Don't Count Calories... Shift Them

By Joey Atlas
Author of Fatness to Fitness

The challenge of eating a nutrient-dense diet that promotes healthy weight and optimal fitness - while at the same time trying to keep daily caloric intake at appropriate levels for one's goals (usually fat/weight loss) - can be one of the most difficult juggling acts to master. In working with many clients with various daily habits and patterns .

I've realized that a good number of people can benefit from "shifting their calories" to accomplish healthy nutrition and weight management.

Depending on the time you wake up in the morning - starting your day with breakfast may not be the ideal way to kick off the fulfillment of your daily nutritional needs.

Now, I know this goes against traditional advice, but read on to fully understand this approach.

I've worked with clients in the past who have tried to eat breakfast (in many forms and variations) first thing in the morning, and they would find that doing this made them hungrier the rest of the day and it usually led to increased daily caloric intake - enough to cause long term weight gain.

There are some people who wake up relatively early and start the day with breakfast and continue to eat relatively well throughout the day. Often, these types of people, although eating healthy foods, are taking in too many calories in the span of a whole day and either have trouble losing weight or continue to gain weight.


Now for the caloric shifting part…

We will talk about meal shifting to keep matters simple - but understand…a meal is made up of calories.

A simple strategy for those who find that keeping a lid on daily caloric intake is a challenge - is to push back the time that the first meal is eaten. Let's call this meal breakfast, even though some people may find it strange to call a meal eaten at 10:30 or 11 am, breakfast.

So, instead of eating your normal breakfast at 6:30 or 8 am, you don't skip it, you just push it back a few hours - toward your normal lunch time. In effect, you are moving, most likely, 300 - 500 (maybe more) calories and taking them in at a later time, maybe 3 or 4 hours later than normal.


Here is what happens to most people who I coach with this method.

They find they are not starving for a big lunch (which also gets pushed back a few hours - to about 2pm (give or take 30 minutes). Additionally, they are not ravenous by dinner time, when most people self destruct and do so until bedtime, by snacking after dinner.

So, a result of this meal shifting is a reduction in 'overactive appetite' - not a bad reduction, but a healthy reduction - one that is very helpful in preventing one from over-stuffing the stomach and going beyond their daily caloric needs.

Let's back up a little - if dinner time food raids are a challenge, then this meal shifting can help you reduce that eating urge after work and put you in a better position to control the volume of food you put on your plate and the number of calories you put in your body.

Ok - so, 'the shift' is also helpful for people who snack every few hours once they do start eating. By delaying when you start eating in the morning - you also delay the snack intervals you enjoy - and in effect you may reduce your total daily snacks to 2 or 3 instead of 5 or 6 (including your after dinner snack).

When all is said and done, by days-end you will have taken in less calories than you would have, had you started with an early breakfast.

Common side effects of this strategy are increased energy, less bloating and stomach discomfort, better sleep patterns and a few others. Hmmm - I wonder why?


There are several factors inside of this calorie shifting strategy to be aware of:

The types of foods you choose, the volume of foods you choose and the realization that you need fewer calories than you think you do to function optimally on a day to day basis.

I also realize that this may go against the "You'll shut down your metabolism, by starving yourself" crowd. But believe me, this is far from starving yourself, very far. I tell you this firsthand, because it's how I've helped many people take control of their weight and it's how I manage my own daily nutrition and keep my metabolism burning right along.


Joey Atlas is the author of Fatness to Fitness, available on



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