If you’ve ever tried to lose weight before, usually the first thing anyone will tell you is that you have to cut out all the food you love and eat boring meals.
Fortunately for you, this shouldn’t really be the case! Cutting out all the foods you love will actually cause you to crave these foods more, leading to binge eating and having a harder time losing weight, or quickly putting all of your lost weight back on.
You may still have to cut back on some things, let's face it, as much as we love ice cream, we can’t have it for every meal. But, having your favorite foods in moderation will just make them taste even better when you do have them, and you’ll be able to reach your weight loss goals easier as a result.
Calories Are King
The first step is to ensure you're aware of how many calories you need to lose weight, yet still thrive and have lots of energy. This doesn’t mean that you need to count calories 24/7, but having a rough idea as to what you are eating will help you be a little more in control and mindful of your food intake.
The easiest way to do that is to multiply your body weight in pounds by 15. So, if you weigh 145lbs x 15, then you need 2175 calories per day. This is the number of calories you need to maintain your current body weight.
To lose weight, you’ll need to be in a calorie deficit. To lose 1-2 lbs per week you need to consume around 500 calories less than this number per day.1 So, 2175 calories become 1675 calories per day.
You shouldn’t try to lose weight any faster than this, as this is the safest, most sustainable rate to lose weight at.
Though, remember that this is simply a ballpark figure to get you started. You will have to go through a period of trial and error to determine whether this number of calories is working for you.
Ensure you are tracking your progress and, if necessary, amend this number based on the results you're seeing. Though weight loss takes time and is often not a linear process, so patience and consistency are key!
Tips for Eating for Weight Loss
1. Add Protein to Your Snacks and Meals
Protein makes you feel fuller for longer and increases satiety. So, a meal of just pasta and vegetables may leave you hungry an hour later. But adding chicken or fish to that meal will help you stay full till its time to eat your next meal.
Adding a protein source into a snack is also a great way to make the snack feel bigger. Try things like pretzels and a cheese stick, or peanut butter crackers for a more filling snack.
2. Add Fiber into Your Diet
Like protein, fiber also keeps you fuller for longer! Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
It is easy to add more fiber into your foods but adding nuts and seeds to your yogurt or salads, or adding a bean into your dinner.
Regular fiber intake keeps your bowel movements regular. Try not to overdo the fiber intake though, as this may lead to constipation.
3. Cut Back on Refined Carbs
Refined carbs are those that are low in fiber and nutrients, don’t keep you full for longer, and are processed like sugar. Examples include white flour, pasta, and bread.
While these kinds of carbs do have a place in everyone's diet, they are often a little less filling than their whole-grain counterparts.
Sometimes swapping them out for whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, barley, and complex carb vegetables like carrots and potatoes, would help with satiety.
4. Stay Hydrated
Regularly drinking water throughout the day will stop you from mindless snacking that can lead to weight gain. Research has also shown that those that stay hydrated throughout the day have lower BMIs on average.2
5. Eat The Rainbow
This doesn’t mean filling up on Skittles, but focusing on vegetables and fruit! Next time you feel like you need to snack on something, grab some carrots or celery to snack on instead of a bag of chips.
This will provide you with numerous vitamins and minerals and keep you from snacking on empty calories. Try to include a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack that you have.
6. Watch Your Portion Sizes
In the US, we tend to super-size portions of everything, even our “healthy” foods.
Here are some good rules of thumb to follow regarding portion sizes: meat - a deck of cards, fruit - tennis ball, vegetables - baseball, rice/pasta - hockey puck, fats - pair of dice.
Think about these everyday items while portioning out your next meal to avoid over-or under-eating certain food groups.
7. Portion Food Out
You are more likely to eat way too much if you just pick food out of the package without paying attention to how much you are eating.
Regardless of what you are eating, portion it out onto a plate or in a bowl beforehand. If you decide you want more after you are done with those portions, then you can get more but starting with the small portions already portioned out first you are less likely to overeat.
8. Slow Down
It can take a while for our brains to catch up to our stomachs. That means if you eat really fast, you still may feel hungry when you’re done, even if you’ve eaten a large amount.
If you slow down your pace, then you give your brain a chance to catch up to your stomach with your hunger cues. It can take up to 20 minutes for this signal to get sent to your brain. So, slow down and focus on the food in front of you while you’re eating.
9. Sugar in Moderation
Many diets will tell you to just cut out sugar completely, and while this will cause weight loss, it's not sustainable and in the end, you’ll end up binging on sugary foods.
So, the best way to go about sugar is to practice moderation. Instead of a soda with dinner every day, cut it down to three nights. Instead of ice cream every night, pick two nights to have it. Doing this will satisfy your sugar cravings while still eating healthier and won't lead you to binge.
10. Make Exercise Part of Your Life
It doesn’t matter how much time in your day you have for exercise, you can find little ways to squeeze it in.
This can be as simple as parking your car farther away in parking lots, taking the stairs instead of elevators, or making sure you go for a quick walk every hour while at work.
These may not seem like big changes, but when done consistently, they can help jump-start your weight loss and encourage you to add more little physical activity into your day.
11. Become a Grocery Shopping Master
Have you ever walked into a grocery store with no list or plan and ended up with only junk foods and no real items to make a meal? The best way to avoid this is to plan and make a list of everything you need.
Pick one day a week to go through all your food and decide what you need, what meals you want to make that week, and what you may need.
When you get to the store stick to this list the best you possibly can. Plan out the “fun” foods you want for the week as well, so you don’t find yourself mindlessly wandering down the ice cream aisle.
12. Savor Every Bite
Mindless eating is the biggest culprit of overeating and weight gain. To avoid this, try your best to savor every bite. Take in how the food tastes, what texture it is, and how it makes you feel.
Take your time eating the food, especially if it’s a sweet treat. You’ll end up more satisfied than scarfing the food down, and you’re less likely to overeat.
13. Don’t Deprive Yourself
The most important tip we could give you is to not deprive yourself of the food you love while you’re trying to lose weight. It never ends well, and you just end up giving up on your goals and going back to how you used to eat.
Plan into your healthy meals some meals that include your favorite foods or treats. Don’t call these days “cheat days”, because it can be every day depending on what it is.
In summary, it’s important to remember to be realistic. Weight loss goals can be tricky, so it's best to set small, achievable goals and adjust them as you go rather than making larger goals that take months or years to get to and may not be achievable for your body.
Focus your goals on how you want to feel, rather than how you want to look. And remember, food should be fun!
Part of having a healthy relationship with food is not worrying about if you can control yourself around the dessert table at Thanksgiving. Start with our above tips and remember that any changes you make should be lifestyle changes that can be sustained for the rest of your life!
- Calorie counting made easy - Harvard Health
- Tammy Chang, Nithin Ravi, Melissa A. Plegue, Kendrin R. Sonneville, Matthew M. Davis. Inadequate Hydration, BMI, and Obesity Among US Adults. The Annals of Family Medicine. 2016;14(4):320-324.