Fine-Tuning Your Eating Plan – Pt 2

Thank you for all of the responses to the first post on this topic.  With the level of interest in the subject matter, I have decided to write a follow up post to the first article.  Fine-tuning your eating plan is a constant thing as you tweak what you are eating to satisfy your nutritional and sensory needs.  If this is the first time that you have read any of my posts, I have found that when eating, we must feel satisfied two ways:  1) nutritionally to fill us up having the right composition of proteins, fats and carbs and 2) on a sensory level satisfying our cravings for sweet, salty or crunchy.  If we don’t fulfill ourselves on either level, then we will overeat to compensate and therefore blow our daily allotment of calories.  Finding the right mixture of nutrition and enjoyment will leave us satisfied and more easily able to stick to our eating plan.

I.  Establish Your Plan – Find Your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)

The first thing you need to do is establish your plan by determining what it is you need to do to get to your goal.  You will need to determine how many calories that you need to eat to lose weight.  The best way to do this is to find out your Basal Metabolic Rate to therefore determine how many calories you need to eat to lose weight.  Here are three ways to find out this information:

  1. Hydrostatic Body Fat Test:  This is where I get my information.  The best way to determine is to go for the hydrostatic body fat test where your entire body is immersed under water.  This is the company that I used because it is mobile and goes from gym to gym.  You will get a print out of a BMR, percentage of body fat, etc.  You will get a number that you shouldn’t go over to lose weight and lose it safely.
  2. Spark People:  This is an incredible website that assists you in tracking what you eat and breaking it down into proteins, carbs and fats.  It will give you a BMR rate also.  It is pretty darn accurate; the rate is about 35 calories different from what I was given in the hydrostatic body fat test.
  3. BMR Calculator: * Here is a quickie online version in case you didn’t want to go to the trouble of getting a hydrostatic body fat test or don’t have the time at the moment to peruse the Spark People website.

*Disclaimer for this method:  I tried this calculation online and found it to be in error.  You put in your age, sex, height and weight and it gives you a number for your BMR.  On the next page, it asks you how much you exercise.  I exercise 3-5 times a week+ and it gave me a multiplier of 1.55 x my BMR for a total of 1,824 calories a day.  Friends, if I ate this much I would gain at a little more than 1 pound per week!  I multiplied my BMR x 1.2, which is for totally sedentary slugs, and it was in line with my BMR on Spark People.  If you regularly exercise, choose 1.2 to get a guestimate.  If you don’t regularly exercise, spend the time with Spark People or if you can, get a hydrostatic body fat test because I don’t believe what you will get online will be accurate.

II.  Choose Your Eating Style

Once you know what your mathematical framework, the next thing to determine is your eating style.  Are you able to eat 3 square meals a day and stay away from snacks?  If so, then those 3 meals can be larger than someone like myself who eats smaller meals plus snacks.  You have to allocate the numbers accordingly. Here are a couple of examples for 1,200 calories per day allocation:

Mini Meals 3 Square Meals
Breakfast 300 calories Breakfast 300 calories
Snack (Mid morning) 100 calories
Lunch 300 calories Lunch 300 calories
Snack (Afternoon) 100 calories
Dinner 300 calories Dinner 500 calories
Snack (Before bed) 100 calories Snack (post workout or before bed) 100 calories
1,200 calories 1,200 calories

Which one of these plans look good to you?  I lean towards being low blood sugar, so the smaller meal plan is for me.  If you are one to eat 3 squares, then there is less room to add snacks and treats.  You may wish to add a treat at the dinner where the allocation is 500 calories.  If you would rather eat a big lunch instead, then plan on 400 or 500 calories for that meal and adjust for your dinner meal.  You can adjust these numbers accordingly provided you know what you are eating. It doesn’t matter which method you choose.  The important thing is that it works for you.

Don’t forget to eat breakfast each day, you will need it and if you haven’t read my previous posts, then you may not know that eating breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism in the morning.  Also have a small snack before going to bed.  Yes, I am serious; you will need it, especially if you work out, because you are stoking the metabolic fire. Forget everything you’ve heard about “not eating past 6, 7, 8, etc”.  As long as you are not going over your daily allotment, it is okay. I eat a small snack before bed nearly every night!

III.  Track Your Caloric Intake

Here is the tedious part and that is to become knowledgeable on the calorie counts of food that you eat so that you may track it. Remember, all pinches or food samples while cooking or walking through the grocery store count.  Liquid calories count.  Be sure and deduct that large glass of orange juice you have for breakfast if you are an OJ drinker. Deduct that beer, that glass of wine, that piece of chocolate you snatched out of the bowl on the receptionist’s desk.  It all counts!  If you are tracking your daily intake, then you’ll back off of those extra snitches that add up.

Here is the good news; there is an easy way to track your progress each day.  Since I started using this method a year and a half ago, then my weight loss progress has been the most consistent it has ever been!  I can’t recommend it enough!  Back in the old days, I would write down what I ate on a little pad, then look it up in my paperback book of calorie counts, but not anymore.  You can do this online at Spark People.  You set up an account that you can access on the web and those who have smart phones, there is an app for that.  The app synchronizes with the web version so you are always up to date.  I am an iPhone user, but I am going out on a limb and am assuming that there is a Blackberry app also.  This tool is invaluable!  You must define your framework in which to operate and know your parameters from where you have to work.  By using this app, I am able to manipulate my caloric intake on the fly and know exactly where I stand.

In Summary

This post ended up being more technical than creative, but the numeric discussion was necessary to help you to construct your food plan. To devise your plan, let’s recap:

  1. Determine your BMR,
  2. Choose your eating style (3 Square or Mini Meals)
  3. Track what you eat.

When you do this, your pathway to success will be charted and all you have to do to reach your goals is to follow the yellow brick road.


About Northside Class of '74

Northside Highschool Class of 74: and we are also on
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