Losing weight can be simple. All it requires is for a person to expend more calories than are being ingested. A net negative daily calorie balance will force the body to burn through its store of fat and result in weight loss.

Easy, right? Unfortunately, we all know that this is not the case. For some, staying the course with your weight loss plan can seem intimidating at first. But if you practice the right habits and make steady progress every day, you will build up to long term benefits while also getting closer to achieving any goals that you may have set for yourself.

People who struggle with what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat may eventually lose patience and abandon their diet midway. Don’t be one of these people! If you want to go on a weight loss diet, here are some of the top things that you need to do in order to give yourself the best chance for success:

1. Measure How Many Calories You Need Per Day

The number of calories that a person needs varies with the amount of physical activity that they take part in daily, their age, sex and even the physical type within which they fall. Here is the calorie calculation formula in its most simplified form:

Calories in – Calories out = Calorie surplus/deficit

If this equals 0, you maintain weight; if it equals a positive number, you gain weight; and if it equals a negative number, you lose weight. Sounds simple enough.

But if this is what you base your calorie calculations on, you are sorely mistaken. Here’s the actual, more complex formula:

Calories in (Calories in 1 ounce x number of ounces eaten) – Calories out (hormones, activity level, sleep, stress, muscle mass, gender, age, body size, genetics, weather, medication, and nutritional deficiencies) = Calorie surplus/deficit

Sure, you may have figured in today’s elliptical workout in your daily calorie equation, but did you really take into account all of the other factors that influence how many calories you burn in one day?

For example, sleep is one very overlooked factor that can actually determine how fast and effectively (or vice versa) your body burns calories. This is why caloric needs can be a moving target!

Now that you know how many calories you need per day, how do you stick within that range and make sure you actually follow your diet for a long time?

2. Keep a Food Journal

We are going old school for our second tip but the fact is that it absolutely works. A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine conducted on almost 1700 participants found that the group that kept a food journal lost almost twice the weight of the group that did not.

Similarly, another study published in 2012 by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found women who kept a journal lost 13% of their starting body weight while those that did not lost only 8%.

That’s almost 33% more weight loss for the group that did lose weight and it’s significant enough to be taken seriously.

Why does writing down whatever you eat work so well in aiding weight loss? There are many theories and opinions but we believe that it increases accountability. People that have been working hard for a week and keeping their journal honestly will not want to binge on the weekend and let all of their hard work go to waste.

As time goes and the results start to show, this habit becomes second nature and helps people understand their own bodies much better and how it reacts to different food.

Now that we have hopefully convinced you to give this a go, here is what you need to do exactly.

Keep a small diary with you so that you can add to it as you keep on eating throughout the day. Try and note down the date, day, time, place, what you ate, quantity eaten as well as any other extra notes that you want to jot down.

It may sound a lot but it will actually take only a minute or so to write down all the relevant information. Keep your diary as detailed as possible. You can write down “turkey sandwich” but it would be better to go into more detail by writing down the kind of bread, condiments, turkey and anything else that you had alongside to get a much better idea of the calories consumed.

Don’t skip any snack or even a bite that you had. We recommend keeping a track of the water you drink as well to help you know if you are getting adequate hydration or not.

weight loss diet food journal

Keeping a food journal will help you stay on track with your daily calorie and macronutrient intake.

3. Be Accurate In Your Measurements

When you are keeping a food journal, you do not want to guess or approximate how much food you are having because that will not give you a clear picture of the total amount of calories you are consuming.

The best way to do that is to buy a food scale and some measuring cups. Most of the people often do not have an idea of the portion sizes that they need to stick to and this is where the scale comes in handy.

Measuring scales are excellent for meat eaters while measuring cups will help you in making the right amount of pasta and rice for your meals. The scales and cups can be used to measure the serving of food after it is cooked or to measure out the ingredients during the process of cooking itself.

The whole idea of using a scale is to get attuned to the recommended portion sizes so that you are able to make the decision for yourself even when the scales are not around.

4. Plan Your Meals Ahead Of Time

It is also an excellent idea to use the scales to make pre-packaged meals for yourself before leaving the house. This means that you do not have to look for healthy food or worry about the ingredients when you are on the go. Just open your lunch boxes and eat at the desired time.

Food that can be frozen is excellent to help get around these hurdles. Veggie casseroles, whole grain wrap burritos, veggie burgers fruits, veggies, and fruits are all excellent options here.

Boiled eggs make for great snacks that you can have on the go. Ground Turkey taco or in bell peppers is a good option for an easy to make meal but really the options are endless.

This is something that requires a lot of planning ahead since you need to devote enough time to make the food, find recipes for healthy portions of food that you like and then ensure you have enough ingredients at your disposal at all times.

This, in fact, brings us to a very important question. What to do about measuring food portions when you are eating out or you just don’t cook at home?

5. Learn To Read Nutrition Labels

Every packaged food item is required to have a nutrition food label in the United States and in most countries around the world. The problem is that most people do not know what to make of the information that is being offered.

A lot of research has been conducted into the link between reading nutrition labels and positive health outcomes around the world as well as the need to educate consumers in a better manner.

Reading food labels is an art because the manufacturers do not want to come out and say that their product is unhealthy! Start by looking at the serving size. This is very important because every nutrient percentage or calories consumed will be mentioned per serving size.

If you are consuming 300 grams of a particular packaged food and then calories are mentioned per 100 grams then you need to multiply the number by three to get the accurate number.

You should always look at the list of ingredients to see if the constituents of the packaging match the branding on the front. There are several products that add the word ‘healthy’ to their name without really following that principle in their products.

Look at the total calories that the label mentions but also keep an eye on the fat content. You should try and limit your intake of fat or carbohydrates to the macronutrient ratio your diet advises.

If you are suffering from a heart condition like high blood pressure or have high cholesterol then avoid food with too much sodium or cholesterol.

A healthy amount of protein content is desirable but that should not come at the cost of a huge number of calories.

Reading food labels carefully is something that you only have to do with a new product because once you have found things that you are comfortable with, it becomes easy to pick out the right choices from the shopping aisle.

For people that are eating at restaurants, finding out the exact portions of food or the nutritional value they have can be much more difficult. A lot of restaurants have started to share information about their food next to the menu itself as well as their restaurant websites.

Do your research before you go to a restaurant so that you already know what you want to get and the number of calories you will be taking in.

6. Use Calorie Counting Apps

Almost everyone has a smartphone these days and this is one device which does not leave their side ever. You can take advantage of the various calorie counting apps that are available for the major smartphone platforms and use them to help log your food.

These calorie counting apps are extremely convenient because they do the conversion of your food choices and quantity into calories and even break it down by the kind of macronutrients you have consumed.

You can even take a photo of the food you are having and upload it to get some suggestions about what your food choice probably was and the calories it contained. This is an excellent, convenient and easy method to stay on top of your weight loss regimen.

Enter the target weight that you want to achieve and you will receive a calorie limit that the app suggests you adhere to. Certain apps can also integrate with the health logging software found in most phones and automatically add the amount of physical exercise you have been getting in.

Some of the most popular apps that we recommend include MyFitnesspal, Fitocracy, FatSecret, Lose It!, My Diet Coach and Fooducate.