The very first step that you should take when you are trying to lose weight is not to jump on the treadmill or lift a whole bunch of weights, nor is it to make drastic changes to your diet to see how fast you can lose weight.
The first step that you should take for weight loss is something a little bit less exciting, but so important. What is the first step? It is to know your weekly calories.
Now, of course, consulting with your doctor before embarking on a weight loss journey is always a good idea, but well move to the next step. The fact is that most people out there have no idea how many calories they consume from their diet or burn from exercise in a day. No idea. They could guess, but theyd be wrong. The honest fact is that most overweight people underestimate what they eat or overestimate their physical activity and chalk up excess weight to some mysterious cause.
There are mysterious causes out there, and if you have one you should see your doctor. For everyone else the reason they are overweight is because they consume more calories than they burn. Its that simple.
How To Know Your Calories
If you really want to understand why you weigh what you weigh and know the truth about how to overcome it, you must first know what your current routine means to your calorie count. Only then can you make the necessary and healthy changes to bring your weight down.
How do you do this? Outside of buying an elaborate contraption to wear all day long, you can do a very good job of this by taking these steps.
- Figure out your calories consumed. For 1 week, go on with your life with no changes. Do your very best to measure portions and ingredients of what you are eating and write it down or use an online tracker. Dont try to make any changes this week just record what you honestly consume. Dont be afraid to face the truth. If you think you will change your habits because you are measuring, don’t figure the calories until the end of the week – just get the portions and foods documented. Doing this step well is what is going to allow you to overcome your excess weight issue once and for all.
- Second, figure out the calories you burn from exercise. By my definition, exercise means real exercise that gets you into your target heart rate zone. For each person that is different but it includes things like walking (for many people), running, biking, swimming, basketball, weight lifting, etc. Mowing the lawn or housecleaning probably shouldnt be counted here. That is built into your lifestyle and is routine.
- Net the two together. That means add your calories consumed and subtract from that your calories burned through exercise.
At the end of the week you will have a very good idea what your average weekly calories consumed are and what your average weekly calories burned through exercise are. The net difference between these two is your baseline. Unless it was an unusual week in some way, that is the diet and exercise routine that results in your current weight and fitness level.
What To Do Next
Now that you know your baseline net weekly calories you can take the next step. So, if you consumed 15,000 calories and burned 1,000, your net is 14,000. Write that down. That is your starting point. If this was a typical week this tells you that if you net 14,000 calories every week your weight will not change.
To lose weight you need to come in under this net calorie number every week. Dont focus too heavily on individual days. You will have days that are higher and others that are lower. Go for the weekly net calorie total. If you know how to lose a pound, you know that you need to lower this number by 3,500 calories in a week to lose one pound during that week. It is really that simple.
Going back to our example, your normal net calories is 14,000. If you want to lose one pound every week you need that number to be 10,500, or 3,500 less. Divide by 7 days in the week and that is 1,500 net calories per day.
Remember that net calories are your calories consumed less your calories burned through exercise, so you can achieve this in various ways. You can eat 1,500 calories without working out one day. You can eat 2,000 calories and burn 500 through exercise another. You can average a net 1,500 calories per day for a week in any number of other ways. It doesnt really matter as long as the net calorie number at the end of the week is the number you are shooting for.
Some Final Thoughts
Using this method it is pretty simple to see how to lose a pound. It is not always as simple to determine calories, but just do your best. If you eat at a local restaurant look up the calorie content from a national chain that is similar to get a good idea.
If you have a bad day, dont let it sink you. Make it up the next day or get in a good workout that night to burn off some extra calories. One day will not make or break you. One week or one month at a time will. If you have a bad day get over it and move on to the next one. You can only control from this moment on.
Counting calories is not fun for most people but it is the best way that I have found to really move the scale. The concept that 3,500 calories are in a pound is a fact. How you apply it is up to you. You will find that, over time, you get very good at estimating calories in single foods and prepared foods. In fact, you will get so good you will start to trust your instincts.
If you begin losing weight by taking this first step but that weight loss starts to slow down over time, adjust your number. Try to adjust it in no more than 1,750 calorie increments in any given week. Once you find the right number to get the scale moving again lock it in and continue. Don’t go for low calories for fast weight loss. Know how fast you should lose weight to make it last. It is too hard to stick with a routine that sheds pounds too quickly. It is not the right method for long term success.
Give it a month. Really try. Subtract 3,500 or more per week and work hard to achieve it and watch what happens. You will see that the best way to lose weight is to know your calories.