Despite the barrage of new ‘miracle’ diets which are launched every year (look out, January’s coming!) losing weight essentially comes down to one thing – calories in versus calories out. This is becoming increasingly easy to track, due in no small part to the abundance of calorie tracking smartphone apps and websites which help you log everything you eat.
Tracking calories can get tricky when you move beyond pre-packaged foods, and getting a figure which is close to accurate is a challenge when you’re making your own meals. If you’re trying to eat below your maintenance calorie expenditure, you have 2 main options – weight and measure everything that you put in your mouth, or give yourself a little room for inaccuracies in your measuring.
This can be a difficult approach to take, but it’s the closest you’ll get to an accurate reading of the nutritional content of your food. By using kitchen scales, you can measure the weight of every piece of food you eat and using an app like MyFitnessPal (or the excellent Wolfram Alpha) will allow you to keep an accurate log of the macronutritional detail of your diet.
While this is an excellent approach and (in my opinion at least) should be used whenever possible, it’s not always a viable option. For starters, not everything you eat will be prepared in your own kitchen. There will be trips to restaurants, family meals and other social eating occasions when bringing out the kitchen scales is just not an option. For those occasions, it’s really a case of eyeballing your food and making an informed guess about the weight and makeup of the food – something which is much easier to do when you’ve been measuring regularly.
Room for Error
Measuring everything isn’t for everyone, and while it’s by no means essential to be 100% accurate with your calorie intake it can make things much easier. The other sensible option is to track what you can and give yourself a little room in your daily calorie budget for the little bits of calories that sneak into your count.
There will always be some things that you either forget to log or just choose not to. Maybe you had an extra couple of coffee’s with milk one day, someone brought sweets to the office and you had a couple, you tasted some of your partners cooking – all seemingly minor factors which, over the course of the day, can add up to an extra few hundred calories a day.
By budgeting for these additional calories ahead of time, they don’t need to have any negative impact on your weight loss. Simply being aware that they exist and accounting for them can make a big difference the next time you step on the scale.
Of course, if you’re really dedicated you can always combine the two methods for maximum results. Track everything you can, allow for additional sneaky calories in your daily budget and you’ll easily hit your targets and continue seeing results!