I am sooooo glad that you’ve decided to embark on changing your health. Creating a healthy life for yourself is one of the best things you could do…and you will learn a ton about yourself in the process.
If you are like so many women I know, you probably went and setup an account on some online journaling program like MyFitnessPal or LoseIt. Again, this is a great step: figuring out what you eat and your patterns.
Now I’m wondering: What did that online app set as your daily calorie intake? Are you following that? Why? Do you know what your daily calorie intake should be?
I’ve used MyFitnessPal, as have quite a few of my friends and clients. Here is what I find upsetting and confusing: almost all of us ended up with a recommended daily intake of 1200 calories.
This same number of calories was recommended by the tool despite drastically differing starting weights, differing selected targeted pounds lost per week, and differing selected activity levels.
Does it sound plausible to you that a person weighing 250+ pounds with a moderate activity level wishing to lose 1 pound per week would have the SAME calorie requirements as a 155 pound person with high activity level wishing to lose 1/2 pound per week?
Uhhhh…..that would be a resounding NO!
First, let me set the stage about my opinions on daily calories and journaling. I believe that when you are just starting your health changes, it can be helpful to journal and track calories. The purpose of doing this would be to find patterns in your eating habits and also to understand the calorie content of the foods you eat. This is good information to know and understand!
Do I think you should journal forever and track calories forever? Nope, absolutely not! I think that practice will get old and tiresome and also lead you to be hyper-focused on calories in/calories out…which is NOT the key to fat loss or leading a happy, healthy life.
All that to say: you gotta start somewhere and knowing how much to eat at the beginning is a valid question. And, 1200 calories, my friend, is almost always NOT ENOUGH!
I don’t typically get super science-y. I don’t enjoy talking about equations and research and studies. I tend to believe if you use common sense and think things through that you will get the answer that is good for you. But, I do understand that at the start, we want to KNOW and we want some clear boundaries. So that is what I’m going to provide!
What I’m outlining below I’ve used with my clients and the equations will give you a ballpark idea of how many calories to consume.
- First you need to determine your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is the number of calories your body burns just existing and maintaining itself…the number of calories you need daily to simply lie on the couch and breathe and sleep.
- Use this BMR calculator and figure out the calories you need just to keep your body functioning. Enter your age, gender, height and weight, then click Calculate.
- What number did you get? Was it MORE than 1200? I’m guessing yes…or if it was less than 1200 it couldn’t have been by much.
- This number is the calories your body need simply to operate if you did nothing but lie around!
- What do you think your body will need for calories when you begin to add movement and strength training? Hint: MORE than the BMR calories just calculated!
- Second, you need to figure out TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) which is the total amount of calories used in a day for your body’s maintenance processes, PLUS working out, being a busy parent, and going about your workday, etc.
- Use this Calorie Calculator and figure out the calories you need daily when you factor in movement. Enter your age, gender, height, weight, and activity level, then click Calculate.
- Your results are shown directly above the calculator box. Blue is your intake to MAINTAIN. The red values are your intake for weight loss. The green values are for weight gain.
- Your red numbers indicate how much fuel your body needs for rest/maintenance PLUS movement. Each of the numbers is MORE than 1200 calories, isn’t it??
Now, these numbers aren’t perfect. But what they illustrate is the point I’m trying to make to you:
YOUR BODY NEEDS MORE THAN 1200 CALORIES EACH DAY TO FUNCTION!!
At this point, you might be thinking “Yeah, swell, Carrie, but if I eat LESS than what these calculators tell me then I’ll lose more weight faster!” Hold your horses!! That is definitely NOT what you want to do!
Our body will respond to a calorie deficit…for a little while. When we dip below our daily BMR requirements we are in essence starving our body…and it will respond in kind by hitting our fat reserves for fuel causing a drop in weight.
Funny thing is though, our bodies are very, very smart AND very, very efficient!
When our body senses starvation, it begins to hoard all the fuel and not burn any of it. Our body is programmed for survival and when we don’t feed it, it enters survival mode because it doesn’t know how long it will have to go without fuel.
Bottom line: to lose weight you need to eat…and eat wisely!
Please, stop starving yourself! There is no need to do that.
And, ultimately, it is going to get in the way of the end result you want!
I’ve been there! I struggled for years trying to lose weight and I did all the crazy stuff…and starved myself simply to see the number on the scale go down. It was not until 2010 when I dug into my habits around food and REALLY worked to change them, that I lost ALL the weight I wanted to lose. I sincerely want to help and educate you and assure you that it can be done! Each week I send out a newsletter with exclusive information that I don’t share anywhere else. Topics range from nutrition, to movement, to mindset, to tips/tricks…all geared to helping you understand yourself and how to change your health in a way that suits you best! Get signed up here: http://eepurl.com/bM_c_D