5 steps to reducing your caloric intake

5 steps to reducing your caloric intake

The road to perfection is a journey of continuous improvement.

"Healthy" is a lifelong journey. Maybe you start out by wanting to lose weight, or by wanting to run a 5k race to support a certain cause. You start slowly, building success one day at a time. Time passes, and your many successes have accumulated into a larger success as you reach your goal. Then what - do you stop? No - you've found the road to healthy and you want to stay on the path, so you raise your expectations and continue moving forward, one success at a time.

Here are 5 steps you can take to reduce your caloric intake:

1.) Get rid of your "Toes"! Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos.. Really, anything in a bag or a box, filled with ingredients you can't pronounce or explain what they are. These snacks were engineered in a lab, not a kitchen, by a big company. That company wants you to buy more product, not lose weight and get healthy. These snacks were created so you could eat them without feeling full, and to be as addictive as possible. Clear your home and office of lab-created snacks and you'll take a gigantic first step forward.

gigantic cheetos

2.) Reduce (or eliminate) your Kryptonite! Are there one or two things you eat regularly that you shouldn't? Maybe you don't even realize how many calories they have. Soda and other sugary drinks are the usual offenders (140 calories per 12 oz can of Coke adds up really fast!) But maybe you're into Snickers, McFlurries, Blizzards, or cheesecake - whatever it is, it's killing you.. Let it go.

I used to drink 3-4 cans of Coke or Dr Pepper each day to wash down my handful or two of Red Vines, for a grand total of about 600 calories per day - wow! I haven't had a Red Vine since February, and I drink a Coke once every couple of weeks (usually mixed with bourbon.)

coke nutrition label

3.) Marginally reduce your meals. This is the new you, right? But you still remember the old you. Every time you sit down to eat, envision what the old you would have eaten, and then only eat 1/2 - 2/3 of that amount. This works even better when ordering food at a restaurant: "Instead of the bacon cheeseburger with large fries and soda, I'll take a hamburger, small fries and an iced tea."

4.) Know how many calories your body uses. The first 3 steps are the low-hanging fruit - they let you get used to paying attention to what you put into your body, and for some people they'll be enough to reach a calorie deficit. But until you know how many calories your body uses, you don't have a true reference point.

Here is a website with a Calorie Calculator. You can input your age, sex, height, and weight, and it will tell you how many calories your body uses as a baseline. ALWAYS select the Activity Level to Sedentary. This is because the site over-estimates the calories burned from exercise.**

Per the calculator, I need 1,852 calories per day to maintain my weight. Now, knowing this, when I eat a 300 calorie snack, I'm able to look at it and think "wow, that's 1/6 of my entire day's calories.."

5.) Count calories. Once you've eliminated the low hanging fruit, and you know how much energy (calories) your body burns each day, you can get serious. Use a website like CalorieKing.com or LoseIt.com (which comes with a great smartphone app) to look up the foods you eat. Keep track of how many calories you're eating throughout the day. Keep a journal so you can see your results, day after day.

I recommend a goal between 1,300 and 1,600 per day, or about 300-400 per day less than your sedentary calorie usage. You can adjust your goal based on your body's sedentary energy burn rate and the rate at which you want to lose weight. A lower daily calorie limit will be more difficult to achieve, but will result in faster weight loss. (no duh, I know.)

Questions, thoughts, ideas? Let me hear them!

-Chris Butterworth

**If you use the calculator without setting it to Sedentary: Let's say I jog 2.5 miles a couple days per week. I'm burning about 600 calories, maybe 900 by the time you adjust for recovery and fat-muscle exchange, but 900 is probably too many. 900 / 7 is 129 per day, so my daily calorie usage should be 1,852 + 129 = 1,981. Yet the calculator, when adjusted to Lightly Active (exercise/sports 1-3 times/week), gives me a reading of 2,122 per day. According to the calculator, I could eat 2,000 calories per day and expect to lose weight slowly. Yet in reality I would be gaining weight over time. Use the Sedentary setting, and know that any exercise will amplify your results.