Since we all get this question a lot, I thought I’d create the long, arduous, all-inclusive guide to weight loss, starting at the very beginning.
Weight loss = calories in vs calories out. To lose weight you must create a calorie deficit. How do you do this?
1. BMR – Basal Metabolic Rate
Your BMR (or basal metabolic rate) is the amount of calories it takes for your body to run if you were in a coma. It’s the basic amount of calories your body requires to breathe, process life, etc. How do you find our your BMR? There are some online calculators, but most of them suck because they don’t take into account body fat %. For every pound of lean body fat you have you burn more calories than for every pound of fat you have. Click here for my favorite BMR calculator. This calculator also shows you how many calories to eat to lose weight based on the average of three separate BMR calculations. It also helps determine how much fat/protein/etc. you need. Tip: Use one activity level below what you think you actually are.
Why can’t I just eat my BMR?
If you don’t exercise and live a very sedentary lifestyle you always could just eat at your BMR. But if you’re an active person who exercises a lot, or just is always on the go, eating at your BMR is likely not going to give you enough energy to get through your day. Best bet is to use the calculator above and go from there.
What about BMI?
BMI is not a reliable indicator of health or weight. All it takes into consideration is height, weight, gender and age. Someone who is 5’4 and 145 pounds of muscle has the same BMI as someone who is 5’4 and weighs 145 pounds of mostly fat. Ignore it.
2. Counting Calories
Counting calories is not necessary for weight loss. Some people simply watch their portions, sugar, macros, etc. Some people just do what they want and lose weight or maintain. Good for them! They’re probably not reading this article because this is weight loss 101 for people who have trouble with this. Here are some great sites to help you count calories…
A lot of these also have apps for Android and iPhone.
Measure/weigh your food
A lot of people UNDERESTIMATE the amount of food they eat. For this reason I suggest not eyeballing your portion sizes until you understand what 100 calories of oatmeal looks like.
Give this process time. Say you start tracking your calories and you see that after a week you’ve gained a pound. Well, first of all, the scale is kind of a big lying loser. Second of all, the scale weighs everything. It weighs the water you drank, undigested food, that you’re wearing a padded bra today, etc. However, the scale can be helpful in tracking if your calorie count is optimal. If you’re gaining weight you may need to lower your calories, measure your food more precisely, or start exercising. Also, eating a high carb meal causes water retention. There are a lot of factors around why you may not be losing weight. If it is continually a problem, see a doctor, not Tumblr.
3,500 = one pound
Eating 3,500 calories in one day will not make you gain a pound. Eating 3,500 calories OVER your maintenance calories in one day will make you gain a pound. This means if your maintenance is 2,000 calories you’d need to eat 5,500 calories in one day to gain a pound.
Diet is the #1 reason behind weight gain/weight loss.
Eating “clean” to lose weight
Like I said, calories are all that matters when it comes to losing weight. When people tell you the reason you’re not losing weight is because you’re not “eating clean” they’ve been brainwashed by the new face of the diet industry. Fact of the matter is that you can gain weight eating “clean” and you can lose weight by eating “dirty.” What you should focus on is how food makes you feel. Don’t eat food that makes you feel bloated, sick, run down, tired, etc. Eat food that makes you feel satisfied but not sick, energetic, efficient and happy. These foods mean different things for different people. Find what works for you and don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
Exercise is not necessary for weight loss, or fat loss. Exercise is necessary for muscle gain and getting away from the “skinny fat” a lot of people worry about. Exercise will help build muscle mass, which increases your BMR. Also, since muscle is more dense than fat, you can weigh more but look skinnier. Muscle is pretty bad ass.
Exercising Away the Calories
This is a slippery slope as most people tend to OVERESTIMATE the amount of calories they burn from exercise. Doing so can set back a lot of progress. On the other hand, people who run 12 miles every morning should eat more to make up for their long run. Find a good balance. Is it the afternoon after a long run and you’re ravenous but almost up on calories? You need to make up for the energy expended. Running one or two miles every day is not sufficient to eat 500 calories back. Likewise, if you just PRed your squat, deadlift and bench press today you may need to eat a bit more than usual. 1 hour pilates class? Probably not so much. You know your body best – if it’s tired, feed it.
Type of Exercise
The type of exercise you do should make you happy. That is all. Forcing yourself to lift/run/cycle/zumba/etc. when you hate it will make you resent exercise. For basic weight loss you can do pretty much anything that gets you moving and invigorated and be just fine.
I want to lose weight here…
You can’t spot reduce, but you can spot train. Increasing your heart rate = all over fat burn. Exercising a specific area = increased muscle mass. Super easy. Also, as a woman it’s nearly impossible to look like the Hulk. Women can, and should, strength train.
Always have a plan
Working out without a plan is appropriately titled “Fuckaroundits.” Having a plan ensures that you’re getting the most out of your workout. Work smart, not hard. If you’re a newbie to the gym, here’s a list of plans to help get you started.
Plateaus can happen for a number of reasons. Make sure you re-read the above advice if you’re in a plateau. Due to an increase/decrease in weight/muscle/etc. you may need to refigure your daily caloric needs. Additionally, if you’ve suddenly given up/taken up a new form of exercise your diet may need to be tailed appropriately.
Are you measuring your food so you’re not underestimating calories?
Are you tracking your heart rate so you’re not overestimating calories burned?
Are you sticking to your meal plans/portion sizes/etc?
Is your goal realistic (i.e. 5’4 and 56 pounds may not be a realistic goal)
Do you have fat to lose?
Have you tried upping your intensity/decreasing your calories?
If you’ve done all of the above then this is what you must do: see a doctor. Or a nutritionist. Bring your meal plan, exercise diary, etc. If you have these problems you need to see a professional, not a person on Tumblr. Also remember that you are only as accountable as you hold yourself to. Not counting your snacks, rounding up miles run/set complete, etc. only hurts yourself in the end.
5. Why lose weight?
This is a very important question to ask yourself. Why are you losing weight? Is it to get healthy? Is it because you’re genuinely concerned about your body? Is it so that you’ll get on a team/have a boy/girl like you, etc? Think of the following things…
1. Why am I losing weight?
2. Are my goals realistic?
3. Am I losing weight for myself, or am I losing weight for someone else?
4. If it’s for someone else, why? What makes them so important? Will they always be this important to you?
Make sure you fully understand WHY you want to lose weight. This way if you ever find yourself losing motivation or having a hard time you can focus on this. Remembering why you’re going down this path is just as important as remembering what the path is.
That’s it. That’s all you need for weight loss.