If you want to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit. This is harder than it sounds, as many people don’t know how many calories they consume everyday or how many their body needs.
In simple terms, when your calorie intake is higher than what your body requires, you store the extra calories as fat. In order to create a calorie deficit, you need to consistently lower your calorie intake. Usually, a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day is enough to lose weight without negatively affecting your health and energy levels.
What is a calorie deficit?
We all have a minimum amount of calories our bodies need to support energy expenditure (our maintenance calories). So before you can create a calorie deficit, you need to know what your maintenance calorie intake should be. If you need support calculating this, it’s something I offer in my personalised nutrition plans.
As you lose weight, your maintenance calorie intake will change over time. However, it’s important that you’re creating a healthy calorie deficit. Skipping meals and starving yourself aren’t effective ways to lose weight and deprive your body of essential nutrients. If you want to lose weight sustainably, a calorie deficit shouldn’t be extreme. Women shouldn’t consume less than 1,200 calories per day and men shouldn’t go under 1,500 calories per day.
How to create a calorie deficit
1. Master your meal prep
Preparing your own meals at home gives you more control over the calories you consume, as well as your portion sizes. If you’re following meal plans or recipes, you know exactly what’s going into your body. This allows you to have control over the calories you eat. Keep track of everything you eat using apps like My Fitness Pal or Fitbit so you know if you’re hitting your calorie targets and getting the right nutrients.
As well as this, prepping your meals and snacks at home makes you less likely to buy unhealthy meal deals, takeaways or junk food.
2. Structure your snacks
Most of us snack without realising we’re doing it. It’s just one of those habits we don’t even think about. However, when you eat several seemingly small snacks everyday, the calories add up. So many of the excess calories in our diets are down to these culprits.
Unfortunately, the snacks we love the most are the ones that are the worst for us. Fast food, soft drinks, desserts and sweets are packed with sugar, salt and fat. Because these ingredients make them so addictive, we constantly crave them. But losing weight doesn’t mean creating tons of restrictions and cutting out all the foods we enjoy.
There are several ways to create healthier snacking habits:
- If you can’t go cold turkey (few of us can), try gradually reducing the amount of snacks you have. If you eat 3 packets of crisps per day, reduce that to 2, then gradually cut down to 1 and so on.
- Keep healthy snacks with you on the go so you’re not tempted to buy them when you’re out. Try and snack at certain times of the day when you’re hungry, instead of snacking out of boredom.
- Swap some of the unhealthy snacks for a similar but healthy alternative. For example, if you love indulgent yoghurts packed with sugar, swap them for plain yoghurt with nuts and berries.
- Choose a certain day of the week to indulge in a cheat meal and eat clean for the rest of the week.
3. Don’t drink your calories
Believe it or not, some drinks can sneak hundreds of extra calories into our bodies, even the ones you think are healthy. You can make a significant difference by reducing the amount of soft and sugary drinks you have, as well as fruit juices and hot drinks with syrups. Alcohol is also highly calorific, especially beer and red wine. If you want to lose weight, keep the booze to a minimum.
4. Fill up on fibre
Eating healthy, nutritious foods that fill you up is an effective way to help you lose weight. Getting plenty of fibre in your diet can leave you feeling fuller for longer, meaning you’re less likely to crave snacks or junk food.
Great sources of fibre include fruit and veg, wholegrains such as brown rice, pasta and wholemeal bread, as well as lentils, beans and peas. If you eat a varied diet and mix up your recipes, you should get enough fibre in your diet.
5. Don’t skip meals
Many people think skipping meals will help them lose weight, but it can do more harm than good. If you skip meals regularly, you’re missing out on essential nutrients your body needs to thrive. A healthy diet shouldn’t leave you feeling bad about food and it shouldn’t be full of restrictions, even if you’re creating a calorie deficit.
Skipping meals, especially breakfast, also makes you more likely to choose unhealthy foods later in the day when you’re hungry. It’s much better to eat the right foods than skip meals entirely.
6. Create a routine and stick to it
Having structured meal times helps you stay on track with your calorie goals and ensures you only eat when you’re hungry. Planning your meals for the week and having structured treats make you less likely to stray and more likely to achieve the results you want.
Eating meals and snacks at similar times each day will help your body adjust to the calorie deficit and you’ll get used to this routine, instead of going to your fridge or snack cupboard everytime you’re bored. As well as this, exercising regularly alongside a healthy nutrition plan will assist your weight loss.
Creating a calorie deficit and losing weight aren’t easy. Weight loss requires hard work, discipline and commitment. There’s no magic pill or easy fix. So creating your routine, sticking to it and being patient are key to achieving the results you want.