Monthly Archive: May 2012

Weight Loss 101: Everything you ever needed to know about losing weight

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…

My Fitness Pal

Spark People

Calorie King


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.

Gaining pounds

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.


You don’t need to eat every 3-4 hours, that’s a myth

“Starvation mode” doesn’t exist like we think it does

You don’t need to eat breakfast if you’re not hungry, and skipping meals doesn’t make your metabolism crash

If you eat into a deficit your body will burn fat, not muscle

Don’t restrict types of food for the sake of weight loss, you’ll eat them anyway

3. Exercise

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.

4. Plateaus

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.

If you can’t spot reduce, why lift weights?

This edition of Workout Wednesday is brought to you by my sister. “But if there’s no such thing as spot reduction, why do you lift weights? Why do you have arm days and leg days and ab days and not just gym days?

The best way to explain this is to look at your body. Poke your stomach, your thighs, your calves. If you’re anything like me you have a lovely layer of protection over your stomach, thighs, butt, arms, etc. that keeps you warm and insulates your body and sometimes makes your clothes fit a little too tight. That’s fat. It’s important for survival, but sometimes we think it’s not very aesthetic. That’s fine, I understand. But dig deeper. Eventually you’ll hit something hard. Flex that area and try again. Feel that? That’s muscle.

Muscle covers bones (and sometimes peritoneum, but that’s besides the point) and fat covers muscle.

When people ask how to “Get rid of the fat on their stomach” they’re met with, “There’s no such thing as spot reducing!” That’s because to get rid of fat you have to burn fat. Fat does not magically become muscle. Fat is fat. It’s adipose tissue filled with fat cells. Muscle is an entirely different entity. With liposuction you suck out the fat and get rid of the cells. Otherwise you’re deflating them. Doing 1,000 crunches a day will not magically turn your fat into muscle. This is what people mean when they say, “There’s no such thing as spot reduction” because no matter how many crunches you do that fat will still be there.

So why lift weights? Because you’re building the muscle. Underneath that fat you have wonderful muscles that help you move and lift heavy things and function. People lift weight to get stronger, to make their muscles more prominent, or simply because they like to. But no matter how many squats you do or crunches or bicep curls the progress will be invisible to you unless you remove the layer of fat on top of it.

You can’t spot reduce fat, but you can spot increase strength. That’s a better way to put it, right?

Just remember this: fat is not muscle, muscle is not fat. By doing crunches you’re not turning that layer of fat INTO muscle. If you increase your heart rate into a cardiovascular zone that allows you to burn fat, then yes, you’re burning fat while doing crunches. But you’re burning fat all over your body. Think about where your heart is located – in your chest, right? If you increase your heart rate and you’re in the zone for fat loss, how does your heart know that you’re doing crunches? It doesn’t. It just knows it needs to beat faster to accommodate for the sudden increase in workload. That translates to removing energy from fat around your body based on genetics. Where you lose fat first is based almost entirely on genetics. Never fear, though, because eventually your body will have to go to that stubborn fat supply you’ve been lamenting over for a few months and get energy from there.

Then, after that fat has been reduced, you will be able to see those beautiful muscles you’ve worked so diligently for.

Can you lose fat AND gain muscle?

Unless you’re new to lifting, the short answer is: no.

Think about what it means to “lose weight.” By losing weight you’re putting yourself into a deficit energy wise. You’re eating less calories than your body requires, therefore making it dip into fat stores (85%) and muscle stores (15%) for energy requirements. This energy is being used to fuel your body. The idea that your fat is being rerouted to create muscle isn’t exactly true. It’s broken down as needed and sent to areas that needs it for basic energy.

Think about what it means to “gain weight.” By gaining weight you’re eating more calories than your body needs to exist. These extra calories are being stored throughout your body, either as fat or muscle – depending on your energy level and what type of activities you’re doing. Since this process implies an excess, it’s not possible to be in deficit and gain anything, right?

What about strength? Most people think that more muscle = more strength, and they’re right. However, a lot of strength comes from strengthening the neural pathways that help you perform certain moves. The way your neurons fire and its interaction with your muscles is a large determinant in strength. Even if you’re eating at a deficit, yet performing the same strength move (i.e. squatting) your body “learns” this move and becomes progressively stronger while doing it. After awhile this increase in strength levels off and muscle hypertrophy (“gaining muscle”) must occur in order for you to gain more strength.

Make sense?