If you really want to lose weight, what do you have to do? Or…at least…what is it that most people say you have to do?
If you guessed “Eat less, move more” you selected the correct answer.
Full disclosure…I absolutely detest this answer. I HATE that this is true. I’m a holistic nutritionist. This is not what I want to hear. Why don’t I want to hear it? Because I have a vested interest in this not being the case. I want to be able to tell you that you have to eat a balanced diet to lose weight. I want to make it complicated so that I can be a part of your weight loss journey. AND I want to get you healthy. I want you to be pooping once to twice per day from all the fiber you’re eating. I want to see antioxidants on your menu so that you can fight those free radicals. Plus…I mean…the more complicated weight loss is, the more likely you are to need someone like me to tell you how to do it right. Right?
But you know what? The research that has been done on weight loss simply cannot be refuted. If your primary goal is to lose weight, it really is as simple as developing a calorie deficit. It doesn’t seem to matter much whether the breakdown of those foods are mostly protein, carbs or fats. It merely matters whether the person is eating less. And if you are still feeling dubious about it, and you don’t want to trust my word, trust the word of Mark Haub who went on a calorie deficit TWINKIE DIET and lost weight. I’m not making this up. I wouldn’t dare. Why? Because I. Hate. That. This. Is. True. But it is. So there we have it.
A couple of small nuances that would be useful to note, however.
- I did not say “Eat Less OR Move more.” It’s not an either/or situation. You really do need to do both a calorie reduction along with an increase in movement for the best results. It doesn’t have to mean doing grueling, hair-pulling, tear-inducing two-hour long workouts combined with starvation/deprivation diets. But it does need to mean you eat less food and stay on your feet more often.
- Notice, also, that I did not say “Move more, Eat less.” Nope. The order of that original statement “eat less, move more” is exactly as it should be. The most important part of weight loss is, hands down, eating less. I cannot stress this enough – DO NOT THINK YOU CAN EXERCISE YOURSELF THIN. It’s damn-near impossible to do so. The best way to think about diet and exercise is this. To lose the weight – you want to eat less. In order to keep the weight OFF You want to exercise more.
Eating Less: How much should I eat?
There are plenty of tools out there that can help you determine a number that is right for you. If you’re the type of person who likes numbers – and a person who appreciates calculating things on your own – here is what I would recommend.
- Go to the Mayo Clinic Calorie Calculator:
- Put in your age, height, weight and gender.
- When you are asked to select your activity level, put that you are inactive. Seriously. Do this EVEN if you consider yourself to be pretty active.
- When you get a number punched back out at you, THAT is an estimate of your BMR (basal metabolic rate). In other words – that’s an estimate of how many calories you need to sustain your current weight as it is.
- To lose a pound per week, that’s roughly 3500 calories. That should break down to be about 500 calories per day. But what I would recommend is to only reduce by 250 and then ADD IN an hour of exercise. That one-hour exercise will look different depending upon your fitness level. If you would like help determining where you should fall, click here.
Please Tell Me There Is An App For That….
If you aren’t especially fond of developing your own formula, then take heart. There are PLENTY of tools out there to help you. For example:
Each of these apps will help develop a calorie amount for you based on what your current weight is, your current activity level, your height, weight, gender, etc. Another note of caution, though…always say that you are inactive and then add back in the exercise points or calories manually. Most of the exercise calculators out there tend to over-estimate how many calories are burned when someone is “active.” It’s better to input the kinds of exercises you do manually.
How Can I Be Sure I’m Consuming The Right Amount Each Day?
Once you have the number of calories that you can consume in place, its simply about tracking your food AND your progress… EVERY. DAY.
Trust me on this one. Or actually…Don’t trust me. Trust research done by Kaiser Permanente that showed those who tracked their food with some form of a food journal lost twice as much weight as those who did not. It should make a certain kind of sense. How will you know you have reached the amount of food you should consume if you aren’t keeping track of your food intake?
Do you have to write down everything you eat? Not necessarily. People have found any number of ways to track their food. Some take pictures. Some write it down on post-it-notes. Others use apps like My Fitness Pal. It really just depends on what works for you. What I will say is that the more detailed the notes are, the faster weight loss appears to peal off.
When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s honestly a lot like working on your finances. You don’t start trying to buy real estate properties and build wealth while you’re stuck in debt. No – FIRST, you work off your debt. Why? Well…why would you bother to save money for retirement at 5% when you have a debt you’ve accumulated that is currently set at 8%? You’ll lose money over time no matter how aggressively you save. In the same way, if you want to get healthy – doing so really just comes down to eating real food, moving your body, and managing your stress. But if the weight you are carrying is making exercise painful….that makes exercise hard.
To be clear – I do not believe that EVERYONE should make weight loss there first priority. Far from it. I only mean to say that if weight loss is something that you want, you have to start simply. Make it basic math. Once you have that down, then you can move on to…
Level 2: The Quality of Your Calories.