Food!  One of the best words in the english language, as far as I’m concerned.  We buy it, grow it, cook it and eat it.  But what and how much?  The answer comes to choices and portions.  I have written in the past about the choices part (https://thetruthaboutexercise.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/why-people-struggle-with-weight-loss), so today I’m going to focus on the portions.  How much do you need to be eating on a daily basis to maintain, gain or lose any weight, what-so-ever.  Well, the inner workings of the body, as we know, are ridiculously complex.  But we’ll keep it as simple as possible.  Now, remember, what I’m printing are ESTIMATES.  No yelling if your numbers don’t work out.  In order to know how much you have to eat, the first thing you need to do is disregard the nutrition labels on your food.  They are based on a flat 2000 calorie diet.  Yours could very well be different.  Use the labels to count what you take in and record that over a 3 day period.  You can use a website (www.fitday.com).  It is free diet tracking software.  Or, if you just want it on your phone, the “My Fitness Pal” app is free and really good.  This way, you can track what you take in and get a good average.  That will count as your “intake” portion of the math.  Then comes the fun part, calculating how much your body burns on a daily basis.  We’ll do it as simply as possible.  The first thing you have to do is categorize yourself into a “low”, “moderate”, or “high” activity classification.  The key here is to be honest with yourself.  Here are some definitions:

Low – Little to no activity at all outside of your normal daily routine.  Maybe walking the dog, etc.  You burn 17 calories/pound (male) or 16 calories/pound (female)

Moderate – Regular physical activity.  You get to the gym a few times a week and/or do some cardio at least 4 days per week and amass at least 30 minutes per session.  You burn 19 cal/lb (male) or 17 cal/lb (female)

High – You play a sport and/or are training for a specific event.  Typically you workout at least 5 days per week.  You burn 23 cal/lb (male) or 20 cal/lb (female)

Now, you just take the numbers associated with your category and multiply by your body weight, and that is roughly (very roughly) how many calories you output on a daily basis.  Now, compare that to your intake.  If you are pretty close to equal numbers, it means your body weight is probably pretty stable.  If your intake is more, you are gaining weight, and if your output is more, then you are losing weight.  For example, I know a 155 lb male who is moderately active.  That means he burns 2945 calories per day (155 x 19).  It just so happens that he also eats right around 3000 calories per day.  Therefore, his weight is relatively constant.  Now, if you want to lose weight, the obvious answer is to either a) cut calories, b) increase activity, or c) a little of both.  However, if you are losing weight, try to shoot for about no more than a -500 calorie/day deficit.  This will equal about 1lb of weight loss per week.  A safe, sustainable number.  Bigger amounts tend to be a lot of water and lean tissue, neither of which you want to lose.  So do the math.  F out where you are and where you need to be.  You may be surprised at the results.

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