Imagine your doctor limited your daily calorie intake, but you’re still hungry all the time and you eat when you’re hungry. Then you start counting your calories and learn that you consistently hit your caloric allotment by lunch. What do you do?
I can eat 2000 calories by the end of lunch without blinking an eye. Sometimes, I’ll even still be hungry right after that.
Years of eating like a bodybuilder and powerlifter gave me that ability, but now it’s a problem.
For years, I ate and ate and ate. I followed the mantra of more protein is good and even more protein is great. Carbs were to be consumed in copious amounts after lifting sessions. I ate a whole lot of food every day.
Even though I was lifting, I packed on plenty of excess energy. I was overweight and developed high blood pressure. My doctor wanted me to lose weight.
Eat 1400 calories a day.
After she told me that and saw the look of incredulity on my face, my doctor said, “Maybe 1600,” with a little chuckle.
Going from eating around 3000–4000 calorie a day, by habit, to 1600 per day was going to be a challenge. I tried a few apps to track my calories, and while they all served their purposes just fine, it was so damn boring.
Sometimes I ate too much, and other times I ate the right amount of food and was super hungry most of the day. I did, however, learn something valuable. It’s okay to be hungry, and your body will adapt to eating less food.
I also figured out that I can eat considerably more than 1600 calories and still lose excess body fat.
Figure out what works for you.
Using a combination of feel and data, you can figure out how much food is the right amount for you. That’s the key, you know. It has to work for you.
But…you need the data first so you can make an informed decision.
I suggest that you use a calorie counting app to track your caloric input every day. You have to get this data just like you need to track your spending when figuring out how to fix your budget. I like to use Chronometer, but I’ve also used MyFitnessPal and it works just fine, too.
Do this for a couple of weeks so you know how many calories you get from your typical meals, snacks, and beverages. Track your alcohol intake, too, because those cocktails will give you a lot of calories in a short amount of time.
Another piece of data you need is how many calories you burn in a day. If you’ve got an activity watch — Apple Watch, running watch, etc. — you might have it covered. I’m not going to get into the accuracy of those devices, but they should at least give you an idea of what you burn. If you have no wearable tech like that, you’ll just have to resort to pen and paper.
Then, if you’re bored with counting calories, maybe stop for a while and see how you do. That’s what I did, and it worked for me. I still track a random day with Chronometer from time to time, just to sanity check myself, but overall I go by feel.
It doesn’t hurt that I made a menu for myself…
Making a menu, even of some loosely defined set of foods you consume will go a long way in your journey to utilize excess stored energy instead of storing more.
This was a game-changing strategy for me. I have a specific thing I eat for breakfast every day, and a few different lunches I can make to take to work. Dinner is more flexible, but I’ve found that if I stick to eating certain things in basically similar amounts, I’m good.
I tracked my calorie intake when picking out these foods and compared those numbers with my calories burned from exercise and regular daily chair-sitting at the office. I did the same for snacks, and when I put it all together, the numbers worked out in my favor.
So I stopped tracking and started living!
I am all about data and gathering actionable information, but I’m also an efficiency-focused software engineer. That means if I don’t have to do a thing, I’m not going to do it. The daily tracking isn’t necessary for me anymore, so now I don’t do it.
I’m exercising, eating intelligently (most of the time), and I’m losing weight just like the doctor ordered. And I’m doing it all while eating more than 1600 calories per day (I burn around 3000–3500 per exercise day because I run) and not feeling like I’m dying of hunger because I haven’t eaten in the past hour.
That works for me, so go find out what works for you.
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