There are a few things I want to preface this post with:
1. Attaining a certain leanness isn’t a very good goal. It doesn’t necessarily mean a better you or a healthier you. I never encourage anyone to be motivated by looks, they have nothing to do with the quality of your life.
2. The point of this blog post is to emphasize the simplicity of weight loss in a world of overcomplicated ‘methods’.
3. There are several determining factors that go into weight loss. Each concept needs to be applied on an individual level. What works for one person won’t work for the other.
4. You should always make health a priority, engage in activities you love and eat to fuel those activities. The more you see food as fuel, the more successful you’ll be long term.
For a while I’d been toying with the idea of getting a FitBit. I’ve had a polar watch in the past with the chest strap to wear during exercise to monitor heart rate but to be honest, I’m past the days of caring how many calories I burn in a exercise session. I wanted something that was a bit simpler but still took some basic measurements like heart rate, steps, calories burned throughout the day without having to wear the chest strap. The main reason I wanted one was simply to see how active I truly was. I knew the answer to this before even getting one, so I suppose the REAL reason was to motivate me to BE more active. Not to be leaner, not to lose weight, literally to be healthier, to feel better, to improve my cardiovascular ability and quality of life.
I Hate Cardio
At the time (and for at least 2 years) the only exercise I engaged in was lifting weights 4-5x a week. Other than that I have a semi active job training clients but I also spend a lot of time at my desk sitting. For the longest time, I avoided typical cardio (running, stair master, elliptical, etc) simply because I didn’t enjoy it. Of course I was aware of the benefits but it just wasn’t fun for me at the time. I wasn’t going to do something I didn’t get excited for or didn’t see myself doing long term.
Cardio Doesn’t Have to be Intense
I finally got a Fitbit and confirmed my obvious hypothesis that I wasn’t too active. So, I decided to set a goal for myself to walk 10,000 steps a day (as recommended by the American Heart Association). I’ve always enjoyed walking but would make the excuse that I ‘didn’t have time’ or it would take away from my productiveness during the day.
Having ‘No Time’ is a Terrible Excuse
From then on I MADE time and it was the best decision I could have made. Simply going outside everyday and getting fresh air gave me so much mental clarity and peace and therefore made me even MORE productive the rest of my day. That alone was worth it to me.
Stop Relying on Caffeine to Solve Your Problems
Aside from that, it gave me energy to power through the rest of my day. The mid afternoon slump that most of us experience was now nonexistent, just from getting out and MOVING.
Side Benefits of Walking
Lastly, and honestly the least important, it caused my caloric expenditure to increase and therefore put me in a deficit, causing me to lose a little weight. My food intake stayed the same, my lifting regiment stayed the same, my sleep stayed the same (it improved actually). My point is- weight loss is simply a matter of burning more calories than you are consuming.
How do I Figure out my Calories to Lose Weight?
Now, calories burned throughout the day are not JUST from exercise. There are actually a few components of TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure).
1. RMR/BMR (Resting Metabolic Rate/Basal Metabolic Rate): The calories your body burns performing basic functions to stay alive (blood pumping, breathing, growing and repairing cells). This depends on a lot of different factors such as age, gender, body composition, weight, height and so on. RMR/BMR makes up about 70% of your total daily calorie expenditure.
2. TEF (Thermic Effect of Food): This is simply the calories your body burns digesting your food. It’s influenced by calorie content along with the carb, fat and protein composition of each meal.
3. Physical Activity: The exercise you choose to do, walking, running, lifting weights, zumba class, crossfit, dancing etc. For most people this still only equates to %10-%25 TDEE.
4. NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis): movement that’s not really considered exercise; fidgeting, walking to the bathroom, typing etc.
All of these things have to be considered when figuring out how many calories one needs to maintain, lose or gain.
Calculating Calories Made Easy
Well now it seems complicated right? Wrong. Of course there are plenty of equations to figure this out, some of my favorites are the Katch-Mcardle method (to estimate BMR) and the formula I use in this post. But an easier and probably more beneficial way to figure this out is to start keeping a food log and monitoring your weight. If you are gaining weight, then take a look at what you are eating, add up the average calories and consider those your ‘surplus calories’. You obviously need to be eating less than this to lose weight.
Fad Diets SUCK
It really is simple guys. And I hate to break it to you (actually I’m really happy to because fad diets are the worst) but the reason that certain fad diets work (usually short term) isn’t because you aren’t eating gluten or meat, or fat or carbs, it’s simply because whatever calories you are consuming on that diet, is less than you were eating before. So stop restricting foods for no reason. Unless you have certain health conditions or allergies, eat whole foods, enjoy processed foods in moderation if you wish and remember that its the CALORIE balance that matters at the end of the day.
And yes, macros are important too (protein, carbs and fat) but thats for another blog (here ; ) )
Less Food or More Exercise to Lose Weight?
Lastly, it’s really up to you how you create your deficit. You can either increase your exercise (what I did) or decrease your food or even a little bit of both. Make your deficit based on your personal preferences and doing what you enjoy. And of course it’s going to be hard at times but living a healthy fulfilled life is a choice, nobody’s going to do it for you!
All my best,
Amy – [email protected]