If you are looking to lose weight in a healthy way (i.e. not starving yourself, wearing cling film wraps, or taking dangerous supplements/drugs) then you will need to lower your calories. When people read this, they usually think of a short and intense diet that will help them to drop fat quickly. But this method has consistently failed to produce long-term results.
Rather than avoid all carbohydrates, or only eat every two days, the most successful ways to drop calories and therefore weight, are to make small changes that you don’t have to think about. In this article, we are going to look at five tricks to lowering calories that will help you to change your body fat percentage over the long-term.
A quick word about the tricks
If you are trying to lose weight while keeping things simple, then the tips that we are going to look at need to be easy to do. They need to be inexpensive, and habit-forming. There’s no point telling someone that they need to batch-cook all of their meals every Sunday if that person always works on a Sunday.
The tips will all be something that you could do with a very low budget, and with little time to spare during the week. Interestingly the majority of these tips don’t actually involve food or drink choices, just the first two.
Tip #1. Replace Oil with Cooking Spray
Considering that a tablespoon of Olive oil contains 120 calories, it’s funny how many people forget to factor this into their diet. In fact, most people see it as almost a calorie-free option, something you drizzle over salad to make it even more healthy. But cooking oils can turn a low-calorie meal into a high calorie one without you even noticing.
Replacing cooking oils and butter with a low-calorie cooking spray can save you 100-300 calories per day. Most cooking sprays contain around 1 calorie per spray, and you never need more than 4-5 sprays max.
Now there are a lot of health benefits to consuming Olive oil and coconut oil etc. and not to mention the improvements to the taste of food. So it’s not necessarily a great idea to cut out Olive oil or other oils completely, but if you currently use it for 2-3 meals per day every day, that’s 2,100 calories per week (estimated at 100 calories per serving, three times per day, seven days per week).
Replacing half of those meals with cooking sprays, or even two-thirds could make a massive difference to the amount of calories that you consume on a weekly basis.
Tip #2. Zero Calorie Drinks and Syrups
We’ve covered the safety and usefulness of products with Aspartame in the past, to be clear these products are neither healthy nor unhealthy. But if your goal is weight loss rather than increased health (and yes these are different things) then replacing a high-calorie drink with a zero calorie one makes perfect sense.
You can also buy zero calorie syrups which are fantastic when mixed into Greek Yoghurt (or other high protein, low-fat yoghurts) as a low-calorie dessert. Again, this is not a healthy option, but if you compare it to the common dessert options that it is designed to replace, then it definitely comes out on top.
Tip #3. Measure your Food
Of all the tips, this might just be the most labour intensive, but it’s still pretty easy to do. Buy yourself a set of scales and leave it out on your kitchen counter top. Every time you make rice, or pasta, or any other food that you are supposed to weigh but usually guess, place them on the scales. You might be surprised at just how effective this technique is for weight loss.
You see humans are absolutely terrible at estimating food portions with just eye sight, and we almost always cook more rice or pasta than we are supposed to. Even if it’s just an extra 25g of rice, that’s 100 extra calories on your plate. Day after day this can really add up. Another benefit of measuring your food is that it makes logging your foods into calorie counter becomes 1) easier and 2) more accurate.
Tip #4. Use Smaller Plates and Bowls
This tip may sound a bit crazy but controlling the size of your plates and bowls is one of the best ways to eat less food. Most people know what foods to avoid if they want to lose weight, they know that the “Heart-attack” burger should probably be avoided. They also know that eating too much is going to call weight gain.
But the majority of people have been brought up to finish everything that’s on their plate. There were a number of studies undertaken that looked at plate size and its effect on a person’s serving size . They found that increasing the size of a plate made people overeat while decreasing the size of the plate made them under eat.
You’re probably thinking that obviously if you eat off a smaller plate, then you are going to eat less, but the studies found that when people ate off a smaller plate, not only did they eat less but they felt the same level of fullness. Think about what that could mean to your diet, if you are lowering calories you will usually feel hungrier than usual, but by eating off a smaller plate you can lower calories without feeling any hungrier.
Alternatively, if you are trying to increase calories so that you can gain weight, then a bigger plate could be your answer. Now neither of these methods are going to work for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a go.
Tip #5. Improve your Sleep Quality and Quantity
There are quite a few ways that a bad night can lead to weight gain, for starters bad sleep can lead to tiredness, which leads to reduced activity, which leads to weight gain. It also lowers the hormone Leptin (which makes you feel full) and increases the hormone Ghrelin which makes you feel hungry. This can lead to bad food choices . Also, the longer that you are awake, the more time you have to snack, which leads to increased calories per day! 
But it’s not just increased Ghrelin, lowered Leptin, or bad food choices that mess you up after a bad night’s sleep. Your testosterone and growth hormone levels can also be affected which can lead to body fat gain.
The Bottom Line
At the beginning of this article, you were promised that none of the tricks or tips were going to be too challenging. While they are not difficult individually attempting to do them all at once could be overwhelming. Remember, fat loss doesn’t need to be a race. You can take your time. We are trying to establish long-term, simple-to-follow habits.
Start off with improving your sleep, try to go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual. Once you have managed that add another 15-30 minutes. This could make all the difference. Buy a cooking spray, this is the easiest trick of them all, and in the long run, will save you money! Stop buying full-calorie sodas; it doesn’t matter whether you decide to drink water or zero calorie sodas – just stop wasting calories on high-calorie drinks!
See nice and simple! Buy some scales and some slightly smaller plates/bowls, and you’ll have made all the necessary changes. Good luck.