By Amber Charles, MSPH, RDN
October 4, 2020
You do not need to count calories to lose weight - focus instead on diet quality and building healthy lifestyle habits!
Not only is calorie counting tedious, but for a "nutrition newbie", it can be confusing. It is one of the more frustrating tasks for someone on a weight loss journey, and often steals time that can be spent savoring food instead. Here are 10 tips to drop the counter!
In this post:
The 80-20 rule
Limit added sugars
Get more sleep
Have a consistent exercise regimen
Go plant-based more often
Drink more water
Boost your fiber and protein intake
1. Meal plan
Meal planning is not dieting - it is a strategy that helps to keep you accountable and can double as a grocery list guide. When you meal plan, you put more thought into what foods to consume, assess the variety of nutrient dense foods in your diet and can reduce impulsive buying of fast foods - and saves time in the week on meal prep!
2. The 80-20 rule
Weight loss is a journey, not simply a destination, and the best part is the fun along the way. This means that you can enjoy your favorite foods without compromising your health goals. How? Eat healthfully 80% of the time and feed your indulgences the remaining 20%. This strategy is also great for reducing binge-eating later on!
3. Limit added sugars
Yes - this includes sugary beverages! Added sugars contribute empty calories (void of other nutrients) and are associated with overweight and obesity, among a slew of other health concerns. Skip the soda and try sparkling water instead, read the food label to choose products with less sugar and have a fruit in place of that store-bought cookie.
4. Get more sleep
Aim for 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep every night. Shortened sleep disrupts the circadian rhythm and alters the body's regulation of hunger and appetite - often promoting excessive energy intake. Sleep deprivation increases the risk for overweight/obesity, and just out-right messes with our mood and decision-making abilities.
5. Have a consistent exercise regimen
"Cardio" is not the only exercise approach to weight-loss, rather, a combination of cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening exercise is quite beneficial. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, preferably spread throughout the week, with at least 2 days of weight training (AHA).
6. Mindful eating
When our external cues (seeing food on a plate) override our internal cues (full stomach), we overeat. To eat mindfully means paying attention to our bodies. Try these: Eat slowly (chew at least 20 times with each bite) without distractions, like the TV, during mealtime, and when your stomach begins to feel full, stop eating. Also, using a smaller plate helps with portion control and rebuilding a connection to our (internal) satiety signals.
7. Stress management
Who isn't over 2020 yet? (a pandemic, racial injustices and election gimmicks!) Stress induces our fight-or-flight response and releases the hormone cortisol, which increases our appetite. Do yoga, meditate, turn off social media, take a nap, read, go for a walk, listen to music or engage in any other activity that helps you to feel better.
8. Go plant-based more often
Studies have shown that individuals who consume a diet rich in plant-based foods and eat less meat have a lower BMI, less body fat and are less likely to be obese. Try the Meatless Monday campaigns to get started.
9. Drink more water
Your body relies on water to survive - after all, we are made up of about 60% water! Daily needs vary by individual; however, good targets are 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women - you can consult with your Dietitian to determine your specific needs.
10. Boost your fiber and protein intake
Both fiber and protein are digested slowly, keeping you fuller for longer so that you can fight back those cravings. Fiber has the added benefit of maintaining a healthy gut through added roughage and as prebiotics that feed the "good" gut bacteria. Protein boosts your metabolism and nourishes and repairs your muscles (from all of that exercising you will be doing).
Lose the frustration spent counting calories and try these tips instead to support your weight-loss journey! You've got this!