Do you want to lose weight but don’t know where to start?
Before you start, know yourself. Are you willing to track what you eat? How much time and energy do you want to devote to losing weight? Do you want to do this on your own, through a weight loss program or with a health coach or dietitian? Do you want to make gradual changes in your diet or are you ready to dive in full throttle?
Many people have lost weight on their own through simple diet changes and adding an exercise regimen. If you are ready to take this on yourself but need some tips, then read further.
From my experience losing weight gradually is more sustainable, less stressful and avoids the starvation trap – a protective mechanism that slows down metabolism making it more difficult to lose weight. Tracking will give you more knowledge about your food choices but you can still lose weight without tracking if you have a basic knowledge of where your calories are coming from.
Calories in a pound
First you must understand the basics on weight loss. There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat. To lose a pound a week you would need to reduce your calories by 500 calories a day; to lose 2 pounds, you would need to reduce your daily calories by 1000. Cutting out a 1000 calories for someone who is eating over 6000 calories a day might not be a big deal, but for someone eating 3500 calories, reducing calories by a third could lead to some strong feelings of deprivation and binging. Anything drastic could derail your best intentions.
Start with foods high in calories
This may seem obvious, but it’s not. Fat contains more than twice the calories than protein and carbohydrate. There are 9 calories in a gram of fat, while only 4 calories in a gram of protein or carbs. So first focus on those foods high in fat. Fat is an essential part to feeling full but you don’t need much of it to achieve it. Here are some common every day foods that are high in fat.
Fat is primarily found in dairy, fried foods, candy, chips and desserts, red meat, processed meats, oils and dressings and nuts and seeds. There are healthy and unhealthy fats. Anything from an animal or that is processed contains primarily the unhealthy fats: saturated and trans-fat. Healthy fats that are good for your heart, are found in certain oils, nuts and seeds, avocado and oily fish. The goal is to reduce your total fat consumption while making most of them the heart healthy kinds.
As you can see from the chart above there are many ways to eliminate 500 calories by just reducing portions or finding lower fat versions of those foods.
The first recommendation is to measure or count your portions. Walmart sells a food scale for about $11. Measure you portions of cheese to determine an ounce. Measure your hamburger portions if you are making patties.
Don’t rely on your eye to determine your portion; it’s rarely accurate.
Use a measuring spoon to portion your peanut butter and oils. And count your nuts; the label will tell you how many nuts are in a serving.
Other ways to reduce calories from fat
- Move away from hamburger and towards poultry and fish. This will save 120 calories or more per 4 oz serving. Even changing the fat content of your quarter pound hamburger from 30% to 15% will save you 30 calories.
- Switch to lower fat dairy. Drinking 1% instead of whole milk will save you 40 calories per cup. Replacing full fat yogurt with fat-free yogurt will also save you up to 50 calories per 5.3 oz serving.
- Switch from cheese and crackers to humus and celery. Two large stalks of celery with 2 tbsp of humus has only 80 calories, while an ounce of cheese (and is it only an ounce?) along with 1 oz of Triscuits has 230 calories. That’s nearly 150 calories saved.
- Stop eating fried foods. The fact that one tablespoon of oil has 120 calories tells you everything you need to know. When foods are fried, they suck up oil – 120 calories a tablespoon.
- Switch to a light salad dressing instead of a creamy one. Better yet, make your own with a 2:1 vinegar to oil ratio. Reducing the oil will save you potentially 100 calories. And if you really love your creamy full fat dressing, then try diluting it with water to reduce the calories.
- Switch to whipped butter instead of stick butter. This will cut your calories in half without compromising taste. Whipped butter is butter whipped with air.
- Measure your portion of ice cream and put it in a dish. Keep the portion to half a cup and don’t eat out of the container. Eat it with an infant spoon to savor each bite.
- Cut out the snack candy. Keep it out of the house and out of eyesight at work. It’s so easy to reach for a bite when you are stressed or bored for a little pick me up. This can save you oodles of calories if you are a frequent dipper. Instead have a cup of tea, or an apple. Or just get up and go for a 5-minute walk. Walking will stave off hunger.
Fast vs slow weight loss
Patience. Losing weight takes patience and mindfulness. It’s not a race; the tortoise wins. Weight comes on gradually, so why not let it come off gradually? Even if you cut back on just your portions of dressing, mayo, and dessert and switched to 1% milk, you could probably save yourself 150 calories a day at a minimum. Over the course of a week that’s 1000 calories. That means you could lose a pound every 3 ½ weeks or nearly 15 pounds in a year.
You don’t have to go extreme to have results.
Furthermore, reducing fat will also help you reduce the artery clogging saturated fat. That’s a bonus that most people don’t think about. Your head may want you to look better, but your happier heart will keep you around longer. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just better, one fat gram at a time.
Barbara specializes in helping people lose weight and improve their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word