Most people know that to lose weight you must be in a calorie deficit. But, what does this look like for our every day lifestyles?
Unless you are logging every food item, drink, condiment, sauce, sweetener etc. in a food tracker or manually adding it up on paper, it is difficult to count calories. Everyone burns calories at a different rate depending on their age, sex, current weight and muscle mass, lifestyle and activity level, and health status. so, in the same way, it is nearly impossible to track calories you've burned without some type of outside resource that can help calculate that information for you.
I will always recommend my client's log their food into a food-tracking app, some examples of these tracking apps are "MyFitnessPal" and "MyPlate." I also love to encourage exercisers and non-exercisers alike to invest in a fitness watch that can read heart rate and other health and fitness measures. However, I understand that using these things everyday is not practical for everyone! So, how do you know if you're eating enough without overindulging or burning enough calories?
That is a tough question to answer. However, our bodies were designed to tell us when we are hungry- truly hungry. A hormone "ghrelin" is produced and released by the stomach and its job is to tell your body that it is time to eat. Once you have eaten enough, you'll experience a sensation of fullness brought on by another hormone "leptin." When you don't have access to a food-tracker or it isn't practical for everyday use, your body's signals are the most important message to follow. Now, this take self-control, right? How often have you felt hungry, but then overindulged past your feeling of satiety? Or, how often have you NOT been truly hungry, but decided to eat anyways? If you want to be serious about listening to your body's needs and consuming the appropriate amount of calories, then it's going to take some serious mental effort. You'll have to be willing to listen to your body when it says you are hungry and listen when it says you are full. But- not only that. You'll have to make wise decisions on what to feed your body, as well, sticking to healthier choices filled with protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.
If it is all about calorie deficit, then it isn't just about what goes IN, but also what goes OUT. To lose one pound of fat per week, you will have to be in a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories- that's 500 more calories burned than consumed.
Here is the issue... many people believe that they are burning more calories in their every day activities than they really are. It takes about 10,000 steps per day to burn off roughly 500 calories. For those of you making it a point to get your steps in- kudos to you! Realistically, very few Americans are getting 10,000 steps each and every day. In fact, if you're like me, you are surprised and even impressed when you reach 10,000 steps for the day.
Another misconception people typically have regarding burning off calories, is that they're burning off many more calories through exercise than they really are. ON average, you may only burn 200-300 calories in a weight-training session at the gym and anywhere from 200-600 calories performing an hour of cardio (depending on intensity level). Let's say you run five times per week for an hour each time. That is 600 calories per day burned, and 3,000 calories burned for that week. That is still not one pound of fat lost!
II know all of this can be overwhelming, and I don't mean to discourage you! But, what I hope to do is bring about awareness to what it takes to burn off calories and how easy it is to consume them. So, what do you do?
There is a term called "Energy Expenditure," and it deals with all of the ways day-to-day that we burn off calories. The breakdown is as follows: Resting Metabolism (metabolism for your organs to work and you to survive), Thermic Effect of Feeding (the energy is takes to consume and digest food), Thermic Effect of Activity (Activities done throughout the day), and lastly Thermic Effect of Exercise (energy burned during time set out in the day for exercise). Now that you know all of the ways our body burns calories, which do you think is the most important for burning the most calories and experiencing weight loss? Many people immediately jump to Thermic Effect of Exercise. However, as you read above, it is quite hard to burn calories through exercise alone. In fact, the best way to burn calories is to combine exercise with Thermic Effect of Activity. This means, you should try to stay active throughout the day- not just during that set aside time to exercise. Increasing your Thermic Effect of Activity could look like doing chores, walking around the office throughout the day, parking further away from the store, or taking the dog for a long walk, even after you've already exercised for the day.
If you can learn to be more mindful of your body's demands and signals for when to eat or stop eating, choose healthier options the majority of the time, continue in your exercise program, and increase your activity level outside of set-aside exercise time, you are sure to burn more calories and go into that deficit you need for weight loss. It is a lot to take in, but by starting slowly and focusing on one piece of the puzzle at a time, it'll become routine shortly and much easier to master. You got this!