Trying to count calories in the literal sense is not realistic. But that does not mean that calorie counting does not matter. Counting calories and meal planning is actually effective for achieving permanent weight loss.
The law of calories is based fundamentally on physics: energy IN versus energy OUT dictates whether you gain or lose weight.
- To maintain weight, you must consume the same amount of calories as you burn
- To gain weight, you must consume more calories than you burn
- To lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you burn.
When you do not have the slightest idea how many calories you are consuming, you are likely to be eating more than you think or what you “feel” the body needs and stop only when you are full.
Researches have shown that creating meal plans, counting calories and keeping a food journal are effective in creating nutritional awareness, ensuring accountability and ultimately, better success in permanent weight loss.
Here are some practical guidelines you can follow in creating meal plans and counting calories:
Use a spreadsheet to create a menu plan meal by meal for 4 weeks. Input the calories and nutrition content such as protein, fat, carbohydrates.
For eating out, prepare a list of the meals you will normally order and input the calories and nutrition content as well.
Follow your meal plan every day. Weigh and measure the food portion to achieve the food intake that match your nutrition content in the meal plan.
By doing this, you only need to count calories once and your meal plan serves as a daily caloric goal.
Keep a food diary. Log in all the food you have taken for the entire day. Include how much water you drink as well as what exercise or activities you have done.
By following closely to the meal plan and keeping a food journal for 4-12 weeks, you will progress through the 4 stages of learning:
Stage 1 – Unconscious Incompetence
You are eating the wrong food at the wrong amount. You don’t know what you are doing and you don’t know that you don’t know what you are doing.
Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence
You are aware that you are eating the wrong food at the wrong amount. You now know that you don’t know what you are doing
Stage 3 – Conscious Competence
You learn how to eat the right food at the right amount, and make a conscious effort by counting calories, keeping to the meal plan. You kept a food journal and exercise regularly. You know what you are doing but you have to work hard at it with determination and will power.
Stage 4 – Unconscious Competence
You have repeated the meal plan with the right calories over time. Now, you have developed a habit of eating the right food at the right amount as well as exercising regularly. It has become automatic without you having to think about it.
By stage 4, you have developed a healthier eating and getting active lifestyle habit that comes naturally to you. You will then achieve permanent weight loss.
It sounds like hard work, but at the end of the journey, you will feel a million times better and continue to feel that way after for a long time.
Have you tried meal planning or calories counting before? Share your experience in the comment below.
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