Are you just beginning your weight loss journey? The amount of information spreading across the internet, social media, literature, and other platforms can be overwhelming. We’d like to help you get started with the least amount of confusion possible so we have put together the most basic pieces of information needed in order to begin losing weight.
A calorie is a unit of energy and our bodies need calories in order to live. Too many calories lead to weight gain. Too few calories lead to starvation. While gaining weight, your body was taking in more calories than needed. In order to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories to get your body to burn its excess fat storage for energy. This is called a calorie deficit.
In order to burn one pound of fat, you need to burn about 3,500 calories. A common way to burn 3,500 calories is to cut 500 calories from your diet per day. This could be nearly the equivalent of one Starbucks frappuccino, believe it or not! Most people cut down on snacking and are able to cut 500 calories per day. After one week (7 days) at a 500 calorie deficit each day, you will burn 3,500 calories. This will amount to about 1 pound of weight loss per week.
While this may not sound like much, try looking at the bigger picture. You’re motivated and wanting to get extra weight off ASAP, and you may find some success with crash diets that are not sustainable. Losing 1-2 pounds per week is ideal and research shows that this leads to more sustained weight loss over time. Long-term is the goal here. Take your weight loss journey just one week at a time and before you know it, several weeks will have passed and you will see noticeable results.
It is always important to remember that you didn’t gain 5-10 pounds per week, so you won’t be able to lose 5-10 pounds per week either.
How many calories you should be eating
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories/energy your body needs if you laid in bed all day and didn’t burn any extra calories through walking around the office, exercise, chores, etc. Since we all have many things to do during the day, we burn extra calories doing those activities. Your BMR depends on your age, gender, height, and weight. Click here for a free BMR calculator to help you determine your most basic calorie needs. This will give you an idea, based on your current activity levels, what your daily calorie intake for weight maintenance should be. If you want to cut 500 calories each week, subtract 500 calories from your daily needs according to the calculator. This will give you a good estimate of what your intake should be in order to begin losing weight.
There are many amazing ways to track calories. MyFitnessPal and LoseIt! are some of the most popular ways to track calorie intake. But you don’t need anything fancy. You can just write down your calorie intake on a simple piece of paper or in a journal. Tracking calories has been shown time and time again to be one of the most successful weight loss strategies. Count every calorie that you eat. It may just blow your mind at how bad we all can be at estimating calories.
Some calories are better than others
Calorie-counting is simple math for the most part. However, certain food groups will have more positive or negative effects on your hormones, energy levels, appetite, etc. Try to eat a diet high in protein because this will keep you full for longer and aid in maintaining muscle. Having more muscle increases calorie burn. Fruits and vegetables are healthy, full of vitamins and minerals, fiber, etc. and should generally be a large part of every healthy diet. Carbohydrates are also important for overall health, so try and make good choices with your nutrition. 100 calories of donuts and 100 calories of fresh fruit will have different impacts on your physical and mental health. 100 calories of donuts is fine every once in a while, but if you make that choice every day it could sabotage your weight loss efforts.
The bottom line
With any diet, a calorie deficit is an absolute must. Some people achieve this through different types of diets or fasting, but the concept is the same. A calorie deficit has to be sustained for weeks at a time in order to see continued weight loss results, depending on the amount of weight you want to lose. Be patient with yourself and spend the time getting to know your calorie needs. Discover how foods make you feel and make a plan to work around inevitable events such as dining out, parties, travel, etc. Stay tuned for part 2 of Beginning Your Weight Loss Journey!