With the abundance of information available regarding fitness and nutrition, it can be overwhelming when beginning a weight-loss journey. Most people have heard the phrase "cut calories to lose weight," but it's easy to be uncertain on how to decrease calories without feeling starved. The easiest method is to monitor the daily caloric intake. There are several helpful guidelines that can be adapted, allowing anyone to quickly cut back their intake of daily calories.
What is a calorie?
A calorie is a unit of energy consumed by eating food. If the unit of energy is not used, the body will convert it into fat and store for later use. Calories are essential. You need energy in order for your body to function properly. However, if too many calories are consumed and not enough calories are burned through daily activities, weight gain will ensue.
Determine daily calories needed
The first step is to determine the daily calories needed. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services published a guideline that outlines the recommended amount of daily calories. The chart can be found at www.dietaryguidelines.gov. Each individual's specific intake varies, as it is based on gender, age, weight and level of daily activity. If currently taking medication, are pregnant or have any medical concerns talk to a health care provider before determining the daily calories needed.
Monitor and track calories
In order to lose one pound per week, there must be a 500-calorie deficit per day. The best way to achieve weight-loss goals is to monitor the number of calories consumed and track activity levels daily.
- Read food nutrition labels when shopping
- Research fast food and restaurant nutrition guides online
- Find food monitoring websites online or download a food-tracker app
- Purchase a fitness band with pedometer and calories-burned counter
Reduce calories consumed
Make the calories consumed count. Good quality calories allow the body to feel satisfied for a longer period of time. Avoid foods that have zero to little nutritional value, opting for foods with higher whole grains, protein and fiber. There are easy, quick changes that can be made in order to cut back on the daily calorie count.
- Avoid fried foods: Opt for grilled, baked or broiled choices
- Toss the junk food: Stock up on favorite fruits and vegetables
- Look at portion size: Carefully read nutrition labels to determine the serving size. Limit eating out as portions are usually double what is needed; many foods contain hidden oil, butter and sugar.
- No sweetened beverages: Absolutely no regular or diet soda, artificially sweetened juice or sports drinks. Only drink water, which has zero calories. Add fresh lemon or lime wedges or add a fresh mint sprig for a refreshing flavor.
- Skip the cheese and mayonnaise: Do not add cheese or mayonnaise to burgers or sandwiches. Instead, try lettuce, tomato and mustard.
- Cut the sweets: Avoid ice cream, cookies, cakes, donuts or any of the other sweet temptations. If having a craving, try fresh fruit with nonfat Greek yogurt
Increase daily activity
The hardest part about increasing activity is the motivation to get started. Work schedules, gym expense, weather, after-school activities with the kids are the most popular excuses when it comes to avoiding exercise. These are all valid reasons; however, there are some easy ways to increase daily activity without a hard core gym regime.
- Take the stairs: Whether in an office workplace or in the mall, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Go for a walk: Take the dog or kids for a walk around the neighborhood before or after work and school.
- Play outside with the kids: Take some time out of the day to play outside. Kick a soccer ball, throw a baseball or football, play tag or go for a scavenger hunt.
- Start a walking club: Recruit friends or family and set a weekly schedule to meet. People are more likely to keep a routine if a group is involved.
Simply put, keeping track of both calories consumed and calories burned is the quickest and most efficient method to begin a weight-loss journey. By being aware of daily caloric intake, anyone can sustain and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.