How to Get Started With Weight Loss Nutrition

Must Reads | Nutrition | Weight Loss 6 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

If you want to lose weight chances are this isn’t your first attempt at fat loss.

It probably isn’t your second go at it either.

Fat loss can only occur when you eat less calories than you burn.

Adding in exercise is a great way to help with fat loss, but first you need to get your nutrition right.

This article will briefly explain how to create your plan for fat loss.

Step 1. Define your goals

The first step in any plan is coming up with your end goal. Where do you want to be 3, 6, or 12 months from today? The next step is understanding where you are now. Finally, you need to come up with the plan to get to your destination.

If dropping body fat is your primary goal then you need to take in fewer calories than your body is burning every day. Your fat is your body’s energy storage system.

When you eat food your body uses what it immediately needs then stores the rest as fat to be used later. When we consistently intake more calories than we need our bodies will accumulate fat and the scale ticks up.

To reverse this fat gain you must consistently burn more calories than you eat. This means your body will be forced to use your fat stores for energy and this is how fat loss occurs.

step 2. Set Your Calorie & Macronutrient Goal

Based on your body weight, age, height, gender, body fat, and activity level you can calculate how much energy your body needs each day to maintain your weight.

Here is a handy calculator to help get you started. Input your information and it will tell you what your maintenance calories are.

A good starting goal for weight loss is 500 calories below your maintenance calories.

I recommend being conservative with your activity level–most people should choose a “sedentary” activity level. Unless you have an active job where you spend most of your day on your feet or lifting objects such as a package delivery driver you are most likely at a “sedentary” activity level.

If you scroll down on the calculator page a little you will find the Macronutrients section with tabs for maintenance, cutting, and bulking. Each of these tabs will recommend basic macronutrient intakes based on your preference for how much of your diet will consist of carbs.

Any of these three macronutrient breakdowns will work and what’s most important for weight loss is your total calorie intake for the day.

Feel free to choose the one that seems most attractive to you and know that you can always adjust it later.

step 3. Choose A Tracking Method

Now you know how many calories you should be eating every day for your goals and what the breakdown should be for carbs, fats, and protein.

The next step is to start tracking your intake. Tracking your intake can be incredibly eye-opening when you realize just how many calories are in some foods that you believe to be healthy. Remember that a food can be healthy but not necessarily helpful when it comes to reaching your goals.

I recommend using MyFitnessPal. It is an app you can download on your phone to accurately track your diet. You can even use it to set your calorie intake & macronutrient goals. Again, remember to be conservative with your activity level.

This app works best when you pair it with a food scale. Amazon has plenty of food scales for $10-$20 that will all work well for your needs.

Studies show that it is very hard to accurately track your calorie intake. Even for professionals like registered dietitians. A scale helps you be as accurate as possible.

Foods that come from a box are easy to track with the app because you can simply scan the barcode and input the amount of servings you consume.

However, most of your food should be coming from whole foods that don’t usually have a simple barcode to scan. Have you ever seen a nutrition label on a head of broccoli?

Step 4. Set The Stage

One of the most important factors in your success will be control over your environment.

This means you should throw out foods in your pantry that you already know aren’t healthy choices. This will prevent you from grabbing them when you’re hungry. You also need to stop buying them.

Not only is it important to control the environment at home it is also important to set yourself up for dietary success at other places you spend a lot of time like your office or work space.

The vast majority of the foods you eat should be cooked at home by you. In instances when you eat at a restaurant it is important to choose foods that you would cook at home. Most of your meals should consist of a quality protein source like a lean cut of meat, vegetables, and carbohydrates as your macronutrient makeup allows.

Be sure to choose foods you enjoy that still fit within your calorie budget for the day.

Step 5. Assess Your Plan

If fat loss is your goal I recommend weighing yourself each week. This weekly weigh-in should be done on the same day (Monday works well) in the morning after you use the restroom and before you eat or drink anything.

If you don’t already have a scale then head over to Amazon and purchase a scale that also measures body fat. They can be purchased relatively cheap and most have an app that will help keep track of your weigh-ins over time. This scale is only $30 and has a ton of great reviews.

A pound of body fat is equal to about 3,500 calories. A 500 calorie deficit each day should result in a 3,500 calorie deficit each week and therefore you can aim to lose 1 pound of body fat per week. This may seem slower than what you want, but at this rate you will lose about 25 pounds in six months. Wouldn’t you love to be 25 pounds lighter right now?

After your first week of truly accurate tracking you will most likely see a few pounds of weight loss. Some of this will be fat, but a lot of this will be water weight. Subsequent weigh-ins will be less weight loss than the first week, but should still result in fat loss each week. Don’t be discouraged if you see the scale stay the same or go up a little. This could be because you are carrying more water weight. Keep in mind that one 16oz bottle of water is equal to about 1 pound of weight.

Because accurate food tracking is notoriously difficult you may not see weight loss each week. This is no reason to be alarmed. If you have not lost any weight in two subsequent weigh-ins and you are hitting your calorie goal every day, then it may be time to adjust your calorie intake. I recommend lowering your calorie intake no more than 100 calories per day, per week until you begin to see the scale moving in the right direction again.

Weight loss takes time, and is not something you can rush. If you cut your calories drastically you may see results quickly, but they will not last. The bigger your deficit the harder it will be to sustain it over time.

Consistency Over Time

After working with quite a few weight loss clients, with several losing over 100lbs and one losing over 200lbs, what I know works is consistency.

Weight loss is simple, but it is not easy. The difficult part is sticking to a consistent diet without trying to rush this process.

You will be successful with your fat loss goals when you make the choice to hit your calorie goal every day of the week.

A week’s worth of progress can be undone in a careless weekend.

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.