Friday, April 23, 2010

The secret to losing weight..., and will always be, ESSENTIALLY, calories in and calories out.

Yes, that's right. To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you consume. And, unless you're in the extreme minority who has some medical condition that causes you to hold onto weight; or you're using some medication that has that effect, it's a math game.

I'm not a fan of "diets". I would rather people focus on eating a healthy, reasonable amount of food and well-balanced meals. And, rather than exercising to burn calories to lose weight, I would rather they focus on cardio to improve their cardiovascular system to feel more energetic and improve lung capacity and strengthen the heart; building core strength to help posture and balance; and increasing overall strength to improve bone density, protect joints, increase blood flow and support organs--exercising also naturally improves your mood and overall body image. I have a bioimpedence scale in my gym (and, really, this can only be used as rough measure--but it's still a decent benchmark) and I encourage clients to focus on decreasing their overall percentage of body fat. Having been active my whole life, dieting to lose weight is something I have never done. That's right. Never.

But I digress. Back to calories in and calories out. I have had many clients come to me wanting to lose weight. Many are not aware how much they are consuming or how much they need to consume to lose the pounds they want to lose or how much is safe to lose. Here are a few figures to work with; a few things to think about:
  • You need to burn 3500 calories to lose 1 pound - losing 2 1/2 lbs a week is a safe amount to target.
  • By creating a 500 calorie deficit per day, you should lose 1 lb/week.
  • The calories you need to consume is different for everyone depending on your current weight, height, bone density, and level of activitiy. It also differs if you are breast-feeding, etc. There are many on-line resources you can use to quickly figure it out... Here's one! (click)
  • If you are exercising a lot, you will need to consume more calories to have the energy to exercise--having many small meals a day to regulate blood sugar is a good way to stave off hunger and binging and keep your energy through the day.
  • If you are strength training (heavily) you will gain muscle--having muscle helps you burn more calories naturally--fat does not turn into muscle... and, if you stop exercising, muscle will not turn into fat.
  • Muscle does weigh more than fat but you would have to be exercising like a competitive body builder to have this be a significant factor in any weight gain you experience when you start exercising--it's also almost impossible to, at the same time, gain muscle and lose a significant amount of weight--bodybuilders recognize this by going through cutting and gaining cycles--it's a fine balance.
  • Watch portions -- a serving of meat, for example, should be, roughly, the size of your palm!
  • Drink 8 cups of water a day, cut white sugar, white flour, and highly processed foods.
  • Eat breakfast!
One of the most important things you can do for yourself if you're wanting to get healthy and lose weight is to find activities you really like and do them!