Take a quick read of the title of this post one more time. Did you notice that it doesn’t say “How to Get Started Dieting”? Going on a diet is fun if you enjoy dropping 15-20 pounds over a few weeks, taking some pictures and posting them on facebook and then gaining 20-25 back a few weeks later. This is about how to change your eating HABITS.
Quick note about me: I know most of my posts are very technical in nature, but, exercise and nutrition have become a passion of mine over the past five years. I spent most of my 20s fat. 5 years ago I hit 250 pounds and was shopping for size 40 jeans because I couldn’t fit in 38s any more when I decided to do something. I’m happy to say that I’m hovering around 180 and size 32 now and have been for over a year! This is my advice to anyone who honestly asks how I did it:
Phase 1: Write
Supplies you’ll need: a notebook and a pen.
Write down everything you eat and drink. Seriously. Just write it down. Don’t change anything yet. Even on the weekends. Even the beers/wine you have. Write. It. Down.
Stay in this phase for at least a week, two would be better to get into a habit.
Phase 2: Weigh and Measure
Supplies you’ll need: a “food scale” and measuring cups from Amazon.
Now that you are in the habit of logging your foods, let’s take it a step further and start measuring what you are eating. Log the weight or amount next to your food in your notebook. If you aren’t able to measure a particular meal (like dining out or just pure laziness), make a rough guess, the more you start measuring, the more you’ll know the sizes of things.
Do this for a week. Don’t change your diet YET! I know you’re dying to, but just wait.
Phase 3: Go Digital
Supplies you’ll need: a phone.
Sign up for MyFitnessPal (MFP) and replace your notebook with the app. Log your foods and amounts in the app. The first week will be the worst because you’ll have to learn how to look up foods and scan them. Luckily, we are creatures of habit and once we find the foods, they will be there in our recent foods to find more easily.
This could be done for a couple more weeks, but I’m sure you’re probably ready for changes now. Just make sure everything is still getting logged.
Phase 4: Change Your Foods (Slightly)
Supplies you’ll need: nothing.
Now, time to set a goal in MFP. Whether you are trying to lose or gain weight, set a very low goal and start following the calorie intake requirements. By now, you know how many calories each of your foods is costing you and it will be easier to make adjustments (more chicken, less mac and cheese, if you’re me). You’ll probably notice that you dine out less because it is just easier to calculate at home when you’re in control of the kitchen.
Do this for as long as it takes to hit your initial goal. Keep setting new goals until you get bored!
Phase 5: Experiment
Now that you’ve got the hard parts down, you can try out different plans or just stick with a maintenance plan. You can switch to tracking macros (what I’m currently doing) or try a keto based diet. Notice I did say “diet” there. It wasn’t a mistake. Feel free to try different diets out now, but once you are done, go back to tracking your regular meals so that you don’t lose progress.
Seriously. Cheat. Don’t log during weekends if you don’t want to. Eat crappy foods. Enjoy them. That’s the thing, if you don’t, you’ll be miserable and want to just binge all your progress away.
You can even take weeks off from logging if you want. I haven’t for a while, but I could tell you a pretty close estimate of what my intake has been for the day just because I used to log so much.
I hope this helps you on your journey. Feel free to reach out on twitter or in the comments!