Setting up for success
The following tips and practices will help to ensure your success as you follow the previous sections of this guide. They are in no particular order, and each is important in its own right.
If you find yourself struggling to make progress despite maintaining a calorie deficit in your log, then it is time to re-examine your numbers. You are either overestimating your TDEE, or understating your caloric intake. Examine your food log for any instances where extra calories might be going uncounted, or where serving sizes might be inaccurate. If you are confident your log is accurate, then your TDEE estimate is off and you will need to lower your daily calorie goal. It is normal to need to do this a few times as you progress towards your final goal, as your TDEE will gradually drop along with your weight.
Don't be a secret eater. If you don't track absolutely everything that you eat accurately, then your perception of what you eat can become very different from reality. This is why you hear some people claiming to gain weight while eating extremely few calories.
When you feel hungry, take a moment to pause and ask yourself if you are actually hungry, or just experiencing boredom or a craving. This takes practice, but it is key to rebuilding your eating habits. A good rule of thumb is to picture a healthy food that you don't particularly like, if even that sounds appetizing then you are probably genuinely hungry.
Say it with me, hunger is not an emergency, and it is not to be feared. Mild hunger is a very natural state for humans that we have only parted with in recent history. You will not cause any harm to your body by allowing yourself to experience hunger for reasonable periods. When you feel hungry, take as much time as you need to find or prepare a healthy meal rather than settling for an immediately available unhealthy option.
Take everything with a grain of salt and apply your own critical thinking. You will be constantly bombarded with misinformation from the internet, the media, and other people, especially when it comes to weight loss. If someone starts preaching to you about starvation mode, set points, or how BMI doesn't matter, then alarm bells should be going off in your head. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions.
Some people in your life may try to hold you back. The average person in America is overweight, and an unhealthy lifestyle is considered normal. You need to be prepared to be a maverick if you are going to be successful. Be ready to handle some scoffs when you turn down your coworker's latest baked treats. As you get thinner, your skin will need to get thicker.
Expanding on the point above, you might run into some people that are on a whole other level when it comes to injecting themselves into your business. They have tried and failed to lose weight, and decided it is easier to convince themselves and everyone around them that is impossible rather than try again. When you prove them wrong by successfully losing weight, they can become outright hostile. They will sometimes interpret your success as a personal attack against them, even if you have never said a word to them about weight loss. Don't be discouraged, naysayers don't determine your progress, only you do.
Get enough sleep! Consistent sleep deprivation will whittle your willpower down to nothing, making it very difficult to change your habits. Go to bed early enough to wake up naturally before your alarm.
Track your progress consistently. You should record your weight each morning after using the bathroom to get the most accurate measures. Don't worry about each data point, your weight can fluctuate by several pounds based on hydration. Instead, pay attention to the general trend of your weight and how much it decreases each week. You can also take progress photos and measurements weekly or monthly. People often struggle to recognize change in themselves because it happens gradually. Looking back at old photos and measurements can be a great way of recognizing how much progress you have made.
Don't treat food as a reward. If you idolize junk food as a reward, then you are framing it as something that you want but are denying yourself. Having to fight an internal battle every time you are faced with junk food is an extremely draining experience, and it isn't sustainable. Instead, practice viewing food holistically and considering the mental and physical impact it will have on you. As your habits and tastes change, junk food will go from being something that you battle against to something that you don't want in the first place.
By the time you reach your goal weight you will have built healthy eating habits that will serve you for the rest of your life. You can adjust your caloric intake from a deficit up to your TDEE to maintain your weight indefinitely. If you don't enjoy tracking your food, you can try eating intuitively while continuing to monitor your weight. If your weight begins to creep back up, switch back to tracking your food for a period to find out where things are going wrong. If you take up training or a sport and start to gain muscle, then it may be beneficial to start tracking your bodyfat percentage with calipers rather than just weight.
I hope you enjoyed reading the Food as Fuel guide, and that it will help you achieve your goals. If you would like to read more, check out the FAQ and stay up to date on the blog. If you have additional questions or comments, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.