The key to successful weight loss lays in finding an approach you can stick with long enough to reach your goal. Following a nutrition plan that easily fits into your lifestyle and provides you with the flexibility to enjoy the types of foods you enjoy eating makes losing weight feel much easier.
The truth is there are hundreds of different weight loss strategies available to you - which approach you should choose depends upon your individual wants and needs.
Whilst I won't be going over every possible dietary weight loss strategy in this post I am going to share what I consider to be 3 of the simplest ways to cut calories and lose weight.
If you are looking for a simple and straight forward way to burn body fat you should find this info useful.
Let’s get into it!
APPROACH #1: INTERMITTENT FASTING
Intermittent fasting involves not eating any food or liquid calories for a set amount of time - a 24 hour fast is a classic example of fasting but thats not the only or best way to do it.
To be clear, there’s nothing magical about fasting – it’s just one way to cut your calorie intake over the course of a day or week. Having said that, many people swear by it and find it a really simple & easy weight loss technique.
Several different fasting protocols exist – take look at 3 of them and consider if any could be a good fit for you?
The 16:8 method
Eat nothing for 16 hours and then eat all of your meals within an 8 hour window.
Most people using this approach choose to stop eating around 8 p.m. in order to fast overnight, wake up the next day, skip breakfast (maybe just have a black coffee) then eat their first meal at 12 noon.
Does that sound look a good fit for you? If not you can choose any 8 hour feeding window you like or go with a completely different weight loss technique.
The 16:8 fasting method is probably the easiest way to try out intermittent fasting to see if it works for you. If you find this method enjoyable and a good fit for your lifestyle you may want to consider some other fasting methods in the future such the 5:2 and alternate day fasting techniques below.
The 5:2 method
This approach basically involves 5 regular eating days and 2 very low calorie days per week.
You can schedule the 2 low calorie days whenever you like, most people schedule them during weeks days when work and home tasks keep them busy and focused upon things other than hunger. For the remaining 5 days of the week just eat as normal.
On the 2 low calorie days you could choose to eat 1 regular sized meal or several smaller meals – it’s really up to you but it will only work if your calorie intake is much lower than your "normal" days. Eating around 400-600 calories is a reasonable amount for most people consume on fasting days.
Alternate day fasting
With this approach you would eat on Monday, fast on Tuesday, eat on Wednesday, fast on Thursday, etc.
Just like the 5:2 approach you can still eat on the “fasting days” but again will need to consume significantly fewer calories than usual in order to create a weekly calorie deficit.
Eating 1 meal containing around 400-600 calories at dinner can work very well on the fasting days. To minimise hunger its best to plan meals around highly satiating foods such as protein, fibrous veggies, fruits, soups and stews.
Drinking caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea are also effective ways to blunt your hunger.
In studies, alternate day fasting has been found to be a safe and effective dietary method that may be superior to daily low calorie dieting due to ease of compliance, greater loss of body fat and relative preservation of muscle tissue.
Several other intermittent fasting protocols exist but I have excluded them here to keep things simple.
So what are the advantages and disadvantages of intermittent fasting?
- You don’t need to count calories or incessently track your food intake.
- It reduces the time spent preparing and eating meals.
- It teaches you the difference between perceived and actual hunger
- It allows you to eat regular sized meals as opposed to many smaller meals each day.
- You will experience temporary hunger (especially if you are used to eating a large breakfast and try the 16:8 method) until your body’s hunger patterns are retrained.
- People may think you are strange for missing meals!
If you choose to go with an intermittent fasting approach I encourage you to adopt a flexible mindset from the start – fasting does not need to be ridged, in fact, building a certain amount of flexibility into you approach may help you to stick with it longer and get better results.
Will fasting put me into starvation mode and slow down my metabolism? Not unless you fast for more than 72+ hours and I’m not advising you do that. Studies show no difference in metabolism between gorging and nibbling eating patterns.
Will intermittent fasting make me lose muscle mass? No. In fact, research suggests fasting may be more effective for the retention of lean mass than regular calorie restricted dieting.
Will fasting increase my body’s production of stress hormones? No, the research shows the exact opposite!
You shouldn’t use fasting if you are pregnant, diabetic, or if it simply doesn’t suit your lifestyle, if the latter holds true for you perhaps you'll find the next approach to be a better fit?
APPROACH #2: SIMPLE PLATE DIVISION
This approach teaches you how to build a balanced, calorie controlled meal in 3 simple steps. here’s how it works:
Put some protein onto you plate. The aim is to cover ¼ - 1/3 of your plate with a rich source of protein, such as fish, poultry, meat or eggs.
Time Saving Tip! If you don’t have the time or simply aren’t in the mood to cook just grab a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken or some take-away fish/steak from a local restaurant.
Pile half your plate with fibrous veggies such as leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, bell peppers, onions, asparagus, etc. You can choose any non-starchy vegetables you like!
Time Saving Tip! Save yourself time washing and chopping vegetables by grabbing a bag of frozen veggies or pre-washed and chopped salad from the supermarket instead.
Cover the remaining ¼ of your plate with starchy carbs such as potatoes, squash, rice, pasta, quinoa, legumes, oats, banana, etc.
Time Saving Tip! Use quick cook microwave rice bags or cook potatoes in a microwave for 5-10 minutes (be sure to poke them with a fork first and keep an eye on them so they don’t explode!).
In case you are wondering, dietary fats will be included from your source of protein (such as oily fish or red meat), cooking oils (such as olive oil or butter) or in the form of light dressings (such as oil based salad dressings).
So, what are the pros and cons of the simple plate division method?
- It’s probably the simplest method out there!
- It encourages the creation of balanced meals.
- This method can be a little confusing to implement at breakfast.
- It provides less flexibility in tailoring the ratio of carbs to fats consumed in your diet.
APPROACH #3: THE SIMPLE TRACKING METHOD
Logging everything you eat into a tracking app such as myfitnesspal serves as an excellent tool to monitor your overall calorie intake.
In addition to seeing the total number of calories you are consuming, apps like myfitnesspal also display the grams of proteins, carbs and fats you are eating.
The traditional tracking method requires you to stick to pre-determined intakes of proteins, carbs, fats and total calories.
To simplify this method I'm suggesting you focus only upon your calorie and protein intake, and just let the fats and carbs take care of themselves.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Calculate how many calories you need to consume per day to lose weight by taking your body weight in Ibs and multiplying it by 9-14 (if you don't know your bodyweight in Its divide your weight in kg by 2.2).
Body weight (Ibs) x 9-14 = Target daily calorie intake
- If you're a lightly active female choose 9-10.
- If you’re a more active female try 10-12.
- If you’re a fairly sedentary man go for 10-12.
- If you’re an active man with a manual labour job multiply your body weight by 12-14.
Lets run through a quick example.
Say you're a female weighing 160 Ibs and are very inactive: You would take 160 x 10 = 1600 – that’s your target daily calorie intake (eat 1600 calories per day).
Note that the figure you get from this simple equation will not be 100% accurate – it’s an estimate just like any other metabolic calculation provides, so be prepared to make some adjustments to your intake if needed.
My advice is to simply see how things go for 2-4 weeks after getting started and make adjustments if you need. Here are some quick tips:
- If you are losing a good amount of weight (say 0.45-1kg per week) and not feeling excessively tired, hungry or moody don’t change anything – just keep doing what you are doing.
- On the other hand, if you are not losing any weight you'll need to further reduce your calorie intake so run through the calculation once more using a lower number e.g. 10 instead of 12.
- If you are losing lots of weight but feeling overly tired, hungry and moody and having trouble sleeping, consider increasing your calorie intake slightly by running through the equation once more using a slightly higher number, e.g. 12 instead of 10.
Step 2: Record everything you eat and drink into myfitnesspal. You may find this tricky for the first you days but you will quickly find you get much better at it.
Step 3: Your goal is to keep your total calorie intake under your pre-determined target (see step 1) and your protein intake a 2 grams per kg of body weight (about 1 g per Ib). So if you weigh 72kg your daily protein intake should be around 144 grams.
What are the pros and cons of tracking?
- It greatly increases your awareness of the calorie and protein values of different foods.
- It serves as an accountability tool. By holding yourself accountable to someone – even if that someone is you - it encourages positive behavior change.
- It gives you the freedom to choose the ratio of carbs and fats you want to eat.
- Recording everything you eat and drink requires a certain amount of time and discipline.
- Some of the calorie values listed on myfitnesspal are inaccurate.
There are many, many ways to cut calorie and lose weight. Whichever approach you choose I encourage you to pay attention to how you are feeling by asking your self how’s your mood, hunger level, energy and sleep, and to weigh yourself daily.
Tracking metrics such as these provides you with feedback on how things are going and allows you to make educated course corrections when required.
Although your body weight is very likely to fluctuate by up to several Ibs per day you should see a downward trend over time.
Research shows that daily weighing produces significantly more weight loss than less frequent weighing.
If after a few weeks your scale weight isn’t dropping and you’re not noticing any changes in the mirror, reduce your calorie intake even further by using some of the tips below:
- Use low calorie cooking spray instead of butter or olive oil.
- Replace half of your starchy carbs with fibrous veggies. For example instead of having all rice have ½ regular rice and ½ cauliflower rice or just eat a salad instead of the rice.
- Eat egg whites instead of whole eggs – for example at breakfast you could eat 2 whole eggs + 1 egg white instead of 3 whole eggs.
- Drink your coffee black instead of with cream or swap cappuccinos and lattes for Americano coffees instead.
- Eat leaner proteins such as white fish, turkey and chicken breast instead of fattier meats like lamb, beef and pork.
- Eat low fat or fat free Greek yoghurt instead of full fat.
- Use skimmed or semi skim milk instead of whole milk.
All of these dietary swaps are easy ways to reduce your calorie intake.
Its important to remember that a diet is not for life - its just temporary a temporary tactic you need to use to reach your goal. Once you've achieved
your target body weight you can start to gradually reintroduce some of these higher calorie foods back into your diet - if you like.
A QUICK FOOD GUIDE
Heres a quick guide to choosing proteins, fibrous veggies, starchy carbs and fats. Use the chart to help you build healthy meals - you'll find this especially helpful if you choose the simple plate division approach.
- Chicken breast
- Lean ground chicken
- Turkey breast
- Lean ground turkey
- Lean ground beef
- Sirloin steak
- Greek Yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Whey Protein
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards etc)
- Bell peppers
- Bok Choy
- Brussel sprouts
- Choose any veggie you like!
- White potato
- Sweet potato
- Butternut squash
- Whole-wheat pasta
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Peanut or almond butter
- Full fat cheddar cheese
- Fatty Fish like salmon
- Greek style full fat yogurt
- Heavy cream
I hope you find one of these 3 simple methods to cut calorie and lose weight to be useful.
As mentioned at the beginning, there are many other methods you could use to lose weight so if you don’t feel comfortable using one these approaches you can always search for something different which you think will be a better fit for your lifestyle.
Let me know if you have any questions!