Conscious spending of calories - Diligent Fitness

Conscious spending of calories

18th February 2015 by Kieran Igwe Nutrition 0 comments

Ever feel like life’s one big compromise? Take getting in shape. You want things to be a little firmer, so you have to give up everything that makes life worth living. Pretty raw deal, huh?

I’ve struggled on a similar level with money. I’m either buying everything I want, or I’m depriving myself on a strict budget.

That’s until I came across an approach to spending that shifted how I roll.

Here’s the idea. Before cutting all the things you enjoy out of your life (like with a diet)

  • 1) acknowledge there are limited resources.
  • 2) prioritise, in advance, what you want to spend those resources on.
  • 3) cut back hard on the things you have through habit, that you probably wont miss

Maybe weightwatchers were onto something

In the infinite wisom of youth – when I knew it all – I used to look down on the weightwatchers way of doing things. But really this is what their approach forces us to acknowledge: you only have so much you can eat if you want to lose weight. Choose wisely.

At the same time there’s something liberating about knowing you can still have the things you enjoy most (guilt free)… so long as you spend less on things you feel ‘meh’ about.

Managing your calorie budget

Unlike managing our finances, with food we don’t have a limit that’s obvious at the end of each day. There’s no accountant calling us up telling us we’ve gone over budget.

It can be weeks or months before you get the reality check from the waistband on your jeans cutting into your tummy.

While counting calories is one way to keep track, I’ve met too many people that just aren’t into the weigh and measure everything deal.

And while my financial awakening has turned me into somewhat of a bean counting, spreadsheet loving nerd, you don’t have to become obsessed with the numbers to make progress.

Your daily routine is where it’s at

Mostly we go about our day with habits we’ve picked up at some point, without questioning whether each habit still serves us in a positive way.

The result is a number of habits we’ve collected that, most likely, we wouldn’t miss if we cut back.

Instead of counting calories, try the conscious spending approach simply by looking at your habits and what you consume each day. Perhaps use what you drink as a starting point.

  • 1) Record what you drink over the course of the day
  • 2) If you could only keep one calorie containing drink which it would be?
  • 3) Establish which you feel ‘meh’ about
  • 4) For the next couple of days try switching the ‘meh’ drinks for water, hot water & lemon, green tea, black coffee – basically a no-calorie alternative

For example here’s someone’s lifetime of accumulated drinking habits for a typical Monday

breakfast 1 mug coffee, 250ml orange juice, 45 kcals +110 kcals
start work 1 mug coffee 45 kcals
mid morning coffee – flat white, one sugar 184 kcals
lunch juice or fizzy drink 139 kcals
afternoon cup of tea x2 30 kcals +30 kcals
evening 500ml Lucozade sport with run/workout 140 kcals
dinner, late evening 2x glass red wine 125 kcals + 125 kcals
  grand total jeez!!


This person’s getting 973 kcal per day from drinks alone. That’s nearly half what someone on a 2000 kcal daily diet would require… before food.

So to get the drinks under control we’ve got options:

Option 1) big change – for when you’re on a mission

Maybe you’re on a mission and you’re going to switch what you’d normally drink in a day for 8 glasses of water throughout the day instead.

It’s crazy talk. But if you’re looking for quick results that’s probably the quickest way to get there.

Just give me a sec to get from round you… because no TV and no beer make Homer go something something .

homer go cray cray

homer go cray cray

Option 2) swapping some calorie containing drinks for no-calorie alternatives

This doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Just like my budget, we can go at this the conscious spending way. Let’s say a reasonable quota for drinks is 200kcals/day. We’ve got some tough decisions to make.

Maybe the glass of wine at the end of the day is the thing that keeps you going. But the glass of OJ with breakfast is just what you’ve always done.

It’d be easy to keep the glass of wine and switch the morning OJ for a glass of water.

Or maybe the OJ at breakfast really kick starts your day, but you’d be happy to switch the of milky tea and sugar for green tea.

Just decide what’s non-negotiable and switch out the drinks you don’t care about for a no-calorie alternative.

Option 3) move one step along the worst, better, best continuum

Another approach is to take each choice along a notch on the worst – better – best continuum.

This is probably the slowest option in terms of seeing results. But hey, if you’re not in a hurry it’s the least painful to adopt. And any changes you make with this approach will usually stick the longest.

Working the breakfast OJ as an example:

Worst ———————–Better —————————–Best

Shop bought OJ——-Squeezed at home OJ———–Eat an orange

Wherever you’re at with each of your drinks, consider moving one step better.

Important note: If you decide to eat the orange you’re going to smell like an orange all day.

Let’s summarize

If weight loss is the goal we have to come in under our calorie quota daily. Unfortunately there’s no avoiding this.

Acknowledging there’s only so much we can consume in a day (and still lose weight) means we need to decide what stays and what goes.

Don’t compromise on what’s most important to you. Give yourself permission to keep the things you love most in your daily diet.

Not compromising on what’s non-negotiable makes it easier to cut back hard on the things you have through habit (and probably won’t miss).

Drinks are a good place to start. They’re a hidden source of calories that slip under the radar.

Try switching out the drinks you’re not bothered about for non-calorie containing alternatives like black coffee, green/herbal teas and good ol’ water.

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