Losing weight is simple: Calories in < Calories out = Lose Weight
As long as you use more energy than you consume throughout the day, your body will automatically tap into your fat storage to release energy. You can eat less, move more, or do both. Over time you will see the result in the mirror and on the scale.
An average woman burns around 1800-2000 calories, while an average man burns anywhere from 2000-3000 calories.
You can also use the Harris-Benedict calculator (BMR calculator) to estimate your daily calorie burn accounting for your gender, height, weight, and activity level. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is equivalent to the amount of energy (in the form of calories) that your body needs to function if it were to rest for 24 hours.
To lose a pound, you will need to lose 3500 calories, 500 calories a day to lose 1 pound in a week. To put it in perspective, 500 calories is a plain bagel with one 3-oz packet of plain cream cheese, a McDonald’s Big Mac, 2 regular Snickers bar, or 5 bananas.
But it is easier said than done, I understand it firsthand as a foodie. That’s why I have found ways to trick my brain in making me feel satisfied and full without compromising too much of what I eat.
1. Fill your food on a large plate
Put your food on a large plate to make it visually look like there is a lot of food. I have seen this tip before but have dismissed this stupid idea without trying.
Until one day. On a typhoon day where I get to work remotely, I meal prepped my usual portion of cauliflower fried rice that I would normally bring to work. The portion fits perfectly in my 17x25 cm lunch box, but I often still need an orange or pear to make me feel complete. I served it on a plate instead of my lunch box, and to my surprise, I failed to finish my meal! All the ingredients and portions were the same, the only difference was the plate that was occupying a larger surface area of which created the illusion of an overwhelming amount of food.
2. Layout everything you will eat on the table
Same as 1., this trick fools your brain to think and feel full that there is so much food. It’s the same feeling that you get when you see people do making or food competition, looking at the 10 hotdogs as an audience makes you feel stuffed.
When you have an appetizer, desserts, fruits, drinks, or soup in the same meal, place all of what you will eat on the table. I guarantee that you will feel more satiated than eating it course by course.
3. Smaller and longer bites
Eat with a smaller spoon or fork. It feels like you are eating normally, but each bite is less in calories without much effort. Also, chewing 5 times more before you swallow also slow down your unmindful eating. This helps with consuming less as there is usually a lag in our brain to signal that we are full. By eating smaller and longer bites, your brain has time to tell you what you ate 5 minutes ago is enough and so you can stop eating now.
4. Mindful eating without distraction
Have you ever finished a bag of chips while watching Netflix without realizing it? Research shows that we tend to eat 30% more when we are distracted. When you only focus on every bite and be present, savoring the smell, texture, and flavor, you will not only be able to appreciate and taste the complexity of each ingredient, but time also passes slower that you will get bored of eating such a long meal which stops you from overeating.
Food is not made equal. Make a habit of reading the nutrition label to check the ingredients and identify the level of sugar. For instance, the barista version of the oat milk from Oatly is 140 calories per 8oz, while it is 120 calories for Califia Farms. But if you want to further lower the calories, you can substitute your oat milk with almond milk or soymilk.
You’ve probably heard a billion times to substitute a cookie with an apple. Everyone knows that cookies are higher in calories, and an apple is a healthier choice. It may work sometimes, but it just doesn’t satisfy your craving the same way. So if healthier options are too far of a reach, opt for keto or paleo cookies that are usually made with whole foods without artificial ingredients and a whole bag of sugar baked into them.
6. Water, Liquid, and more water
Drink a cup of water before your meal to fill you up, add a squeeze of lemon if it is too bland. But cut the sugary calories drink AKA no soda. To satisfy my sweet tooth without the additional calories and artificial flavorings, I would opt for sugar-free naturally flavored carbonated water or sugar-free naturally flavored electrolyte powder. If I want extra added benefits with some leeway in the calories, a glass of low sugar Kombucha or green juice is a perfect complement to fill me up.
Losing weight doesn’t need to be starving yourself. If approached smartly with the above tricks, you can still enjoy your parties, night outs, and buffets without guilt.
Yet, these tricks can get you so far if you still have calorie-dense meals that are full of processed food. The most effective ways are still the cliché boring principles: more whole foods, less processed food, cut the sugar, eat less, move more.