Where do I start? Part 1: Nutrition

Losing weight is incredibly frustrating. It sounds easy – eat less, move more. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There is simply too much (and often contradicting) information out there. In this entry, I want to give you some tips on getting started with the nutrition side of weight loss.

Weight loss is 80% nutrition and 20% fitness. Many people believe that they can simply exercise and lose weight. But think about it, which one is easier? Eating 300 calories or burning 300 calories through exercise? Eating, of course! Nutrition is, in my opinion, the hardest part of losing weight.

The first step to losing weight is setting a realistic goal. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your goal. Don’t try to lose 20 pounds in one month because it’s pretty far from realistic, and unless you have a lot of weight to lose, it may not even happen. Aim to lose no more than 2 pounds per week. Some weeks you may lose a few pounds, some weeks you’ll lose nothing. Once you have your goal and a date you want to reach your goal, find an online nutrition tracker (I use SparkPeople.com, and I love it. MyFitnessPal.com and LiveStrong.com are also good ones. And they’re all free.) that will give you an accurate amount of calories you need to consume to reach your goal. (Your level of physical activity is also factored into that equation. If you exercise a lot, you will probably need to eat more. If you’re a SparkPeople member, you can manually enter the amount of calories you burn each week, which will automatically fix your nutrition tracker to reflect your level of physical activity. I’m sure you can do the same with MFP and LS.)

Eating a balanced diet is important. Your body needs carbs, fats and proteins. 45-65% of your calories should come from carbohydrates, 20-35% should come from fat and 10-35% should come from protein. If you use an online calorie counter, your nutrition tracker will (at least it should) give you a range of how many grams of each macronutrient (carb, fat, protein) you should aim for.

Okay, so now what? Here comes the fun part: counting calories and weighing and measuring your food (NOT eyeballing). Yes, it’s tedious, it can be REALLY annoying, but it’s a highly effective way of losing weight. Online calorie counters have made it pretty painless most of the time. You also have to make an effort to read nutrition labels. The most importance pieces of information on a nutrition label are the serving size and the amount of servings in each package. When you read the label for Poptarts, they don’t seem THAT bad in terms of nutrition. But did you know that there are two servings in a package of Poptarts? Who leaves the second Poptart in the package all by its lonesome? I never did. One 20 ounce bottle of soda is 2.5 servings. But again, how many people stop at one serving?

Like I said before, a balanced diet is important. The best way to achieve a balanced diet is make each MEAL balanced. Each meal should have a combination of lean protein, healthy fats and carbs (whole wheat is better than white). Sometimes this can be hard, but if you divide your ranges by the number of times you eat per day, you’ll have a range for each macronutrient and number of calories you should aim for each meal. We’ll use my ranges as an example. My calorie range is 1,540 to 1,890. If I eat 5 times a day, I should aim for 308-378 calories each meal. My range for carbs is 173-307 grams. Divide that by 5, my range for each meal is 35-61 grams. My range for fats is 35-75. Divided by 5, my range for each meal is 7-15 grams. My range for protein is 60-165. Divided by 5, my range is 12-33 grams. Like I said, this could be difficult to get each macronutrient in this range for every meal, and it can require a lot of planning on your part.  Do your best to eat a balanced diet. You’ll get the hang of it if you continue improving your diet overtime, which leads me to my next point.

Do not try to overhaul your diet in one day. It is recommended to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. If you’re not a big fan of fruits and vegetables, don’t force yourself to eat anything you don’t want to eat. That said, try new foods and/or prep them in a way that you can enjoy them. The other day, I tried kale for the first time in the form of kale chips. I never thought I would enjoy kale. Make small changes in your diet continuously a few times each week. If you have a big, fat bagel slathered in butter and cream cheese for breakfast (mmm), swap that out for 100% whole wheat bread (read ingredients. If the first ingredient is not 100% whole wheat flour, then it’s not 100% whole wheat bread.), 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a banana. (Look at that! A balanced meal!) If you eat a lot of red meat, swap that out for chicken, fish or even meatless meals with legumes. If you enjoy Alfredo sauce on your pasta (who doesn’t love a creamy Alfredo sauce?), opt for marinara sauce instead. You can still enjoy all of your favorite foods, but do so in moderation. Finding healthy alternatives is a great way to enjoy something that is similar to your favorite indulgences. I’ll elaborate at a later date on some of my favorite healthy alternatives.

Drinking plenty of water is important, not only for weight loss, but for a number of bodily functions as well. The more hydrated you are, the faster your metabolism works. It is recommended to drink 8 8-ounce glasses of water each day. I drink from four 16 ounce bottles of water everyday, and I give myself 3 hours to drink each bottle. I start drinking water at 10am and I finish my last bottle by 10pm.

This is all incredibly overwhelming if you’re just starting out. I’m overwhelmed just typing all of this up. I hope some of  you have found this helpful. Tomorrow I will post Part 2: Fitness! I hope that won’t be as overwhelming.

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