Up to this point you know how important diet and exercise are with respect to your weight loss. You know that to lose weight you have to eat. Severely restricting your calories to crash diet levels won’t only hinder your weight loss effort but it will damage your body in the process.
You have also learned that when you deprive the body of food it will feed off itself for survival including burning precious muscle tissue which alarmingly also includes the heart. This is why some dieters on extreme calorie restriction diets often die of heart failure because the heart has been broken down and weakened. So please don’t shock your body by starving it.
The approach you should be taking is from a scientific standpoint, don’t worry anyone can do this and you certainly don’t have to be a doctor to understand it.
Make sure you eat from all food groups but eat smaller meals, say 5 to 6 meals per day to keep your energy levels balanced. When we severely restrict calories we jump start our set point to kick in and make us eat. So to avoid that evolutionary mechanism response we need to work in alignment with our body and feed it good food, and frequently. Your body won’t think that it’s being starved or deprived and it will allow you to lose the weight.
So how can we lose weight by eating? By monitoring our caloric intake. Did you know that if you can create a 500 calorie deficit every day from just your diet and exercise that you will be able to lose around 1/2 kilo of fat per week?
1/2 kilo is great, it doesn’t sound like much however remember how I mentioned before that volume for volume fat by far takes up more room than muscle tissue. That means that every pound you lose you are losing bulk and rolls from your body.
This is why that even if you lose 1 kilo of fat that you notice your clothes getting looser because even though muscle is heavier than fat, fat actually occupies more space than muscle does. Keep that in mind when you weigh yourself. The scale isn’t always an accurate reflection of your true fat loss.
In fact I would highly recommend measuring the amount of body fat you have. There are many ways to do this, some are expensive like underwater weighing, Bio-Electric Impedance Analysis or Infrared Interactance. The most common is the skin fold test and circumference test. Once upon a time you would have to book into your local gym or health centre to get body fat measured but nowadays you can do it from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
By recording your body fat percentage as well as your weight and body girth measurements, you put yourself in the big picture. As I already said, body weight may go up when you gain lean muscle but if you keep a record of your body fat percentage then you can see which way your fat stores are heading each week.
I personally use a device called the Accu-Measure Fitness 3000. It is a simple measuring skin fold calliper and much cheaper than a lot of the expensive versions out there which basically tell you the same thing.
Skin folds are not always 100% accurate if you are looking for a specific body % figure but they are great to use as a bench mark measurement. If your result is lower each week, then know you are losing body fat, which is the goal after all. Weight is irrelevant.
Details of this product and other similar body fat measuring tools can be found at:
The Number Of Calories You Consume
Every food you consume has a caloric value associated with it.
To really lose weight you need to create a deficit of calories every day. For example, if you eliminate 250 calories less each day from your diet either by eating a little less or by removing high sugar, high fat foods from your diet and you exercise and burn off 250 extra calories per day you can lose up to 3,500 calories per week which totals 1/2 kilo of fat lost.
To do that you have to be burning 500 extra calories per day. This is 500 calories over and above what you are eating. If you simply burn off what you eat you are maintaining your weight level. If you are burning over and above what you are consuming then you begin to burn your excess fat stores.
To lose 1 kilo per week you simply double the amount of daily exercise you do and eat more lean, healthy foods.
The Law of Energy Balance
To lose weight, you must burn more calories
than you consume each day.
To gain weight, you must consume more calories
than you burn each day.
Energy In = Calories consumed (food & drink)
Energy Out = Calories burnt (exercise + movement + digestion + brain function)
Energy In > Energy Out = Weight Gain (Calorie surplus)
Energy In < Energy Out = Weight Loss (Calorie deficit)
Energy In = Energy Out = Stable Weight (Maintenance)
It’s ridiculously simple isn’t it? And that is why perhaps it is so easily overlooked. The truth is that losing weight isn’t a complicated thing to do. The part that most people have problems with is remaining in a slight calorie deficit long enough for the body to begin burning off fat.
How Many Calories Should You Consume Daily?
As a general rule of thumb women should consume no less than 1,200 calories per day to ensure weight loss and that they are receiving the balanced diet they need.
Men on the other hand should consume no less than 1,800 calories per day to lose weight.
Calculating Your Daily Caloric Needs…
The first step to finding out how many calories you need each day is to work out your basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Your BMR is the number of calories your body requires each day in order to stay alive whilst at rest. In other words, this is how many calories you need if all you did all day was sleep or sit down. Of course this isn't how we live but we must first know this number before we can work out how many calories are needed for real life involving jobs, exercise etc.
I like to use the Harris-Benedict formula because it uses the factors of height, weight, age, and sex to determine BMR and is therefore the most accurate method.
The formula is different for men and women.
BMR = 66 + (13.7 X wt in kg) + (5 X ht in cm) - (6.8 X age in years)
66 + (13.7 X……….) + (5 X……….) - (6.8 X……............)
66 + ……..………… + ……………. - ……………………
BMR = ..………………………… Calories per day
BMR = 655 + (9.6 X wt in kg) + (1.8 X ht in cm) - (4.7 X age in years)
655 + (9.6 X……….) + (1.8 X………..) - (4.7 X…………...)
655 + ……..………… + …………….…. - …………………..
BMR = …………………………… Calories per day
Once you know your BMR, you can calculate your TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure) by multiplying your BMR by the following activity factor.
Eg: 1800 x 1.2 = 2160 (TDEE)
Sedentary = BMR X 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job)
Lightly active = BMR X 1.375 (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/wk)
Mod. active = BMR X 1.55 (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/wk)
Very active = BMR X 1.725 (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/wk)
Extra Active = BMR X 1.9 (hard daily exercise/sports & physical job, marathon training)
BMR………. X Activity Factor……….. = TDEE………..
After taking in to consideration your gender, age, height, weight and lifestyle; this is the number of calories your body requires to remain healthy and neither lose or gain fat.
To lose fat, you need to enter into what is called a calorie deficit. This means you reduce your TDEE by a small amount, just enough to tip the balance of the energy equation. (Energy In < Energy Out = Weight Loss)
You should cut your TDEE number by no more than 15%. A 15% reduction of TDEE will cause a slight calorie deficit which will in turn result in slow and safe weight loss.
NB: Do not exceed a 15% TDEE reduction as this will only result in your body entering starvation mode and instead of losing weight, you will actually hold on to it.
This is the most common mistake that people make when trying to lose weight. They restrict too many calories and end up in a kind of stale mate. The body believes it is under threat, decides to store more % of your food as fat and eventually you may even start gaining weight.
For example: If your TDEE is 2000 calories
2000 x 15% = 300
2000 - 300 = 1700 calories
Keeping Tabs On Your Calories
Know what you are putting into your body. I love knowing that there are 3,500 calories in 1/2 kilo of fat. Some people can consume that amount each day which is not surprising why some people gain 10 to 15 kgs in a year without knowing how.
It’s very easy to do. Think about it, a burger, fries and a soft drink (1,200 calories) and there’s most of your daily calorie allocation blown right there, to top it off it won’t keep you full for long either. Eat that every day for a year without much exercise and that adds up to some serous weight gain.
The reason why I love knowing that there are 3,500 calories in 1/2 kilo is because it puts it all into perspective. I know that to burn that off, I will need to do more than 60 minutes on the cross trainer each day plus a 30 minute walk. So it makes me wiser in my food choices. The place where you wish you never had that extra donut or chocolate milkshake is right in the middle of your intense work out where you pay in sweat to work it off. Don’t worry if you’re coming to terms with this, the important thing is now you are aware of it you will start to see food in a different light and gain a healthier respect for it and the effect it has on your body.
These days all foods display the amount of calories on their packaging. This way you can know roughly how many calories you will consume and if it meets your daily requirements. This is also a great indicator of foods to avoid especially if they are loaded with empty calories.
Use your knowledge when determining the number of calories a meal has, be a calorie detective by making it a priority to know what’s going into your body.
Once you get good at it, figuring out how many calories a particular food has will become a breeze.
Here are a few typical daily food and drinks you might encounter. Notice how low some foods are in calories, which is why you don’t need to starve yourself when trying to lose weight. You can actually eat more and lose weight; it’s all about choosing the right foods for your meals.
Remember that foods containing protein have a thermogenic effect (which literally means heating up, burning just like the fuel in a fire) on your metabolism so I strongly advise including lean protein in every meal.
The Food We Eat
Calories aside the actual food we eat plays an important role in how we lose weight.
For example 100 grams of hard boiled candy will have a lot more fat than say 100 grams of lettuce. Even though foods may be of equal weight doesn’t mean that they will be equal in calories. So be aware of any extra fats or calories hidden in foods. Always check your labels.
You don’t have to be a food Nazi and restrict yourself to the point where you’re not enjoying what you eat. It’s important that you have the occasional treat so that you are not feeling deprived. Remember we’re aiming for permanent lifelong change by altering our lifestyle eating choices. You have to treat yourself now and then to avoid any derailing binges that come from feelings of deprivation.
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My name is Dave Hagger, founder of Seriously Fit Bootcamp
As a fitness professional I frequently meet people who want to lose weight but just have no idea where to start.