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How to lose belly fat without counting calories | Balance

Tracking your dietary intake can be an incredibly helpful tool giving a much more analytical insight to how much and what of you’re actually eating.

Research has consistently shown that we’re just not that good at estimating quantity and quality of dietary intake; we base it on our perceptions of portion size, social interpretations of “healthy” and “unhealthy” foods and government guidelines (or worse, magazine and other media recommendations) which, ultimately, may not be applicable to you as an individual.

Whilst using tracking software (like MyFitnessPal) or a food diary can be an incredibly valuable tool and learning resource, it is certainly not for everyone and, for some, tracking may be asking simply far too much from day one and may even trigger / contribute to disordered health behaviours.

In this article we’re going to discuss two alternative strategies which you can use to either provide an alternative option to tracking entirely, or to use as a “stepping stone” to progress into tracking (which itself should not be a consistently permanent feature of your lifestyle if you’re simply after improving your health - high level athletes may need to rely on tracking slightly more as finer margins can make all the difference in elite sports).

Proactive portion management

Behind all the mysticism surrounding weight loss, all the miracle diets, and all the “one trick you’ve not been told” adverts, there lies one eternal truth; our change in weight will always be dictated by the calories we take in vs. the calories we expend.

You can dress it up however you want, in whatever dieting style you’d like, but it always boils down to this one simple principle (it’s just that the factors which go into both sides of this principle are immensely complex).

If we can achieve less energy in vs. more energy out then we’ll achieve fat loss.

Portion control is arguably the easiest and most straightforward technique to employ when cutting down on the amount of energy we take in, via food, to lose fat. If we just eat less than that which we currently take in, the chances are you’re likely going to facilitate fat loss.

Managing portions can be done easily in one of two ways; The first would be simply dividing up your plate. There are numerous iterations of this strategy (from the MyPlate in the U.S. to the EatWell Plate in the U.K.), and a general rule of thumb would be to divide your plate up into; 30 - 50% protein, 20 - 30% vegetables, 20 - 30% wholegrains and 5 - 10% fats.

We’ll discuss the importance of protein in fat loss in a short while.

The other simplistic method of portion management is to use your hands as a reference for portion size. Precision Nutrition (PN., 2019) use the following rules to determine portion sizes.

  • Your palm determines your protein portions.

  • Your fist determines your fruit / veggie portions.

  • Your cupped hand determines your carb portions.

  • Your thumb determines your fat portions

Not every meal has to contain all of these of course but it helps to base meal designs around these simple fundamentals. This approach should accompany a meal schedule and established routine.