I’m not sure whose quote this is, but obviously someone in good shape. But it makes perfect sense. If you do some checking about how many calories you can burn doing any particular exercise, it doesn’t really amount to many calories if you’re trying to lose weight.
For example, if you walk for an hour, you’ll burn about 300 calories. But you drink one can of pop and you’ve added about 150 calories. One slice of pepperoni pizza is about 250 calories (and who eats just one slice?). One plain donut has anywhere from 250 to 400 calories.
I’ve played around with the idea of making behavior changes with the idea that change is very difficult if it’s painful. Telling yourself you can’t have something (i.e. donuts) tends to be stressful. Doing things that cause us stress do not become habit. B. J. Fogg discusses this in his book, “Tiny Habits”. We change by doing things that make us feel good, not by doing things that make us feel bad. So, for myself, I decided it was time to take getting in shape seriously. When I started thinking about the idea that I would never be able to out exercise a poor diet, I started looking at my diet to see where I could make painless changes and reduce calories.
One of the first things I noticed was that I drink a lot of milk and juice. While this is certainly healthier than drinking pop, it has the same about of calories. If I could switch to drinking water instead of milk and juice, I estimated that I could cut out about 700 calories a day easily.
Next I looked at my lunch time meals. I had a bad habit of forgetting to take a lunch to work with me so would end up going out for a take out lunch. Quite often pizza because it’s fast and convenient. One slice of pepperoni pizza is about 250 calories each, and I never stop at just one. Let’s say I would eat three slices (because it’s pizza and it’s there in front of me). That’s 750 calories right there. It’s exceedingly difficult to find takeout food that isn’t loaded with calories.
On the other hand, if I bring a sandwich and an apple or veggies from home, that turns out to be about 475 calories. On days, I can also keep dinner to about 500 calories, I’m now below the number of daily calories my body needs to maintain my current weight, which means I lose weight that day. This also means my one-hour walk (burning about 300 calories) is really paying of in weight loss and muscle toning.
The key seems to be planning ahead so I have what I need to make a lunch at home, and making sure I create a habit of making the lunch and bringing it to work. Losing a small amount of weight (i.e. a pound or two) in a couple of days proves to be a motivator to continue the practice. The nice thing is that it doesn’t have to be painful. Quite often, just reading calories of something you’re about to eat can deter you from eating it. For example, when I saw that there are 350 calories in a Hostess Ding Dong, I was able to immediately put it back on the shelf. The thought of having to walk over an hour just to burn off calories that I would enjoy for only a moment just wasn’t worth it.
Going back to the idea of making the process painless, I also began looking at recipes that actually tasted good that were low calorie. This was mostly vegetables. I wanted something I would enjoy whether I was dieting or not so I wouldn’t feel I was giving anything up. I discovered I rather like broccoli and cauliflower with cajun spices and soy sauce. I could prepare this in large batches and refrigerate it in single serving containers. So far, so good.
If you’re trying to get healthy, see if you can find ways to tweak what you’re doing. You can find ways to cut out calories, find small ways to add movement or exercise to your day, and start adding these up to big changes.