Weight management all boils down to a scientific calculation – Energy out vs Energy in. Put simply, if the energy in matches the energy out then we maintain our weight. If we consume more energy than we burn with our bodies, we gain weight. If we consume less energy than we burn with our bodies, then we lose weight.
The vital piece of information that we all need to know is, how many calories does our body need to maintain our current weight? And from that we can work out what it takes to lose weight.
An individuals calorie requirements are calculated by using the Harris-Benedict formula. This formula takes your age, height, weight, gender and activity levels, and uses them to give us a figure of calories required to maintain your weight as you are. To lose weight we need to create a suitable calorie deficit, to cause your body to burn more calories than we consume, to start to burn fat.
We do this by taking 5-600 calories off the amount of calories you need to maintain your weight. This causes you to lose 1-2lbs a week. And this is because 1lb of body fat contains 3500 calories. 3500 calories divided over 7 days is 500 calories a day.
You can read more about this here.
Getting in the Zone
When we want to lose weight, we often just start ‘being good’ or reducing our portion sizes. But if we don’t know the calories of what we are eating we could put loads of effort in and not get the results that we expect, and now I am going to explain why.
As an example we will use a person who needs to eat 2000 calories to maintain their current weight. Before they are even thinking about losing weight, they are possibly eating around 3000 calories a day, with no regard for the number of calories they are consuming and therefore gaining weight. They decide they want to lose weight, so they reduce their portion sizes, and start to make better choices, but they don’t see a change on the scales. This is because they still don’t know how many calories they are eating. They are putting loads of effort in, but are actually still eating in the realms of 1700 – 2500 calories. And whilst this is reduced. It isn’t enough to get that calorie deficit.
Where they should be eating is in the region of 1400 calories (you can find out your specific number here). Anything over that figure, while it is reduced from what they have eaten previously is not getting your body into the calorie deficit that it needs to burn fat.
This little chart should explain it!
How to get in the zone!
There is only one sure fire way to know that you are eating the right amount of food, and therefore the right amount of calories that gets you into that calorie deficit zone.
That is to track what you are putting in your mouth. Every drop of liquid and every morsel of food. Only when you do this will you know exactly how many calories you have consumed, and if you are in the zone.
What else does tracking do?
Tracking shows you where your big wins are. If you track every day, you will start to see patterns of eating, that you can learn to manage. If you spot that you eat a lot later in the day, or you like a higher calorie evening meal, then tracking allows you to manage that by eating lower calorie food throughout the day, to give you enough calories left over at night.
Tracking also allows you to see what your most sensible sacrifices are. If you think you are eating a particular type of food in moderation, tracking will confirm that or show you that you are actually eating more of it than you realise, giving you an opportunity to cut back on this, save some calories and start winning!
Tracking before you put the food in your mouth, means that you are checking the calories before you eat it, so you will be more mindful of making better choices.
Tracking stops you picking mindlessly and without conscience, because if you put it in your mouth it has to go in the book. If you don’t want to write it in the book, you won’t eat it.
Tracking allows you to save some calories every day throughout the week, for weekend treats. If you have tracked, you know what you have spare, and therefore what you can have on another day potentially, and still be within your deficit for the week.
Tracking teaches you lifestyle change, and how to manage your food sensibly. It teaches you how to eat normally. It teaches you that if you have a full English breakfast one morning, if you still want to lose or maintain weight and stay on track, you need to eat food which is really efficient in calories for the rest of the day. It teaches you that if you have a day where you drink lots of alcohol and have a take away, then the following couple of days, you bring that calorie deficit back, by eating lighter foods. You know like all those people do with a ‘normal weight’ and ‘normal eating habits’ that never seem to put any weight on?!
Tracking gives you the freedom to eat what you choose, when you choose, but when you run out of calories, you just have to be a little more efficient with your choices. This is what lifestyle change is all about.
Start to look at your calories, and track them – are you in that green calorie deficit zone, or are you up in the red ‘wilderness’ zone somewhere? Once you get in the right zone, you are onto a winner!