10 Ways to Maintain a Calorie Deficit

Feb 11 2022 - 8:55am

If you want to lose weight [1], you need to use up more calories than you are taking in, which is known as a calorie deficit. The calorie deficit you need to lose weight is unique to you, so use the formulas below to figure out your calorie deficit. Make sure your calorie deficit isn't too large because you'll feel overly hungry and won't be able to sustain it in order to see weight-loss results.

How to Be in a Calorie Deficit

Before we get into the tips, use this formula [2] to find out how much of a calorie deficit you need to lose weight. Multiply your bodyweight by 10 through 12 — stay in this calorie range for three to four weeks. Your caloric intake should fall somewhere within these numbers. Another way to calculate your calorie deficit [3] is to figure out your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure, which is the number of calories your body burns each day), and subtract 500 calories.

Remember that if your calorie deficit is too large, it's not sustainable, and the over-restriction can lead to binge-eating, which can actually cause weight gain. Make sure you're always eating more than 1,200 calories each day [4], even more if you're working out regularly. Eating less will make you tired and increase cravings and hunger, which will only lead to overeating. We've interviewed experts to get their tips, so read on to learn how to be in a calorie deficit without feeling hungry.

How to Sustain a Calorie Deficit: Volume Eat

Choose foods that are high in volume and low in calories. We're talking tons of nonstarchy veggies [6]. Ilana Muhlstein [7], MS, RDN, cocreator of Beachbody's 2B Mindset [8] nutrition program, told POPSUGAR that vegetables are the food group [9] you want to be filling up on the most. "They are high in volume and weight and fill up our stomachs, which helps us register the feeling of fullness," Muhlstein said.

Veggies aren't just for lunch or dinner. Eat veggies with every meal (even breakfast [10]) and for snack. One way to make sure you're filling up on these low-calorie-density foods [11] is to make half your plate veggies [12].

How to Sustain a Calorie Deficit: Use Smaller Plates and Bowls

"If you have a hard time leaving food on your plate, like me, then I recommend you use smaller plates [13]," Muhlstein shared. Go for appetizer or salad plates, or you can even borrow your kids' smaller bowls and plates [14]. You can still fill up on food, but using the slightly smaller plate helps control your portions [15] and visually makes you feel more satisfied.

How to Sustain a Calorie Deficit: Keep Track of Everything You Eat

Keep yourself accountable by tracking your calorie intake accurately. You may like measuring everything you eat [16] and tracking it in an app. Or you might prefer taking photos of everything you eat [17], or just writing it down in a food journal.

How to Sustain a Calorie Deficit: Try Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting [18] is gaining popularity for helping with weight loss because it's simple and effective [19]. Basically, you choose a window of time to eat, and a window to not eat (fast). 16:8 [20] is a common method (for example, eating from noon until 8 p.m.). Since you're eating only a certain number of hours a day, it helps you cut down on daily calories, as long as you don't overeat during your eating window. [21]

How to Sustain a Calorie Deficit: Get Enough Sleep

Not getting enough sleep will increase cortisol, the stress hormone, which increases cravings and hunger [22]. That translates to eating more the next day. Plus, the low energy makes it harder for you to push yourself at the gym (or even get motivated to go). If you're trying to lose weight, aim for at least seven hours every night [23].

How to Sustain a Calorie Deficit: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Neuroscientist Susan Peirce Thompson, PhD, believes that the notion of "everything in moderation" is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Certain people are more susceptible to food addiction, so if this sounds like you, avoiding highly addictive foods [24] like ones that combine carbs, such as refined grains, or sugar, and fat will actually eliminate your cravings [25] for them.

If you know a pint of ice cream is in the freezer, it's much harder to say no. Same goes with other trigger foods, at home, at work, or when you're out and about. Avoid walking past the bakery near the office if you can't stop yourself from grabbing a cupcake. And if you love to bake, halve the recipe, or enjoy a few and share the rest.

How to Sustain a Calorie Deficit: Stay Hydrated

The symptoms of not drinking enough water [26], like headaches, fatigue, or feeling dizzy can make people think they're hungry. Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking enough water. Keep a water bottle or glass with you at all times to remind you to keep sipping.

How to Sustain a Calorie Deficit: Get In Your Steps

While working out several times a week will burn calories and build calorie-burning muscle, don't discount the power of walking. Every 2,000 to 2,500 steps is about a mile, which will take an hour to an hour and a half. So getting in 10,000 steps [27] a day burns an extra 250 to 600 calories [28], depending on your weight.

How to Sustain a Calorie Deficit: Brush After Eating

If you tend to mindlessly snack or eat out of boredom, that can add up to hundreds of daily calories. Try brushing your teeth after meals and snacks, and your minty breath will remind you that you just ate. You can even do this two-minute tooth-brushing workout [29] in the bathroom.

How to Sustain a Calorie Deficit: Don't Drink Your Calories

Soda, juices, and dessert-like coffee drinks [30] are high in calories without offering any hunger-satiating protein or fiber. Stick to calorie-free beverages like water, seltzer, herbal tea, and black coffee.

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