Hi and welcome back.
This article shows how to measure calories in your food and drink, and shows how you can lessen the bodies automatic reaction where it locks down energy reserves in what it perceives as a crisis.
If you’ve been reading this series, you may have already read about how to put your stats on the NHS Choices website, establish your BMI and get a reasonable range of calorie count to work within. Calorie counting is an important part of this plan. If you’ve never counted calories before or have, and found it a pain, I hope that the following section will make it easier.
Most packaged foods have calorie information on them. If you buy fresh food from a market, greengrocers, butchers or fishmonger, you’ll need to work it out, and there are a number of ways that you can do this; You can use a calorie book or values from a website, or alternatively for those comfortable with apps, you can use a utility like Calorie Counter which is shown below and can be used on your phone or pad.
These utilities also analyse the food and drink you eat, calculate targets and provide diet tips and advice. If you cook with your phone by your side, these have got to be the easiest option, and save you from ever having to write down and calculate totals yourself.
Another neat aspect of them is that they allow you to scan products to find them more easily.
It takes a little while to put custom food and drink in, but the saving in writing down and arithmetic is well worth it.
It plots your progress through the day and shows you where you are for the day and on your plan. It doesn’t allow you to create a plan on it which has you losing 2 lbs or more per week, so it kind of validates the 1.5 lb limit I mentioned before.
There are plenty of alternatives, and I plan to write a review of the best of them as part of this site.
Supermarket shopping seems easy enough, but there are a number of things you should consider when buying packaged food:
- Calories are often shown per product, per x grams and per 100 grams. So you have to be careful which figure you’re reading. The x grams figure is usually a normal portion.
- Sometimes the manufacturers endeavour to make their products look less calorie laden by only displaying half the calories. Look carefully and you’ll see (in small print) something like “half of this (e.g. pizza) is equal to x calories”. Double it up and you’re closer to the true figure.
- Sometimes labels say things like 1/9th of this (e.g. cake) is x calories. I think you’re doing really well if you’re dividing a cake into nine before eating it, and sticking to the portions they suggest.
- Some supermarkets now use colour-coded nutrition labels on their own products to help shoppers make more informed choices. Sainsburys helpfully explain how this works on their healthy eating pages. Greener food choices generally follow a lighter calorie path.
This sounds bad, after all shouldn’t you be religiously sticking to 3 meals a day?
Actually snacking can help your diet. If your normal regime is three meals a day, and you don’t normally snack have a snack of 50 to 100 calories between each meal. If you find that you snack a lot, try and cut down so that the total between meals is 100 cals or less.
Because you’re likely to be eating less (otherwise I guess you wouldn’t be reading this) your body will notice and may start changing the way it stores energy. Although you’re the boss, your body may have different ideas – it doesn’t know that the change in eating habits doesn’t signal a crisis of some type, and will actively take steps to protect itself by changing the way that it processes and stores food, so that energy use is limited. Needless to say this isn’t helpful if you’re trying to lose weight.
How do you stop this happening? Its unlikely that you’re going to stop your bodies autonomic reaction completely but you can slow it down by tricking it a little. Snacking will camouflage the diet because at least some food will be coming in, and persuade your body that it can cancel the panic button.
Like an engine that’s turned off, food processing takes a while to get going when its stopped. If you keep your engine idling, you’ll process food faster when you eat your meals. Wasteful in a car but really useful when you’re dieting.
Do remember to snack though – its easy to forget or think “I’m not hungry” but that’s not the point – you’re doing it to prevent your body taking steps to lock down fat reserves and to steer it towards processing food faster.
Useful snacks are fruit, low calorie crisps, crispbread, muesli bars, low calorie yoghurts and cup a soups. If you’re particularly fond of vegetables, you can try chopped carrots or celery. NB: You have to eat quite a bit of both of those to consume the same calorie count. I’m sure you can think of your own low calorie snacks you can add to the list.
Try to have moderate snacks in between meals, e.g. at 10 am if you have breakfast at 8 and lunch at 12. This will allay your bodies concerns and keep your metabolism geared up.
Feeling hungry may not be something you’ve experienced for a while. I wasn’t used to it, and it made me realise how much I ate when I wasn’t actually hungry. Sticking to your calorie limits should address this. Remember, you’ve been used to eating more and your stomach hasn’t yet adjusted. Its expecting food in the quantities that you used to eat. After a while it will actually reduce its size slightly and you’ll find that the occasions that you feel really hungry will start to reduce.
These are the key points from the blog articles so far.
- To reduce weight you need to consume more energy than you take on board.
- A healthy ideal BMI is between 18.5 and 25.
- Like a ship on a course, you should have an idea of your target weight, how much weight you’re going to lose per week, and when you anticipate reaching your target. (If you don’t know this, have a look back at this page or create a plan on your mobile app.
- (Moderate) snacking is ok and can help prevent your body fighting your weight loss efforts.
Your next step
This article has shown you how to measure calories in food and drink, and introduced the idea that snacking (within limits) isn’t bad for you and can counter adverse body reaction.
You now know enough to start the weight loss plan.
Try to split your day into your three main meals, allot maximum calories you can to each of these and add in the calories for your snacks. Have a go at keeping close to your calorie limits. The closer you can get to the lower limit off of the NHS Choices BMI page, the more weight you will lose. Just managing to keep within the top limit doesn’t mean you won’t lose weight – you’ll just not lose it so fast.
The next article, due on Saturday the 11th of November will show you:
- How to count calories when cooking meals from fresh ingredients.
- What to do when you’re cooking for more than just you.
- What to do if you miss your day’s target completely or you find yourself in a situation where you cannot count the calories.
- Discusses calories you may not be counting (that make a difference), and the foods which have so few calories you really shouldn’t bother. You may be surprised what you miss.
Thanks for reading. I hope that this helps you and that you can make it back for the next article on Saturday. If you’ve been impressed by this post please click the LIKE button. (Its in the Share This section below).
Have a great weekend.