Since I started taking my weight seriously in early May of this year, I’ve lost twenty-five pounds. This is what that weight looks like in terms of anatomical replicas:
I did this without changing what I eat, without strenuous exercise, and without any sort of drugs/herbs/supplements/whatever. How did I do this? I started walking more and just ate less of what I normally enjoy. No special diet or weight loss program or anything like that. I only used one tool: counting the calories I ate.
Earlier this year, a coworker told me about a site called myfitnesspal. This is a free online tool you can use to track the calories you take in via food and calories you burn via exercise. They also have smartphone apps to help you keep track of what you eat on the go. A calorie tracking tool is essential in helping you lose weight. If you don’t know how many calories you are taking in, you won’t know how much you need to change your eating habits. Myfitnesspal also profits nice charts and graphs which can help you visualize your progress.
So, armed with myfitnesspal to help me count my calories and doing a little extra footwork (seriously, like, fifteen minutes of brisk walking three times a week) I was able to lose over twenty-five pounds in five months while still being able to eat all the junk I normally enjoy. When I hit my calorie limit for the day, I stop eating. With some practice and the odd low-calorie meals thrown in here and there you can give yourself enough enough leeway that you can eat some junk/fast food daily. Literally.
One word of advice on the calorie counting: don’t sweat it if you go overboard once or twice a week. If you try to typically stay one or two hundred calories under your calorie limit you can easily account for a six or eight hundred calorie overload on a Friday night pizza binge. You can see on my calorie intake chart where I went over my limit and how the times I stayed under my limit made up for those binges:
Maybe this can be summed up in a better rule: Don’t be too strict or too loose in how close you stick to your daily calorie limit. If you’re too strict you will just stress yourself out if you go over your limit one day (plus calorie counting isn’t an exact science anyway). If you’re too lax (i.e. getting into a habit of going three or five hundred calories over your limit every other day), you can end up sabotaging yourself and not seeing the results you want.
Of course, replacing high calorie meals with low calorie meals definitely makes the whole calorie management thing easier. Some really good tasting, low calorie foods I regularly enjoy now are:
- Stouffer’s Turkey & Stuffing frozen entree (220 cal)
Turkey dinner with stuffing, gravy, and mashed potatoes. Tastes soooo good.
- Minute Ready to Serve Rice – Chicken Rice Mix (230 cal)
Just pop in the microwave for one minute. I was surprised by how amazing this stuff tasted.
- Boston Pizza Starter-Size Mediterranean Salad (180 cal)
My new favorite salad. Lower on leafy greens and high on flavor.
You can eat one of these meals for lunch and you’ve got plenty of calorie room for a Big Mac Meal for dinner! I’m proof of it. Count your calories, eat what you want (just eat a little bit less), and go for a walk now and then. That’s all you really need to do. That’s all I did…and it worked!
Some other helpful tips off the top of my head are:
- Learn to throw away food/Learn to throw away money.
This was a tough one for me. I’ve always hated waste, and it led me into eating habits where I would continue eating even after I was full just so I wouldn’t waste food. Also, food is money. When you throw out a half-eaten burger, you’re tossing a dollar or two into the trash. It’s important to learn to just let it go. One way to think of it is this: would you pay $100 a year to lose 50 pounds? I know I would. And this helps me rationalize throwing away a dollar or two of food now and then when I’m no longer hungry.
- Don’t drink it all.
This is a corollary to the previous tip, and it’s in regards to sugary drinks that one might enjoy with a meal. I think of it separately because soft-drinks typically end up being effectively free as part of a fast food meal, and almost all places provide free refills. Enjoy your sugary, fizzy soft-drinks with your meals! Just don’t drink the whole thing. Stop drinking when you stop eating; don’t take you drink along with you out of the restaurant.
- Invest in a food scale.
A food scale is a very handy tool for helping you track your calories. Without one you’re left with estimating the amounts of things like chips and nuts and cheese and stuff, and the inaccuracies and self-deception of estimating your caloric intake is what you’re trying to avoid with the whole calorie counting thing.
But don’t neglect exercise. If you’re doing regular exercise you can eat even more (plus you’ll feel better). Go for a couple of walks a week and you’ll soon stop breathing heavy after ascending a single flight of stairs.
The important part about eating what you like and not going on a special diet is that, after you’ve reached your weight goal, you’ll keep the weight off because you don’t have a diet to go “off” of. You’ve just trained yourself to eat more responsibly.