Guess what day it is? That’s right, January 31st. The day that I have established as the deadline to have my diet and exercise program in place and the date I’ll begin my time-lapse series of photographs. Are you ready? Am I ready? Well, I’m mostly ready. I don’t have my gym membership yet but I think that can wait until after I start my diet. We all know what that means: its time to start counting calories.
BLEAGH! You say? If I catch your meaning then yes it is indeed a tedious, joyless endeavor. However it is a necessary requirement of any responsible diet and exercise plan.
Consider the following. Can you lose weight just through exercise and without any change in diet? The answer is a resounding ‘maybe’. It would be dependent on your already having a net-zero number of calories in your diet. In other words you would already have to consume no more calories per day than you burn. In such a case you could indeed get away with jogging 30 minutes a day and lose weight since exercise requires energy (a calorie is a unit of energy for you high school science class dropouts). BUT we all know that’s not how life works. Some days you’ll survive on coffee and cigarettes…other days you’ll eat half a strawberry cheesecake at 3am and never gain an ounce.
Some people try to justify eating that 300 calorie piece of cake by thinking, “Well I’ll just workout extra hard tomorrow to make up for it.” That’s all well and good but do you really want to live your life that way? To do that you’d need to spend 60 minutes on the treadmill just to work off the cake and break even, and then MORE exercise on top of that. Doesn’t it make more sense just to skip the cake?
Now consider this. Can you lose weight just by changing your diet alone? The answer is ‘absolutely’. This strategy works, just ask any gastric-bypass patient (a terrible procedure I would never recommend). How does it work? Remember it’s not fat that makes you fat, it’s not carbs, its not red meat and potatoes; it’s all about the calories. Eat fewer calories than the minimum your body needs to stay alive and you will eventually consume your fat reserves, thus losing weight. That sounds miserable you say? It can be, but those are the breaks. The thing that trips most people up is they think they have to starve in order to have any effect. This is NOT true. To start to lose weight you should trim approximately 500 calories from your net calorie total. Notice this is not the same thing as saying you need to trim 500 calories from your diet. 500 calories can be one whole meal so skipping out on one can be psychologically intimidating.
The objective of reducing 500 calories from your net calorie total can be accomplished several ways. You can skip a meal. *GASP* Yes it can be done that way. I don’t personally recommend it because you’ll be starving and you’ll be tempted to gorge at your next meal. Alternately you can reduce all your portion sizes across the board, thereby cutting the 500 calories. This will still allow you to eat well in most cases. Thirdly you can trim 250 calories from your diet AND exercise each day burning off 250 calories that way. That is the preferred method in my opinion.