When you first start a diet, it’s pretty common for headaches to occur and as your body tries to adjust to you consuming less calories, sometimes it makes sure that you know it isn’t happy at all. I have definitely been through this, and eventually figured out when and how much I should eat to keep my body happy. Life kinda sucks otherwise!
Everyone has a general pattern of eating, and mine has changed a lot over the years, but specifically this past year. I think some of the reason that I used to fail when I started to try and lose weight was because I just hadn’t found what works for me. Do I skip breakfast, eat a full breakfast, do i eat snacks, etc. I’m happy to say that this year, I finally figured out how to structure my daily calories.
The first step was really to decide how many calories I was going to eat. I decided to start at an amount that I wanted to eat regularly for the rest of my life. The number was staring at me in the face for years. In fact, I’m pretty sure you all know the number without me having to say it. It’s on almost every menu in every restaurant, It’s on almost every single package of food that you are likely to buy, and in the fine print of most advertisements.
Obviously everybody is different, but I realized that I kept seeing it on every nutrition label everywhere so I decided there must be something to it. I aim slightly higher, at around 2100-2200 calories per day. I find that is a really healthy amount for me to function well and easily lose weight at the same time.
After I decided how many calories I wanted to eat on average, then next the problem was figuring out when should I eat and how many calories I give myself per meal. There’s plenty of guides and ideas out there, but all I’m going to include here is what I have found works for me.
As far as what time I eat, it’s usually structured around when I work. Most days, my meals look like this:
Until I wrote this out, I actually had never realized that my meals are almost exactly 6 hours apart. Sometimes that varies, obviously, but I do tend to notice when I work a different shift or have a day off, that my body likes the usual schedule. If I deviate too much from my normal times, I need to plan to have some kind of small snack to keep me going, and that’s completely alright! If you are hungry, eat something! There is no point in starving yourself. Make sure to log whatever you eat, and try to make it a healthy snack (although I admit I will still sometimes have a cookie or some candy for a snack).
When I plan my meals, I have found an average calorie range that works really well for me, and thankfully my app Lose It! keeps track of every statistic for me, including all of my calorie averages on any given day.
Obviously, if I have more to eat in one meal, I will often cut back on another. I always like to meal plan ahead of time to figure out how much I can eat across my day. If I want to go out for dinner, or have planned for a larger meal somewhere, then I just make sure to cut back somewhere else.
One thing that I have found is that I often don’t really need much at all for breakfast. I just need something to help me wake up and begin my day, staving off the initial hunger after waking up. I would much rather eat a larger lunch or dinner, and as such, I usually just eat a small amount of food in the morning. I always find that it’s harder for me to manage on those rare days when I have a large breakfast. I always end up going slightly over my usual budget. But that’s perfectly fine once in awhile. There’s nothing wrong with having more than usual on the rare occasion. It’s all about moderation and your normal consumption habits.
If I am consistently eating below the amount of calories that my body needs, then on that day where I eat a little extra, it will all balance out, or still be below my weekly average compared to my daily. It’s important to look at what changes are being made in your life on a broader perspective sometimes. I’ll eat a couple gummy candies or have an extra snack and suddenly I am feeling guilty and then I need to remember that it’s alright, because it’s only one random time compared to all the days that I have been firmly on track with my calorie budget. I have to remind myself of that constantly.
The key change for me is that instead of grabbing a bag of chips and chowing down on the entire thing like I used to do, I find that I am able to be satisfied by a small handful. I get the taste of the things I love without the excessive calories. Whenever I do eat a little extra, I have to remember that if I go over by a couple hundred calories once in awhile, it’s not going to hurt me or my consistent weight loss when I am always coming in under what my body needs.