Calories, or “food energy,” are units of energy derived from the macronutrients we consume: protein, fat and carbohydrates. They are necessary for all bodily functions from breathing and thinking to cooking and exercising. While some focus on cutting calories, your body needs them to prevent it from going into “starvation mode.” The key is balance. It can be tough to give your body enough fuel without overeating, but there are steps you can take to do so without tracking your intake.
1. Increase activity between class and work
You wake up early to catch your 45-minute, heart-pumping cycling class, then you head to your desk where you sit all day. Does this sound familiar? It might seem like you are very active, but all those hours spent sitting down lower your resting metabolic rate. A quick two-mile walk in the middle of the day can get your heart pumping and make up for your afternoon snack.
2. Change the focus of date night
Do you ever find yourself eating so healthy during the week, then splurging on date night? One fun way to keep calorie intake in check (while also burning them) is to find a new focus. There are so many cool activities you and your boo can do to keep moving. Trampoline parks have jumped (pun intended) in popularity and are not only super fun, but can also contribute to a significant calorie burn. Another option is laser tag. Laser tag has become so popular, there are even competitive leagues! The high-intensity activity can leave you burning up to 200 calories per round.
3. Grab a sparkling water or low-sugar kombucha
It’s not always the main meal that causes you to eat in excess. It’s the eating between meals that can take you from a 1,500-2,000 calorie range to 3,000. Just think: Half a cup of mixed nuts is 500 calories; that’s enough to be a large meal! Most people crave snacks right before dinner. During this time, we recommend upping your fluid intake. When you get home from work, try grabbing a sparkling water, fruit-infused water or even kombucha, which can also replace a glass of wine or beer—another 250-calorie addition to your meal.
4. Chill out with music or meditation
High levels of stress may be causing you to consume higher-calorie foods. In a study published in the Journal of Physiology and Behavior, women with higher stress levels responded differently to pictures of high-calorie foods than women with lower stress levels. Specifically, there was greater activity in the areas of the brain involving reward, motivation and habitual decision-making. At the same time, the women under high stress had less activity in the brain linked to strategic planning and controlling emotions. To help prevent overeating high-calorie foods, we recommend doing one thing per day to help decrease stress. That could be yoga, meditation, a hot bath or even just an hour of calming music.
5. Use smaller plates
If you use smaller plates, it can help you eat less—there is a catch, though. Findings in the Journal of the Association for the Consumer Research show that there must be two things in place to help eaters consume less: they must serve themselves, and they can’t be monitored. So if you take a trip to Target for some new cute plates, make sure you serve yourself!
The key to not overeating is knowing what’s normal. Talk to a nutrition professional to understand the total number of calories your body needs per day, and always take a step back to listen to your body and recognize how you feel before and after each meal.