We all know that in order to lose weight we need to create a caloric deficit.
In other words, we need to take in less calories than our body expends.
With high calorie, highly palatable foods so easily accessible, creating a caloric deficit can be a tough task.
Many over-complicate things with the following of extremely strict diets, ridiculous fads, and other unsustainable methods to cut calories and lose weight.
My key advice to anyone attempting to lose weight is; keep it simple and stick to the fundamentals.
The bottom line is, whether you’re precisely counting calories or just eyeballing your portions and using simple math (1 less slice of toast, serving of potatoes, etc), you need to decrease and/or control your food intake in a sustainable manner if you wish to lose weight AND keep it off.
With all that being said, let’s get into what I find to be the most simple and effective strategy to cut calories in the hopes of losing weight.
A Simple Strategy to Cut Calories
I have found that one of the simplest strategies you can use to cut calories (especially in the beginning) is replacing unhealthy, calorie dense foods with healthy, nutrient dense ones.
This may seem pretty dull and/or obvious, however, many fail to implement it and instead try unnecessary and impractical ways to cut calories (or diet in general).
It is not the flashy complicated, “special”, “cutting edge” stuff that works.
It is the tried and true fundamentals that MUST be made into habits if we wish to be successful long-term.
Now, I want to point something out before we get too far ahead. This strategy is NOT a work overnight or bring drastic results in several weeks.
As with all successful weight loss strategies, it takes time and the key is repeating it enough times that it becomes automatic (habitual).
Quick fixes are so popular because as the name entails, they bring quick results. We want to notice the results today not tomorrow or next week.
This is why one of the first things I recommend most do is change their mindset and time-frame regarding weight loss. To realize how impatience is killing their ability to be successful in losing weight and keeping it off.
This strategy is not magic nor will it provide quick results.
It is, however, an honest, practical and effective strategy that will (in the long-term) benefit your weight loss goals and overall health.
With that out of the way, let’s get into why substituting may be an extremely beneficial first step in your pursuits to lose weight and keep it off.
Note: It can take time to adjust to the taste of foods such as brown rice, whole grain pasta or 100% whole wheat bread if you’re used to the refined versions but it is well worth it.
Reason #1: It’s Simple!
Well, first off, it is a fairly simple action to take.
With all the complicated, over-hyped weight loss and/or health strategies, this in comparison is extremely simple and reasonable.
Your biggest hurdle will likely be your taste buds (though you may find, like me, that whole grains are even tastier than their refined counterparts).
The issue many have is over-complicating everything and negating the fundamentals of successful weight loss and weight loss maintenance.
For many, if it doesn’t seem “flashy”, “cutting-edge” or “shiny” they tend to pass it up. And that is very understandable but unfortunate because most of the strategies that truly work for weight loss are NOT flashy, new, or cutting-edge.
When it is between some dull, slow working strategy and a “flashy, new, get quick results” strategy, the latter is the likely choice for most.
But, if you are reading this, you’ve probably tried many if not all of these flashy, new strategies with little to no progress (at least not any long-term progress), so you’ve learned and accepted the right path.
This is such a simple strategy and while it won’t produce significant losses in weight (not in the short-term at least), when paired together with other practical and honest weight loss strategies it is a very effective addition.
So, reason number one, it’s simple.
And in reasons 2 and 3, we’ll talk about why it is effective.
Reason #2: You’ll likely eat less without even realizing it!
The second reason is that you’ll likely eat less (without even realizing it)!
Whole foods are usually more satiating (filling) and less calorie dense than their processed counterparts so you will likely (unknowingly) take in less calories than you did with your poor diet.
Notice I said “usually”! I am not implying that all whole foods are low calorie dense nor that you cannot easily overeat them.
What I am saying, is that overall, whole foods are less calorie dense and more satiating (filling).
Eating a bag of chips that is 300 calories can usually be done very easily. On the other hand, trying to eat 300 calories worth of apples or really any fruit (~3-4 apples) would be much harder.
Not impossible, but again, relatively much harder.
Note: Calories rule the day with weight loss, so whether you eat 100% whole foods or not, calories will determine whether you lose or gain weight.
If you take in more calories than you expend, you will gain weight. Always keep this fact in mind.
Many see very quickly, the power of minimizing processed foods while increasing whole foods in their diet.
Though there are many ways to aid in preventing hunger and/or overeating, simply eating more whole foods (while minimizing processed/fast foods) can make a big difference.
Before moving on, I’d like to note that fruits and vegetables are going to be one of the best substitutes for candy, chips, and other sweet and salty snacks.
Snacking is a whole other topic, but as a tip, having a small bowl of fruit or baby carrots with a small portion of lightly salted nuts can be a very healthy and tasty go-to snack.
Reason #3: More nutrients that your body needs!
The third and final reason is that the less refined or processed the foods you eat are, the more nutrients that they will provide.
In other words, whole foods are much more nutrient dense compared to refined and/or processed foods.
Take 100% whole wheat bread and refined white bread for instance. When the whole grain is refined, certain nutrients such as fiber, magnesium, and vitamin B are lost.
Fiber is good for digestion and also has one of the highest satiety factors and thermic effect of foods among the macronutrients.
“Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, supports a healthy immune system, keeps the heartbeat steady, and helps bones remain strong. It also helps adjust blood glucose levels. It aids in the production of energy and protein.” (1)
“B vitamins play a vital role in maintaining good health and well-being….and have a direct impact on your energy levels, brain function, and cell metabolism.” (2)
In refining whole grains, these crucial nutrients are lost in the process.
The bottom line here, is that the more whole foods that you include in your diet, the more needed nutrients you will be providing your body with.
As obvious as substituting unhealthy foods with healthier ones is, many of us fail to place proper focus on it (as well as many other simple yet effective methods to better health).
Instead, too many of us place an excessive amount of focus on quick fixes, gimmicks, etc (i.e, strategies that are not sustainable and sometimes useless/dangerous to our health).
Substituting foods can be a very simple yet effective way to decrease caloric intake while (possibly) increasing your micronutrient intake.
Start smart! Skip the quick fixes and start filling your shopping cart with more nutrient dense, satiating whole foods.
I hope this simple strategy can aid you in better achieving your goals.
You must remember, however, that no strategy alone will make a significant difference.
The key is pairing honest and practical weight loss strategies together so that their small effects compound and produce the visible and/or noticeable difference.
Good luck and keep pushing forward towards that leaner, stronger, healthier version of yourself!