With the new year upon us and the usual annual resolutions to lose some weight and get healthier written on white boards and in diaries, many turn to highly publicized and advertised 'quick weight loss' or 'easy weight loss' plans to reach their goals.
I hate to burst anyone's bubble here but long term successful weight loss plans are never quick and usually not textbook 'easy' either. The quick and easy weight loss diets played during every commercial break are fads - and by definition a fad is "an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived and without basis in the object's qualities; a craze"
Let me clarify that these diets can be effective when used with some knowledge about energy balance, specifically YOUR energy balance. Fad diets give the impression that you can eat as much fat, or protein or not count calories at all and still lose weight. The reason that a diet works, whether it's Keto, Paleo, Weight Watchers, Whole30 or Jenny Craig, is that it should create a caloric deficit.
A caloric what? A caloric deficit is any shortage in the amount of calories consumed compared to the amount of calories required to maintain current weight. For example; if a 150lb female needs 2,000 calories per day to maintain her current weight and eats 1,500 calories, she is creating a 500 caloric deficit and should lose weight. If that same 150lb female eats 2,500 calories per day, she is creating a caloric surplus (more calories than needed) and should gain weight.
In general, fad diets don't take your individual caloric requirements into consideration. The biggest issue here is that most people don't know their caloric requirement nor do they know how to get that information.
Here's one simple way to get a general idea of how many calories you should be eating. Download a free food tracking app, like My Fitness Pal and track everything you eat and drink for 1-2 weeks. If your weight remains consistent, then you're probably eating the right amount of calories for that weight. If you want to lose weight, that's where you can decide what you want to reduce in your diet. For example those 2 chocolate chip cookies you eat every day after lunch at 250 calories each, could be reduced to just 1 cookie, creating a 250 calorie deficit. Or that 300+ calorie Starbucks coffee could be adjusted to skim milk or just black coffee, creating an additional deficit.
If you want to get a more science based answer to your calorie requirements, there are several formulas that can be useful here. Here is one of the simplest known as the Harris-Benedict Formula.
The first thing you need to calculate is your BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. This is the number of calories your body needs to survive (vital organ function, breathing etc).
BMR = 655.1 + (4.35 x weight in lbs) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age)
BMR = 66.47 + (6.24 x weight in lbs) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.755 x age)
After you have calculated your BMR, you need to multiply that number by your activity factor (below):
1. Sedentary (little or no exercise) - multiply your BMR x 1.2
2. LIghtly active (light exercise 1-3 days per week) - multiply your BMR x 1.375
3. Moderately active (moderate exercise 3-5 days per week) - multiply your BMR x 1.55
4. Very active (hard exercise 6-7 days per week) - multiply your BMR x 1.725
5. Super active (vigorous exercise and a daily physical job) - multiply your BMR x 1.9
The final number you get will give you an approximate number of calories that you need to maintain your weight. Any reduction in that number is a caloric deficit and should result in weight loss. Don't forget to include the boozy beverages; sometimes they are the highest calories in your diet.
I hope this blog helps a little with formulas for determining how many calories you should eat. If you need help or have additional questions, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy and Healthy New Year Everyone.