Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Creating a Calorie Deficit

I finally got some momentum going again with my weight loss. I had been at a stall for months, and was really getting frustrated. I don't know why I waited so long to implement a calorie restriction. I think I was biased against it because I lumped it in with low-fat dieting. Like "Oh yeah, I want to feel hungry all the time and be miserable just to look good in a swim suit".

What I learned rather quickly though, was that the hunger is temporary. As long as you consume the right types of foods, you can safely ignore a small amount of hunger. Your body may feel hungry when it really doesn't require calories. Perhaps this is the time you usually eat a snack, or you are dehydrated, or you didn't sleep enough last night. There are many reasons you might feel hunger, and it's not necessarily your body telling you that it needs more food.

Once I got my mind around this, it was easy to get through the 3-day transitional phase where my body was trying to get me to eat like I usually do. Unfortunately, how I usually eat translates to maintaining my current size and shape. After those three days, I stopped feeling hungry between meals.

In order to determine how many(few) calories I would need in order to create a deficit, I started by calculating my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your BMR is the number of calories you burn just by being awake throughout the day, basically. It is based on age, weight, height, and gender. Not the most concrete of calculations, but neither are calories! So, close enough.

1) Calculate your BMR
Here is an easy BMR calculator:

2) Determine your caloric needs
The next step is accounting for how active you are throughout the day. One common method for this is to use the Harris Benedict Equation (found here):

Harris Benedict Formula
To determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:
  • If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
  • If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
  • If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
  • If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
  • If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
 3) Create a deficit
You want to create enough of a calorie deficit to actually lose weight, but not so much that you are starving yourself. A general guideline for this is to have a deficit between 500 and 1000 calories each day. If you have more to lose, you can venture closer to the 1000 mark; but if your body fat is getting quite low, stick to a 500 calorie deficit. As for a minimum calorie intake per day, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends women not consume fewer than 1200 calories and men not consume fewer than 1800 calories per day.

So, for me right now, my BMR is around 1700, my caloric need is around 2300, and I'd say I have a good amount to lose still: my daily calories are 1500. I don't have a reliable scale to measure weight, however my measuring tape has informed me that in the last couple of weeks I have lost half an inch around my hips and waist, as well as tiny improvements in my arms and legs!

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