So You Think You Want To Lose Weight...

Every New Year, millions of people decide they want (or need) to go on a diet. But unfortunately, 80% of those with good intentions will have failed within a month and never look back. Personally, I think starting a diet during the coldest time of the year is not really a great idea. In the winter we all have our "fat" clothes and can hide in them for months. I think the best time of the year to diet is in the summer, like right after Memorial Weekend. The days are long and warm, and most people get outside and are more active during the nice weather. That being said, losing weight is not about being more active, its about simple calories in and out.

Your body burns calories even if you don't do anything particularly active, this is your basal metabolism rate (BMR). It is easy to calculate how many calories you burn by knowing your weight, your height and age.

1. Calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate):

    • Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) - ( 4.7 x age in years )
    • Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) - ( 6.8 x age in years )
2. Multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:
    •    Sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
    •    Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
    •    Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
    •    Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
    •    Extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training): BMR x 1.9
3. Your final number is the approximate number of calories you need each day to maintain your weight.

My BMR without the activity factor is 1231 calories. Since I am moderately active, if I multiplied by the factor 1.55, my calorie intake could be 1908 calories. However, I know from experience if I ate 1900 calories a day, I would gain weight. I also know from experience that I will maintain weight if I eat about 1500 calories a day. I can lose weight at 1200 calories a day (which is the least amount anyone should eat), but the food choices must be healthy and it helps if I burn about 500 calories with walking or biking each day.

You might wonder how to measure your calories and activity now that you've determined what your BMR is and how much you can eat. I use the free app on my phone and computer, You can enter all your activity and meals in one app. You can also enter photos and share with your other friends on the app. It tracks your progress and even calculates your macros (fat, protein, carbs) so you know if you're eating the right proportion of foods to maximize weight loss. I modified my goal in the settings so its 45% carbs, 30% fats and 25% protein.

From my experience last year - starting in May, I ate 1200 calories a day for 100 days and lost 25 lbs. The key for me was to make sure I ate enough protein each day and to measure my food portions so I didn't overeat. Generally, a serving of anything is about the size of your fist. It was a struggle to eat enough proteins at first but I learned to make my snacks a protein source like peanuts, chicken or beef jerky, fat free cottage cheese, almonds, protein bars and protein beverage mixes. I also cut back on breads since I got plenty of carbs in other foods. I did not give up alcohol. I had up to two or three drinks, but I alternated with a glass of water in between.

So, If you're determined to start a diet in the cold of January, do a little prep first. Download myfitnesspal and figure out how many calories you can eat to lose weight. Buy lots of protein snacks. Be prepared to stay out of restaurants for two months at least, until your will power can resist others eating really fattening foods next to you.

Good Luck

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