So you’re interested in taking a few pounds off the scale hey? Before you go setting your goals and expectations based off of something you have seen on T.V. or in a magazine, I’m going to break down what is required to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable manner.
Alright so the first thing you need to do is to figure out what your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is. This is the number of calories you would burn if you were to stay in bed for the entire day.
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To determine your daily caloric needs, take your BMR from above and multiply it by one of the following:
-If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
-If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
-If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
-If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
-If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
Now you have an estimate of what your total daily caloric needs are in order to maintain your current body weight. In order to lose weight, you must put yourself into a caloric deficit by either eating fewer calories than the maintenance amount, or by increasing physical activity. For best results do both. Seems simple enough right? Unfortunately, as you may be aware, this is easier said than done.
The question now becomes “how much of a deficit do you need to be in to reach your goals?” The general recommendation is to be between 500 – 1000 calories below your maintenance level to lose weight. Beware not to go too low though! The American College of Sports Medicine recommends women eat at least 1,200 calories a day and for men to eat at least 1,800. When you first start off on your weight loss journey, start conservative and do not make too drastic of a cut or your body will shift into starvation mode. This will actually slow down your metabolic rate (not good). A 15-20% deficit below maintenance is a good place to start.
Okay so now that you have an idea of what it takes to lose weight, here’s how this will apply to your body. There are approximately 3500 calories in a single pound of stored body fat. In a perfect world, creating a 3500 calorie weekly deficit (500 calories a day) will net you a loss of 1 lb of fat per week. I say in a perfect world because it is almost guaranteed that you will lose some lean body tissue at the same time. So sticking to the 500-1000 calories below your maintenance a day will translate into roughly 1-2 lbs of body weight lost per week. It may not seem like much, but trust me, it adds up.
I’ve been in a caloric deficit for weeks now but my scale has not moved. What’s up with that?
There are a number of reasons why this could be happening. Here are some common reasons why:
– Muscle weighs more than fat. If you have started an exercise regime that includes resistance training, you will be building muscle and losing fat at the same time. It is common for the scale to not change or even go up initially. This is when you need to forget about the scale and see the inches being lost on your body as you become leaner.
– Hormone imbalance. Despite your best efforts, sometimes internal conditions are present that inhibit your ability to lose weight. This could be caused from a number of factors such as depression, chronic stress, hypothyroidism, and insulin resistance to name a few. Some of these issues can be altered with a lifestyle change while other may need the assistance of your doctor.
– Nutrition imbalance. It boils down to more than just how much you are eating, but also what it is you are eating. Maintaining a balanced diet with quality food is important to keeping your body functioning efficiently.
Healthy weight loss is a slow process that requires you to change your old dietary choices and habits for the better. Do not approach this expecting a quick fix. Instead, commit yourself to these changes with your long term goal in mind and do your best to enjoy the journey. It is not easy to do, but then again, what worthwhile things in this world are?