Making healthy food choices is vitally important to your long-term well-being. The bad news is, healthy eating alone won’t necessarily help you drop to your desired weight. That makes sense when we consider that a woman who weighs 140 pounds and a woman who weighs 200 pounds aren’t going to have the same results from the same diet.
Every person needs to customize their diet for their body’s needs. Here, Chris Powell, author of Choose More, Lose More For Life, shares the three steps that will help you start losing weight now.
Step 1: What’s Your Number?
The key to successful weight loss is to customize your diet by targeting your body’s specific calorie needs. Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. Even when you're at rest, your body needs energy for all its functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and growing and repairing cells.
The number of calories your body uses to carry out these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate – what you might call metabolism. Several factors determine your individual basal metabolic rate, but thanks to Chris Powell’s simple method, it’s easy to crack the calorie code:
Take your current weight and multiply it by 12 to come up with your “burn rate.”
Example: Let’s say you weigh 165 pounds. 165 x 12 = 1980. That would mean your body burns 1980 calories a day at its resting metabolic rate.
Whenever you eat more calories than your metabolism burns, your body stores the extra energy as body fat. So, in this example, if your normal burn rate is 1980 calories a day and you eat 2500 calories, that means 520 calories are going to extra weight. If you eat 1980 calories, you’ll maintain your weight. And if you eat less than 1980 calories, your body makes up the energy shortfall by tapping into your fat, causing you to lose weight.
If you think you’re eating under your daily rate, you might want to think again. Studies show that most people think they’ve eaten 20% fewer calories than they actually have.
You’d be surprised how easily those calories add up. The following menu is an example of healthy eating choices that could still push a woman who weighs 165 pounds over her calorie threshold.
Chai tea latte (180 calories)
Low-fat Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup granola and banana (519 calories)
Salad with grilled chicken and olive oil; cup of raspberries (329 calories)
Hummus and pita chips; apple (300 calories)
Turkey burger on a wheat wrap; brown rice; black bean and corn salad (796 calories)
Pack of cookies (100 calories)
These are, for the most part, all healthy eating choices. But they all add up to 2224 calories over the course of the day, well over a 165-pound woman’s 1980-calorie target.
Now that you know your body’s blueprint and basal metabolic rate, you have a powerful tool to help you lose weight.
Step 2: Automate Your Meals
Most of us don’t have the time or energy to obsessively count calories, but by simply reducing portion sizes and being aware of how many calories you should aim for each day, you’ll be able to stay below your desired calorie number.
Here’s the daily routine that will help you stay below your number:
Start with a morning jumpstart – eat within the first 30 minutes of waking up.
It’s not called “breakfast” by accident. The first meal of the day literally “breaks the fast” after having gone 8 to 10 hours without food. The longer your body goes without food, the more certain hormones signal your body to store fat for future breakdown. So, the sooner you eat, the sooner you jumpstart your metabolism.
Shoot for a breakfast that’s around 200 calories. There are plenty of choices that you can make a daily staple:
- A hard-boiled egg and a slice of toast
- Cottage cheese, celery and an orange
- 1/2 banana with almond butter
- 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt with 1 tbsp low-fat granola
- An almond milk protein shake with apple
Eat every 3 hours.
Throughout the day, eat a minimum of 3 meals and 2 snacks to keep your metabolism burning consistently. And remember to customize your menus depending on your target calorie number.
One easy way to portion meals among protein, carbs, and fats is by using your hand:
- Eat an amount of carbs that’s about the size of your fist
- Fats that are the size of your thumb, from the base up
- Protein that’s about the size of your palm
- About two fists’ worth of veggies
Between meals, snack on items you’ve packed in little plastic baggies to avoid overeating. Try 100-calorie snacks, like 1 1/2 cups grapes, 1 cheese stick, 4 slices of turkey, 7 dried apricots, 1 1/2 cups popcorn, 1 medium apple, 1 1/2 cups fiber cereal, 20 baby carrots or 14 almonds.
Splurge on Sundays.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when committing to a healthy lifestyle, so make Sundays the day of the week when you can forget about calories and relax. That said, still follow the structure of eating within 30 minutes of waking and every 3 hours afterward. And while you should feel free to enjoy your favorite foods, practice portion control by eating smaller portions – chances are, you’ll still feel satisfied.
Step 3: Build More Muscle Mass
The final piece of the calorie-burning puzzle is to build more muscle mass. You won’t have to work yourself to exhaustion at the gym – only 5 minutes of exercise a day can make a big difference.
As we age, we lose muscle mass, causing a corresponding drop in metabolism and increase in weight. Building muscle speeds up your metabolism, allowing you to burn calories faster and more efficiently.
If you’re worried 5 minutes isn’t enough, fear not. Whether it comes to diet goals or any personal or professional goals, too many people take an “all-or-nothing” approach, making promises to themselves that are impossible to keep. At just 5 minutes a day, this routine is designed to burn about 200 extra calories and accelerate your weight loss. It’s perfect to do while watching TV, as it alternates between low and high intensity for 30-second spurts.
Chris Powell’s Five-Minute Shred Sample Workout
0:00 - 0:30 seconds: Jog in place (low intensity)
0:30 - 1:00: Lift your knees to waist height (high intensity)
1:00 - 1:30: Side steps (low intensity)
1:30 - 2:00: Jumping jacks (high intensity)
2:00 - 2:30: Back step in place (low intensity)
2:30 - 3:00: Cross-country skiers (high intensity)
3:00 - 3:30: Jab, cross, knee (low intensity)
3:30 - 4:00: Duck upper cut (high intensity)
4:00 - 4:30: Jump rope
4:30 - 5:00: Tuck jumps
Remember, true transformation of both your body and mind begins with a single step. Start your journey right now to a diet and exercise regime that makes sense for your body, by calculating your calorie intake number … then watch that number drop and drop!