If you’re asking yourself ‘how can I diet?‘ to lose some weight, or even gain weight, and want to know how to diet, don’t get drawn in by the hundreds of fad diets or celebrity diets on the market promising results that sound too good to be true – they usually are just that! They might work for a short while, but anything that requires you to completely change your routine for a short amount of time with the promise of dramatic weight change will probably not work in the long term and you’ll end up wasting money.
You don’t have to spend any money to go on a diet – you just have to want to do it – so before you start on a diet, firstly ask yourself if you really want to diet. Sounds like a bizarre question, but as with anything else in life, you have to really want to do something before you can set about achieving it. If you try and do anything without really wanting to, you’ll end up with a half-hearted attempt and, more often than not, you’ll be either doomed to failure from the beginning, or unhappy with the results. So think about it carefully first and then take each of the following simple steps at your own pace.
Step One: Assess your starting point
For the next seven days, write down everything you eat without changing your normal routine at all. You can either just write it on a pad of paper that you carry around with you, or download an app from Google or Apple. The livestrong.com calorie tracker http://www.livestrong.com/myplate/iphone-calorie-tracker/ is a good example of an easy-to-use app. You can simply search for what you’ve just eaten and add it to your list.
On the eighth day, add up your calories for each day and work out a daily average. This exercise helps you to visualise and think about what you consume every day.
Next, write down some measurements. Start with your height and weight in pounds, then you can measure your body in the following areas:
upper arms, chest, waist, hips, top of each leg and above each knee
If you make a note of these measurements you can repeat the process in a few month’s time and you’ll be able to see how much has changed.
Step two: Make a plan
To start with the plan, you first need to work out your Base Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the amount of calories that you need just to exist for one day, without doing anything strenuous. The formula for working this out is:
Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )
For example, say you’re a 30 year old woman, weighing 180 pounds and 65 inches tall (which is about 5ft 4in), then your BMR would be:
655 + (4.35 x 180) + (4.7 x 65) – (4.7 x 30) = 1,602 calories per day.
Having a BMR of 1,600 means that if you ate exactly 1,600 calories each day and did no exercise you would neither gain nor lose weight. If you wanted to gain weight, you would need to eat more calories than this number, and if you wanted to lose weight you need to eat less (and/or burn more calories in exercise). To be more precise, in order to lose 1 pound per week, you would need to eat 500 calories less than your BMR per day, giving a deficit over the week of 3,500 calories.
Now we have a great starting point. We know on average how many calories we are currently consuming per day, and how many calories we use, so you can see at a glance if you’re consuming either too much or too little.
Step three – Learn and adjust
This step is all about learning what to eat for a healthy balanced diet, getting to know roughly how many calories are in which foods and making adjustments to your current eating habits. We all lead busy lives and can’t spend too much time calorie counting to the precise figures, but if you know roughly which foods are low in calories and which are high, then that will help you in making your daily food choices. Here’s a quick rough guide which is easy to remember:
- White or beige coloured foods are generally higher in calories – bread, potatoes, potato chips, baked goods and anything fried.
- Most green and brightly coloured foods are low in calories – so eat more vegetables, fruits and salads.
- Although its good to eat fruit it is also fairly high in sugar (fructose) so have fruit in moderate amounts.
- With meat, generally choose chicken or white fish over any red meats which have a greater fat content.
- Sauces and salad dressings are usually fairly high in calories so go easy on them.
- Alcoholic drinks also count towards your calorie intake so don’t forget to count these!
From your food list that you made in step one, you should be able to identify some high calorie foods that you’re currently eating, that you could easily do without in order to cut down your calorie intake. If your aim is to gain weight then you’ll be able to see where you can add food to help you increase calories – maybe you’re skipping meals or not finding time to eat? Whatever you plan to do, you’ll be on a sure and steady road to success if you’ve thought of how you can achieve it by yourself.
Once you’ve done these steps you’ll have a good understanding of where you are now and where you want to be. All you need to remember is, if you want to lose weight then take in less calories than your BMR, but if you want to gain weight, take in more than your BMR. If you sustain this over time you will know how to diet and succeed in your goal.