You and your friend are on a diet, trying to lose weight. You are both following the same protocol, at the same calorie deficit after having calculated each of your TDEE’s (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). You even go to the gym together and have the same exact workout routine.
Your friend doesn’t even have little kids and 3 dogs, for Goodness sakes! – She/he doesn’t have little ones to run after all day long… How in the world is she/he losing weight and not you??
Frustrating, isn’t it?
CALORIES IN VS. CALORIES OUT?
We all have been told that to lose weight we just need to eat fewer calories than we burn every day. Makes sense, right? Right. Because that is true.
There are some myths that go around from time to time telling people that “If you eat only healthy foods, or a clean diet, or a keto diet, or a vegan diet, or follow intermittent fasting this, or, or, or, or… ) you won’t gain weight.” That is not true. PERIOD.
At the end of the day, the math is pretty logic (otherwise it wouldn’t be math!):
Calories in MINUS calories out EQUALS weight gain or loss.
So practically, if you are consistently eating 2,000 calories and burning 1,999 calories every day, you will gain weight over time. Of course, this is an exaggeration but, to make this easier to understand, let’s say you eat around 2,000 calories and burn some 1,500 or so, on a regular basis. If that’s the case, you will gain 1 lb of fat per week (about 450 grams).
That’s because 2,000 – 1,500 = 500 calories.
500 x 7 days = 3,500.
1 lb of fat (no matter what kind of fat) = 3,500 calories.
You could also gain lean mass weight, but that is only if you are eating enough protein and lifting weights – and still, besides gaining lean mass, if you are at a surplus, you will also gain fat consuming more calories than you burn. This alone could be subject for another post.
It doesn’t matter if those extra calories will come from french fries or avocados, donuts or bananas, lettuce or meat.
HOW MANY CALORIES YOU EAT PER DAY
Counting the calories that we consume every day is pretty simple.
You can go on to MyFitnessPal website or download the app (or use any other food log databases for that matter) and start logging your foods right now. It has become especially simple since nowadays we can simply scan the foods and ta-da! It magically appears on the app and automatically adds it all up for you.
The problem with counting calories is that sometimes people leave out little snacks that they eat here and there throughout the day.
You know what I’m talking about: that tablespoon of peanut butter that you eat as you passed by your kitchen (100 calories); a piece of candy that someone handed you at work (20 calories, a little espresso that you had and forgot to log in its sugar (1 Tbs = 45 cals). And even that bite you took from your husband’s donut (around 40 calories).
What really go easily unnoticed are the condiments: ketchup, mayo, salad dressing, a little olive oil on your food, etc.
Do you see how we can very easily “forget” to log in 200 calories plus?
That’s why, if you are trying to lose weight, you need to count calories. I know that it can become a pain, but ask yourself this question: is your will to lose weight bigger or smaller than your will to log your calories?
HOW MANY CALORIES YOU BURN PER DAY
This is the tricky part. That is because there are many things to take into account:
- Body Fat Percentage: how much fat you carry in your body. For that, you will need to take into consideration your gender, weight, age, and take different measurements around your body (waist, neck, hips), and/or use a good caliper. And because there are different ways to measure body fat percentage, people sometimes get lost. What doesn’t help is that the calculators online are usually inaccurate.
- LBM (lean body mass): how much muscle weight you have — the more lean muscle you have, the less fat you have. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism. Here is the math to find out your number: LBM = (1-BF% decimal) x weight in lbs.
- BMR (basal metabolic rate: how many calories you burn by doing absolutely nothing while awake). A good estimation is: 370 + (21.6 x LBM in Kg)
(One thing that many people don’t realize is that as you diet over the years, or if you do some type of fast for long periods of time, or if you have a low thyroid function, your BMR starts to go down with time. Suddenly, all of the math that you made doesn’t make sense. That’s when you need a reverse diet. – This will be subject for another post).
Continuing with our math, so now that you know all of those numbers, you can then find out what your TDEE is (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). But, as you can imagine, you need to take into account your level of activity per day.
- Exercise less than 1 hr/week: TDEE = BMR x 1.1
- Exercise 1-3 hr/week: TDEE = BMR x 1.2
- Exercise 4-6 hr/week: TDEE = BMR x 1.35
- Exercise 6 or more hr/week = BMR x 1.45
When you finally figure out your TDEE, you have a good idea of how many calories you burn per day.
I say “idea“ because it doesn’t stop there. You should consider adding your NEAT on top of your TDEE number. That’s your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis; the number of calories you burn by fidgeting, running errands, taking the stairs, parking far away, playing with the kids, walking your dog, dancing.. being busy!
Believe it or not, our NEAT calories can add up to 500 calories and even more, depending on how busy you are and how your body performs!
We all know someone that is very “high energy”, don’t we? Those people usually have a high NEAT. And if you think about it, aren’t those people usually thin? Interesting, huh?
Unfortunately, there is no way of really having a definite idea of our NEAT. Many of today’s gadgets aim towards “guessing” that number: Fitbit, Apple watch, Garmin watch, etc. But unfortunately, too many times those numbers are inaccurate and people end up eating too much, or too little.
Along with that comes our genetic predisposition (the subject of my research). With that, I was able to prove that it is much easier for people to lose weight when they eat a preventive diet: one going against their gene expression to illness and disease.
That happens because when we eat a diet that helps our bodies to perform at their best potential, our NEAT increases. -A sick person has a very low NEAT and the opposite is also true: a healthy person has a higher NEAT.
SLEEP PLAY A ROLL IN WEIGHT LOSS
One of the reasons for that is: when you are rested, your performance at the gym is higher, and the amount of energy and moving around is also much higher.
I know I don’t feel like doing much at all when I’m tired! Do you?
There are other reasons why sleep plays a roll in weight loss, but I will leave that to be the subject of my next post!
SO, WHY AREN’T YOU LOSING WEIGHT?
Do you now have an idea of what is going on with you and your body? Are you eating too much and/or forgetting to log calories? Or are you not exercising and moving around enough?
If you want to lose weight, all you need to do is take your TDEE number and subtract NO MORE THAN 500 or NO MORE THAN YOUR BMR.
This means, for example, if your TDEE is 2,200, you should never subtract more than 500 to figure out the number of calories that you should eat. Meaning, you should not eat less than 1,700 calories per day.
Now, let’s say that is you and you found out that your BMR is 1,800. You should not eat less than 1,800 calories/day. Makes sense?
If you do so, you will start messing up your metabolism, little by little, and will have to do a reverse diet to fix it. Like I said previously, I will explain the reverse diet soon, in another post!
I believe that everyone who puts effort into their weight loss goals deserves seeing results! We only need the right information as a base for our efforts.
Thank you for reading! See you next time. 🙂
Much love and counting to all!
Disease Prevention Advocate, Blogger, Author, Speaker, Certified Holistic Health and Wellness Coach by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Board Certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, and Licensed Medical Massage Practitioner by the Virginia Board of Nursing