I get this question asked a lot:
“Is counting calories important for firefighter weight loss?”
While it sounds like a logical answer, counting calories is often too complex, time consuming, and full of errors. So, in today’s post I wanted to give you a better way to to figure portion and calorie control.
Weight management is a simple equation: Eat more than you burn, and you gain weight. Eat less and you lose weight. But, the physiology behind “calories in, calories out” is actually much more complex and dynamic than most people realize. Plus, it’s highly imprecise; we estimate that there’s typically an error of up to 25 percent on the ‘calories in’ side, and on the ‘calories out’ side.
Beyond that, counting calories is an external system (outside of your body). In essence, clients who count calories are less likely to see lasting results because they’re “outsourcing” their appetite awareness to the information on food-labels. To really win at calorie and portion control, you need to tune into your internal hunger signals and use easy solutions to determine portions.
Instead of calorie counting, I found it best to use a hand-measure system for portion sizes. Here how it works:
- Your palm determines your protein portions.
- Your fist determines your veggie portions.
- Your cupped hand determines your carb portions.
- Your thumb determines your fat portions.
This system counts your calories for you, and gets your macro-nutrients lined up too, without having to do any annoying food-label math. Plus, your hands are portable—they go wherever you go, making portion-sizing very convenient.
In addition, your hands are generally scaled to your size—the bigger you are, the bigger your hands, so the more food you need and the more food you get.
Active men should try to get between 6-8 servings of each food group per day. Active women should aim for 4-6 servings of each food group per day. You can easily adjust these numbers based on goal, fullness, and activity. I suggest you start with learning the serving sizes then focus on the number of servings.
Make sure you get enough water also, aim for at least 64 ounces per day, more if you are an active fire rescue athlete (which you should be). Give these portion control measures a try, print out the info-graphics (see below) and gain control of your nutrition.
Let me know if you have questions or feedback.
Stay safe and healthy,
You can get more information and some great info-graphics on portion control by from these additional resources: