Monday, January 11, 2010

Learn the Basics to Manage Your Diet and Lose Weight

Counting calories is worth the effort if you want to lose weight. Most people think of calorie counting as a real pain in the neck, an extra effort, a hassle. It will probably feel that way at first. As you learn more about food and begin incorporating that knowledge into your daily eating it will become second nature.

Changing your diet can seem very overwhelming. Find out what your starting point is by creating a food log. For one week, keep a log of everything you eat. My favorite way to do food logs is online at a site like Regardless of where you record the information make sure you include everything you eat and the quantity of each food. Also, record any details like whether a food is low fat, salted or unsalted, prepared with butter or covered in sauce, chicken with skin or no skin, etc. The great thing about doing your food log online is that the website provides all kinds of nutrition information about how much fiber or sodium and how much fat, carbs, etc. you're getting in your diet.After a week of logging what you eat, it's time to evaluate and probably make some changes.

Figure out how many calories should you be eating every day. There are many formulas out there for figuring this out. One good formula that I have found is the Harris-Benedict formula for BMR (basal metabolic rate aka the number of calories you burn just being alive). Once you have your BMR choose the appropriate Activity Multiplier to figure out your recommended daily calorie intake. This is the number of calories for maintaining your weight.

For weight loss, the rule of thumb is to subtract 500 from the number of calories that you calculated for maintaining your weight. Now, take a look at your food log and compare how many calories you've been eating to how many you should be eating for weight loss. If the numbers are different then it's time to make some adjustments. For most people this will mean a calorie reduction but, occasionally people are actually eating too few calories. If you log shows that your daily intake is significantly lower than what you calculated with the formula then you should consider increasing your intake.

Get in the habit of reading food labels. You cannot be successful long term with losing weight and keeping it off if you do not educate yourself about food. There is a lot of information on food labels but there are a few key things to focus on. The first things are the number of calories per serving and the serving size. Strictly speaking, if you are trying to stay within a certain calorie limit you can stop right there.

However, go a little further and you'll find some valuable information that will help with your weight loss and health. This is where you start to learn about they type of calories you're eating. Look for zero trans fats and low saturated fat. The less sugar and the more fiber the better. Look for foods that provide low fat protein. The last thing I'll mention here to look for is the amount of sodium. It is very easy to get too much. The body only needs 1000mg per day and the RDA recommends a maximum of 2400mg. Not only is too much sodium bad for your health but, it will make you retain water and that can be very discouraging when you're trying to lose weight.

There is plenty more I could talk about regarding food labels and understanding what exactly you're feeding your body. The information here is enough to get your started with making sure that you are getting the right amount of calories each day to support your weight loss goals and to begin making better nutritional choices.

Just like losing weight, learning about nutrition and changing your diet is a process. Go slowly and stick with it. Over time it will make all the difference.

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