Want to actually lose fat? Your smart enough to know there is no easy way to do this. You know not to fall for the quick-fix scams, miracle creams, special exercises or that “magical” supplement that combines herbs from the east side of the Himalayan mountains with sea weed from the south pacific. We are all subject to the law of thermodynamics and we need to burn more calories than we consume to lose fat. Does that mean you need to spend your whole life counting calories? Nope. Calorie counting takes a lot of time that you probably don’t have. Also, it is very inaccurate unless you meticulously measure or weigh your food (doesn’t that sound like fun!). Here’s the deal: calories count, but you don’t have count them to reduce them. Here are 6 simple ways to eat less calories without counting them.
Note: you may have heard some of these before. However, hearing them is not the issue. As you read through this list, stop and honestly ask yourself, “Do I consistently do this?”
1. Keep a food log
When working with clients or athletes who want to lose fat, my first step is to simply get them writing down what they eat. Since I’m not with them for every meal, this lets me know what is going on. However, it also naturally gets people eating less when they know they have to write things down. No one wants to have “1 box of Oreo cookies” in their food log. Knowing that you have to write it down, gets you thinking about the connecting between your goals and your meals and that is HUGE step towards leanness.
Note: food logging doesn’t mean you have to crunch a bunch of numbers. Simply document what and how much you ate. You can write it in a journal, use an app on your phone or even just snap a quick picture of your meal before you start. Also, never forget this rule – EVERYTHING that goes in your mouth gets recorded. Even if it is someone’s birthday, even if it was the grilled cheese crusts your kids left, even if you have a rough day and even if you completely fall off the wagon – if it went down – get it down!
Also, you can increase your accountability even more by simply showing your food log to someone on a weekly basis.
Related: Food Logging for Body Composition
2. Try the Facebook Test
Even if you haven’t taken graduate-level nutrition classes, there are some things everyone knows you should not eat when trying to lose fat. Before you eat something, ask yourself, “would a be willing to post this on Facebook (or your preferred social media site)? This ups the accountability beyond your personal food log. While you don’t have to completely eliminate all sources of taste bud pleasure, certain foods have to be moved from a “daily staple” to an “occasional treat”.
3. “Water Please”
I’ll never forget conversation I had with one of my interns who was training his brother on the side:
Intern: “My brother lost 3 pounds this week!”
Me: “Wow that’s great! What did you do?”
Intern: “I got him to stop drinking pop!”
Too many people eat reasonably well and then drink on unwanted pounds with pop, alcohol, juice and specialty coffees. If calorie-dense drinks are staples for you, try this: for the next 30 days, every time someone asks you what you want to drink, say “Water please.”
4. Eat for the right reasons
Too many people who struggle with their weight eat for the wrong reasons. They eat because they are bored, lonely, nervous, or stressed. The interesting things is that your emotions seem to crave “comfort foods.” Remember, this is your emotions talking, not your body. If you are hungry and all you want are Doritos, trust me, it’s not your body trying to tell you that you have a Dorito deficiency, it is your emotions talking. In this case, address the emotion with something other than food. Eat when you feel like real food. Another important habit here is that the goal of eating is not to feel stuffed. Don’t eat like a cheap person at an all-you-can-eat buffet trying to get his/her money's worth. When you are no longer hungry – stop.
5. Start with proteins and veggies
The problem with many carbohydrate-rich foods (especially those with some added fat) is that they rarely fill you up. I remember as a teenage coming into kitchen starving, but too lazy (and culinaryily incompetent – yes I made up the phrase) to cook. I would eat a pack of crackers and end up even more hungry than when I started.
When preparing your meals, be sure to include high-quality protein and veggies. When you sit down for a meal, eat your protein and veggies first. These will take up a lot of room in your stomach (without contributing a lot of calories) and make it harder to overeat the more calorie-dense foods.
Related: Eat More Protein, Lose More Fat
6. Chill at meals
Most people scarf food down as quick as they can and rush onto the next think on their calendar. This leads to problems such as poor digestion and lack of the ability to actually taste the food you are eating. It also causes you to eat more. Instead, take a lesson from the Europeans and chill at meals. When your stomach is full, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message. If you slow down your eating, you will feel satisfied and stop eating when you have consumed less total calories.
Call to action
Everything you just read means nothing if you don’t act on it. Fat loss is about what you do, not what you know. The first step is (as I mentioned at the beginning) to ask yourself, “Which of the above 6 habits am I consistently doing?” Of the ones that you are not doing, start with the first one (I’ve already put these in the typical priority order I use for you). Once that habit is normal for you, move on to the next one.
How about you? I welcome your comments or questions below or on my Facebook page.
Want more on fat loss?
I’ve got plenty of posts on fat loss that you can check out HERE. Also, for a complete guide to eating and training for fat loss, check out my book Athletic Training for Fat Loss