So, I've chatted with a few people lately who have talked about how hard it can be to lose weight. I know it seems that way sometime, but if you truly apply yourself, it really can be done. Take me, for example. I've been tracking my eating for 2 months now. In the beginning it took a bit of work, but now it has become almost second nature. I know how many calories I should be eating, and need to work towards that number. Of course, the challenge starts when I make the choices I do for eating.
1. Figure out how many calories you need to be eating. It's hard to stick to your program when you don't know what your program is. You can use all kinds of programs out there to find this out. Personally, I used the MyPlate application on the Livestrong website. It's fantastic. You can input your current height and weight, and then plan your calorie goal based on whether you want to maintain your current weight, lose weight, or even gain weight. I set my goal to be losing 2 pounds a week. It also asks for your activity level. I have a moderately active lifestyle (walking our son to preschool, walking to get groceries, playing outside with the kids etc), outside of specific exercise like cardio and weights, so I labelled it accordingly and then I add exercise that I do over and above that. From there, if you do the math, and your calories in matches that, then you will lose the weight. It's been 2 months now, and I'm losing an average of two pounds a week, so it has to be working!! Of course as you lose the weight, you also have to recheck your calorie goal every now and then since it will change as your weight changes!!
2. Portion control is everything!! One of the biggest challenges we faced at the beginning of this journey was getting more in check with the portions we should be eating. More often than not, we'd take what we thought we should be eating rather than what a real portion should be. This can be very tough to take at the beginning, especially with things like pasta, where a portion is much smaller than anything you might expect after eating at a popular pasta restaurant etc. We were very careful at the start, and anytime we ate at home, we would measure and weigh things out. I still do this with many things, just so I don't give myself more than I should. I'm a sauce person, so I love ketchup, bbq sauce, sour cream, dips, gravy or anything along those lines. Since they are huge calorie consumers, measuring out an appropriate portion makes a huge difference in keeping me in line.
3. Watch what you drink. Drinks are a huge source of calories and some people consume upwards of 30% or more of their calories each day in drinks. So, be very aware of what you are drinking. I still include treats like Starbucks, but the vast majority of my drinks consist of green tea, and water flavoured with fruit infusions. I often find water just too plain and boring, but if I make up some tea with a fruit infusion, then ice it, I get essentially pure water but with a little more taste. My favourites are wild cherry, sangria and pina colada from Teaopia.
4. Plan for those special events. One of the easiest ways to derail your efforts is to take special dinners and not count them. Rather, what you should be doing is planning ahead at how you can make the best choices and still keep yourself on track. The very first weekend we started tracking calories, my parents came to visit and wanted to go for chinese food. Well, first off, I tend to always make bad choices when my parents visit, but I was determined it would be different this time. I decided ahead of time, I would only have one plate and be reasonable in my portions at that. We ordered a dish that matched with our needs better and were just careful to eat reasonably while we were there. We also added in an extra workout that day so there were calories to spare if we went over what we should have been eating. It worked out great and we stayed the program despite a challenging meal.
5. Don't beat yourself up. The best part of tracking your calories, is, even if you mess up, you have an account of what you ate. It's easy to go back later and figure out what happened that day and find strategies for the next time you are in a similar circumstance. So, rather than erase the incident and pretend like it didn't happen, record it. Note what you ate, so that if it happens again, you can figure out what triggered the eating etc. The beauty of these online programs, is you can create graphs and stats and have total knowledge of the days you were ontrack, and the ones that maybe messed up. And then, if the same thing is happening every month, maybe you'll realize what it is that causes changes, allowing you to address them, rather than just trying to forget them. If you go to all the trouble of tracking your eating, don't let a setback hold you back, track it and work with the information you have.
When it comes to weight loss, the formula is very simple. In order to lose weight calories in must be less than calories out. In other words, you need to eat less calories than your body requires, but at a rate that your body doesn't go into starvation mode. And even though the formula is simple, it doesn't take into account emotions, and parties, and cravings and all the other things that can derail your efforts. So, although the formula is simple, applying it, can sometimes be complicated. But it can be done. You just have to make a very strong effort at applying it.