Many people make the mistake of estimating these amounts when logging their food into MyFitnessPal. Do yourself a favour and from the start, do not make this mistake. Get yourself a food scale and weigh your food. Weigh every single thing you eat and log it accurately and honestly.
One reason why so many people struggle with portioning in the first place because it’s simply too difficult to accurately estimate how much you are eating. Furthermore you might be conditioned to overeat.
The goal of CICO is to learn how much you actually need to be eating on a daily basis and then make sure you have a thorough understanding of what that volume of food looks like across various foods.
A food scale is absolutely essential for this process. You simply cannot accurately eyeball portions especially if you have never done so with precision in the past. Below is a list of three recommended food scales available for purchase on Amazon to help you with your CICO weight loss journey.
You know those times when you get home late and suddenly its the end of the world because you are actually SO HUNGRY? It’s easy to reach for the most convenient option, which might not always be friendly for the CICO diet. Have a pre-calculated convenient meal in the freezer so you can make a smart decision even during food emergencies.
2. Eat slowly. Try putting your fork down between bites.
Smaller portion sizes are easy to scarf down in a few bites. Try mindfully eating every bite of food. Put your fork down while you chew. If your meal takes longer you will feel more mentally satisfied.
3. If you think you want a snack, drink a glass of water first
Sometimes we confuse hunger for thirst. Have a large glass of water when you start to feel hungry, especially if its not a typical meal/snack time. If you are still hungry 30 minutes later then you know you truly need that snack.
4. Count the calories before you eat
Build your meal around how many calories you want to eat. Measure and weigh food as you’re cooking so you know exactly how many calories are on your plate before digging in.
5. Drink a glass of water before each meal
Pour yourself a full cup and finish it before you begin eating. You will start off feeling a bit more full and be satisfied from eating sooner.
6. Stay away from calorie-dense beverages
There aren’t many calorie-dense beverages that actually bring much value to your health. Unless you’re sure its worth it, its best to stick with low-cal or zero-cal beverages (like water, coffee or tea).
7. If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not actually hungry
You feel hungry. Eat an apple. Don’t feel like eating an apple? You probably aren’t actually hungry. Are you maybe bored instead? Find something to do. If you do feel like eating an apple then great, eat that apple!
8. Learn the difference between being hungry and just wanting to eat
Eating from boredom is way too real. Use some tricks to determine if you are actually hungry or if you are just bored and craving a binge. Try drinking a glass of water and waiting 30 minutes to see if you still feel hungry. Or eat an apple. If you are hungry but don’t feel like eating the apple then you might not actually be hungry.
9. Don’t keep snacks around
Out of sight out of mind. If there aren’t easy-access snacks around your house then you are less likely to mindlessly reach for them in moments of “hunger” (ie boredom).
10. Make a list of things to do other than eat for when you’re bored
So you thought you were hungry but realized instead that you’re just bored. What can you do? Create a list of all the things you could do to fill your time instead of eat. For example go for a walk, clean your bathroom, write a letter to your mom, etc.
11. Buy a food scale
If you don’t have a food scale, are you really following the CICO diet? Seriously go buy a scale right now and start weighing every single thing you eat. Every. Single. Thing. You may think you are good at estimating but you’re not. You may think you’re hitting your calorie goals but you’re not. You are probably wondering why you’re not losing weight. YOU NEED A FOOD SCALE.
12. Eat more vegetables
There is an endless variety of flavourful vegetables in the world and they are way less calorie-dense than the other food groups. If you want to eat a large volume of something and feel satisfied after your meal, load up on veggies.
13. Make small changes but be consistent
Overhauling your diet from one diet to the next might work for some. But is it sustainable? Gradually introduce small changes into your life and they will slowly become new habits.
14. Plan for the laziest version of yourself
Some days you just can’t motivate yourself do to anything, let alone measure, weight and cook a calorie-efficient meal. Have a backup plan for these days by keeping some dependable and tasty freezer meals on hand.
15. Trust your deficit
If you have calculated your daily calorie needs, are being honest about your daily activity levels and are weighing and logging all your meals using a food scale… then trust your deficit. The CICO diet works when you are patient, consistent and honest with yourself about your calories in and calories out.
Best Calorie Counting Tips: 5 tips to get you Started
Diving straight into calorie counting might not work for everyone. While some people do well with a drastic habit change, others might need to warm up to it. Or take some time experimenting before trusting that it will get you where you want to be. Here are the best calorie counting tips that can help you get started with your goals.
Count your current eating habits
You could try counting your current habits for awhile. This will accomplish two things:
Get you started with creating the habit of calorie counting even if you aren’t cutting back
Make you aware of how many calories you are eating right now
By getting used to counting calories without changing your eating habits, you can learn the ropes without also worrying about eating differently. It will introduce you into the habit of thinking carefully about what goes into the meal you are eating. How much of each ingredient are you using? How big of a portion you are taking?
As well it can be incredibly helpful to understand what your current eating habits look like. You might have falsely assumed that you were eating the right amount of food for your daily energy habits. One potential outcome of calorie counting is re-balancing your “hunger” scale. We think our bodies know how much food we need to eat to be full. But the reality is portion sizes are often incredibly off. Especially if you eat out a lot. We eat too much without realizing it (or snack mindlessly). Our brains get used to this volume of food, making it tricky to take a step back and question whether you would actually be hungry if you ate less.
Plan your meals the night before
If saying big statements like “this week I will make better food decisions” doesn’t work for you then this suggestion might work for you.
If you plan (or even log) your meals the night before then it eliminates the need to make a choices in the moment. Especially if you are hungry in the moment it is hard to make a rational decision about what (or how much) food to eat. It can also be tempting to reach for an afternoon snack even though you aren’t technically hungry yet. By removing the need to make many many food decisions throughout the day, it might be easier to stick to your calorie goals.
Planning your meals the night before (or even that morning) can also help make sure you are spacing your eating out over the day. There is nothing worse than accidentally ending up at dinnertime with too few calories left to eat something adequate.
This technique also allows you to compensate for times when you know you will need to “splurge”. Restaurant meals tend to be higher calorie (and more difficult to track) than homemade meals. If you know you are eating out for dinner, you can intentionally plan to eat a little less during the daytime in order to enjoy your dinner guilt-free.
Slowly decrease your calorie intake
Gradually decreasing your calorie intake can also be really helpful. For example if you are used to eating 2100 calories per day and your goal is to get down to 1300 calories then try decreasing to 1900 calories for the first week. Then down to 1700. You can make slower changes to your eating habits and gradually introduce different options that help get you to your goal calorie intake.
For example if you are used to drinking sugary beverages every day you could first work on eliminating those. Or if your breakfast is too heavy you could just focus on making your breakfast lighter and practice that for a week before moving on to lunch.
It can be overwhelming to overhaul your diet entirely. By only worrying about cutting out a small amount of calories you can make a small change to one habit at a time. Eventually you will have layered on many small, gradual changes and it will be easier to handle.
Rethink your definition of ‘healthy’
One classic diet tip that is very hard to follow is the blanket statement “Just eat healthy foods and you won’t ever have to worry about your weight”. While we should absolutely all strive to eat “healthy” and “clean” there are a few problems with this goal.
“Healthy” can have SO MANY different definitions. What is healthy to one person might not be healthy to another. As well, just because something is healthy it doesn’t mean we should/can eat it. If a food has nutrients or any properties that are positive but so many calories that it would mean you are overeating – is it still healthy?
A popular “healthy” food that is so easily abused are nuts. Nuts are SO HEALTHY right? Good, healthy fats so you shouldn’t hesitate to grab a handful or casually sprinkle them on your salad. That handful or casual sprinkle can pack 100-200 (or more) if you aren’t careful.
So while nuts indeed can be branded as “healthy”.. Are they healthy for you if they take you over your calorie allowance for the day? This is why calories are such an important consideration for a healthy day. The macro/micro properties of a food item just don’t tell the entire story.
One diet “rule” suggests eating healthy 80% of the time and allowing yourself to splurge 20%. But this goes back to the previous point – what is healthy? What is unhealthy? Is ‘healthy’ the only qualification that matters about the food we eat? What about eating TOO MUCH ‘healthy’ foods? What about the foods that are branded as ‘healthy’ but are actually so many calories that it would be an entire day’s worth of food (i’m looking at you salads). The only way you have a hope of following a rule like 80/20 is if you are also calorie counting. You can validate if a meal is healthy FOR YOU and also validate that you are eating the right amount of it.
Plan for mistakes
A mistake only turns into a failure if you make it over and over again.And it isn’t realistic that you are going to be perfect 100% of the time. So don’t assume perfection and allow yourself to make a mistake. Just don’t let that mistake turn into a failure. Life gets in the way, we have a craving that just won’t get out of our mind or it’s your birthday.
The great thing about calorie counting is that you can log all your foods and if you have a bad day you can acknowledge it and move on. The next day you get to start all over again with a clean slate.
And remember: ~3500 calories are in a pound. Which means you’d have to overeat your TDEE (not even your cutting calorie amount!) by 3500 calories to gain even one pound of fat. You might have slowed down your weight loss progress, but you probably didn’t actually take anyway backwards steps. Just leave it behind you & jump back on the wagon tomorrow!
Find your formula for success. The amount of calories you need to eat each day depends on many different factors – age, weight, height, gender, body composition, activity level etc.