We look for magic diet programs when in most cases all we really need to do is simply reduce our bad eating habits. Most of us know what these bad habits are, but simply refuse to practice restraint.
- Too much alcohol
- Too many sweets
- Binge eating
- Too many junk food snacks
- Too many trips to fast food restaurants
While reducing each of the above is a great start, I have 3 more common sense tips that can dramatically help you either maintain your existing weight, or improve the results of your fat loss diet. They involve:
- Reducing liquid calories.
- Correctly analyzing daily calorie intake.
- Avoiding calorie dense foods.
The Impact of Liquid Calories
Several studies have revealed that on average we consume anywhere between 10 to 37% of our daily calories from liquid sources. The exact percentage doesn't matter much. The important points are:
- We are consuming more calories from liquid sources than we are aware of.
- By reducing these calories even a little it bit becomes easier to maintain weight, or lose fat.
A recent study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed both solid and liquid calorie intake of 800 adults ranging in age from 25 to 79 years old. The study revealed the following:
- A reduction in 100 liquid calories per day resulted in a 0.5 pound weight loss at 6 months and 18 months.
- A reduction in 100 solid calories per day resulted in a 0.1 pound weight loss at 6 months and 18 months.
- Reducing one serving of sugar-sweetened drinks resulted in the greatest amount of weight loss: 1 pound at 6 months, and 1.5 pounds at 18 months.
So then, what does this mean to you?
If you are consuming 3,000 calories a day, there is a good chance that 300 to 1,000 of these calories are coming from liquid sources. If you are consuming 2,000 calories per day, you are more than likely drinking 200 to 700 calories per day.
The first step you need to take is analysis. Grab a notebook (or iPad/iPod App) and keep track of everything you drink for an entire week. Next, hit Google and search for the calorie content of these beverages. You should be able to find these numbers easily.
Once you have a weekly liquid calorie total, divide this number by seven. This will yield the amount of daily calories you are drinking. Now that you have this information you can take steps to reduce liquid calorie intake.
Try cutting liquid calories down anywhere between 50 to 80%. There is no need to go crazy and never allow yourself a cappuccino or glass of milk. You simply want to reduce the damage. This will be a great step forward in the battle of the bulge.
Drinks to reduce include:
- Fruit juices
- Coffees with sweeteners and/or creams and milk
Fruit juice might seem out of place on that list, but in most cases it is just glorified sugar water. Most juices lack the nutritious parts of the fruit: pulp and skin. This leaves you with a high sugar drink, often containing more sugar than a soda.
Milk is a quality source of nutrition and generally does not need to be reduced.
Do You REALLY Know How Much You're Eating?
Get ready for a shocker. The average American underestimates their daily calorie intake by 50%.
This means that if you think you are eating 1,500 calories per day, it's more likely that you are consuming 2,250 calories. If you believe you are only eating 2,500 calories per day, odds are your caloric intake levels are likely 3,750 calories. This is no trivial difference.
While your estimations might not be as wildly off as these examples, there is a solid chance you are eating more than you think. Some of this might be due to liquid calories, but it's a safe bet you are also consuming more solids foods than you believe.
To gain control over this problem, and over your weight, you need to do the same thing you did with liquid calories: take a weekly inventory. Log everything you eat and drink for a week, no exceptions. If you don't know how much of a portion you are eating, compare the food's size to something you know:
- A fist-side portion of green beans
- 1/4 plate of mashed potatoes
You next step: head over to a calorie counting website and determine your weekly, and then daily intake.
Knowing how many calories you are eating is half the battle. Equipped with this information, you can them determine what types of foods you are overeating.
A Look at Calorie Dense Foods
Let me start by saying you should not avoid all calorie dense foods. You need to eat at least 20 to 30% of your daily calories from healthy fats. With that said, there are many calorie dense foods you should be avoiding. Let's take a look at these foods, and why they should be avoided.
Gummy Worms vs. Potatoes
800 calories of gummy worms is really easy to eat. You could knock out this many calories during the first 30-60 minutes of your favorite movie. On the other hand, you would have to eat 6 or 7 baked potatoes to reach 800 calories.
High sugar snacks are calorie dense and easy to overeat.
Tortilla Chips and Salsa vs. 80% Lean Ground Beef
Have you ever eaten an entire bag of chips along with a jar of salsa? I have. Many times. Tortilla chips are extremely addictive, and it's hard to stop before the bag is empty.
This amount of chips and salsa can contain anywhere between 2,200 calories to 2,500 calories. You would have to eat over 30 ounces of 80% lean ground beef to consume the same amount of calories.
Snack foods that are high in fats and carbs are easy to overeat.
Orange Juice vs. Oranges
500 calories of orange juice? Easy to drink. On the other hand, eating 8-9 oranges to reach the same caloric level - difficult!
Most drinks with liquid calories are easy to over-consume.
Calorie Density - The Big Picture
When you stick to whole foods, be it baked potatoes or even beef, it is very hard to overeat.
While this might seem like an exaggeration, it's really not: it is very difficult to gain fat eating foods that aren't calorie dense. The sheer bulk of food that you would be required to eat is staggering.
Bottom line: reduce your calorie dense foods by 80% and fill up with fruits, veggies and meat instead.
So there you have it. Reduce your liquid calories, know how many claories you are eating on a daily basis, and avoid excessive amounts of calorie dense foods.
These 3 tips make it much easier to maintain your existing weight, or create an eating plan conducive to healthy fat loss.