While many people have a main fitness goal of shedding a few pounds, few people are successful for a long period of time. This, I believe, is not due to the fact that it’s complicated to lose weight, but that people don’t realize how basic it really is. Weight loss is a matter of calories in – calories out. Essentially what this means is that you must burn more calories than you consume in a given time period. That’s it.
I’m not advocating that you starve yourself in order to lose weight. That is (obviously) a terrible idea! Our body requires a certain amount of calories to simply sustain vital functions throughout the day, without taking into account any physical activity. This is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR). For the average 30 year-old male, it is about 1600 calories. For the average 30 year-old female, it is about 1430. These are by no means 100% accurate for every person, as they vary depending on your metabolism.
Rather than starving yourself, it’s much more important to go for the proverbial “low-hanging fruit.” For example, if you’re used to drinking a soda at lunch, try drinking a zero calorie sports drink or water with a flavor pack. If you’re used to having a bag of fried potato chips with your lunch, try substituting the chips for something with fewer calories, such as baked chips or unsalted pretzels. It’s not about denying yourself all the foods you want to eat, it’s about substituting for healthier alternatives and eating in moderation! What I don’t advocate doing is counting every single calorie you eat. This, as mentioned in the previous post, is not enjoyable or sustainable. Rather, I am an advocate that you should be aware of what you are putting in your body. Get a general feel for how many calories are in the bread, meat, cheese, milk, etc. that you eat. If you write everything down, per the golden rule of healthy eating, you will be able to quickly estimate how many calories you consume in a given day. This estimate is more than sufficient.
With that said, it is much easier (and more fun!) to burn calories than it is to consume fewer calories. If you want to get a rough idea of how many calories you will burn, check out this website: http://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/cbc. The website may be a bit commercialized, but it has a wide variety of activities that you can choose from to see how many calories you burn. Keep in mind that you will burn the number of BMR calories above just by existing; this calculator will give you additional calories burned. Much like your caloric estimate, this is not 100% accurate. If you develop a routine, over time you will be able to determine if your exercise is burning enough calories that you will lose weight. If not, keep at it! Walk a little longer or a little faster… just keep your goal in mind!
So how much of a deficit should you have? In order to lose 1 lb of fat, you need to burn 3500 calories more than you consume. While that may seem like a lot at first glance, think about this: If you burn only 200 more calories than you consume in a day (which can be done by walking for 30 minutes, not drinking 16 fluid ounces of Coca-Cola, or foregoing a Krispy Kreme doughnut), you will lose about 2 lbs each month! This may not sound like a lot, but a 200 calorie deficit is very sustainable!
I know this is a controversial topic for some, so let’s hear your thoughts! I know there are some naysayers out there!