I’m going to preface this post with the fact that I am not a dietitian, nutritionist, or doctor. I am just someone who has taken the time to put in the research and who has lost a pretty substantial amount of weight on my own over the past year. Disclaimer aside, this is a topic that I can get really passionate about. (Coming back after I’ve written the post, I think I got a little bit rambley. TL;DR: Eat fewer calories than you burn. I eat 1200 a day to lose 2 pounds a week)
Losing weight is incredibly simple. That’s a loaded statement, I know, but it’s actually something that I find to be really comforting. The diet industry is huge and there are so many people who are looking to profit off of those who need to lose weight. People desperately seek shortcuts, looking to take the easy way out, and the diet bigwigs profit. But the fact of the matter is, you don’t need all of that.
I know that if I consume fewer calories than my body uses each day for energy, I will lose fat. Period. I don’t have to worry about eating five meals a day, or eating certain nutrients at certain times. It’s so much simpler than that. Figuring out just how many calories my body uses and how many I need to eat to lose the amount of fat that I want is slightly more complicated, but the basic weight loss equation is this: If Calories Burned > Calories consumed, then you will lose. Before we figure out how many calories we’re supposed to be eating each day, we have to figure out how many calories our bodies are expending. We need to find our TDEE, or Total Daily Energy Expenditure. Our TDEE is the number of calories our body uses up for energy each day. The breakdown of our TDEE is this:
This means that just about 70% of the calories our body uses each day are used to fuel our life sustaining functions. Our heartbeat, respiration, digestion– basic bodily functions. By far, it’s the largest energy sink in our bodies. Second, is physical activity. This isn’t only working out, but walking to your car from the grocery store, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. That little section varies based on how active you are. The last section, TEF, stands for Thermic Affect of Feeding and accounts for the calories our bodies use to convert the food we eat into energy.
So, this is getting a little bit less than simple, I know, but I think it’s important to have a basic understanding. Plus, until you calculate your TDEE, there’s really no way of knowing how many calories your body needs each day. It’s really essential, because if you consume a greater amount of calories than your TDEE, you’re going to gain weight. Nobody wants that.
A basic TDEE calculation is based on age, gender, height, weight and activity level. I’m a 31 year old female, 5’7″, 218 pounds, and I’m somewhere between sedentary and lightly active. (Working on that!) My TDEE is about 2200 calories a day. You can calculate yours here! Now that we know that, we have to take into account another important piece of information:
One pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories. That’s either way! Eat an excess of 3500 calories and gain a pound, accumulate a deficit of 3500 calories and lose a pound. Ideally, I’d like to lose two pounds a week, so I have to create a 7000 calorie deficit weekly, or 1000 calories deficit daily. I have to eat 1000 fewer calories each day than my TDEE.
Bringing back the simple: Want an easy trick to lose two pounds a week!? Calculate your TDEE and eat 1000 fewer calories each day.
Because my TDEE is 2200 calories, my daily caloric budget is 1200. I’ve stuck to that for a year, and I’ve lost 110 pounds. (which is pretty close to 2 pounds a week!)
That’s really all there is to it.
However– I said it was simple. That doesn’t mean it’s easy!
Just because you know the basics doesn’t mean that it’s easy to make the right choices day in and day out. I will never make light of the struggles of food addiction and waning will power, because I lived that for many years. Passing up the cookies in the office is definitely not the easiest choice, but it’s just something you have to do if you truly want to lose. I can’t tell you how many cookies have gone uneaten by me over the past year. And you know what? I don’t regret that at all.
So that this post doesn’t go on forever, I’ll talk more later about how I track and the effect exercise has on your weight loss and TDEE. But honestly? If you only changed your diet you can lose weight. It might not be the healthiest way to go about it– being sedentary has its own health issues for sure, but it would happen. If you calculated your TDEE with little to no activity, and ate 1000 fewer calories than the number it gave you, you’d lose. Diet is the main factor in weight loss– which is why people get discouraged when they don’t see the number on the scale change after only adding in a bit of exercise to their routine.
Is any of this new information for you? Test it out! Go ahead and calculate your TDEE… How many calories would you have to eat a day to lose a pound in a week? How about two pounds?