Let’s talk quantities and when and how and all that.
How much you should eat varies for every individual and depends on their height, gender, age, current weight, occupation, e-meter readings, favorite color, preferred Star Trek series and overall goals. There’s a number of calorie calculators out there, but I’ve found that about.com’s multi-question guide does the best job of zeroing in on what your total calorie count in any given day should be and gives you information about how to best adjust your intake for your activity level. Since we’re going to talk about exercise in the next post, you’re going to want to bookmark that.
To figure out what you’re doing when you prepare and eat food, you’re going to have to familiarize yourself with basic calorie counts but thankfully, there’s the internet and a swath of applications that can help you figure out how many calories are on a plate. You’re also going to want to make sure that you eat enough with each meal that you don’t end up snapping and devouring an entire frozen pizza at 7pm because the hunger in you makes Sinistar’s look positively Pac-Manian.
Yes, this means you’ll need to eat breakfast.
Yes, I know you don’t like it.
Suck up and deal, because the cliché is true: you need it and the more protein you can have earlier on, the more full you’ll be through the rest of the day. I’ve found that Greek yogurt with honey and some cereal and coffee fills me up nicely at about 400-500 calories and gives me something to take my horse-pill multivitamin with. I’m pretty sure you can be sensible about the rest of the day, but I recommend more in your first two meals so you’re ok with going a bit light on dinner and wake up wanting breakfast.
(Also, a little hint I heard from a friend of mine about breakfast and not liking eggs or what have you: try eating a peanut butter (or turkey or whatever) sandwich or something equally stick-to-the-ribs for breakfast.)
If you need help figuring out what to eat and when, about 15% of the internet is devoted to sites that help you set up a meal plan. You’re smart. You can find them. I trust you.
I heard there were going to be snacks involved?
You’re right. I usually have a protein bar or the like (which goes against my no-prepackaged-food rant earlier, but it works so shut up) between breakfast and lunch. I’ll have an apple or orange or something in the late afternoon to keep me going until dinner, which is usually around 8pm in our household. I tend to go for protein or something with a lot of fiber for a snack because they make me feel full and less grumbly, but I understand that some people enjoy rice cakes and claim they’re great for that, even if I’ve never been satisfied after eating one or two or an entire tube of them.
But what if you want really, really want to eat badly?
Don’t fret when you go off-plan, but, you know, try some moderation. A friend of mine has a weekly day off from his plan every week and a nutritionist (with a PhD in psychology) I know recommends an 80/20 approach. The latter seems more sensible to me as you can spread your lapses over the course of a 7-day period and compensate more easily on either side of the Extreme Pizza Explosion at TJ McSpanglers.
Honestly, I can’t imagine the food hangover that a day of eating poorly would leave me with at this point and I think dedicating 24 hours to going all broken arrow on my plans would make it easy for me to backslide, but maybe you have Hal Jordan-like willpower and steely resolve. (And if you do, ask the residents of Coast City how that worked out for them.)
(Also, if you’re aiming at a weekly calorie deficit of 3,500-7,000 to lose 1-2 pounds a week and you spend an entire day being a glutton and wrap it up with a 2,000-calorie pint of ice cream just because you can according to the “system” you’re using? Yeah, I just can’t see that working, as that’s another 3 hours on the treadmill I don’t have time for.)
Next Up: The E Word.
In the meantime, feel free to leave comments and questions and maybe I’ll talk about them in a wrapup post.