1. Count Calories
Is that the last thing you wanted to see at the top of this checklist? That’s exactly why so many people fail at losing weight. They don’t want to make the effort to understand the calories they’re eating each day. Or worse – they estimate. 2/3 of Americans underestimate the calorie content of their meals and 1/4 underestimate the calorie content by at least 500 calories. Considering most Americans are overweight, “estimating” calories is probably not the most effective method. So it’s time to buckle down and start counting calories.
Your body transforms food or drink energy (calories) into energy for use by your body. If the calories you eat in a day aren’t used that day, they’re often stored as fat overnight. Start repeating to yourself, calories in calories out. Calories in, calories out. It’s not rocket science.
Calories In: How much energy does your body get from eating and drinking? Regardless of your weight, the food you eat will have the same calories for you as they would for anyone else. You’ll want to base the amount of calories you eat on the amount of calories your burning (we’ll get to that in a second).
Calories Out: How many calories does your body burn doing a given activity? On the opposite end of the spectrum, the number of calories your body uses during different activities varies widely based on your weight and body composition. For example:
Liz (weighs 130) Dane (weighs 185)
|Run 10 minute mile= 90 calories||Run 10-minute mile= 145 calories|
|10 minutes of weight training= 31 calories||10 minutes of weight training= 43 calories|
|10 minutes of sleeping= 10 calories||10 minutes of sleeping= 15 calories|
How many times have you compared yourself to someone else thinking, “they don’t eat much differently than me” or “I workout more than they do”, not understanding how they’re achieving better results.
Calories are the single most important factor in determining your weight.
You can use BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) as a starting point to evaluate the calories you burn on a daily basis and then determine how many calories you need to eat to reach your goal weight. Your BMR (also known as "Resting Metabolic Rate") is the number of calories you burn at rest, without any exercise or daily activity. Your BMR provides a good baseline number of calories you should be consuming on a daily to maintain your current weight. If you exercise, you’ll want to add more calories to that number to give you a more precise calorie goal.
Calculating your BMR is simple, I recommend you do it now (takes less than 30 seconds) and then continue to read the rest of this article with your new understanding of your baseline calorie burn: https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bmr_calculator.htm.
If your BMR is 1500 for example and you don’t exercise, you’ll want to eat 1500 calories a day to maintain your weight. Anytime you go over that, you’re slowly putting on weight, and anytime you go under that, you’re slowly losing weight. Many experts recommend a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day for weight loss. This equates to 1lb a week and may or may not leave you very hungry.
If you’re anything like me (with a 1500 calorie BMR) you may want to commit to a slightly lower calorie deficit like 250 calories a day which equates to about 1lb lost every 2 weeks. Maybe you have a lot of weight to lose and your BMR is closer to 2500, then a 500 calorie deficit may be well within your ability to maintain. The important thing is to get comfortable eating at that type of deficit so that you can stay consistent. If you take nothing else away from this article, start counting your calories and you’ll be AMAZED how quickly it makes a difference.
2. Count Macronutrients
Macros are the core components of your food: Protein, Fat, and Carbs. Each macro is important in your diet for different reasons. Understanding how much of each macro you need is a critical step towards getting your diet in line with your goals.
All macros are not created equally. You need different amounts of different macros to fuel your body properly. Even beyond that, your body gets more calories from 1 gram of fat than it does from 2 grams of protein or carbs. Say what? So, you can eat the exact same amount of fat, protein, or carbs, in this example 1g, and your body will get 9 calories from the fat, 4 calories from protein and 4 calories from carbs.
Macronutrients Calories per 1g
- Protein: 4 calories per gram
- Carbs: 4 calories per gram
- Fats: 9 calories per gram
If you’re lost, don’t get bogged down in the details. The important thing is that you are aware of macros and you set yourself up to get a good balance of all three. We typically recommend 40% of your calories come from protein, 40% from carbs, and 20% from fat.
That being said, as long as you have a balance of the three, you’re on your way to a healthier, slimmer you. We probably don’t have to twist your arm to convince you that protein is good for your health but do pay special attention to the type of protein you’re eating.
Good protein sources include:
- Chicken, 90% lean
- Ground beef, 90% lean
- Ground turkey, steak
- Fish and shellfish
- Eggs whites
Popular diets like the Atkins or Keto diet may lead you to believe that carbs are the devil but studies show that carbs are a critical part of a healthy diet:
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
3) Track it in a App
To make this as simple as possible, we recommend tracking your calories and macros daily using the Trifecta app. Set your goals and turn it into a game.
Skip Instagram or Facebook for 5 minutes a day and start tracking your food.
You can even make “meals” so that the foods you commonly eat together can be added with one click. Once you have a few days under your belt, it’ll be second nature and you’ll have gained a massive understanding for how many calories are in your favorite foods and what macros make up those foods.
4) Be Patient
My friends and family know me as someone who wants everything done yesterday. Impatience is HIGH in our on-demand lifestyles. It only makes sense that we’re impatient with our diets. You start dieting and your off to a great start – you meal prep at the beginning of the week and you’re tracking calories and macros with the Trifecta App. You take a look in the mirror on day 4. You don’t notice any change. That’s disheartening and demoralizing, especially in the beginning. Two more days go by and the scale hasn’t budged yet either. You give up because this dieting thing doesn’t seem to be working and go back to your old eating habits.
We’ve all done it; we expect results overnight and when they don’t come, we’re discouraged and quickly give up. Realistically, you’ll be losing .5 – 1lb a week if you are sticking to your diet exactly. Don’t forget that a half-assed diet is going to produce half-assed results. If you are truly eating less calories than you’re burning – you will be hungry sometimes. It’s uncomfortable and difficult but if you stick to it, the scale will reflect it and so will the mirror.
5) Stop Quitting
Anyone can go to the gym and train or have a few good days of watching their calories or tracking macros. Consistently tracking calories and macros every single day will keep you losing weight.
It takes at least 21 days to form a habit so remember that those first 21 will be harder than the rest.
Once you’re consistently eating healthier and tracking your food, you’ll be more on “auto-pilot” rather than having to make such a conscious effort at every meal. It will become your new normal.
Set real, everyday goals like exercise 7 times a week first thing in the morning for an hour and cut 500 calories a day. Not “lose 10lbs in 10 weeks”. That is an abstract goal not an actionable goal that you can focus on day in and day out.
We all have bad days or cheat days or family gatherings or celebrating and we all eat off plan sometimes. The key is to get right back on your diet as soon as possible. When you say “Oh well, I completely screwed up yesterday, why even try today” you’re accepting defeat. Some days will be harder to stay on plan than others, but every day truly does count so get right back to it and you’ll notice that your diet fails are starting to be further and further apart.
For more in depth strategies, check out our full guide to weight loss: