It is well known that in order to lose weight you must create a calorie deficit meaning you must burn considerably more calories than you consume. While many are aware of this reality, few know how to actually achieve a calorie deficit regularly. Anyone can diet for a day or even a week but if there is no sustainability over multiple weeks, months, etc. there will be no success in terms of weight loss. So, what are some ways to increase the likelihood that you’ll adhere to the caloric deficit that you have carved out for yourself?
(***Note: For the rest of this article, it’s going to be assumed that you have correctly calculated what calories will create a deficit for YOU and we are just talking about methods that will help you hit this number. Remember what is a calorie deficit is individual and subject to change based on your daily activity and adaptations to your metabolism over time but we need to make this assumption otherwise the following points are all moot as you will NOT lose weight if you are not in a deficit. Do not fall into the line of thinking that you are in a deficit but not losing weight because by definition this is not possible.)
Food choice is crucial in adhering to your calorie deficit. If you are constantly picking foods that are high in calories but not all that filling you’re going to have a much harder time of keeping your calories in that deficit range.
Do a quick Google search for satiating foods and find which ones you like. Begin to steer towards these foods while of course logging your calories each time you eat to make sure you’re hitting your daily calorie allotment.
Another method to find foods like this is to simply begin documenting how you feel after eating certain foods. Ate a chicken sandwich from Wawa that was 400 calories and it kept you full for 5 hours? That might be a good option going forward. Your wife made pasta with some sausage that netted you 800 calories and you were hungry 45 minutes later? That’s probably not the best choice to stick with regularly.
Don't Drink Your Calories
Drinking calories can be an absolute killer for most people. Coffee with cream and sugar can add up. High-calorie energy drinks can add up. Sports drinks can add up. The list goes on and on and not only do these drinks often pack on a ton of calories but they’re not in the least bit filling for most people. If you’re drinking 2 cans of coke a day at 140 calories a piece and you keep missing your calorie mark by 300 calories, it’s probably time to switch to diet coke which has 0 calories. (P.S. No, diet coke won’t give you cancer.)
Time-restricted eating or intermittent fasting can be a very useful tool to help individuals adhere to a calorie deficit. By giving yourself a certain window to eat in (For example 12PM-8PM) you simply won’t be able to consume as many calories over the course of the day. If you’re someone who likes to crush a ton of calories in one sitting this may be a great method for you.
It is important to note, however, that time-restricted eating provides no additive benefit over traditional non-time restricted eating. This method simply makes adhering to a calorie deficit easier for some.
Only Keeping Appropriate Food On Hand
For some people, if it’s even in the house as temptation it’s getting eaten. Do yourself a favor while shopping and only select foods that match the above criteria of satiating/filling to improve your adherence and make sure you don’t even have any chance of messing up.
Diet breaks and cheat meals can be crucial in helping individuals maintain long term adherence. These are often thought of as “two steps back” after “five steps forward” but we prefer to think of them as “zero steps back but zero steps forward.” By this we mean when you opt for a cheat meal or a break from your diet you shouldn’t simply go all out (i.e. binge) but rather you should eat something you like that’ll just put you at maintenance calories. How do you do this? Well, if you’re eating at 2,000 calories and that’s an estimated 500-calorie deficit, simply eat 2,500 calories while diet breaking or on a day that you opt to “cheat.” This will ensure no progress is lost and it’ll likely give you the psychological relief you need to keep up on your diet long term.
Your relationship with food, calorie deficit requirements, ability to adhere to a calorie deficit, etc. will be very individual. What works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. That said, these recommendations cover almost all bases and some combination of them should enable you to adhere to a calorie deficit and get that weight off (and more importantly, keep it off)!