In the past, when attempting to lose weight, I always did the same thing: clean up my diet, make "healthier" choices and start some sort of exercise. I'd be super strict during the week, ate probably way less than I needed to and had a glorious cheat meal (or day) on the weekends. Then, after a few weeks of little to no results, I'd give up and stay fat. Then I'd do it all over again a few months later. Sound familiar?
I mean, who wants to live like that? You're working hard, sticking to your diet, dodging temptations at work, completely depriving yourself of all things worth living for, and for what? Where's the reward?
So let me explain why your "diet" isn't working. We all burn a certain amount of calories per day simply by being alive. That's right. Your body burns calories by breathing, digesting food, pumping blood, etc. So basically the calories that your body would burn on it's own if you just laid in bed all day, is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Now, add to that any walking you may do at work, climbing stairs, working out, etc. and that number increases. That's called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Basically the total amount of calories you burn in a day. So if you want to lose weight, you have to, you absolutely MUST burn more calories than you eat. Done. That's it. That's the secret. If you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight. Therefore, I don't give a flying cow how "healthy" you eat, if you are consuming more calories than you're burning, you'll gain weight. Yes, even if it is just chicken and broccoli.
"You absolutely MUST burn more calories than you eat."
This is why when I hear people say "OMG I eat like, so healthy and I still can't lose weight", I'm thinking: A.) Chances are you're dipping your lettuce in too much ranch and eating a crap ton of hidden calories without noticing, OR, B.) You've managed to eat so little for so long, that your metabolism has slowed down to the point where your "healthy meals" are still adding up to more calories than you're burning (metabolic adaptation).
The key is to figure out how many calories your body needs to function plus how many extra calories you burn with daily activities. Then subtract 300-500 calories from that number to put you in a deficit ideal for fat loss. Remember, every body is different. What a 5 foot, 115 lb woman needs to survive is probably a bit different than what a 5'10", 250 lb woman needs. A great way to track how many calories you burn in a day is with a Fitbit.
"What a 5 foot, 115 lb woman needs to survive is probably a bit different than what a 5'10", 250 lb woman needs."
I would recommend, if you're serious about losing weight in a healthy, realistic fashion like I have, that you start making yourself accountable for what goes into your mouth. I am a strong believer of counting calories. It's the only thing that has worked for me in losing the weight and keeping it off. I am a control freak at heart and HATE guessing whether I'm doing something right or not. It'salso helpful to make sure I'm eating enough. You need to figure out how many calories you should be consuming per day and stick to them day in and day out. Eventually it becomes second nature and you'll be able to do it in your head without an app.
DO NOT go ham on the weekends with "cheat meals/days"! This can undo your progress from the week. Instead, make whatever treats you want to eat FIT into your daily caloric intake. So if you want a scoop of ice cream, or two. Figure out how many calories that would be and account for it. This may mean that you have to eat egg whites and broccoli for the rest of the day (exaggeration) but that's your call (also don't do that every day or you'll be short on other nutrients that your body needs!). But for example, I manage to fit 8oz. of Thrifty's Rocky Road ice cream every Saturday and life is much more enjoyable because of it. I don't feel guilty because I know that I made it fit my caloric intake and it will not make me gain weight. I also make all of my meals enjoyable every day so that I'm not miserable all week awaiting my Saturday treat. It is most important to develop a good relationship with food and not see foods we love as off limits. Food is food and we should eat for energy and a healthy existence. Treats are ok on occasion too! :)
Below are my favorite tools to help you get started with figuring out how much you should be eating/burning and how to track it:
To figure out your daily calories:
To Track Activity
To track food:
My Fitness Pal (download app on your phone)
The best part about tracking calories is that you'll start to learn so much about what's in your food. What's high in protein, what has carbs and fat and fiber. You'll start appreciating foods for what they can do for your body and energy. You'll start seeing certain things that you've heard are "bad" as natural and purposeful. You'll begin to find benefits to so many "weird" foods you'd only heard about until now. It's pretty cool, actually. I am obsessed with fitting good, nurturing foods into my diet and consuming a good balance of carbs, proteins and fats as they ALL serve a purpose and I hope you will too!