Despite all the diet strategies out there, weight management still comes down to the calories you take in versus those you burn off.
Fad diets may promise you that avoiding carbs or eating a mountain of grapefruit is the secret to weight loss, but it really comes down to eating fewer calories if you want to shed pounds.
Tracking your food intake can seem overwhelming at first, but counting your calories daily significantly increases your chance of weight-loss success. Track calories also identifies situations that trigger you to overeat and determine if you are meeting your nutritional needs. Accurate calorie-counting involves measuring or weighing your food portions and recording them throughout the day. This might require a bit of extra effort in the beginning, but as the pounds start to come off, you'll be motivated to continue your calorie-tracking.
If you're trying to lose weight and only thinking about tracking your calories, it's time to put your pen to the paper. In order to lose weight, you have to create a caloric deficit by eating fewer calories than you burn or by increasing your activity level to burn more calories. Most weight-loss plans include both components. Without tracking your calories, you'll have no idea how many you've eaten in a day and no way to predict if you should be losing or gaining weight. Diligent tracking will also help you commit calorie and portion information to memory.
According the National Weight Control Registry, 74 percent of people who are successful at losing weight track their food intake daily. By counting your calories, you will have an increased awareness about how much you are eating. If you have a daily calorie goal and are tracking throughout the day, you'll know exactly how many calories you have left to consume for the remainder of the day. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute note that self-monitoring of a behavior, such as counting calories daily, usually moves you closer to your goal.
However, we must agree that there’s more to losing weight than just creating a calorie deficit! The quality of the food is very important too. What’s the point of creating a calorie deficit and then eating junk food all day? You’re just setting yourself up for failure.
If you eat the right proportions of carbs, protein and fat, you’ll not only be healthy, but you’ll curb cravings and feel less hungry. A baseline of 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat is recommended to start off with. In other words, of your total daily calories, 50% should come from carbs, 30% from protein and 20% from fat.
If you exercise a lot, you may want to go up to 60% carbs. Also, take into considerations any health issues you may have. For example, your doctor may have recommended a low fat diet, etc. If you’ve never counted calories before, the baseline of 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat is a good way to start. You can always adjust the ratios as you go along.
So, now, write down the ratios you’re going to be aiming for. Again, the baseline mentioned was 50% carbs, 30% protein, 20% fat. If you’re making any adjustments, just make sure your ratios add up to 100%.
Of course, trying to make behavioral changes isn't always easy. If you were successful at losing weight for a period of time, reviewing the calorie log for that time frame will allow you to see what you were eating when you were losing weight. You can even follow a previous day's food intake as a menu plan. Reviewing your calorie log can also help you identify areas and times that you consistently struggle. This allows you to avoid certain triggers of overeating or come up with strategies to solve the problems.
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