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Beginners Diet Plans – Don’t Overthink It!

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This ISN’T dieting. This is STARVATION!

When people hear the word diet, their very first thought tends to be, “Oh my God! I’m never going to eat again!” Why? Because they are overthinking the word DIET. “Diet” simply means the foods you eat. You could have a Twinkie and Oreo diet. Or a Donut and Ice Cream diet. What you eat is your diet. Plain and simple. And beginners diet plans should be just that: Plain and Simple.

How Do You Make A Diet Plan Simple?


Well, the first step for beginners to create a diet plan is to understand what the goal of the diet actually is.

I realize this can be challenging when you keep running into diet plans that throw around phrases and systems that you probably aren’t familiar with. Phrases like Macro Nutrients. Plans like High Protein Low Carb. Or my personal favorite, Clean Eating.

Do you need to worry about any of this? Probably not.

To decide for sure, figure out what your goals are. If you came here looking for beginners diet plans, your goals are probably centered around losing weight, or trimming off that last bit of belly fat. Does that sound like what you’re looking for?

Then you don’t need to worry about any of the fancy terms or diet systems.

There is really only one thing you need to concern yourself with. And that is…

A Calorie Is A Calorie, No Matter Where It Comes From


When it comes to losing weight or burning fat, calories are all that matter. You need to make sure you burn more than you eat. That’s it! It’s that simple!

I don’t care if you are eating high-protein-low-carb, or low-protein-high-carb. A calorie from protein is the same as a calorie from a carbohydrate.

At the beginner level of a fitness plan, where those calories come from will have nearly no effect of weight-loss or fat-burning goals. It is only when you get to more advanced level fitness programs that the mix of proteins, carbs, and fats really comes into play. For now, you don’t need to worry about it.

Your main goal IS losing weight or fat, right? You want to lose 20 pounds? 30 pounds? Maybe 50 pounds? Just a couple inches around the waist? Okay.

Maintenance Calories, And What It Means


The first question to consider: Is your weight holding steady? If it is, this is going to be very easy for you to figure out.

When your weight is holding steady, this means that you are currently eating an amount of calories that maintains that weight. This is called your Maintenance Level, or maintenance calories. What that means is that if you track what you are currently eating, and add up those calories, you know your maintenance level. Now you can cut just 100 calories a day from that, and lose almost a quarter of a pound a week.

Want to guess what cutting 100 calories looks like? A large banana has about 100 calories. A typical single serving of yogurt is between 100-130 calories. A Quaker granola bar is about 160-180 calories. It doesn’t take much to get rid of 100 calories in a day.

Here’s one suggestion. Do you regularly eat a high calorie breakfast? Replace it with a smoothie. You can make them at home. They’re healthy. They’re relatively low calorie, but still filling. Take a look at this! (And, yes, I do know the title is about ‘Snacks’ not breakfast!)

“But my weight isn’t holding steady. I’m gaining.”

A Calorie Surplus Is Not Where We Want To Be To Lose Weight


Well, if that’s the case, your job is going to be a little harder. Gaining weight means that you are currently in a Calorie Surplus. In other words, you are taking in more calories than you need to maintain your weight. So you are going to have to work this in two steps.

The first step will be getting an idea of how many calories you are currently eating in a day. Keep track of everything you eat, and add up the calories. Do this for a week.

Are your daily totals pretty close? Then you have a good idea how many calories you are eating each day.

They aren’t that close. That’s okay. Add the totals from all seven days together. Then divide by 7. This will tell you your average intake.

You can either use a Calorie Calculator, of which there are plenty online, to figure out your maintenance calories. When you get that number, slowly decrease your intake until you get there. Again, I suggest starting by cutting 100 calories a day. So if you are currently taking in 3000 calories, and your maintenance calorie needs are 2800, cut down to 2900 for a couple weeks. This will eventually become easy, and you won’t notice those missing 100 calories. When that happens, cut another 100 a day and you’ll be down to 2800 calories a day (your maintenance level), and your weight will steady out.

Now you can move on to the second step, and cut another 100 calories. Now you’ll be down to 2700 calories a day and losing about a quarter of a pound a week.

We’ve Just Reached A Calorie Deficit!


If you are taking in fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight, you are in a calorie deficit. Anything below your maintenance level is a deficit.

What does this mean for you?

Well, in the two sections about we talked about being 100 calories below our maintenance needs. That’s a 100 calorie deficit, and will result in losing about a quarter of a pound a week.

So if you can get yourself to a 200 calorie deficit, or take in 200 calories less than your maintenance level, you can lose about half a pound a week.

Yeah. You can lose all the weight you want without ever thinking about whether 50% of your calories are coming from protein. You don’t have to worry about eating “clean”. You don’t need to cut every last bit of fat from your diet (PLEASE DON’T CUT EVERY LAST BIT OF FAT FROM YOUR DIET! YOUR BODY NEEDS FATS. I WILL BE WRITING AN ARTICLE ON THIS IN THE NEAR FUTURE).

All you need to concern yourself with at this stage in the game is eating fewer calories than you need to maintain your current weight. That’s it!

And you can lose weight without running 100 miles a week. You don’t need to lift any weights. Without changing anything else about your daily life, cutting just 100 calories will help you lose about a quarter pound a week.

See, pretty simple!

Beginners Diet Plans Don’t need to be hard


You’ve just learned what it takes to lose weight. It can’t be any easier. Burn more calories than you take in.

Don’t try to get fancy with it. Don’t try to restrict yourself too much. When you do that, you doom yourself to failure.

Snacks

Just don’t eat ALL of them!

Do you have a favorite snack? Make sure you keep room when you’re counting your calories for the day to fit that snack in! When you can still eat the foods you love AND lose weight, that’s when you’ve developed a diet plan that will work for the long term.

And that’s our goal here. We don’t want some crazy diet plan that will work for a month, help us drop 15 pounds, but drive us absolutely nuts. Why? Because as soon as that month is over and we’ve dropped 15 pounds eating nothing but plain grilled chicken and brown rice, that cake sitting in the case at the grocery store bakery is going to look good. REALLY good. And we’re going to want to eat the whole thing!

Keep it simple. Take it in little steps. Cut 100 calories a day and keep it up for a few weeks. Make sure you’re comfortable with it before you try to cut more. When YOU are ready, and ONLY when YOU are ready, go ahead and cut out another 100 calories. Keep it up until you’re getting the results you want.

Just don’t go too crazy with it! Losing weight quickly sounds great, but losing it too fast can be unhealthy. Keep it to losing a MAX of 5 pounds a week. I think even that is a little extreme, but most health care providers will agree that it’s a safe rate of weight loss.

Remember, this is your diet, and it’s your body. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are losing weight too slowly. Do things at your pace, and I am certain that you will reach your goals.

It would be great if you could rate this article, and let me know what you thought in the comments below. Ask questions. Tell me what you would like to see added to the site!

Best of luck of your journey,

Nathan

Nathan@HonestFitnessAdvice.com

P.S. Remember, if you ever have questions, or need help, or just a little encouragement, feel free to reach out. You can leave a comment, or send me an e-mail, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Beginners Diet Plans – Don’t Overthink It!
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14 Comments

  1. Interesting post Nathan. I enjoyed reading this. It is awesome that if you put it into perspective, only eating 100 less calories a day, over a period of time will get you where you want to be. You stated a very important fact about eating fats. I look forward in reading that post.
    I am physical educator and know that it is important to exercise and eat healthy. However, some people get really intimidated when they want to start losing weight. This post could take some of the weight off their shoulders:) literally lol

    • It’s the intimidation factor that I am really aiming to battle with this site. Whether it be dieting as we are talking about here, or cardio training, or even resistance training, learning to take things just one step at a time makes it far easier, and much less intimidating.
      And I LOVE the bit about taking some weight of their shoulders! Well done!

  2. There are so many meanings people put in DIET word! In my view it boils down to changing your behavior and habits, which is extremely hard! This is probably one of the reasons that science says dieting doesn’t work.
    What I found useful for myself is focusing on adding good stuff to my diet as opposed to battling bad stuff. If I’m successful introducing some good nutrition into my everyday routine, it might eventually replace some bad food.

    • Adding the good stuff to your diet is great, just as long as you are adding it as a replacement for the bad stuff. ADDING good stuff without getting rid of the bad is ADDING calories. Just so long as you can keep in mind that it’s meant to be a replacement, now or in the near future, you’re on the right track.

  3. Like you mention above, a calorie is a calorie so keeping track of them is important. Do you have any specific recommendations on a phone app or something like that where a lot of meals or types of food are already there to grab from a search menu? One of the hardest parts of calorie counting is manually entering everything one line item at a time…

    • I don’t personally know of any good apps for tracking calories. I’ve heard of a number of them, but I’ve always preferred the more hands on approach of pen and paper. I find that putting that effort into it, having to actually write down the calories you’re eating, helps you to see in real time just what you’re doing to your health. If you use an app and just need to click on a selection you don’t think about the calories as much. But when you pick up that bottle of soda and have to physically write down “290 CALORIES”, that makes you stop and reconsider.

  4. I also like doing Intermittent fasting which I have been doing quite some time. It means eating within a time window of 8 hours and then fasting for 16 hours. Any experience with that?

    • I have never done intermittent fasting. And my reason is that, although it can work, it can also be detrimental, depending on your goals. For those whose only goal is to lose weight, this is a viable option. For beginners, not so much. It’s too hard to stick to. I personally don’t use it because I am a strength trainer. With intermittent fasting your body actually enters “starvation mode”. Although you aren’t really STARVING, your body reacts as though you are. And contrary to popular belief, when the body enters starvation mode it doesn’t target fat for fuel. It targets MUSCLE! Our bodies are designed for self-preservation, and our fat stores are our EMERGENCY energy reserves. The body will do whatever it can to hold onto those reserves as long as possible, including breaking down muscle for energy.

  5. I have to say that my favorite part of this article that is going to help me is the maintenance calories. I have no trouble maintaining but thats it, I don’t lose fat. Frustrating, but now that I have read your article I have a better understanding on how to cut calories without feeling a huge lack of what I want to eat.

    • I’m glad I could help! The beautiful part about small cuts in calorie intake is that we don’t have to GIVE UP anything we love. Maybe just eat two cookies for a snack instead of three. Little changes like that can make a big difference over time.

  6. Hi Nathan, Great advice! What is your take on Legumes, since we do not digest and use all the carbs (resistant starch) what would be your recommendation on how we should calculate the calories from eating beans?

    • That’s a great question, Pam! And a great idea for a post at a later date. The simple truth of the matter is that I would calculate calories from legumes just as I would for anything else. Our bodies are not perfectly efficient, and therefore do not digest and use every calorie from everything we eat. It doesn’t matter if those calories come from resistant starches, proteins, or fats.

  7. I actually heard that intermittent fasting is quite efficient and my friends also benefited from this diet. Do you think beginners can do it?

    • You raise some good points, Furkan, and I will discuss them in depth in a post dedicated to intermittent fasting at a later time. But to answer your question, yes, beginners CAN do intermittent fasting and see results. I personally don’t suggest it here because my goal with this post is to take the “scary” out of diet. I want to show people that small changes can make a real difference in their life and to their fitness goals. Intermittent fasting is not a small change.

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