As was stated on the home page this is not a quick fix scheme. This is about changing your lifestyle for good, not just for the next 3 to 6 months to achieve some short sighted magical goal. Otherwise you will be right back to the same point that lead you here in the first place.
The first thing we need to do is identify where you are currently. We are going to look at; Basal Metabollic Rate (BMR), Current Calorie Consumption (CI), and current activity Level to determine your Activity Calories (AC). Your BMR and AC are used to calculate your daily calories burned or Calories Out (CO).
Your resting BMR is an estimate of the number of calories your body needs to function properly. It assumes that you lay in bed and do nothing 24 hours a day. It is a good starting point for planning because when we add caloric needs for activities to this number we can then identify how many calories we should consume daily to maintain our current weight. Calculate your BMR below. It should be pointed out that this is just the first step in determining what your goals will be and by itself is an incomplete picture.
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Your current calorie consumption (Calories In), requires a great deal of attention to detail, and is usually extremely surprising. While you can skip this step, it will leave you not knowing where all your calories are coming from. When it comes to weight loss what you don't know can hurt you and it is important to identify a starting point.
This is an often overlooked aspect of weight loss. Almost everything else you will find on weight loss only looks at calorie numbers going forward. Without understanding your consumption history you can sabotage the best of plans. Knowing your past habits can help you avoid extreme goals that cause you to cheat, or just give up altogether. We suggest you log everything consumed over a weeks time. The reason we suggest an extended period of time is to capture your consumption habits on both work days and non work days. When we say everything we mean everything; every drink, every between meal snack, and every meal including portion size (this is a good time to point out that a good food scale is an essential tool). Once you have collected this data you will need to determine the actual calories consumed.
There a several calorie databases online which you can use. The one issue that we would like to point out is that some of them have accuracy problems. While it does not have as many foods as others we use the USDA as our reference. It seems that when we have looked at others we always end up double checking against the USDA when the numbers don't sound quite right or have incomplete data.
Your current activity level needs to be considered when trying to identify your current daily calories burned. The easiest way is to use our AC - CO calculator.
- Not Active ______ .2
- Lightly Active____ .375
- Moderately Active .55
- Very Active _____ .725
- Extremely Active .9
Take your BMR that you already calculated and multiple it by your activity level to calculate your AC. For example if your BMR is 1500 and you are lightly active then your AC is 1500 * .375 or 562.
What this tells us is that in the example of a BMR of 1500 and an AC of 562 the Calories Out (CO) would be 2062 calories (BMR+AC) daily. Use your BMR and AC to determine what your CO is currently. If you are consuming more than you are using ( CI is greater than CO) then you are probably gaining weight. To lose weight we need to get your CI to be less than your CO. You can do this by:
- Eating healthier.
- Increasing your activity level through exercise.
- A combination of 1 and 2.
Now that you know your daily calorie consumption (Calories In) and what you burn daily (Calories Out), what's next? It is time to work on your long term goals. A very basic fact is the correlation between calories and weight. Each pound of weight is equal to 3500 calories. We will use that number to help with calorie calculations.
This is the section where a lot of what we say may not be the most popular, but reality isn't always popular. To clarify a key point you really don't want to lose weight, you want to lose fat. If you don't focus on fat loss you will lose lean muscle at the same rate you lose the fat. So you will weigh less but your body won't function as well once too much basic muscle mass is lost. So we will try and focus on fat loss here, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Unfortunately as a society we have come to expect instant gratification and want immediate results. This has created a multi-billion dollar diet industry that is focused on the illusion of instant results and doesn't seem to really acknowledge a long term healthier lifestyle.
After all, if you lose weight quickly you are happy, so whatever you spent on the diet program seems worth it. Then, since you met your "goal" you get complacent and over time go back to your old lifestyle and wonder why you are looking at the same overweight person you were before. You just figure that diet plan, or diet pill, or whatever didn't work after all so you decide to try a different plan (feeding the multi-billion dollar diet industry) in an endless cycle. We want to help get you out of that cycle. In its simplest term to lose weight your CI needs to be less than your CO. This is called a calorie deficit. We are going to focus on an approach that may not provide instant results but is the basis for a healthier long term you. You know your BMR, CI, and CO so lets put that it altogether into a manageable plan.
The first question that you need to resolve is, how aggressive is your goal? Remember the more aggressive you are the less likely you are to be making life long changes. For example; lets say you want to lose 15 lbs in the next 3 weeks (strongly discouraged), that means you would need to reduce your net daily calories by 2500. To help you understand that figure, remember 1 lb = 3500 calories so 15 lbs would mean a combination of consuming less and exercising more to net 52500 less calories in a 21 day period. Keep in mind that you will be causing long term health problems if you limit your calories to less than 1200 per day for an extended period of time. While possible, for the average person this is a recipe for disaster. Since you don't consider yourself average you are saying no problem, well if you do try something this ridiculous then we will expect you back when you have gained back more weight than you lost and are ready to re-read what we suggest. It's time to stop the yo-yo diet approach and put together a sensible plan.
The second question becomes, what is a reasonable goal? We suggest you set a goal beginning at .5 lbs up to a maximum of 3 lbs a week (depending on starting weight). This should be readily doable with some minor adjustments that can be easily sustained for a healthier long term lifestyle. Lets use a 1lb a week weight loss goal for another example, you will need a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day or 3500 less calories per week to lose 1 lb. It is important to note that this is a total calorie deficit which can come from both cutting back on calories in (CI) as well as increasing your activity level to increase calories out (CO). The weight loss calculator lets you see exactly what different CI and CO values will do. Go ahead and try the weight loss calculator to determine your numbers.
We mentioned before, there are countless diet programs out there, some are reasonable and others that are down right dangerous. This is not a diet program but a lifestyle modification that provides a lifetime of healthier choices. The only thing left is what types of food your calories come from and also ways to increase your activity level.
Here is how we recommend your daily calories should be distributed to lose weight that does not require abandoning entire food groups. We call this the 4-3-2 model for your new lifestyle:
A few final observations before you finish this section and begin the process of becoming a healthier you.
Going back to the previous example lets consider what is involved in creating a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day by reducing CI by 300 and increasing AC by 200. This will create a total calorie deficit of 3500 calories a week which should result in a 1 lb weight loss.
In the example to the right it needs to be pointed out that AC (calories burned from activities) numbers are weight specific. Use the exercise calculator to determine your numbers based on your weight.
To reduce 300 calories a day (CI) from your diet you would need to:
To increase (AC) by 200 extra calories a day (increasing your total calories out (CO) you would need to:
We just wanted to provide a couple of final examples so you can see it doesn't take extreme measures to get started. It is important to recognize that the sensible way to approach this is with both diet and activity level changes.
So lets put all this information into practice under step 4 - ongoing.
Step 4. Ongoing
That is the bottom line to our approach, eat healthier and know what you are going to eat that day. After all if you were going to take a long distance trip wouldn't you plan what to bring with you, get directions on how to get there, and now what to do once you arrive? Changing your eating and activity lifestyle is no different. That is why we spent the time under getting started to plant the seeds of where you are and where you want to go.
So to use another example if your calorie intake goal was 2000. You would want to try and distribute those calories as shown in table 2, based on the 4-3-2 model. Grams are used in nutrition databases as the standard unit of measure. So to achieve the calorie goals you would want the amounts shown in column 3 of Table 2.
Here are two examples of meal plans, your plan needs to be based on your schedule; the first plan assumes you have time to prepare all your meals (plan A), the second (plan B) assumes you don't have time to make breakfast and lunch and are going to grab your breakfast and lunch out.
Meal Plan A
Meal Plan B
As you can see both plans would achieve your daily Goals and provides a healthy balance. While fast food for breakfast and lunch can work they do have excess sodium and refined sugars, which can affect your health in multiple ways. Try not to make fast food an everyday thing. You will notice that we measure all foods by weight, further discussion of that will be addressed later. The entries highlighted in purple are our own recipes, so we know the weight of all the individual ingredients that went into making the numbers behind 1 serving. As far as recipes go ie. Chicken Piccata, the nutrition numbers are from our recipe and will vary if you choose a different recipe or modify ours. If you are wondering why Chicken Piccata was used in the examples, it just happened to be what we were having the day this plan was created. It should also be pointed out that there are not many beverage calories included and you need to account for those also, we drink a zero calorie beverage throughout the day, water.
As you can see, with some minor adjustments we were able to get the meal plans to even lower numbers without sacrificing very much, and we still have a well rounded meal plan. You may notice that the protein numbers are a little higher than the target, but that is fine. They are not excessive numbers and the calories are still below the target.
Let's wrap up this guide with some additional information on the future you. For arguments sake some time frame has elapsed, it could be two or three months or two or three years, that isn't important. What is important is you have stuck to your plans, watched your calories, maintained an active lifestyle and are at a weight you are happy with. Now what do you do? Simple you continue living a healthier lifestyle but allow yourself to increase your calories in. You should be so used to having an awareness about what you are eating that you won't go overboard and begin the yo-yo cycle. You need to re-assess your numbers based on your new weight and activity level to determine what you can consume without gaining weight again. This is often referred to as maintenance mode. In maintenance mode you will want to have your CI be close to your CO. This provides a healthy level of nutrition without extreme weight fluctuations. Keep in mind that CO (calories out) is not an exact science, you may burn a little more or less than what any calculator can determine. Maintenance mode involves a bit of trial and error. For that reason pick a maintenance CI number that is about 2% under your CO. Weigh yourself (record this number as your beginning maintenance weight) and eat at this level for two weeks. Check your weight after two weeks and see if it is holding within two to three pounds of your beginning maintenance weight. If it is, then go another two weeks and make sure you are still within two or three pounds of your beginning maintenance weight. If your weight is still dropping then you need to increase your CI a little. If you are starting to add weight then reduce your CI a little. Keep this process up until you get to the right calorie number that leaves your body in perfect balance, where your weight stays within a plus or minus 2 pound range. When you reach this point congratulations are in order you have adopted all the tools and knowledge to enjoy your new healthier lifestyle for the long haul!
There are a few final points that need to be made. As you age your body burns fewer calories without added activity, so you will need to reduce your CI or increase your activity calories as the years go by. If your activity level changes you will also need to re-calculate your numbers. Finally medical conditions that you may not be aware of can cause sudden weight gain or loss and require a visit to your doctor.