How To Create A Calorie Deficit Without Counting Calories

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Some people think it can’t be done, but I’m gonna show you how to create a calorie deficit without counting calories.

Hi, it’s Ivana, helping you get fit healthy and strong at any age.

Calories And Energy Balance

A calorie is a unit of energy.

So whether or not you’re tracking those calories, you need to create a calorie deficit in order to achieve fat loss.

Whatever diet that you’ve been following, if you’ve managed to lose weight on it, you’ve lost weight because you are in a calorie deficit.

What Is A Calorie Deficit?

A calorie deficit means that you’re burning off more calories than your body needs to sustain itself.

Your body will take that energy from your fat stores.

If you’re taking in more calories than you’re able to burn off, then you’re in a calorie surplus and your body will store the excess as fat and maintenance is when neither of those things are happening. You’re taking in and burning off the exact amount of calories that your body needs to sustain itself the way it is.

Ways Of Reducing Your Calories In

First, I’ll start with ways to reduce your calories in.

So these are methods by which you can naturally consume lower calorie foods or consume less overall in order to reduce your calorie intake without actually having to count anything at all.

These are the kind of strategies I use day in and day out because I don’t like to count calories. I haven’t tracked and monitored my calories for years, really. And now it’s just a matter of following certain habits that allow me to maintain the weight that I’m at.

Reduce Your Intake Of Highly Processed Foods

Reduce your intake of highly processed foods. Many people will call these junk foods. I prefer to call them treat foods because I prefer that positive connotation, but it’s stuff like baked goods or fast food burgers, fries, donuts, and muffins. A lot of people like those chocolate and ice cream, where you’re getting the mix, the sugary creamy taste.

A lot of them, we call hyperpalatable foods because they have that mix of fat and sugar.

That really is appealing to us in terms of flavour.

That Doesn’t Mean Leaving Out Processed Foods Entirely!

Now, having some highly processed sugary fatty foods once in a while is not a problem. And in fact, I recommend that my clients keep in those foods, that they really, really enjoy at least have them in smaller quantities and less frequently than they currently are.

The reason for that is simple. And it’s not just because of health, primarily for weight loss. The issue is that they’re very calorie dense. So you’ve got a lot of calories packed in there and they’re very easy to consume. If you think about a bag of chips, you could probably eat the whole thing.

I used to be able to eat one to two tubs of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream at a sitting. So you’re talking about 600 to 1200 calories, and I’d already eaten a normal amount throughout the day.

So it’s something you need to be aware of. It’s very easy to consume a large amount of calories when they come in the highly processed refined form.

Increase Your Intake Of Fibre-Rich Foods

Now the converse of that is increasing your fiber intake foods that have more fiber, take a little bit more energy for your body to digest. They also tend to be more satisfying, more satiating. So if you’re having higher fiber foods, they fill you up a little bit more. That decreases your appetite later on.

Managing Your Appetite To Get Into A Calorie Deficit

Appetite management is a big part of weight loss.

So especially when you’re not tracking and monitoring your calories. And you’re just trying to adjust your appetite in order to eat fewer calories. You need to be mindful of things that are going to increase your appetite and things that are going to decrease your appetite.

And one of those things is high fiber foods. Specifically increasing vegetables and fruit can be very useful, partly because of that fiber reason, but also because fruits and vegetables are very low in calorie density.

If you fill up on vegetables, you have a lot less space for other things, things that are higher in calorie density.

Increasing Your Protein Intake

Increasing your protein intake can also be an important part of appetite management.

If you have protein with your meal, it tends to increase the feeling of fullness. It keeps your blood sugar from going out of control. This happens in some people, but not all. So that you don’t develop cravings later on that are gonna cause you to overeat, consume more calories, and get yourself into a calorie surplus.

So it’s not that certain foods can’t be consumed. It’s that eating a certain way is gonna help you manage your appetite and reduce your cravings.

The Benefits Of Lean Protein

Now, if you choose leaner meats and leaner cuts of protein, you’re also reducing the calorie intake. If you’re having a big fat steak, yes, you’ve got protein, but you’ve got a lot of fat in there and quite a lot of calories all at once.

If you’re looking at something leaner like white fish, like cod or haddock, or the old staple chicken breast, you’re gonna find that the protein is high, but there’s very little fat.

So you’re not adding as many calories overall.

Include Fat In Your Diet

That’s not to say that you don’t wanna have higher fat items because managing your fat intake is also important.

If you go very, very low fat, then you’re gonna find that your appetite increases. Then you’re going to be more likely to eat more and crave more things. And that means you may binge and overeat on your favourite, highly processed refined foods.

Setting Up Each Meal For A Calorie Deficit

So when you look at each meal, it’s useful to start with the protein and whether that’s your lean meat, some vegetarian sources like tofu, edamame, lentils beans can provide protein as well, but keep in mind that you’re adding some carbs and additional calories as well.

Whereas the meat sources, the lean meat sources of protein, you’re gonna be adding almost exclusively protein.

So you start with that protein. And that’s the base of your meal.

For women, I tend to say about one Palm sized amount as a serving.

for men, two Palm-sized amounts.

So that’s gonna be adjustable based on your size. If you’re a small person, you have a smaller palm, therefore you don’t need to eat as much protein. You don’t have to think about it too much. You don’t have to measure very carefully, but you’ll have an idea of what serving size fits.

Adding Vegetables To Get Into A Calorie Deficit

Now, once you’ve got the protein covered, you wanna throw in tons of vegetables. Ideally, a cup of vegetables or a fifth size amount of vegetables for women. Two fist size amounts of vegetables for men in a meal.

Adding A Fat Source

And then maybe you’re adding in one tablespoon of some kind of oil, perhaps olive oil.

That’s about 120 calories. If your protein source is not that lean. So if you were having a ground red meat, for instance, then you might not wanna add an additional fat source because you’ve already got some fat there. If you’re having a chicken breast and a bunch of vegetables, then you wanna add probably one tablespoon of oil, just to keep things in balance for that meal.

Managing Your Appetite To Achieve A Calorie Deficit Without Counting Calories

Now eating that way tends to keep your appetite under control. And that means you’re less likely to be searching around those cupboards later on trying to find a snack, that’s going to add more calories to your day. It makes it easier to stay in a calorie deficit because you’re keeping your appetite reasonable.

Drink Water Before Meals

Another tip for creating a calorie deficit without counting calories is to drink water before meals. It’s been shown that having a glass of water just about eight ounces of water before a meal, approximately half an hour can help reduce your calorie intake at that meal.

Because you have that slight sensation of fullness.

Stay Hydrated!

Making sure to stay hydrated can be helpful for a lot of people. Some people when they get dehydrated, tend to feel hungry. Not everybody. Not having enough water can cause headaches or fatigue. So you definitely wanna make sure that you’ve got a reasonable intake.

Drink No-Calorie Or Low-Calorie Drinks Without Counting Calories

Drinking no calorie or low calorie beverages can also help you to get into a calorie deficit.

Many people drink coffee, but then they put tons of cream and sugar in it. So it becomes a very high calorie item and it can almost replace a small snack.

But if you actually drink just coffee straight, it has very few calories. The same with tea. It can keep you full.

I personally like to drink tea throughout the day and I feel like it keeps me from snacking and it gives me something pleasurable to do during the day. So I’m not always searching for food.

Swapping out your soft drinks or juices for water or low calorie, plain beverages like coffee or tea can be really helpful for getting you into a calorie deficit.

Pay Attention To Your Hunger Cues

Now I’ve talked a bit about appetite and I think it’s really important to get in tune with your hunger.

A lot of times we eat out of boredom or when we’re stressed or anxious. This is completely normal.

And I’m not saying you should never do that. It’s going to happen occasionally. But many times we’re eating almost all of our meals, just out of routine. And we don’t pay attention to whether we’re hungry or not. Why we’re eating this particular food. Why we’re eating this particular quantity of the food. And it’s often helpful to pay attention to those cues in order to reduce your calorie intake, try to figure out why you’re choosing the foods that you are.

Are they comfort foods?

Do you have some sort of history with them?

Can you have a smaller amount of this food? Maybe you can have it less frequently?

All of those things will help to reduce your calorie intake.

Portion Your Food

Portioning your food can help you get into a calorie deficit without doing any counting.

Eatting out of bags or boxes or tubs, particularly when it’s treat foods that you enjoy is really easy.

It’s hard to figure out how much you’re eating and it’s very easy to consume a large amount.

Portioning Healthy Foods

But portion size doesn’t just apply to treat foods. It also applies to healthy foods, especially things that are healthy, like nuts, but are very calorie dense. A quarter cup of nuts is generally around 200 calories. Now 200 calories might not seem like a lot, but most people don’t eat that quarter cup. When they’re having nuts. Many people will have a half a cup and they won’t even notice.

And that’ll be 400 calories that are easily consumed.

I have measuring cups at home. So if I’m having a portion of nuts, I put it into a quarter cup serving. Then I know it’s a reasonable amount for my body size and calorie intake.

Increase Your Calories Out

And now I’m gonna explain some ways to increase your calories out.

Most people think of a structured workout plan, something that you might do at the gym, whether that’s weight, training or cardio.

But there’s a lot of other ways to incorporate physical activity into your life. You don’t wanna start to go crazy and start working out two hours a day in the gym because that’s not practical and sustainable for most people.

You want to incrementally add your physical activity and see how your body responds.

Setting Up A Physical Activity Plan

Now for general health and strength and just feeling good, especially as you get older, I recommend two to three weight training sessions week. That burns a certain amount of calories.

Not as much as cardio at that time, but there is a little bit more calories burned after the exercise.

It’s something we call EPOC. It burns off more calories after you’ve done the activity.

Adding In Cardio

Thirty minutes of cardio two to three times a week is also a good thing to add into your plan.

And I personally think that it doesn’t matter that much what you’re doing your heart actually doesn’t care as long as you’re getting your heart rate up. And that’s how you’re burning off your calories. Find a form of physical activity that you enjoy and do that.

So whether that’s cycling or martial arts or long boarding or Zumba, it doesn’t really matter. As long as it’s something that you enjoy and that you’re gonna keep doing. If you push yourself a little bit harder, you can burn more calories or you can go for longer.

Working At Low Intensity Still Burns Calories

You don’t always have to do a highly intense workout in order to burn a lot of calories. You can just do a longer session.

And for many people that’s particularly appropriate, especially if they’ve come from being sedentary.

Walking is an excellent way of burning off calories regularly. It’s practical and accessible for virtually everybody. It is useful to just move around more. The more that you’re getting up and moving around, the more calories you can burn off.

Using NEAT To Add To Daily Movement

There’s also something called NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), and that’s the general movements that you’re doing.

Even just moving my hands around during this video, I’m burning off more calories. That’s a small contributor to calorie burn, but it does help to pay attention to how much you’re moving.

I often notice (because I work from home) that if I don’t set a timer to force myself to get up, I will just sit in front of that computer for long periods. And I won’t be burning off any calories and I’ll start to feel really sluggish and lethargic over the course of the day.

Staying Active Throughout The Day

So periodically moving around can make a real difference. And if you’ve ever measured this, you’ll actually see the difference in how many steps you’re taking and how many calories you’re burning just by getting up and moving around.

Getting into a calorie deficit without counting is certainly possible. You can affect both your calories in and your calories out. Just try a little bit from each side at first and then track and monitor your progress.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 8-year-old boy. She is a YouTuber, writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training and chocolate, not always in that order of preference.
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