How does one lose weight? Simply enough, the calories eaten in a day needs to be less than calories burned. You’d think that the fewer calories you eat, the more prone you would be to lose weight.
I’m sorry to say it — but less isn’t always more. When it comes to calories, anyway.
Many people count the calories of what they eat in a day. There are many apps that help you track them like Myfitnesspal and Fooducate. These aren’t bad sources for accurate calorie count of some foods. In fact Fooducate actually “grades” the food on how nutritionally beneficial it is for you. On the apps you plug in your approximate weight, height and activity level and bam, it gives you your recommended calories to consume. But you can adjust the calorie level to be lower or higher on your own accord.
I know a few girls (and the occasional guy) who are guilty of making the calorie goal lower than what the app has set. Myself included.
Wait … did I just say guilty?
Indeed I did. What is wrong with restricting calories, you ask? The phrase “less is more” can hold true when picking out a simple dress or doing your homework (just kidding), but not always when it comes to what you eat.
When you consistently don’t eat enough calories your body goes into starvation mode, which can make it harder to lose weight. The body slows down your metabolism trying to conserve energy for vital functions. Then the food that you do consume isn’t used, but stored, causing you to gain weight. So skipping that meal consistently probably isn’t a good idea.
Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the rate at which your body uses calories just being alive. It doesn’t include exercise or any physical activity — it is only what your body utilizes for bodily functions such as your heart beating, breathing, blood circulation and so on. The formula is:
BMR = 655 + (4.3 x weight in lbs.) + (4.7x ht. in inches) – (4.7x age in yrs.)
This will give you the minimum number of calories to eat per day. Now if you were to add in your activity level, the formula changes to:
Calories per day= BMR x activity level
The numbers for different activity levels are:
- Sedentary: 1.2
- Light activity: 1.3
- Moderate activity: 1.4
- High activity: 1.5
When advertisements say, “LOSE FIVE POUNDS IN 1 WEEK!!” you should run the other way. Losing 1-2 pounds a week is a healthier rate at which to lose.
According to the Mayo Clinic, when you lose weight too quickly and by excessively restricting calories, you will not lose as much fat and will also lose muscle mass. In contrast, losing weight at a healthy rate can aid in losing more fat and gaining muscle by exercise.
A pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories. A calorie deficit of 500 calories per day would allow you to lose that pound in one week by exercise, diet change or both.
If you are eating fewer calories, do not go below your recommended BMR. To burn more calories without putting your body into starvation mode, add exercise instead.
With all that’s been said about counting calories and making sure you’re getting a sufficient amount, keep in mind calorie counting isn’t always an accurate predictor of how your body utilizes that energy. You should account for how your body will process the food.
Fruits and vegetables are often fibrous and more nutrient dense, for less calories. Your body is going to digest and use these nutrients differently than it would a cupcake.
So when eating, don’t focus as much on how many calories something is — focus on its quality. If you eat mostly good, whole foods during the day and go over on your calories, it’s OK. It’s also PK to have a piece of cake or a donut — just maybe not every day.
Moderation is important for foods that are mostly empty calories and high in fat and sugar.
The person eating the healthier, nutrient-dense diet is going to lose weight faster and feel a lot better.
There are people who can eat mostly junk food and stay thin. But as we get older our metabolism slows, and we can’t continue with unhealthy habits. It is important to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle with a nutritious diet, rather than being on a temporary “diet.”
So to finish with a nice cliché, remember: slow and steady wins the race.