Sunday, April 4, 2010

The 3 Truths of Weight Loss Part 3:

The 3rd Truth of Weight Loss: Calories

When it comes to losing weight there are as many plans as there are stars in the sky. There are the milkshakes, the fast food sandwiches, low carb, low sugar, low fat, eat only meat, eat only raw food and the list goes on and on. Every celebrity and retired quarterback has a plan. There are points to count, there is bread to avoid, and don't forget there is grapefruit just waiting to be eaten.

It all seems so complicated, what really works?

We have seen the before and after pictures and heard the testimonials for all of these plans. Many of us have tried some or all of these programs and our results have not been the same as the actress or the quarterback.

Why are these programs successful, or at least partially successful? I would suggest that every program on the market whether it is reducing carbs or fat or has you only eating hot peppers and lettuce has one key thing in common; it is reducing your caloric intake.

My third truth to weight loss and perhaps the most fundamental is simply if you burn more calories than you take in you will lose weight.

We have talked about goals and accountability and we have talked about smarter choices and deprivation but calories are what ties the whole thing together. This has been the hardest of the 3 part series for me to write because of the technical nature of some of the information, I will try to make it as simple and intresting as I possibly can. I don'twant this to sound like a medical report, I am not a doctor, I am just a FAT guy trying to lose weight and trying to help others do the same.

Let's first dispel a few misperceptions about calories. First Calories are not what creates fat. Actually a calorie is defined as a unit of energy supplied by food. A calorie is a calorie regardless of its source. Whether you're eating carbohydrates, fats, sugars, or proteins, all of them contain calories
Another misperception is that calories are the enemy and should be avoided at all costs. The truth is everyone requires calories to live, remember calories are units of energy. Even if you lay in bed all day and never move you still need some calories to reach the remote.

They key is not avoiding calories, but maintaining a good caloric intake and burning more calories than you take in. There are some very complicated equations out there that will tell you exactly how many calories you need to consume each day and at the end of this blog I will link to some calculators and some other tools, but an easy formula to keep in mind is to consume 10 calories per pound of your weight.

For example if you weigh 150 pounds you should average about 1500 calories per day.

This is a guideline not a hard rule. The more you weigh the more calories you need to function. Other factors like age and sex need to be considered as well. Keep in mind most doctors recommend not going below 1200 calories a day to maintain your health.

Before I started my weight loss journey in December I was not monitoring my calories at all and I was not making smart food decisions I was averaging somewhere around 3500 calories per day. Based on the formula introduced above I was well on my way to 350 pounds. It is amazing how many calories we can take in when we aren't paying attention

At the risk of scaring some people away I need to introduce another small bit of math. To lose 1 pound per week you need to decrease your calories by approximately 500 per day.

For example I now weigh 264 pounds so to maintain that weight I would need to eat around 2600 calories per day, but to lose 1 pound per week I need to eat around 2100 calories per day.

This math is pretty simple but don't forget to adjust it as you lose weight. I try to adjust every 10 pounds.

This is where the other two truths we have talked about come into play. It is important to maintain accountability and make the right decisions. Everything we eat and drink has calories and it is up to you to track those calories each day to make sure you are maintaining your goals.

When we talk about smart choices, if your daily goal is 1500 calories then one Thickburger Combo from Hardee's with a medium fries and a large coke will put you over your goal. However you can still go to Hardee's and order the BBQ Chicken Sandwich with a side salad and a water for less than 500 Calories.

Tracking your calories is all about accountability. You know your goals you know what you are eating. Everything you eat or drink has calories, It tells you right on the label how many calories are in the food. By simply keeping a food log of what you eat and how many calories you have consumed you will better hold yourself accountable for achieving your daily goals.

There are a few very good sites online that will help you count your calories and monitor your goals. One such site can be found Here.

I have found this site very useful. On this sight you can actually enter what you are eating and it will help you track exactly how many calories you have used and how many you still have to use. Also it provides a spot to enter your favorite recipe to find out how many calories you are consuming. For example we discovered that the chicken soup recipe my mom passed down to my wife has only 220 calories per serving. Yummy!

Another important thing to know is that every major restaurant has online nutrition information including calories which is good information to have before you order. Most can be found on the restaraunt's primary homepage but a simple Google search with the restaurant's name and the word nutrition may save you a step. I have found a helpful tip is to review the menu online before I get to a restaurant then I have had the chance to make an informed decision without the pressures of time or what looks delectable on the menu.

One last consideration that I would be negligent if I did not mention is exercise. I don't want to go too deep into exercise now as I will have an entire blog on exercise coming up in 2 weeks but it is a subject that must be mentioned. I waited this late to mention exercise not because it is not important but because many experts feel it is important to spend a few weeks working on your eating habits before introducing exercise.

Every thing we do burns calories; the more active we are the more calories we burn. The more calories we burn the more weight we lose. While monitoring your diet is important, adding exercise is like putting extra fuel on the weight loss fire. For a list of some activities and the calories each would burn you can look at this list. Don't forget to account for these calories in your daily count as well

I hope I have not bored anyone.

Remember if you don't meet your goals one day don't lose hope remember this is not a sprint, but a marathon and if you maintain a good average you will see results.

As a bit of disclaimer, you can chose to eat anything you would like to as long as you monitor your calories and you will see weight loss; however if your goal is to be healthier there are other factors besides calories to consider. That of course is not my focus at this time but some more information on nutrition you should see this article

The final parts of this series will focus on some “tricks” and tips to help on our weight loss journey.

35 pounds gone 65 to go; only 2 days until weigh-in Wednesday

Thank to anyone who may be reading and hopefully enjoying. Remember the opinions expressed in this blog are mine and the plan I am following including “The 3 Truths of Weight Loss” is not approved by a doctor, a nutritionist, or a bureaucrat, only by me

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