Losing weight can sometimes be an immense pain in the butt. Working out every day, eating healthy foods, or even going hungry, only to learn that you haven’t lost any weight can be very demoralizing. It feels like you can’t lose weight no matter what you do. I’m here to tell you there’s another way. You need a strategy. This guide will help you create a strategic plan to lose weight, and it’s not as hard as you might think.
Learning Your Base Calorie Burn
Let’s begin with getting a reasonable estimate of how much energy your body burns from just existing. We need to find your Basal Metabolic Rate. Your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is the total number of calories your body needs to perform essential, life-sustaining functions. To do this, we will use the Harris-Benedict Equation.
The equation is as follows:
MEN: BMR = 66.5 + ( 13.76 × weight in kg ) + ( 5.003 × height in cm ) – ( 6.755 × age in years )
Women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years)
Using this equation will give you a general idea of how many calories your body consumes if you just lay in bed all day. Yes, I said calories, and unfortunately, yes, we are going to start counting calories. Wait! Don’t leave! Calorie counting is the sure way to lose weight. Despite what others may say, counting calories is science. It works and proves to work time and time again.
Food choice is what people get confused about when counting calories. Different types of foods are better for you, but the overall “calorie in vs. calorie out” is the rule. You could eat nothing but Oreos, and if you met your calorie goal, you would still lose weight. Although, you would become highly unhealthy because you would be missing out on other nutrients. Sure, you can eat the same things you have been eating and just eat less of them, but you’d also probably go hungry or make yourself sick. Your calories and food choices matter.
Include Your Current Activity Level
Putting food choice aside, let’s continue with calculating your calorie intake. We will need to multiply your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) by an activity multiplier; the resulting number is TDEE or Total Daily Energy Expenditure. The idea of TDEE is that the Basal Metabolic Rate is 70% of the energy your body consumes, physical activity is 20%, and the thermic effect of food (your body breaking down food) is 10%.
The multipliers are:
- Sedentary = 1.2
- Lightly active = 1.375
- Moderately active = 1.550
- Very active = 1.725
- Extra active = 1.9
To calculate your TDEE, take your BMR number from the equation above and multiply it by a multiplier.
Here’s a quick explanation of each multiplier:
You barely do any physical activity. Something like a desk job only.
- Lightly active:
You’re going for a mile walk every once in a while.
- Moderately active:
You’re working out three times a week.
- Very active:
You’re working out every day. You increase your heart rate above 120 or 130 for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Extra active:
You’re working out twice a day. You are on a sports team, and you train with a heart rate above 160 multiple times a day.
Your TDEE number is your rough estimate of how many calories you burn in a day. This number isn’t exact. The actual number could be higher or lower. For now, this calculation is a reasonable estimate. Later in this guide, I will show you some ways to get a more accurate number.
What’s Your Goal?
Next, you have to understand what you are trying to achieve. You’re trying to lose weight, and you’re probably looking to lose fat. A pound of fat is 3,500 calories. You will need to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound.
To start losing weight, take your TDEE and reduce it by 500 calories. With no extra exercise, every day, you’ll burn 500 calories. After a week, 500 x 7, you will have theoretically lost 1lb.
Losing 1lb might not seem like a lot, but remember, you probably didn’t gain all this weight in a week. The weight you are currently carrying is the result of many, many weeks, or even years. Don’t worry, though; you don’t have to wait years to lose it. All you need to do is reduce your TDEE by even more.
Keep in mind. It is not healthy to reduce the calories you consume by more than 30% of your TDEE. For example, if my TDEE is 3,045, I would not want to go below 2,131. Going below that number could lead to health issues, and it could have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve.
Example of Using Your TDEE for Success
So you have your TDEE. You probably have a goal weight. Let’s do an example of how to calculate your daily intake. For me, I want to lose 3lbs a week. 3lbs x 3,500 = 10,500. To lose 3lbs a week, I’ll have to burn 10,500 calories in one week, or ( 10,500 divided by 7 ) 1,500 calories per day.
Next, I’ll take my TDEE, 3,045 – 1,500 = 1545. UH OH! 1,545 calories are well below my 2,131 calorie limit. (To calculate your limit, take your TDEE and multiply it by 0.7) I’ll have to keep my calorie intake at my 2,131 calorie limit, which will leave me with an extra 586 calories to burn through exercise.
Add Exercise Throughout Your Day
In my example from the previous section, I found that I need to burn an extra 586 calories per day, which may seem like a lot, but I’m here to tell you it’s not that hard.
Your current habits are already burning your TDEE every day. To get an additional 586, we can do simple things.
- Take 15-minute breaks throughout the day and go for a brisk walk.
- Park at the back of the parking lot and walk to work.
- Make an effort to go the extra steps in all your tasks during the day.
- Go for a mile walk before or after work. It takes 15 – 20 minutes.
Fifteen minutes here and there throughout the day help. Depending on your activity level, this could be enough to meet your goal.
Still Not Losing Weight No Matter What You Do?
What happens when you’ve been doing all the above, but you’re still not losing weight? Well, it’s time to start tracking everything because something is not correct here.
- Weigh yourself every week at the same time. Keep an accurate, consistent log of your weight.
- Track your calorie intake for everything you eat. Get a food log or use the MyFitnessPal app on your phone. BE AS ACCURATE AS YOU CAN. Purchase a food scale. Food scales are a must for this.
Let’s do an example. Say I have the following log for my weight. I tracked my weight for two weeks.
Week 1: 245lbs (Starting weight)
End of Week 1: 244lbs
End of Week 2: 242lbs
I have a strict food log of all the calories I consume each day. Every day I am about 100 calories within my total limit of 2,131 calories. Sometimes I won’t be exactly on my 2,131 calorie goal. Not all foods will line up exactly, and that’s ok. Some days I’ll be over, and some days I’ll be under my calorie goal. Try and stay within a hundred calories of your calorie intake goal. Staying as close to my goal as possible will give me a control for this experiment, and it will help me to hone in the exact activity level I need to achieve
The first week I lost only 1lb of body weight, telling me that I was not exercising enough to reach my 586lbs exercise target per day. So for the next week, I will increase my activity level.
The second week I lost 2lbs. Keeping my calorie intake at 2,131 tells me that I improved my exercise, but I’m still not reaching my goal of 3lbs a week. If I were walking 1 mile every day after work, I would try walking 1.5 miles next week. I then increase my activity even more if I am still not meeting my goal of 3lbs per week.
Continue monitoring your weight and calorie intake to hone in the perfect amount of exercise. Usually, every 10lbs I lose, I recalculate my TDEE. I may even need to recalculate my TDEE as I lose more weight.
That’s it. It’s simply a matter of determining how much your body burns and keeping accurate records to inform yourself what you need to do next. If you follow the steps in this guide, then you should start seeing results. Make sure to adjust things as you go along. I hope this guide was helpful and good luck on your weight loss journey.