plan free days – I find it really easy to eat at a deficit on days when I don’t have any social events planned but if I’m going out for dinner or have a special event to attend, it’s nearly impossible to eat under 2000 calories. To deal with this, I usually pick one or two days per week (usually Friday and/or Saturday) where I don’t track my calories. I still eat mostly healthy on these days and try not to go overboard during my “free” meals but I don’t stress about it. If anything, I consider it a workout for my metabolism that will actually be conducive to weight loss in the long run. Junk science perhaps, but it works for me. More importantly, it allows me to have a life on weekends without feeling anxious about being in social situations where I’ll be tempted by high-calorie food and alcohol.
4. Stay consistent - sane weight loss = slow weight loss. The pounds are not just going to fall off but if you keep at it, you will eventually get results. And unlike the results of an extreme crash diet, these results will actually last (and your life won’t completely suck while you’re losing).
5. Keep your perspective - if you’re only trying to shed a bit of vanity weight, remind yourself that it’s not the be all, end all of your existence. Try to stick to healthy eating and exercise as much as you can but don’t let your weight loss goals cause you to miss out on things you really want to experience because you’re scared of eating too much or missing a workout.
Yes, losing weight requires discipline and there will be times when you have to say no to treats, ignore cravings for junk food and hit the gym when you’d much rather park your ass on the couch and watch Jersey Shore; but you shouldn’t be in a constant state of depravation and anxiety. Remember, your life as a “loser” is not going to be much different from your life as a “maintainer,” so if you are completely miserable throughout your weight loss efforts, chances are you’re going to gain it all back and then some.
What are your tips for sane weight loss?