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Do I need to count calories or cut carbs to stay lean?
We’ve had quite a few questions lately asking if it's necessary to count calories, monitor macros or cut carbs to stay lean and healthy. Because we feel there’s a much better way to reach your healthy weight (one that allows an occasional French fry or two… thank goodness!), we wanted to share with you what we've found works best when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.
A better way to make healthy changes
The thing about tracking every single calorie and macro (in our experience) is that you inevitably end up getting frustrated because you can't keep up with it OR you become so obsessed with tracking every last detail of each meal that it becomes exhausting and takes the fun out of eating. Neither of these are beneficial OR necessary to maintain a healthy weight. Eating should be a positive experience; a celebration of tastes, textures and smells; and something that brings us joy.
Rather than counting macros or calories, use the following tips below to make healthy changes!
If you want to maintain a healthy weight, portion control is key. Rather than counting macros or calories, make a conscious effort to pay attention to your portions on your plate, as well as balance how much of each food group you're eating.
I (Kalie) have always struggled with portion control. To help with accountability, the guides in our digital download bundle Well-Balanced Meals Made Easy have become my Holy Grail for portions. I'm a visual girl, so being able to look at my hand to determine how much of something I should be eating (a palm-size amount of meat) or relate portions to tangible things, such as a ping pong ball-size amount of fat (like nut butter), has really helped me. If portion control is something you struggle with too, check them out!
Limit (not eliminate) carbs
We don’t believe in completely cutting carbs, because a life without bread and sweet potatoes is not a life we could happily live. But because they can make or break your weight-loss journey, it's important to eat them in moderation. Let them play a supporting role in your meal, rather than a lead. This has been a TOTAL game changer for us and can be for you too.
What we've found works best: Focus on keeping carbs to a quarter or less of each meal. A few ways you can do this:
- Enjoy an open-faced sandwich.
- Eyeball or scoop rice onto your plate with a ¼ cup measuring cup.
- Pair a whole-wheat pasta dish with veggies and protein to offset the carbs.
You shouldn't have to completely eliminate bread, say no to a glass of wine with friends, log every calorie consumed or skip meals entirely. By limiting but allowing yourself carbs at each meal, you'll satisfy your carb cravings, reap the benefits of healthy carbs and will be able to maintain a healthy weight. Just remember, moderation is essential to maintaining a healthy weight.
Snacking (the struggle is REAL)
Try not to snack unless you're actually hungry… This is another area I (Kalie) used to struggle with on a daily basis. Since becoming aware of my tendency to want to snack when I’m feeling bored, tired and anxious, I’m now able to control my urges and avoid snacking to satisfy a feeling rather than hunger.
To help hold yourself accountable, ask these two questions before eating:
- Am I physically hungry? If the answer is NO, it’s likely that your desire to eat is a response to emotion, NOT hunger.
- What is driving me to want to eat right now? How am I feeling?
If eating out of emotion is something you struggle with too, check out our tried-and-true course, Break Free from Emotional Eating.
Need help planning, choosing and preparing nutritious foods in a strategic, simplified way so that you snack smart, even when life is crazy? Check out Healthy Snacks Made Simple.
Portion control problems? If you’re actually hungry but tend to overindulge, keep a measuring cup close by. Pour out the suggested serving and eat only that amount. Remember, the purpose of a snack is to bridge the gap between meals—it shouldn't be a meal itself.
Balance baby, BALANCE — The 80/20 Approach
Here at FULLforLife, we don't believe in blacklisting foods; instead, we believe in balance.
We allow ourselves treats throughout the week because, honestly, we couldn’t live without a little ice cream or a cookie once in awhile. That’s where The 80/20 Approach comes into play (80% of the time we aim to eat healthy, 20% treats). The math is simple: We eat three well-balanced meals a day, so four meals a week are reserved to indulge in our favorites.
This rule teaches you balance and moderation, a concept that doesn’t exist in fad diets. By allowing yourself treats 20% of the time, you feel satisfied without the crazy cravings or the need to count calories.
of the time you focus on eating clean, nutritious, good-for-you foods.
of the time you have the freedom to indulge in some of your favorites.
Self-awareness and accountability
A healthy diet isn't possible without AWARNESS and ACCOUNTABILITY. When we notice we're starting to fall off the portion-control wagon or we’re snacking too much, we use the Food and Fitness Trackers that were created for our blog readers. We don’t get too specific by tracking the exact measurements of what we’re eating, but we do try to keep it as accurate as possible.
We’ve found that holding ourselves accountable by writing down what we’re eating and visually seeing it snaps us back into proper portion control pretty quickly! (When you know you have to write down those 2 tablespoons of nut butter that you ate simply because you’re bored, you think twice before eating it.)
Another incredible accountability tool that will help you set realistic goals and develop daily habits to prioritize your wellness is the Healthy Living Log. The daily prompts will quickly and easily guide you toward optimal health through visualization, mindfulness, conscious eating and more. Basically, it's the accountability buddy you never knew you always needed!
In a nutshell…
- Try to follow serving sizes and portion control.
- Plan your plate based on food groups.
- Don’t eliminate carbs; instead, try to keep them to a minimum.
- Try not to snack unless you're actually hungry. When you do eat between meals, aim to make healthy snack choices.
- Allow yourself occasional treats but stick to The 80/20 Approach.
- Use the Healthy Living Log on a daily basis and the FfL Food and Fitness Trackers whenever you feel like you're starting to fall off the wagon.
Find what works for you
We know there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle, but we wanted to share with you what we’ve found works best (for us). Hopefully, some of these concepts will help you too.
It may take a little trial and error, but you CAN create a healthy maintainable lifestyle without driving yourself bonkers!