To get to the root cause of the issue, I did an experiment where I logged all of my calories and tracked my daily activity. Over time, I noticed patterns forming that served as information that I could use later on. Once I discovered the pattern, I realized that I could eat pretty much anything I wanted without the fear of putting on too much weight. But this strategy only worked if I applied it strategically.
Recently, I reintroduced this principle in my life again and I quickly lost a couple of pounds. Since summer is on its way, I thought I share this simple technique with all of you to help you reach your weight goals.
It all began when I watched a vlog of some random fitness YouTuber. While taking us along as she filmed her day, she mentioned that she was going out to dinner later with friends so she would be "saving her calories for dinner." I didn't exactly know what she meant but quickly figured out that she was simply taking a strategic approach to eating. So instead of eating a high-calorie breakfast and lunch, she ate sensibly throughout the day in preparation for her heaviest meal. Because she proactively ate low calories meals all day, indulging in a high-calorie dinner wouldn't throw off her weight management efforts.
I quickly realized that this applied to me as well. Because I'm a short, petite woman, the number of calories I can eat in a day without putting on weight is limited. One highly indulgent meal at a restaurant could provide all the calories I need for the day. After logging my weight for a while, I figured out a way for me to eat high-calorie foods without putting on weight. All I had to do was be strategic.
On days when I'm home all day, I'm pretty sedentary. The amount of steps I take a day is pretty embarrassing. Sometimes, I'm busy at home all day and, instead of making dinner, I pick up take out. This is a huge mistake if my goal is to maintain or lose weight. Low activity + high calories is a recipe for weight gain.
Then there are days when I go out for walks or visit the gym. The additional activity raises my calorie requirements. On those days, we can afford to take in a few extra calories without packing on the pounds.
Whenever I watch reality shows where women meet for lunch/dinner. Almost 100% of the time, they order a salad. I almost never order a salad at restaurants because I want to try the specialties on the menu. Once I went out with a couple friends for lunch. Both of the women were heavier than me. Of the three of us, I ordered the fattiest meal. Secretly, they may have classified me as one of those people who could eat whatever they wanted and not gain a pound, but this is definitely not the case.
The difference between us was that I recognized that I would be eating a caloric rich lunch that day so I managed how much I ate for breakfast and dinner. As a matter of fact, I asked the waiter to cut my burger in half so I could split the calories between 2 meals (lunch and dinner). Of the 3 of us at the table, I was the only one with a to-go box. As we talked during lunch they also discussed where they were going for dinner later that evening. If I would have ordered yet another heavy meal at dinner, I would have certainly set myself up to gain weight that day.
Eating out more than once a day is not a good idea if you're being strategic about your eating. Eating out multiple times a day might be necessary if you live a busy life or if you're on vacation. If this is the case, you have to raise your level of daily activity. So if I'm eating a bunch of junk food, I know I have to get moving, choose healthier options, or risk putting on weight. When I traveled for work, I fell into the trap of using my meal travel budget to it's fullest. But I soon found myself carrying an extra 10 pounds. Most of the time I traveled to attend meetings where I would be sitting in a room all day. There was no need for me to eat so gluttonously. I was giving my body all these extra calories (units of energy) that it didn't require. Once I realized what was happening, I opted to buy salads or sandwiches on days when I was in all day meetings and ate heavier foods on more active days. The weight easily came off without much effort.
Once I figured out strategic, activity-based eating, life became so much easier. I felt like I could still enjoy indulgent foods (in moderation) without being afraid of putting on too much weight. On my uneventful days with low activity, I scale back and eat reasonably. Or, if I have the choice of eating a high-calorie lunch vs. dinner, I opt for lunch because I have time to burn some of the excess calories during the remainder of the day. If you want to try this for yourself, I recommend you first understand how many calories you need a day to maintain your weight. Once you have this covered, you can play around with the timing on when you eat more or less than the typical amount calories you need to maintain your weight. Let's not eat mindlessly when we can take the strategic approach to help us keep our weight in check.