Thursday, November 15, 2012

How Many Calories...?

It's the eternal burning question. If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know about my struggles with food.  Or lack thereof.  Or rather, trying to find the correct mix for ME.  I've lost weight in the past by severely depleting my calories.  The old addage that dropping calories to unhealthy lows means you can lose weight is something that I have learned is NOT sustainable.  The problem with taking calories to super lows is that when you start incorporating more calories into your diet, you pile on the fat...FAST.  Not only that, but you are setting your body up for all sorts of problems. Metabolic damage, thyroid dysfunction, fertility problems and other irreversible organ damage. You are also headed straight for periods of binging when you deprive your body of the nutrients it needs to sustain itself.

The point is, if you are trying to lose weight, you HAVE.TO.EAT.THE.FOOD.  :D  Yes, weight loss is a bit of a science, but it's mostly about calories in vs. calories out. Quality matters but I see so many people focused on the quality that they in-turn lack in quantity.  Fuel your body with loads of nutritious food and the weight will drop! 

So, back to the burning question! How many calories do I need to eat to lose weight? I have a simple formula that I use and it's worked wonders for me.  The best part is that this is a sustainable and long-term way to lose weight and keep it off.  The girls in my private Facebook groups can't believe me when I tell them that they need to eat as much as this formula tells them to, but once they do, they almost immediately start losing.  It's a beautiful thing!

Here's the rule: Take your current body weight and multiply x 11 
Then, multiply x 12 and 13.  

For example, a 170 lb woman would need to eat roughly 1870 calories per day to lose a healthy 1-2 lbs a week.  This is if she's moderately active and not under 5'1".  If you are over 250 lbs this formula changes a bit and you can typically get away with body weight x 12-13. On sedentary days or 'no workout day' I eat x 11.  On workout days, I eat x 12. On days that I work out really hard, I eat an extra snack and shoot for body weight x 13-14. Point is, you have to eat to lose.  Period.  

Can you believe it's that simple?? I didn't want to believe it either, but it works. It's a golden formula, I tell you!

A word about tracking calories:  I track my calories on My Fitness Pal.  You can find my profile here. (friend me if you're over there!)  While I love the platform on My Fitness Pal, one thing I have noticed is that it sets calories to unattainable and severely low levels for most people that first sign up.  If you are on MFP and it's telling you to eat 1200 calories a day, PLEASE adjust your goals to be in line with the formula I provided.  I talk to SO many women that work so hard to lose weight and the SIMPLE fix for them is that they just need to eat more food! You may lose initially, but you're much more likely to plateau or stall out if you are not eating enough calories.  The body does not like starvation mode. It's all about finding that perfect balance and I truly believe it lies within this simple calorie formula.

To change your goals in MFP: Go to My Home ->Goals -> and click the green button that says "Change Goals"   Adjust calories to body weight x 11.  Easy Peasy!

If you are trying to lose weight, are your daily calorie goals in line with this formula? If not, how far off are you? 

Now a disclaimer:  I am not a nutritionist or a doctor or anything like that. I'm just sharing what has worked for me. This formula got me to a maintenance weight I am happy with and since then I have slowly upped my caloric intake to get to my maintenance calories. In doing so, I have not gained weight because I protected my metabolism along the journey. This really works! :D

***Having trouble losing weight?? Need some accountability on your weight loss journey?? I run private Facebook groups where we delve deeply into topics just like this one.  I'd love to help you reach your goals! Contact me today :) ***


Christina said...

Thanks for this pointer! Maybe you just ignited me getting back into MFP again. Here is my question - with MFP, it gave me 1,200 calories per day net*. So if I exercised, I got to eat those calories back. So, would I do the same thing in this case? I'm in the 130's so 130x10 plus any calories I burned from exercising??

*And yes, I plateaued after a few months after my body got over the shock of reducing calories and running.

Em said...

Great question, Christina!! I do BW x 10 flat out. The exercise calories are there if you need them, but I rarely eat them on a daily basis. They kind of serve as my "night out" calories. Or if I worked out REALLY hard, I'll eat half of them. If you stall out, you may NEED them, though. It's all about finding that balance between where you are losing and where that stalls out. Of course, the final 10 lbs are the toughest too, so this balance becomes a little harder to attain. So, while the formula is simple, it still takes some trial and error to find what works. Also, as you get closer to goal weight, make sure your calories are up where they need to be. When you hit GOAL, you won't be reducing cals to lose weight as you'll be in maintenance. This formula protects your metabolism for when you start to ADD calories back to get to maintenance cals. Hope this makes sense!

DDawnS said...

versnitGuilty!!! I'm really thinking this is my problem. You've inspired me to eat more. What do have to lose? Everything, right? haha

phitnphat said...

Hey Christina...I'm a friend of Emily's and wanted to chime in with a suggestion. The smaller you are and less weight you need to lose the wider your range goes. So instead of trying to eat exercise calories which even with a good HRM can be way off, I would go by what we know - your current body weight. Multiply that by 10-12 and use that food range to eat within. So on days you are hungry or exercise and need the calories for fueling a run, you do 12 times. That might help. Hope it does!

Em said...

That is great point, Corinne. I definitely have moved up gradually to BW x 11, then BW x 12 as I headed towards maintenance. No weight gain either! And even while I was losing I'd eat BW 11 or 12 depending on my workouts. Great advice!!

Christina said...

THank you Emily for the great blog post to get me thinking and thank you PhitnPhat for the additional info!