Analyze your current diet

To get the best estimate of where you should start for calories, you need to take an honest look at your current diet. I recommend recording everything you eat for one full week. If that seems too daunting, do at least two weekdays and one weekend day.

If you have a scale, weigh food such as chicken, beef and fish to make sure you’re accurately recording the serving size (ie, 8 ounces or 12 ounces). For liquids and grains (rice, cereal), use measuring cups and spoons. If you feel have a good take on how much is one cup of something, or what 8 ounces of chicken breast looks like, estimate as best you can.

Keeping a food journal is a trick I like to use to keep people from straying from their diets. When they have a weak moment and crave a donut, knowing that they have to record that in their food log helps them avoid eating the donut. But during this week, don’t avoid eating any of the foods you normally do. The point is to access your true current diet so that you know where to start your new one. If you alter it, it can actually work against your fat-loss efforts.

Calculate the amount of calories, grams of protein, grams of carbs, and grams of total fat for each food that you eat. Then, add these up for all the foods you eat each day. Using an Excel spreadsheet can help make this easier and better allow you to keep track of your diet.

Once you have the total amount of calories and grams of protein, carbs, and fat for each day, you need to get an average of all the days. If you record seven days of food intake, add the calories up for all seven days and divide that number by seven to get the average calorie intake for the seven days. If you did just three days, add up the total calories and divide by three. Do this also for grams of protein, grams of carbs, and grams of fat.

Dieting 101 Key: Calorie Counting

The critical factor in this initial food tracking is your average calorie intake. Take this number and divide it by your body weight in pounds to calculate your average calories relative to your body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds and you consumed an average of 4,000 calories per day, you currently consume an average of 20 calories per pound of body weight. You’ll use this daily average number in Step #2…

Go to Step #2 of Jim Stoppani’s Dieting 101 >>

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