I want to preface this by saying that this forum has been quite helpful to me. Because I cannot give back in the way of style advice until I get my own wardrobe comfortably in place, I want to offer some suggestions to members that may be looking to shed a few pounds. Respectful comments and questions are most appreciated. I have additional posts that I will add with time. Every extra pound of fat on your body is representative of an excess of 3500 calories that your body didn’t use and is storing for energy. The basic principle of losing weight is to consume fewer calories than your body burns by creating a calorie deficit. A 500-1000 calorie deficit sets you up for a healthy 1-2 lb per week fat loss plan, which is a widely accepted and promoted rate for weight loss. That makes the $64,000 question: How many calories do you need to maintain your current weight? Not knowing how many calories your body needs in a day is like spending money without knowing your income. Someone that spends money without a budget is likely to overspend, causing them to go into debt without realizing it. The same thing is true for someone who overeats; he wakes up one day and his pants don’t fit and he wonders why. The most basic part of create a diet is determining your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is your specific caloric need based on sex, height, current weight, and age. That’s right – the government has no idea how many calories you need because everyone is different. The easiest way to figure out your BMR is to use a calculator online. I like this one the most: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/. Your BMR is the amount of calories your body burns in a day with little to no physical activity. If you are physically active, the number of calories your body burns increases. The Harris Benedict Equation (http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-ca...dict-equation/) is a multiplier you can use to increase your BMR proportionately to your activity level. Using myself as an example, I’m a 29 year old male, 5’7”, and 147 lbs. My BMR is 1635.51. Because I exercise 5-6 days a week with pretty decent intensity, I multiply my BMR by 1.55. To maintain my weight, I need to consume 2535 calories per day. If I currently had a goal to lose 10 additional pounds, I eat a 500-750 calorie deficit per day – usually around 1750-2000 calories until the weight shed. The same is true for gaining weight with the opposite logic. For the purpose of this lesson, a calorie is a calorie is a calorie when it comes to weight gain or loss. Eat what you want to make up your daily calories; if your target is 2500, you could eat 2500 calories of M&Ms and lose weight at the same pace as if you ate anything else. But one caveat: the cleaner you eat, the more you can eat and the better you’ll feel. In the next article, I’ll expand on that thought. Bang for your Buck In the last lesson, we learned how to determine a daily caloric intake using the BMR, taking into account an activity level. We then used that number as the basis to create a calorie deficit for safe weight loss. For that purpose, we said that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie – and it is. But deep down we know that feeding ourselves 2500 calories worth of cookies, chips and doughnuts isn’t the same as consuming 2500 calories of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and legumes, and whole grains. Below, I’ll discuss how to extract the most of your daily caloric allowance to keep you full and energized – even on a deficit. You could go to McDonalds twice in the same day and easily get to 2500 calories by ordering 2 extra value meals. You would feel terrible, be depleted of energy, and have constant cravings for more food. If you review the contents of McDonalds nutrition, you’ll find an incredible amount of Saturated Fats and Sugars, two nutrients that offer the body very little nutritional value for the calories. Another way you could get to 2500 calories is by planning regular meals that you know have the nutrition you want and need. For breakfast, that might be a bowl of oatmeal, a banana, and 3 scrambled eggs. A good midmorning snack could be Greek yogurt. Lunch might be lean protein deli meat on a whole grain bread with some mustard, an apple, and some raw almonds. Maybe a slice of whole grain bread with natural peanut butter or almond butter in the afternoon is a good snack. Dinner could be a nice portion of fish, like salmon, on the grill with a greek yogurt sauce and grilled asparagus. And I don’t think that all of that added up gets you to 2500 calories. The point is some foods give you more bang for your nutritional buck than others. Fats, carbohydrates, and proteins are all great sources of calories if they are in the right form. Look for fiber in foods that have carbs and try to avoid saturated and trans fats. Eating whole foods that you purchase raw and prepare yourself is the easiest way to ensure you’re getting proper nutrition; you can rest assured that the more processed a food is, the less nutritional value it will retain. Understanding what foods have the nutrients you need is important. I use a website www.calorieking.com as a free reference to research nutritional value of a food I’m not sure about. You don’t need to become a walking nutrition encyclopedia, but you should develop a good sense and awareness to calorie contents in basic foods. Macronutrients There are 3 primary sources of calories we get from foods: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. We need them all to function optimally. Within the primary 3, there are nutrients we need and there are some we should try to avoid to get the most out of our diets. Understanding what to look for on a nutrition label makes it much easier to make good choices when you’re buying food. Carbohydrates: Carbs are good and a critical energy source – especially in the form of whole grains. When you neglect your body of carbs, you are losing your primary source for energy. As a good rule of thumb 30-40% of your diet should come from complex carbohydrates. Sugar, which provides the quickest burst of energy, also causes a “crash” or “withdrawl”, causing food cravings. When reading a nutrition label, keep the sugars low. Instead, look for fiber, which provides a prolonged energy source of complex carbs that keep you full. Whole grain breads, oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa are some terrific carbs to include in your diet. 1 gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories. Fats: In the 80s, the low-fat diets were all the rage; fat makes you fat. Companies took all the fat out of food and replaced them with sugar and people believed it was healthy. Today, there are still “low fat” foods on the shelves; 9 times out of 10, you’re better off eating the real thing. The fats that are important to avoid include saturated fats and trans fats. Olive oil, avocado, fish and nuts like almonds are all quality sources of fats. 1 gram of fat has 9 calories. This is only important to note because foods that are fried in fat add a lot of excess calories without filling you up or adding anything of true substance. That is why foods like French fries, which have about 100 calories worth of potato in them, have triple or quadruple the calorie content than a simple baked potato. Proteins: Proteins, generally the most expensive of the primary 3, should make up 40-50% of your diet. In general, any kind of protein you can get is good – BUT – you have to watch what types of carbs of fats the proteins bring to the party. Regular yogurts have protein content which generally comes at the expense of sugar. Choose Greek yogurt, which often has lower sugar and double the protein. In the case of beef and pork, some cuts (like ribeye steaks and bacon) contain very high volumes of saturated fats. Sirloin and pork tenderloin, on the other hand, are much lower. Note that the higher priced steaks, labeled Prime or Kobe or Wagyu, are higher in calories because of the additional fat content (marbling). Choice is a great cut of beef for a weekday meal. Ultimately, learning to read a nutrition label is up to you. It’s quite straight-forward and is an investment in your health. Eating out on a diet Inevitably, you’re going to need to eat out more often than you might prefer to facilitate business or even pleasure. Some of these instances may be unplanned and some weeks, you just may get overbooked with lunches or dinner meetings and events. While it’s best to try to avoid these situations at first, ultimately they’re the reality. These events really test your ability to pay attention to calories and make logical choices about the caloric content of the menu choices. Assuming you’re at a restaurant at a time that isn’t a cheat meal, your objective is to get in and out in a reasonable amount of calories without clearly drawing attention to yourself that you’re eating light. Nothing kills the buzz at the table than someone ordering a salad and making it known that they’re on a diet. The trick to eating out, I’ve found, is to avoid meals based on carbs and fried foods and go straight for the protein. Find the most lightly-sauced, protein-rich meal you can find. If everyone is starting with appetizers, contribute one that isn’t fried like shrimp cocktail or raw oysters. Have a piece of bread if everyone’s having one – it adds about 70-100 calories but it’ll keep you under the radar. If people are having salads, opt for vinaigrette instead of a creamy dressing. For the main course, hone in on a 6-8 ounce piece of protein like fish, lean beef, or chicken. Be adventurous and try a fish you haven’t had before and you’ll enjoy the meal in the same light as everyone else. In restaurants, many entrÃe choices often come with a butter or hollandaise sauce; if you can’t find a better option, simply ask for the sauce on the side – and use it to dip into rather than having your food swim in it. Skip dessert and go for coffee – you’re a man. If someone orders a dessert for the table, enjoy a fork or two but stick to a cup of black coffee. Enjoy a glass or two of wine if others are indulging and try not to get carried away. 2 glasses of red wine add 260 calories to your meal. One caveat – don’t skip meals earlier in the day in anticipation of the event. In fact, eat completely normally up to your event. “Saving up your calories” is only going to encourage you to binge at dinner. If you wind up with a few extra calories, remind yourself to burn them off on your next exercise. Managing these situations well often make the difference in keeping momentum in your overall diet. Slow and Steady Wins the Race Anyone can start a diet but sticking with it and making it a true lifestyle is what separates the men from the boys. Depriving yourself of what you crave, eating out often, not eating often enough, and not eating enough calories are roads to failure. Creating a realistic calorie deficit of 500-1000 calories is a plan that most men can live with and stick to, provided that they are committed and realistic with themselves. During weight loss, it’s appropriate to give yourself 1-2 cheat meals per week where anything goes – really anything. If you love burgers, have one a terrific burger and fries somewhere special. If it’s a ribeye steak dinner, then do that. Make them special and look forward to them. Allowing yourself to cheat keeps you sane and makes you appreciate the cheat. You’ll also find as time goes on, your cheat meals become more special and food taste and quality becomes a bigger deal than food quantity. I know that if I deprive myself of a good burger, I’m likely to go off the deep end sooner or later so I try to work one in every couple of weeks. To be able to “afford” the cheat, you need to stay within your daily caloric allowance 95% of the time. According to a study I once read in men’s health, 75% of men that maintain their weight within 5 lbs all year round pre-plan their meals. A lot of diets start out with good intentions but are derailed when there is no daily plan. I think this is one of the best vehicles of dieting, because it allows you to forget about counting calories all the time and avails you to make eating an afterthought in your daily routine. When you pre-plan your meals, you not only plan to eat the appropriate amount of calories per day, but can also focus on the quality of those calories. It’s easiest to eat the same foods at first, at the same times. Ultimately, you will want variety and can incorporate that into your daily plan. Nevertheless, when you fail to plan, you’ll often end up at a restaurant or choosing something that you have very little control over the preparation or nutritional contents of. Travelling makes meal planning more critical. Nevertheless, my experience has been that planning my meals can make a major difference to sticking to my diet. The bottom line is that a diet that has no wiggle room is destined to fail. A cheat meal here and there is satisfying and keeps you sane as long as you keep track of them. The rest of the time, pre-planning your meals keeps calories in check. Planning your meals, no matter where you are, is critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.