Calories in, Calories Out.
As the years go by, different weight loss plans go in and out of style. In the 80’s we had “low-fat diets” along with our big hair. In the early 90’s I think people subsisted on diet coke and twizzler in order to fit into their CK heroin chic jeans. In the late 90’s and early 00’s came the years of the “Atkins diets” with no carbs (I had friends roll salami around cream cheese as snacks and tell me celery was off-limits as a carb, oh vay!). More recently, the Mediterranean trend is in full force, with emphasis on a balance of whole grains and lots of fruits and vegetables with lean protein and healthy fats. I am fanatic about the Med trend being the best for our health and nutrition. But I don’t think it alone provides the essentials necessary for successful weight loss. (Quick education, “diet” refers to one’s regular eating habits, not a “plan for weight loss.”)
The one thing that hasn’t gone out of style year after year is calorie counting. The fad diets say calorie counting doesn’t work, but their reasons are always psychological – simply that it’s not maintainable or it imprisons you. But noone has ever really debated the fact that calories in, calories out is a flawed theory (if I am wrong please send me research!)
Well, a new study reported on by the WSJ once again reminds us that calorie counting is usually the most effective weight loss tool. Every six months a new study comes out with similar findings, so listen up!
Accordingly, the best way to start a weight loss plan is to take a look at your average daily calories. Take a week of your life and don’t do anything differently. Just write down every single bite you take. At the end of the week, add up your daily calorie totals and find your daily average for the week. In order to lose a pound a week you have to cut out 3500 calories a week, in other words, 500 calories a day. You can cut back in the amount of calories you eat, burn those calories off with added excercise, or a combination of both. Keep recording your calories and if you start losing weight, keep doing what you are doing. If you aren’t, try lowering your calorie thresholds slowly. Slow and steady wins the race. Also, a combination of cardio and weight training will greatly improve your weight loss chances. Cardio is a great calorie burner (and keeps your heart strong) and weight training makes you look tight and toned. Also, the more muscle you have, the faster your body burns calories.
Looking for a good way to track your calories? There are multiple iphone apps and many online tracking resources, but I always say the best way is by hand. Why? if you forget to put a day’s worth of calories in, you have to see it on paper for the rest of the week. Most digital tools just show you the current day when you enter food so you aren’t reminded of the day you forgot. It keeps you honest.