When trying to lose weight, we might assume we need to dramatically scale back on calories. But life’s all about balance, which is why eating just slightly less calories is an easier and more effective way to shed pounds.
For most adults, 2,000 is the magic number of recommended daily calories needed to maintain a healthy weight. However, it can vary depending on factors such as age, physical activity level, and a person’s metabolism. In any case, taking a drastic dip in order to lose weight is hard to keep up for weeks on end and could easily result in malnutrition.
Small dietary tweaks are much safer and produce longer-lasting results than sudden changes. But before making any adjustments to our eating habits, it’s important to know how many calories we tend to eat on a regular basis. Of course, it’s easy to lose track of that exact number, especially if we mix up the types of foods we eat each day.
Thankfully, Rachel Paul PhD, RD, told Eat This, Not That! about a simple way of finding our average calorie intake: “An accurate way to calculate one’s calorie needs would be to have them eat as they typically do without any modifications for about seven days.” Over that time, write down the calorie amounts of each meal using a fitness journal (Buy on Amazon, $6.99) or mobile app like Lose It!, which Paul recommends for her own clients.
Once you have that average daily amount, Paul advises shaving off just 250 calories per day as a small calorie deficit that will help us lose around a half a pound per week. After the body gets used to this change for a week or two, we can gradually continue to lower our calorie intake. Paul warns against ever consuming fewer than 1,200 calories a day, though, which could quickly lead to malnutrition.
Reducing calories also doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice flavor. There’s plenty of ways to enjoy our favorite foods without loading up on the fat and sugar! For example, a stack of pancakes can be made healthier by adding Greek yogurt to a store-bought mix and topping it with fresh fruit rather than syrup and butter. Or try steaming cauliflower and mashing it with butter and garlic instead of heavier potatoes.
Whatever you choose, pacing yourself when starting a healthier lifestyle can lead to better eating habits that will help you maintain a healthy weight for years!
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