Obesity means you have an excessive amount of body fat. It has been more precisely defined by the National Institutes of Health as a body max index of 30 and above. That translates to about 30 pounds overweight. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 64 percent of U.S. adults are considered overweight or obese. Overweight or obese people stand a greater likelihood of developing life-altering and/or life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, arthritis, liver problems, and many others hence maintaing an ideal weight is crucial to your health.
Losing weight is not rocket science. You simply need to burn more calories daily then you are taking in. The National Institutes of Health explains that 3,500 calories is equivalent to 1 lb. of fat. By creating a caloric deficit of this amount, you shed a pound of weight. So a natural place to begin would be to determine how many calories your body needs to sustain it. Once you have figured this out, a healthy way to loose weight would be to reduce your ideal calorie intake by about 300 -500 calories a day (this equates to about a pound a week), combined with a healthy exercise routine. This will ensure that you lose weight at a healthy pace and your body has time to adjust gradually to the changes you are making. The worst thing you can do is drastically reducing calories. This will put your body into “starvation mode” and make you store fat. I never recommend taking in less than 1200 calories a day. Over time our bodies become more efficient at using energy and therefore burns less fat, which is why many people experience a weight loss plateau. At this point, boosting metabolism through exercise is the only option. Reducing calories further is highly discouraged as you will likely not meet all of your daily requirements and it just reduces metabolism further and you are very likely to put weight back on quickly as soon as you resume realistic eating patterns.
Estimating your daily energy requirements is not a perfected science. We all have different metabolisms or different Basel metabolic rates (BMRs). This is the rate at which your body burns calories while you are at rest and some people are just predisposed to have a slower or faster basal metabolic rate than others, which affects the rate at which the body burns calories. It is also important to note that our BMR decreases as we age which is why it becomes harder to eat we want as we age without paying the price in pounds. But do not despair. A regular exercise routine can speed up your BMR and allowing you to once again burn more calories at rest. Once we determine our BMR, we can then use it to calculate our daily caloric requirements.
Using a Basel metabolic rate formula can give you an idea as to how many calories your body requires to maintain an ideal weight. The BMR formula takes into account your height, weight, age, and gender, however it does not take into account your unique build or bone structure and as I mentioned above your own unique metabolism. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you're larger, taller and have more muscle, it takes more calories for your body to function at rest, so you inevitably burn more calories than slimmer and shorter individuals. Even people who are overweight and obese use more calories at rest than people who are thin.
Regardless of its limitations, it is a good starting point. To calculate your BMR:
BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
So for a 29 year old woman, 5’5” (65 inches) and 115 lbs, the BMR is roughly 1324. That means she burns 1324 calories while doing absolutely nothing! The reality is, no ones stays in bed all day so the next step is to link this to a reasonable “activity factor”. One way to determine this is using the Harris Benedict equation, which takes your BMR and then applies a level of activity to it to give you your daily caloric requirements.
- Little or no exercise: BMR X 1.2
- If you are slightly active or exercise lightly 2-3 times a week: BMR X 1.375
- If you are moderately active or exercise moderate 3-5 times a week: BMR X 1.55
- If you are very active or do intense exercise 6-7 times a week: BMR X 1.725
- If you extra active such as an athlete in training: BMR X 1.9
If our sample woman exercises moderately 5 times a week, their activity factor is 1.55. Multiplying her BMR of 1324 by the activity level of 1.55 leaves her with a daily caloric requirement of approximately 2052 calories a day. Again this is not an exact science. Your activity level is not just based on how many times you go to the gym or ride a bike. Exercise can come in many forms such as housework, gardening, raking leaves or shoveling snow so keep this I mind when determining your activity level. Having at least a rough baseline of how many calories a day we now need, we now need to reduce it by at least 300 calories a day to begin losing weight so get moving!
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