forget counting calories - do this instead

Unless you’re a professional athlete, bikini model or bodybuilder preparing for a competition….

You don’t need to count calories, obsessively.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m ALL about finding your calorie maintenance for weight loss.

But if you super busy person, happy with the way you look and just want to lose a little bit of weight…

Then there’s an easy way to figure out how much food to eat at every meal without the scales creeping up.

And if you’re thinking… “but I’m on low carb, high carb, high protein, IIFYM or _____ diet”

YES, you can still make it work with the method I’m about to show you.

All you have to do is take a look at your hand.

You can use your palm, fist, cupped hand and thumb as a food measurement tool instead.

This method helps you hit your desired macros and ensures that you’re getting whole food nutrients for your body.

Before we deep dive into the method, let’s quickly look at why counting calories obsessively may not be ideal.

The first problem with counting calories obsessively is that it’s not always convenient to carry a kitchen scale around, weigh food every 3-4 hours and log it into your food app.

The second problem is some food app databases providing macronutrient and calorie information are not always correct.

They can be off by about 25% due to incorrect labeling, lab measurement errors or food quality.

Lastly, the number of calories burned or energy expenditure will vary greatly from person to person.

There’s a thing called Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) which is:

“Energy expended for everything that is not sleeping, eating or exercising.”

NEAT can range from the energy used for housework, typing, fidgeting, gardening, dancing, and even small trivial things.

All these activities burn calories however the NEAT used for someone who works at the office will be different to someone who is always on their feet as a waitress.

You then have factors like your current health condition, hormone levels, stress, and sleep – these all affect how much calories your body will burn.

So what do you do?

How To Stop Counting Calories Obsessively

How To Maintain Weight Without Counting Calories

It’ starts with using your hands.

Yep.

You can easily maintain and most likely lose weight without counting calories by measuring food with your hands.

It makes estimating portion sizes and macronutrients intake like protein, carbs and fats a breeze.

That means no carrying around weighing scales or food calculators.

Here’s how to estimate portion sizes with your hand:

1. Your Palm

Your palm determines your protein portions.

Palm size control

As a general recommendation:

  • Men can eat two palm size-portion of protein per meal
  • Women can eat one palm size-portion of protein per meal

A palm size is the same thickness and diameter as your palm.

This should provide approximately 40-60 grams of protein per meal for men and 20-30 grams of protein per meal women.

Your palm size will be a starting point for every meal.

You might eat more depending on whether you work out often or eat fewer meals per day.

What’s important is that you meet your daily protein requirements necessary for maintaining lean body mass.

What to eat?

Eat protein-dense foods like lean meat, chicken breast, fish, eggs, dairy, or beans and use your palm as the serving size.

Baked Chicken with honey mustard sauce

2. Your Fist

Your fist determines your veggie portions.

As a general recommendation:

  • Men can eat two fist size-portion of vegetables per meal
  • Women can eat one fist size-portion of vegetables per meal

A fist-sized portion is the same thickness and diameter as your fist .

Eating salads and greens provides phytonutrients, micronutrients and is essential for staying ‘regular’

What to eat?

Eat leafy greens and fibrous vegetables like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, carrots, zucchini, capsicum and use your fist as the serving size.

FB high protein ranch dressing

3. Your Cupped Hand

Your cupped hand determines your carbohydrate intake.

As a general recommendation:

  • Men can eat two cupped hand portions of carbohydrates per meal
  • Women can eat one cupped hand portion of carbohydrates per meal.

Use your cupped hand to determine your carbohydrate serving size.

This should provide approximately 40-60 grams of carbs for men and 20-30 grams of carbohydrates per meal for women.

What to eat?

Eat carbohydrate-dense or complex carbs like grains, starches, or fruits.

If you’re gluten intolerant, brown rice or sweet potato is a great source of carbohydrate dense foods.

4. Your Thumb

Your thumb determines your fat intake.

THUMB portion control

As a general recommendation:

  • Men can eat two thumb size portion of fats per meal.
  • Women can eat one thumb size portion of fats per meal.

Use your entire thumb to determine your fat serving size.

This should provide approximately 15-25 grams of fats for men and 7-12 grams of fats for women per meal.

What to eat?

Eat healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, butters, nut butters, nuts and seeds.

Food Portion Sizes For Weight loss

The above guideline assumes you will be eating about 3-4 times a day and incorporating whole foods to help fuel your metabolism.

You will need to adjust food portion sizes based on your:

  • Fitness goals – do you want to lose weight (fat loss) or gain weight (gain muscle)?
  • Preferred eating style/diet – ie low carb, keto, IIFY, intermittent fasting etc
  • Workout requirements – incorporate more protein if you’re lifting weights
  • Hunger cues and feelings of satiety.

For example: If you’re performing intermittent fasting for weight loss and only eating 2 meals a day instead of 3-4 – then your food portion sizes will naturally be bigger than the above guidelines.

So as a woman who skips breakfast – instead of eating only 1 palm size of protein for lunch – I will adjust my protein to 1.5 palm size to meet my caloric needs.

This will provide roughly 35-40 grams of protein for lunch and the same for dinner.

I will wind my protein up or down depending on my eating style and whether I’m working out that day.

In general, I find eating more protein more satiating and keeps my cravings at bay.

This is a simple and flexible guide for eating and nourishing your body without the hassles of counting calories. 

Remember, staying healthy is about consistently making better food choices and eating foods that you enjoy.

Is Calorie Counting Bad?

Absolutely not and I’m NOT against counting calories.

It should be used as a tool to help you achieve your body goals like fat loss instead of an obsession.

Counting calories is very useful when you have a major event coming up and want to shed those excess pounds before the big day.

If you’re new to calories and macros I encourage you to log your food into myfitnesspal or any food app for at least two months.

When I first started on my weight loss journey, I tracked and counted my calories every day for four months.

The rationale was simple, I wanted to know how much food in terms of calories I was consuming.

The process of logging foods and counting calories really helped me understand how calorie-dense certain foods were.

I also realized I was under-eating protein and how certain foods would affect my energy level and focus.

Once you get an idea of how much calories and macros certain foods contain, you can make eyeball the portion sizes and make adjustments from thereon.

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How To Stop Counting Calories & Still Lose weight