A calorie deficit can be very challenging at first as you’re learning what works and what doesn’t work.
I want to make it as easy as possible for you so you aren’t hangry, grumpy, and hungry all the time. I’m going to give you tips and strategies that you can start today to help make your calorie deficit easier. I want you to be successful and happy and achieve your goals.
What is a calorie deficit?
Before we get into the actionable steps, let’s cover what a calorie deficit is.
Simply put, it’s a negative balance equation.
Energy = calories. Your body needs energy (calories) in order to perform all it’s bodily functions–digesting food, to breathe, organs to function, etc.
There are a certain amount of calories that you need in order to maintain your current body weight. This is called your maintenance calories.
If you eat below your maintenance calories, you are in a deficit. You’re eating less calories than what your body is burning. Your body will then have to go to stored fuel for energy, which is body fat. This is how your body “burns fat”. It isn’t a specific workout, supplement, detox tea, or special diet. It’s a calorie deficit.
Your body is using stored fat as an energy source.
A calorie deficit is the only way to lose fat.
Now, there are different diets that act as vehicles to get you to a deficit.
I got this illustration idea from Alex Hormozi who is brilliant. Let’s quickly review a few different “diets” and how they all work to the same goal of a calorie deficit.
We have 3 main macronutrients excluding alcohol – protein, carbs, and fat. If you’re eating a normal balanced meal, it will look something like this:
In the below illustration, you’ll see I have the keto, low fat, portion control, and intermittent fasting as examples.
Keto – you are eliminating calories from carbohydrates, putting you in a deficit.
Low fat – you are eliminating calories from fat, putting you in a deficit.
Portion control – you are eliminating calories from all macros, putting you in a deficit.
Intermittent fasting – you are eliminating a whole meal, putting you in a deficit.
Now, I know this is simplified. It is possible to be on one of these diets and eat in maintenance or above maintenance. The point is, if you enjoy one of these diets, go for it! But, I want it to be something that you can realistically sustain and will teach you habits to maintain a healthy weight.
If it isn’t sustainable or teaching you healthy habits, as soon as you come off of the diet, you’ll likely gain the weight back.
How to find your calorie deficit
I have a whole article on this, but a really simple way is to multiply your goal body weight (in pounds) by 12. If your goal body weight is 130lbs:
130 x 12 = 1,560 calories per day
It’s important to remember that this is a rough estimate. There isn’t a calculator out there that is 100% accurate. So, use this as a guideline and do it for a month with at least 80% consistency and evaluate your progress from there.
I like to use a range of calories so you don’t obsess over hitting an EXACT number every day. For the example above, I’d give a range of 1,460 – 1,660 calories per day.
How to make a calorie deficit easier
Okay, with all that said, here are my top tips and strategies to make your calorie deficit easier!
I know I sound like a broken record, but this will really help!! Protein is vital for a number of reasons. It helps build and maintain muscle, aids in recovers, and helps you feel more full. It’s the most satiating macronutrient.
Try to center every meal around a protein source. You’ll feel full for longer and will avoid snacking as much between meals.
When you say you want to lose weight, I know that you really mean, you want to lose fat. You can lose scale weight, but you might be losing muscle and fat.
In order to lose only fat or mostly fat, you need to be sure to get an adequate amount of protein (along with strength training which I’ll touch on later).
How much protein should you be eating? Start with 0.7-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight or goal bodyweight.
If you weigh 130lbs:
130 x 0.7 = 91g or 130 x 1 = 130g
Your goal should be 91-130g of protein per day.
If this sounds like a lot, you’re not alone. Most of my clients struggle with this at first. Most people are under eating protein. Here’s a few tips to increase your protein:
- Make protein the center of every meal. Pick a protein first and then think of the sides.
- Eat a little more of what you’re already eating. If you typically eat 3oz of chicken breast, increase it to 5oz.
- Eat protein filled snacks. Toss the cheetos or crackers and opt for protein shakes, eggs, turkey slices, yogurt, etc. Find something you like.
2. Volume Foods
What are volume foods? These are foods that you can eat a lot of for fewer calories. These foods will help you feel more full without consuming a high amount of calories.
Salad is a great example of this. 2 cups of spinach is only 20 calories. That’s a lot of spinach that will fill your stomach up with food for very few calories. Toss in some other veggies and a protein source and you have a very filling meal.
When I’m in a cut, I try to eat 1 big salad a day. It’s so filling, sometimes I can’t even finish it!
Here are some other examples:
- Watermelon. 1lbs=150 calories
- Strawberries. 1lb=140 calories
- Cauliflower rice
- Boiled potatoes
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Egg whites
So many others. Most veggies and fruits fall into this category.
I’m not saying to ONLY eat volume foods, but I’d recommend adding at least 1 volume food to every meal.
Choose mostly nutrient dense foods. But, it’s okay to include other foods you love as well in moderation.
These foods will help you stay full and satisfied throughout the day so you aren’t constantly hungry which can make it difficult to stick to your deficit!
3. Walk 5-10k steps per day
This one is underrated. There are 4 ways that your body burns calories:
- 70% – BMR. This is how many calories your body burns while at rest if you just laid in bed all day.
- 15% NEAT. This is your non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This is all of the extraneous movement you get throughout the day that isn’t dedicated exercise. Things like walking, typing, fidgeting, etc.
- 10% TEF. This is the thermic effect of food. This is how many calories your body burns as it digests your food.
- 5% EAT. This is your exercise activity thermogenesis. This is calories burned from exercise. Side note, it’s only FIVE percent. Another important reason to not worry about how many calories you burn during your workouts.
With that said, if you want to make your deficit easier, you can increase your NEAT by walking. This will help you burn more calories per day. You’ll increase your overall energy expenditure and help yourself get into a calorie deficit.
A lot of us work desk jobs all day and are lucky if we get 2k steps a day. That’s okay. Start where you’re at. Try increasing it to 3-4k steps per day and gradually work your way up. Find little ways you can increase your steps throughout the day.
4. Eat simple meals
You don’t need super complicated meals.
The majority of people who are successful with their calorie deficit and weight loss journey, eat very simple meals every day.
By simple, I don’t mean that it can’t be tasty or something you enjoy. In fact, I recommend that you look forward to your meals. This will make you more successful.
Try to eat one ingredient foods. Some examples: eggs, oatmeal, apple, banana. Each of these foods have just 1 ingredient.
First, you’ll notice most of the 1 ingredient foods are more nutrient dense and less processed.
They will fill you up on fewer calories.
Second, it makes tracking so much easier.
Third, it’s harder to overeat. Think about eating eggs vs. a bag of chips. Which one is easier to overeat? Bananas or oreos? Apples or french fries?
I’ve never heard of anyone overeating too much spinach or broccoli. It’s the highly processed foods like crackers, chips, and cookies that people tend to overeat. They’re made for this purpose! They want you going back to buy more.
Stick to mostly one-ingredient foods during your meals and this will help make your deficit easier. Here’s an example meal: chicken breast (you can season as you like), baked potato, and steamed broccoli. All 1 ingredient foods, but you can season as you like.
5. Cut out liquid calories
This is one of the easiest ways to make your deficit easier.
Sodas, juices, alcohol, coffee, etc.
These all contain calories that won’t help you be more full or satisfy your hunger.
I’m not saying you have to completely eliminate them, but be aware that these calories add up quick and they aren’t offering much in terms of satiety or nutrition.
You can certainly budget them into your deficit if it’s important to you, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it on a daily basis. It can make you extra hangry if you aren’t filling your calories with mostly nutrient-dense foods.
Choose diet or zero calorie drinks when you can. Water is also amazing. ¨̮
6. Strength train
When you lift weights and work on building muscle, this can help boost your metabolism. The more lean muscle mass, the faster your metabolism. (along with eating your protein!!)
I feel like a huge benefit of strength training is the mental benefit. It gives you something to focus on other than the scale moving down.
It’s so cool to see yourself getting stronger, improving your form, and learning new exercises. I had a client tell me recently that she feels so much stronger and is able to keep up with her kids a lot more. That is huge!
It’ll also give you a more defined and “toned” look which is what a lot of people are looking for.
Sleeping less than 8 hours a night has been linked to lower leptin levels and higher ghrelin. These are 2 opposing hormones in appetite regulation.
The differences in these 2 hormones caused by shorter sleep times will lead to an increase in appetite and hunger.
Basically, when you’re getting less quality sleep, your appetite increase and so do your cravings.
If you’re eating nutrient-dense foods and enough protein and you’re still hungry all the time, take a look at your sleep quality. I have all my clients rate their sleep quality on a scale of 1 to 10 every week.
Now, I know 8 hours a night isn’t possible for everyone, especially new moms and dads. Remember that this is a phase and it will pass. Really evaluate if this is the best time to be in a deficit.
Last but not least, patience.
Don’t try to rush your weight loss.
Don’t try to be 100% perfect.
Don’t try to lose more than 2lbs a week.
Give yourself some realistic expecations.
The scale will not go down every day or even every week.
The scale will fluctuate.
It’s normal and sustainable to lose weight at a rate of 0.5-2lbs a week…on average! This doesn’t mean you will lose this amount every single week.
In order to lose weight as fast as possible, you’d have to do unsustainable things to get there. Things like dropping your calories too low, cutting out all carbs or all fats, restricting foods, etc.
Doing these things aren’t sustainable.
When you “mess up”, you’ll think you’ve ruined your progress and will continue off track for a few days or maybe just completely give up.
You can’t be consistent with this kind of approach and without consistency, you won’t see progress.
So, stop trying to be perfect. You don’t need to be perfect in order to lose weight.
Aim for 80% consistency and you will see progress. That means you have 5-6 days a month where you don’t have to be consistent. That gives you time and space to be human, enjoy life, etc.
This slow, steady, and sustainable approach will make you more successful over the long run. You’ll lose weight and know how to keep it off because you will have learned some healthy habits.
Make a lifestyle change. Stop chasing fast results.
I truly hope you learned something from this article and it will help you.
I’m always here to help.