While Chicago has seemed to forget that spring is indeed a season, summer is fast approaching. If you haven’t been on top of your diet through the endless winter, now is the perfect time to start!
For those of you following my posts, you know that the only way it is possible to lose fat is to consume less calories than you burn, or in other words, be in a caloric deficit. The most accurate way to ensure that this is happening is to track your food intake for a while and plan out of all your food portions by measuring them. This will be about as accurate as you can get, and it's how bodybuilders and physique athletes get freakishly lean. It will work, but it can be very time consuming and annoying, and isn't really necessary for the average person.
So I've put together 15 easy tips you can implement to help to get you into a caloric deficit without spending any time weighing or measuring your food.
15 Tips for Weight Loss
1. Fill your fridge with mostly whole, minimally processed, nutrient dense foods. That doesn’t mean you can’t have any “junk” in there, but the less there is, the less temptation there will be to eat it!
2. Prep at least your lunches ahead of time. If you’ve got one third of your meals planned out ahead of time, that leaves one third less to think about.
3. Make your plate mostly protein and vegetables. Eat them first, and if you are still hungry, eat the carbs and fats last.
4. Try to reduce or eliminate snacking. As someone who is extremely active and on my feet for a solid 14+ hours a day, you might be surprised that I very rarely snack. In my opinion, if you’re finding yourself hungry between meals it means that either you aren’t eating enough at your meals or you aren’t actually hungry - you’re just bored.
5. If you don’t want to cut out snacks, limit yourself to “single serve” snacks. Low-fat string cheese, Greek yogurt cups, apples, bananas, and oranges are all great options because once you finish them there isn’t a bag or jar to inadvertently keep reaching for.
6. Nuts are probably one of the most recommended “healthy” fats there are and labeled a good source of protein even though only about 10-20% of their calories are coming from protein. If you are going to keep eating nuts, weigh them out and put them in bags so that once the bag is gone you’re done. You’d be surprised at what 1 oz of nuts actually looks like.
7. No one ever got fat from eating fruit, but if you’re munching on it all day and of the mindset that the calories are fairly minimal, at least make the right choice. Watermelon is the perfect summer food that you can pretty much eat all day, satisfy your sweet tooth, and barely make a dent in your caloric quota. An average 10-pound watermelon is only about 1300 total calories.
8. If you drink alcohol, you could try and reduce your intake, or cut it out. But let's be realistic, that’s probably the last thing you want to do with the weather getting warmer. Instead, choose better options.
9. If you are already getting a solid amount of protein (1g per pound of lean body mass), than this one isn't for you, but if you think you aren't getting that, then try and up your protein a bit and reduce calories somewhere else. Protein requires about 25-30% of its calories to be used for digestion, compared to 5-6% of carbs and 2-3% of fat.
10. Prepare your meat on the grill instead of in the oven or in a pan. Grilling is the leanest way to prepare meat as much of the fat will drip through the grates, versus sitting and cooking back into the meat.
11. Experiment with intermittent fasting. There is nothing special about limiting your eating to a 8-10 hour window other than it usually ends up with less total calories being consumed. Feel free to leave me a comment below if you'd like more details on this.
12. Start making an effort to get 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep each night. If you’re already getting this, great. If not, some of your food choices are probably being made out of fatigue. Along with this, try and limit screen time before bed.
13. Start incorporating walking into your day. As someone who walks to and from work twice a day, mine are built in to my schedule, so I take this for granted. Instead of sitting down and re-watching that episode of The Office for the tenth time, get outside for 30 minutes and listen to a podcast. Or even go to the gym and walk on the treadmill and watch TV on your iPad. A few sessions of this every week will really start to add up.
14. Incorporate “mini workouts” into your day. These are best suited for the morning before you shower. We’re talking 4-6 minutes of hard deliberate activity to get your heart pumping. Here’s an example:
- 25 squats
- 10 push-ups
- 30 second plank hold
Do as many rounds as you can do with no rest in 6 minutes. Aim to do better each day, and then switch things up when you get stale. Just like the walks, these won't seem like much, but the calorie burn over weeks or months will start to add up.
15. Stand up. Standing burns roughly 50 more calories an hour than sitting. I’ve gotten in the habit of eating breakfast on my feet and I’m far more alert first thing in the morning. If your job allows, get a standing desk. If you add in one hour of standing each day, you’d lose about an extra 5 pounds of fat each year.
These are all worthwhile tips for summer slimming, but I would not recommend trying to implement them all right off the bat. Pick a couple of these to start with and start adding more in once the first few become habits. And if you haven’t already been doing so, always aim for a solid 80% of your diet to be real, whole, unprocessed foods, get in 30-60 minutes of focused exercise at least three days a week, and stay hydrated.
To get a fresh start on your spring cooking, don't miss The Chopping Block's hands-on Seasonal Healthy Indulgences class coming up at Lincoln Square on Tuesday, May 22. You'll learn how to work with seasonal ingredients, and cut out calorie overload without compromising on flavor with this menu:
- Sweet Pea Hummus with Radish "Chips", Sugar Snap Peas and Pita Chips
- Grilled Salmon and Asparagus with Dill-Yogurt Sauce
- Fregola Salad with Artichokes, Scallions and Fresh Herbs
- Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream