Calorie Deficit Wins for Weight Loss

Calories: mindmap

My weight loss journey (from 240-178 pounds and counting) wasn’t a linear deal. I didn’t go on a healthy eating plan, start exercising and see the numbers tick down each week. It required months (and years) of steady effort to eat less—through a daily calorie deficit—in order to achieve the weight loss. Even with a daily calorie deficit, my body went through periods of weight loss, weight gain and plateaus. I know many people don’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth.

Weight loss is not a linear deal. Hormones, salt and water levels in the body, stress, muscle building, all can play a role in weight loss and gain. But, over time, if you maintain a calorie deficit (eat less than your body needs to run) you’ll see the numbers go down. Once again, it’s a daily commitment that gets you there.

Losing Weight is a Long Game

Healthy whole foods

For me, the more complicated an eating plan is, the less likely I’ll be able to sustain it over a long period of time. That’s me. But finding out what works for you, may take some time. Losing weight is a long game. I wish it were easier, but it’s not, so buckle down and get to it! The rewards are well worth it.

Tips to Achieve a Calorie Deficit

Here’s how you can achieve a calorie deficit, and give yourself the best chance for weight loss:

Tracking calories

Track your calories: You can use a calorie counting app like MyFitnessPal to track your daily calorie intake (very helpful when you are just beginning). Tracking will give you a sense of what a day’s worth of calories looks like.

After a while, you can stop the calorie counting (unless you love it, in which case please continue) and just focus on eating whole foods. The more unprocessed foods you eat each day, the less sugar, salt and unhealthy fats you get in your diet. It’s easier to get into a calorie deficit when you’re eating foods that are naturally lower in calories, and most whole foods will fall into this category.

Colorful produce

Eat the rainbow: Eating whole foods is one of the cornerstones of healthy eating. Eat fruits and vegetables of all different colors—red (peppers, tomatoes, pomegranate), blue (berries), yellow (pineapple, peppers, banana), purple (cabbage, beets, plums), green (kale, zucchini, spinach), orange (persimmons, oranges, carrots).

Extreme exercise

Don’t try to outrun a bad diet: Pair good eating with exercise for a calorie-burning boost. Cardio and strength training will burn some calories, but you can’t outrun a bad diet. Cardio machines are notorious for overestimating calories burned, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can reward yourself with a high-calorie treat after a sweaty session on the elliptical machine. Your motivation for exercising should be to grow strong, protect your heart health, improve your flexibility or lighten your mood, not to make up for eating too many calories.

Healthy fats

Add healthy fats (nuts, avocado, olive oil) to your diet: Swapping out foods that are high in saturated fat (processed meats, butter, cheese) for monounsaturated fats (olive oil, nuts, avocado) can help with weight loss and reduce risk factors for heart disease. While these fats may have more calories than other food groups, they are whole, good-for-you foods. They’ll help you feel full, so you can get through the day without wanting to overeat unhealthy foods.

Grain bowl

Feel satisfied at meals with volume eating: If you’re like me, and need more food on your plate to feel satisfied, fill at least half the plate with low calorie/high-fiber foods that are filling. My favorites: sautéed kale, black beans with garlic, boiled, mashed green banana, roasted carrots, parsnips and eggplant. When I eat these lower-calorie/high-fiber options, I feel full and satisfied. No starving here.

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