In January 2012 I made a decision to lose weight and change my lifestyle. I wanted to be healthy, happy with the way I looked, and to be a good role model for my daughter. Like most people I knew the basic concepts of weight loss – eat less and workout more. That is all fine and dandy but what the heck does that mean to me and where do I start?
So I started doing research. I started learning everything I can so I had the right tools to fight this battle. I read about calories in verses calories out. I read about muscle weight verses fat weight. I read about BMR, AMR, TDEE and all the different types of weight loss calculators out there. I read about starvation mode and restarting your metabolism. I read and read and read and the more I read the more confused I got. It really is no wonder why people who start to diet end up giving up before they ever get to where they want to be. There are so many different ideas and opinions on what you should do, what you should eat, or how much you should exercise. It really is enough to make you insane!
Ever hear “You need to find what works for you.” Yeah that is really no help is it! How are you supposed to know what works for you when you have no idea what the hell this entire thing means?
***** I am not a doctor and I am not trying to give anyone medical advice. I am just sharing the information I have found and what has worked for me. *****
So I am going to give you the down and dirty of it all.
First off you need to understand that you cannot live off of 1200 calories a day. PERIOD. This is the biggest BS ever. It drives me nuts when I read that people are starving because they are only eating 1200 calories a day and then they go binge because they are so hungry. Well yes – you are starving yourself. The concept of “if I don’t eat I will lose weight” is wrong. Your body needs food to survive. You NEED to eat. Your body needs a certain number of calories just to function and survive. This is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). If you did absolutely nothing but lay in bed all day long and not move (think coma) your body would need this many calories just to keep all your organs alive. So unless you are in a coma, which you are not because you are reading this, you need to eat at least your BMR.
Do not eat less than your BMR! Eating less than your BMR means your body does not have enough calories to keep your organs going. This is where the term “starvation mode” comes into play. Your body thinks it is starving because it does not have enough calories to survive and it will then go into “survival mode”. Survival mode means your body will take every calorie you give it and use it to survive. This means it will shut down other functions to keep your organs alive. One of the functions it shuts down is your metabolism. Your body will not burn fat in survival mode. In fact it will actually store as much fat as possible to keep itself alive. So by not eating your BMR you have shut down your metabolism and but your body into survival mode making it store as much fat as possible. This is the exact reverse of what you are trying to do.
So now you know the minimum calories you should be eating. Well that does you NO good right? 🙂 How do you know how many you should actually eat? Well of course there are plenty of calculators for that as well. The one I find to be the most accurate is the Katch-McArdle calculator. This takes into account your body fat percentage.
So first calculate your body fat percentage. I like this site for that. http://www.fat2fitradio.com/tools/mbf/
Here is mine.
Now that you know your body fat percentage – take that number and go here. http://www.burnthefatinnercircle.com/members/400.cfm
Punch in your numbers and you will get all the information you need to know what you should be doing.
Here is mine.
My body fat is 35.4%. My BMR is 1210 calories per day (what I need to survive in a coma). Now if you look below at the activity level this is where you find out how many calories you should eat to maintain your current weight and how many you should eat to lose weight.
Pick your activity level or pick a custom activity level. Unless you really don’t do anything all day long and sit and watch TV on the couch, I would not pick sedentary. Getting up, cleaning house, running errands and chasing after kids counts as light activity. Working out or running 3-5 times a week counts as moderate activity.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is what you burn on a daily basis and what you would eat to maintain your current weight. So if I want to stay at 132.4 pounds I would eat my TDEE. I don’t want to stay at this weight I want to lose weight so I want to create a deficit in my calories. You do this by taking a percentage of your TDEE and eating that number of calories.
I feel I am in between a light activity level and a moderate activity level so I did a custom level of 1.43. I do more than just normal running around but I don’t think I am as high as 5 days a week for the moderate. This puts my TDEE at 1731. I can eat 1731 calories a day and not gain weight. I NEED 1210 calories a day to survive (my BMR). So I want to be in between these two numbers. To be at a 20% calorie deficit I would want to eat 1385 calories a day. This number is above my BMR and below my TDEE and it is not 1200 calories a day!!!
Now here is another tip. Ever hear about “eating back calories”? This is when you workout and burn 300 calories and then you have extra calories to eat back. Well your TDEE takes into consideration your calories burned already so you don’t need to worry about eating back calories. On that note I will say that if I burn over and above my “normal” activity level I do eat some back. For me, if I burn over 500 calories on a long run I will eat back anything over that 500. So if I run 7 miles and burn 750 calories then I will eat back 250 of those calories. These calories are over and above my TDEE calculation.
The great part about this number is that you can put in light activity and NEVER workout and still lose weight. Of course it’s better if you do but you will still lose weight if you stick to the calories allowed.
These are the numbers that are working for me. I am losing an average of about a pound a week. I am happy with these results and I am not hungry all day long. I am eating enough calories to stay alive and enough to keep me losing weight. I have finally found “what works for me”!
So what is your number? See if you can find “what works for you”.