How to Calorie Budget

by Brad Pilon

So with our Fat as Debt series, the ultimate diet questions becomes – “How do I Budget my Daily Calories?”

Followed by the quintessential diet question of “how many calories should I eat in a day?”.

Basically this isn’t that much different than figuring out your daily money budget. I’m not saying it’s easy by any means but it’s along the same lines.

The bottom line is that you you need to do everything possible to payback your debt (whether economic or fat debt) while still living an enjoyable life.

You need a rough idea of how many calories you burn in a day (Then you need to round down), you need a rough idea of the calories in your food (and you need to round up) you need a rough idea of what you need to have an enjoyable life (probably the hardest of the three) then you need to do what you can to create a little slush that you use to pay back your debt (ie, eat less so you burn some fat)….But this is where budgeting is difficult, because quite frankly – s#%t happens.

Basements Leak, cars get smashed, kids need glasses – unbudgeted expenses happen and you have to roll with it.

…and likewise

Birthdays, Weddings, Corporate luncheons – Unbudgeted eating happens and you just have to roll with it.

And at least with finance budgets you know how much money you make down to a dime, and you have at least a decent idea of where your money goes… with calories we are completely guessing.

Imagine if finances were as hard as managing fat-debt.

How much do you make per day?

“Oh roughly between 1,700 and 2,600 per day”

Oh wow…well, how much does it cost you for gas?

“well the pump says 90 cents, but really, they charge me anywhere from 80 cents to a dollar twenty”

Wait, so you have no idea how much you really make in a day, and you don’t really know how much you spend either?

“well…I have a rough idea”

(No wonder fat loss is hard!)

Luckily, all is not lost. There are things you can do to prepare and make sure you succeed.

Firstly, You can live a little below your means..both food wise and money wise. Most of our Adonis and Venus transformation winners took a very similar approach to getting lean: They assumed that their daily calorie burn was on the low end – only a little above BMR, and they assumed that the calories in their foods was always a little higher then what it said on the label. This allows for a more realistic budget. They also tracked their metrics – At the very least they knew their weights, their waist circumference, their shoulder circumferences.

They also knew that things don’t improve in a linear fashion – there are going to be stalls, some numbers are even going to trend up occasionally, but long term, if you are doing things right they should all be heading in the right direction.

The same goes with finances – your line of credit may have no choice but to jump up occasionally…which is fine as long as the overall trend is down down down.

Secondly, You also need to fight against the ‘short-term-gain, long-term-pain trap’. This trap is what happens when you ignore the “still enjoy life” part of the equation.

We’ve probably all done this to some degree – tried our best not to spend a single dime for weeks on end, or even tried to fast for weeks on end. You’ll see results, but the long term pain is that you burn out and rebound out of this mindset pretty quickly. You have to remember to keep life enjoyably…otherwise burnout will happen.

Lastly, it helps to realize that the main threat to your fat debt and your economic debt, are NOT the big curve balls… it’s something else entirely.

It’s the fact that the major industries in the world are continually trying to persuade you to BORROW AGAINST YOUR FUTURE. And, they’re asking you to do it for things you don’t need.

They are playing on your emotions, they are marketing to all of your hopes and dreams, and all of your insecurities.

They’ve convinced you that what you need for that wedding shower is a NEW dress. They’ve convinced you that certain foods will drastically change you (for the better). They’ve also convinced you that some things just don’t count…little snacks here or there..a couple beers after work (in truth both of these things affect your fat debt and your finance debt)

Eating more than you need to – especially of foods you don’t really enjoy is a perfect example of borrowing against your future.

It’s these little things that add up, that prevent us from getting rid of our debt. And in both cases, one bad indiscretion can erase a month of living on below budget.

So you end up spending months trying to live on a budget, with no results!

To fight against this high level of persuasion you need to think like a hard core accountant: A hard core accountant is always on the lookout for how people are trying to steal their money. They pay attention to hidden fees, to interest levels….they read the fine print.

You need to do the same with your diet – Fight against things that are asking you to borrow against your future, unless it is something very important to you.

So here’s what I want you to do:

Create a food budget based on estimations…do the best you can but remember this is all rough estimates (As an easy estimate take your ideal body weight x 10) .

Next – look at your day and see areas you can cut without drastically ruining your days (cutting a Latte out of your day will save you 300 calories and upwards of 3 dollars a day).

Next – realize that there are lots of things you are eating for the wrong reasons. You need to identify those foods and realize why you are eating them.

Finally – When you overeating and borrow against your future pay it back as quickly as possible while maintaining a certain level of enjoyment.

This is a rough plan on how to budget your fat debt and your money debt. As soon as you start looking a little closer at what you eat and what you do for exercise you’ll find plenty of areas where you can make savings, and still live an enjoyable life.



PS- Counting on your exercise to take care of your weight loss is like counting on your big raise – It may happen, but for peace of mind, never work on ‘futures’.




Bill Pairaktaridis June 5, 2011 at 3:28 pm

I love these series of posts, Brad. It’s a great new outlook on fat loss. I’ve also been thinking that we could come up with ways to “cut corners” when it comes to fat loss. Like that part with the latte. Like, skipping on that sauce you could do without, having one beer instead of two etc. The poison is in the dose, after all. One beer won’t hurt you but a six pack might…

Shaun Somers June 5, 2011 at 4:07 pm

And while going weeks on end without spending money is not likely doable, going a day without spending money is an excellent exercise in discipline. Just like ESE though, you can’t just save up all your spending (calories) for the next day (don’t have two lattes tomorrow because you skipped it today!)
That’s probably easier to do with eating than spending.


Lazia June 5, 2011 at 11:35 pm


Deb June 5, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Hey Brad, love it! Thanks for this – it’s exactly what I needed right now. 🙂

Robert Rister June 6, 2011 at 12:40 am

Brad, I do understand what you are saying here. But being American and all, I just still look for ways to declare calorie bankruptcy.

Sue June 6, 2011 at 2:40 am

I can be VERY disciplined with my money but have had difficulties being disciplined with my nutrition. I like the way you frame a caloric/nutritional budget. This is something I can do, and do well.

Thanks for the mindshift!

Manos June 6, 2011 at 4:29 am

Thanks Brad.

So do you belive in “calories in=calories out+body composition” equation?

Do you think it’s all about the calories for fat loss?

Or do macros matter for fat loss?

George June 6, 2011 at 6:53 am

Very good plan – I will try and implement it.

Brad Pilon June 6, 2011 at 10:16 am

Pretty sure that would be Liposuction – suck all the debt away, and start over 😉

Ron Richards June 6, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I think you’re getting off course with your last three blog posts. Your ESE program is so elegantly simple there is no reason to introduce all this fat as debt and calorie budget stuff. It’s so simple, combine serious resistance training with your ESE version of intermittent fasting and forget about the rest. Do a weekly tape measure session and you immediately know if you’re on track. I would even simplify the body measurements for those that need to lose 10 or more pounds. For guys, only measure the gut around the fattest part. For women, measure hips and thighs. For men and women, if your measurements are going down you’re losing FAT, if they aren’t going down, you’re probably not losing fat.

Brad I love your ESE and protein books as well as your free leptin presentations but I’m just not feeling your last three blog posts. But it’s your blog and I do look forward to seeing what’s on your mind anyway.

Brad Pilon June 6, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Hey Ron,

Thanks for the feedback…keep in mind that ESE was written 06, so occasionally my mind tends to wonder…


Randy - Fat Burning Advantage June 6, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Hey Brad,

That’s a very interesting way of looking at things. I have come to the conclusion that everything you put into your mouth either helps you or hurts you. I keep this thought consciously in mind when making food choices.

I find that just by eating 15% – 20% less, making a few substitutions (brown rice instead of white for example) and making an effort to do some sort of physical activity, I can keep in pretty good shape and still enjoy life.

However, when I have a specific goal in mind I do count calories. If you are really serious about fat loss guessing will simply not do.

Sandra June 7, 2011 at 8:51 am

Great article.

So fast days would be the equivalent of spending very little? It’s funny how I think like this already – this food is this much, but will cost me so much more in calories. (sorry, South African, you won’t understand the currency).

Ron Richards June 7, 2011 at 9:34 am


It’s your blog and a wandering mind sometimes stumbles on some real gold. Keep up the good work! My wife and I are having great success on ESE, I’ve since turned my 68 year old mother, one cousin, and one coworker on to ESE too.

I currently do blended resistance training using kettlebells, a barbell, and dips & pullups. I enjoy very much your training related posts.

I’m going to hit 50 later this year and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for 25 years. Vaporizing my gut was 100% due to ESE. Thank you!

Cordelia Willik June 7, 2011 at 10:41 am

While I was reading your post, I was thinking how your excellent method (ESE) freed me from concentrating on calories, and that was a wonderful deliverance. It is your differential.
But those who cannot stand fasting, will certainly appreciate these last ideas you presented. They seem like a second best method.

Patsy June 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Hi Brad..
Thanks for the advice in this series of debt control. As a junior accountant, this makes perfect sense to me. I now have a better way of managing my fat debt, (I’m pretty ok with my money)… I never thoughtof looking at this way…thanks.

Heather Brown June 8, 2011 at 5:47 pm

I am so glad that you posted these blogs. Although I enjoy ESE, I still need to take in consideration that on my eating days, I can’t eat 10,000 calories either. keep it up.

Wendy June 10, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I really love this analogy. Brad. It hits home to well, and it a vivid way to do your books, as it were, with some in the bank as emergency funds for special occations. I will use this method for the next 10 weeks, and see how I make out…thanks for the great idea.

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