(Another article I wrote a few years back for Examiner. Still informative for those of you keeping track of calories in vs calories out.)
The number of calories you take in compared to the number of calories you burn can help you predict the success of your weight loss efforts.
To determine if you are already at a safe weight, you can calculate your body mass index (BMI). This formula assesses weight relative to height while indirectly measuring body fat. Use a BMI calculator to find your number. This score is figured by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared and then multiplying by 703. If you are measuring in kilograms, divide your weight by height in meters squared.
BMI should only be used as a starting point. In some cases, BMI may not be a good indicator of a person’s weight status as it is based on numbers and not body composition. For example, a very muscular person could fall into the overweight or obese category when in fact they are not.
Next, you need to be aware of the calories you should consume on a daily basis. Use this calorie counter to determine how much you should be eating/drinking. Then use a food calorie calculator and calorie burn calculator to help you figure how much you are really taking in and expending through exercise.
You may have heard that to lose a pound, you have to burn an extra 3,500 calories. This means that to lose two pounds each week, you had to have a deficit of 7,000 calories, either by cutting this amount from your diet (1,000 calories a day), exercising (burning 1,000 calories a day) or combining diet/exercise to reach this goal.
The 3,500 calorie rule can be problematic for a number of reasons. First, depending on age/sex/weight/activity level, the number of calories you should consume varies. Cutting 1,000 calories a day from your diet could result in leaving you too few available calories. Start by counting 15 to 20 percent of calories rather than a drastic 1,000. Second, it can be difficult to determine how many calories you are actually eating or losing through exercise. The tools mentioned above can only offer you an estimate. Third, not all weight loss results in reduction of adipose tissue (fat)—sometimes it can be loss of lean body mass or muscle. According to Tom Venuto of ironmagazine.com, a lean person will lose lean tissue more easily and retain their fat, while a heavier person will lose fat and retain their lean tissue. So this formula creates implications depending on your desired goal—you don’t want to end up losing that muscle tone you worked so hard to achieve!
Now that you’ve used these tools to determine how many calories you need, how many you are consuming and how many you burn, it’s time to take action. Start by looking for ways you can eliminate unhealthy calories (pop, baked goods, fried foods) and integrate physical activity into your schedule. In no time, you’ll be ready for the warm weather ahead.