If you want to lose weight, then you should eat healthier and exercise more. Pretty simple, right? Well, for a lot of us it just isn’t that clear cut. In reality, losing weight is a numbers game, and in this game those numbers are represented by calories. Tweet This! When the calories you burn through physical activity and regular basal body functions exceeds the amount of calories gained from the food you eat, you lose weight. This weight loss is caused by the calorie deficit you create.
What is a Calorie?
As a scientific term, a calorie is defined as a unit of heat equal to the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1,000 grams of water by 1 degree Celsius. However, for everyday use most people know calories as the units of energy we get from food. An over consumption of calories, paired with a sedentary lifestyle, tilts the scale in favor of weight gain.
To lose that unwanted weight, many people turn to diet and exercise plans. These plans are most effective when paired with a controlled caloric intake and dedicated time of burning calories through exercise. The road to weight loss, however, is studded with various fad diets. These diets can be restricting, rigid, and hard to adhere to for an effective amount of time. Many of the various diet plans out there have one simple thing in common: the calorie deficit. Tweet This!
What is a Calorie Deficit?
A calorie deficit, more simply put, is eating less food than you need to maintain a specific weight. Tweet This! Many diet plans apply this concept in various ways. When you peel back the layers of these diet plans, whether the primary call to action is “cut carbs” or “fat free,” the end result is a reduction in your daily calorie consumption.
Trends in the weight management industry show that the most restrictive diets are often the hardest to adhere to for the length of time it actually takes to see substantial results. Adopting some simple accounting practices to “budget” your daily calories can be a helpful tool when the end goal is a calorie deficit.
For example, if you burn 2,500 calories per day, but only eat 2,000, you’ve created a deficit of 500 calories per day (your net calories are equal to -500). It takes dedicated daily exercise to burn 2,500 calories per day. Without daily physical activity weight loss becomes very difficult. Consider investing in a wearable fitness tracker to help you get a better idea of how many calories you burn throughout the day. You can budget 2,000 calories per day in food intake through careful planning, attention to detail, and creating consistency in your routine.
Planning three meals per day each with 500 (or less) calories leaves room in your budget for 500 calories worth of healthy snacks and nutritional supplements. Pay close attention to the nutritional details of each meal and control your portions. For example, a 500-calorie meal consisting of macaroni and cheese offers less nutritional value than a meal featuring fresh spinach salad with chicken breast.
Adopt a routine that helps reduce your diet-related stress levels. Set aside time for shopping, meal planning and preparation, and eat at consistent times each day. For best results, talk to your physician and/or nutritionist, and identify an ideal caloric intake for yourself to help narrow down exactly how many calories you should be eating daily to support healthy weight management.
Make Your Calorie Counting Count.
Making healthy food choices regularly is important for everyone, but even more so when the end goal is a calorie deficit. Tweet This! When it comes to nutritional value not all foods are created equal. Foods with a high level of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats, dietary fiber, etc.), but low in calories are referred to as “nutrient dense.” Opt for nutrient dense foods, like kale, quinoa, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, salmon, sweet potatoes, and/or walnuts, when planning your meals to complement your weight management strategy.
Consider adding “functional foods” to your daily diet. These foods have potential health benefits beyond nutrition alone. Orange juice fortified with calcium to support bone health and eggs enriched with omega-3 fatty acids are some examples of functional foods you can find at the grocery store.
If you struggle with meal planning or making time for meal prepping, consider adding a nutritional/meal replacement shake to your daily routine. These types of portable products can offer controlled and measured sources of nutrients like protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins/minerals to make adhering to a meal plan more manageable. Also, be sure to check out our collection of recipes right here on the blog for more meal planning ideas.
Avoid feeling hungry or deprived of nutrients when you are working to control your daily calorie intake by enjoying foods with a high water content, dietary fiber-rich foods, and/or lean proteins. Tweet This! For example, a grapefruit is 90 percent water; one-half of a grapefruit is approximately 37 calories. High-fiber foods provide volume and take longer to digest. So, for instance, vegetables, fruits and whole grains can make you feel fuller for longer.
Being cognizant about how many calories you consume each day doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Even minimal efforts to plan and make good choices can have a big effect on weight management. Tweet This! Creating a calorie deficit boils down to matching the food you consume to your daily activity. So, feel free to eat that whole pizza after your marathon!