Getting Started on Weight Loss
Updated: Jul 8, 2020
When it comes to weight loss it can seem like a bit of a minefield out there, with the latest diet telling you they've found the secret to you getting your dream body! The problem with diets is that they are usually unsustainable ways of eating, and indeed living. Whilst certain 'diets' might work for some people, and there are some that may be more sustainable long term, most of them work because they limit the amount of calories coming into your body, whether through eliminating food groups, intermittent fasting (which I actually like and find it a great tool - I'll talk about another time), or making you live on cabbage soup. Now I would say the best way to look at weight loss for the long haul is to find a way of eating that you find easy to stick to, fits in with your lifestyle and allows you to have fun and be social still sometimes (if that's what you want). The simplest way is to focus on real food, which is going to give your body what it needs to run on, leaving you feeling mentally and physically able to deal with what life throws at it. Now how about how much to eat? The very simple rule almost always applies. The energy coming into your body must be less than that coming out. You simply need to eat less and get your body to burn more. This is the law of thermodynamics. There are equations that a lot of us have seen that use different pieces of information about us to determine how many calories on average our body may need to maintain our weight. Firstly lets talk about what they are:
1. BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) - the calories the body needs to carry out vital functions, but doesn't include digestion, and is what you would need on complete bedrest.
2. Then of course there is our RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), which takes into account the digestion, small movements and the impacts of different environments. It is easier to measure as conditions are less extreme.
3. TEF (Thermic effect of food) - Takes into account digestion of different foods. For example protein is more work for the body, and fats the least. Insulin resistance can also lower TEF. This accounts for around 10% of energy expenditure.
4. EA (Exercise Activity) - The energy used through structured exercise
5. NEAT (Non exercise activity thermogenesis) The energy you use through everday movement ie moving around during the day, fidgeting, housework, carrying the shopping, walking up the escalator etc. Note- this can be a fairly sizeable difference depending on habits, the kind of job you have and just your general figetyness.
All of these add up to give you your daily calorie expenditure TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure). It's worth noting that the BMR accounts for 70% of your calories!!! You don't want to go below your BMR in calorie intake during weightloss for extended periods of time.
Ok so here's how to work it out. I'm going to use the Harris-Benedict equation (which calculates RMR) here as it's the most popular, but please note this is a guide to give you a rough number. We are unique individuals, with ever varying biochemistry, so can't be to the letter with this, but it's a great guide to get started with:
RMR = 66.5 + (13.75 x weight in kg) + (5.0 x height in centimeters) - (6.76 x age in years)
eg. 40 year old male, weighing 113.4kg and 188cm
RMR = 66.5 + (13.75 x 96.4) + (5.0 x 188) - (6.76 x 40)
RMR = 66.5 + 1325.5 + 940 - 270.4
RMR = 2062 kcal per day
RMR = 655 + (9.56 x weight in kg) + (1.85 x height in centimeters) - (4.68 x age in years)
eg. 37 year old female, weighing 66kg and 170cm
RMR = 655 + (9.56 x 66) + (1.85 x 170) - (4.68 x 37)
RMR= 655 + 636.9 + 314.5 - 173.16
RMR = 1,433.24 kcal per day
So once you've got the RMR you need to do the equations for your activity:
Sedentary (little or no exercise, desk job).
BMR x 1.2
Lightly Active (light exercise/sports 3-5 days/week).
BMR x 1.3-1.4
Moderately Active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week).
BMR x 1.5-1.6
Very Active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days per week).
BMR x 1.7-1.8
These equations take into account that men and younger people tend to have higher amounts of muscle mass, and are based on a pretty average body composition. Another reason why they're just a guide, as our muscle mass can vary in all sex's and age's. We can perhaps fine tune it by finding our fat free mass (using body fat percentage modes of measurement) as it is more metabolically active than fat, and therefore burns more calories at rest (a very good reason to get that resistance training in!). Once we have this number we can equate again how much we need to eat to lose a certain amount of weight per week, although again this would be a guide unless you've paid for highly accurate methods of measurements. I don't want to confuse things so I'll leave that for another time, where we can look at and compare the different calculations out there.
So there you have it - a base to see where you're at and how to get started on a weight loss plan. There are a lot of finer details which I will write about next, but this is a great place to start. If you have any questions or would like to work on your nutrition with me I would love to hear from you!