Weight Loss....is it Really That Complicated?
As a trainer I am always answering client's questions regarding weight loss. With an ever growing array of diets and programs out there, my clients often believe that weight loss is some complicated formula that they will never truly understand. The truth of the matter however is that in its most simple form, weight loss is really just basic math.
The human body requires energy to sustain life. Humans provide this energy in the form of food and drink, or more accurately the calories in that food and drink. Even if you did nothing but lie in bed all day, your body still needs energy to perform its most basic functions such as breathing, circulation, and maintaining organ function. The amount of energy needed for these functions is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). BMR is influenced by several factors including age, gender, and body size. Younger people need more energy daily vs. older people, as do males vs. females, and larger people vs. smaller people. For those of us who don't lie in bed all day (which I really hope you don't), these energy requirements are increased dependent upon your activity level.
You may be asking, well how does this relate to me losing weight. As I said earlier weight loss, and conversely weight gain, is just simple math. When we consume more calories than our body requires in a day, we will be in a calorie excess. The human body, being as smart as it is, will convert these extra calories to fat to be stored for later use and you will gain weight. When we consume less calories than we need in a day we put ourselves in a calorie deficit and your body will break down its existing fat stores and gets the energy needed from that and you will lose weight. It's as simple as that.
In order to lose one pound of fat per week we need to be in a deficit of 3500 calories per week, or 500 calories per day. As I said earlier physical activity also influences energy requirements of the body. People who are more active (and I don't just mean exercise) will burn more calories in a day. I usually recommend to my clients who want to lose weight to cut 250 calories from their eating, AND to burn 250 calories through exercise, thus meeting the 500 calorie a day deficit needed to lose one pound a week. Be careful however of cutting calories too drastically as this can slow metabolism and actually make it harder to lose weight. The American College of Sports Medicine warns that calorie levels should never drop below 1200 calories/day for women or 1800/day for men.
So as I said, its all just basic math; calories in vs. calories out. One thing I make all my clients do is download the LoseIt app. It is a food journal and calorie counter that will make you more aware of what you are consuming because as I always explain to them, you can't put yourself into a safe calorie deficit, if you aren't aware with what you are putting in to begin with.The app will also help calculate your basic energy needs, but if you don't want to use that there are other internet programs that can do the same thing such as MyPyramid.gov. These calculators use your age, weight, height, gender, activity level, and other factors to determine your personal energy needs.
I hope this post helps demystify weight loss a little for you and can help you on your way to a healthier weight and life. - Aaron