This article, my own idea, appeared originally on suite101 and was heavily viewed. I go back to the system about once a year if the scales 'go wrong' and record too much weight, and I have to say it always works for me if pitched at 1600 calories per day. Secret Eaters would be proud.
So many people try formal diets, and many do lose weight on them. Thing is, many regimes are boring – they forbid this or that, suggest far-too-small portions of diet meals, and avoid all the things the dieter really likes. Then you feel rotten if you fall for something you're not supposed to have. A recipe for failure.
Weight Watching and Weight Loss Could Be Fun
Preparation is the key here. Everyone knows that cream cakes have more calories than cabbage. But how many more? For this plan to work, it's necessary to make a note of the approximate calories in everyday, convenience, and sometime-treat foods. The information will be on the pack, often quoted in cals per 100g. For most fresh fruit and veg, served without added fat or sauce, the count will be low (more detailed information is available on sites such as www.caloriecounting.co.uk).
For example, a medium pear may have 65-70 calories, a medium slice of wholemeal bread 80-90, and a medium tomato 12-15, but 12 Brazil nuts could have 275, a 70g Danish pastry 280-290, and 100g of mature Cheddar cheese 420-430.
Then check the quantity of a food in a realistic serving. For example, commercial cereals give a calorie count for 'a portion', but pouring your usual amount onto the weighing scales could give a surprise result – probably more than expected. Cheese may have the calorie count per 30g, which is equivalent to around one ounce, but it's a smaller amount than would usually be in a hearty sandwich or on a decent pizza.
Armed with the knowledge of the weight of a portion or item, its equivalent in calories, and a target intake (such as 1600 for a woman, 1900 for a man – check with the doctor or health clinic if there's any doubt), it's time to make a start.
Using Home-Made Tokens To Manage the Calories
It's a bit like playing shops as a child, but with calorie tokens instead of money. Design a set of tokens of different value and colour, the size of various coins, and mark them as 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 to add up to your total. Find two different small pots, one for cals used, one for cals still available.
At the start of each day, put the planned max value of tokens into the calories available pot. As the day goes on, each and every item should be calorie counted (approximately), and tokens transferred to the calories used pot. The aim, of course, is to make the tokens last all day and all evening, and if any are left over, that's excellent. However, any extra can't be carried over to the next day!
Advantages of the Calorie Token Method
1 The preparation itself means that the calorie count of food in everyday meals becomes known. More occasional food and drink can be researched as needed.
2 Knowing values means that some substitutions can be made. If there's an attack of the munchies, a biscuit or chocolate can be substituted by a desirable savoury snack which is greater in volume but has fewer cals.
3 Using the tokens shows where the bulk of calorie intake is coming from, which may be a surprise and something which can be addressed.
4 No food is therefore off limits, as long as there are tokens available for it.
5 There is no 'punishment' element, and no guilt since everything is paid for.
And I have just noticed that, over a whole day, I could polish off two Soreen malt loaves in slices spread with Flora Light, and still finish off with a small glass of Pinotage. Cheers!