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The Calorie Accountant Has Spoken!
January 19, 2008 - Erik Brown
This is the first of a three part series on weight gain, weight loss, diet and exercise.
First a disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, and I’m not a dietician. I am the Calorie Accountant! So you may want to take most of what I write with a grain of salt – bad pun intended. On a serious note: if you are overweight, you may want to speak to a medical or dietary professional about your particular situation.
On With The Show
I often eat too much. Most of the year my weakness at the dinner table isn’t a problem because my running keeps my weight under control.
This time of year is a different story though. The shorter days, colder temperatures, and my busier work schedule all play havoc on my motivation. My daily runs and weight lifting lapse into sporadic, occasional workouts. But my appetite isn’t affected. Throw in a half-dozen or so holiday mega-meals and you’ve got a perfect weight gain storm. This year I topped it off with a 7 day
Been Here, Done This
The goal: lose 20 lbs. – the sooner the better. Unfortunately, losing the 20 won’t be as easy or nearly as fun, as gaining it was. And, it will probably take longer. Fortunately, I’ve been here and done this.
There is a simple, undeniable truth about weight loss – if you burn more calories than you consume (i.e. create a calorie deficit), then you’ll lose weight. A pound of body weight is approximately equal to 3,500 calories. Therefore, a calorie deficit of 500 per day will enable me to lose a pound per week (7 days X 500 calories per day). It is as simple as that! Please don’t talk to me about your slow metabolism. Let's face it, that's a flimsey excuse at best. Besides, you probably have no idea what your metabolic rate really is. Increase your activity level, and you’ll increase your metabolism. So I say, metabolism, shmetabolism! Burn more calories than you consume, and you will lose weight. The calorie accountant has spoken!
There is a little more I need to know in order to make sure I’m generating the calorie deficits that will help me reach my goal.
For starters, I need to know how many calories I burn in a typical day. There is a very helpful website here that features a “Calories Per Day Calculator for Adults”. Scroll down a little to find the calculator, then enter your height, weight, and age, and select one of five daily activity levels ranging from “sedentary” to “extremely active”. Click on calculate, and the calculator instantly produces a result that tells you approximately how many calories your body burns each day. You might try changing the activity level input to come up with a range of calories per day that you burn depending on the type of day. My range is 2,400 to 2,800 calories per day corresponding to my height at 6’ 3”, weight at 205, age 49, and activity level ranging from moderately active to very active.
Next, I need to know how many calories I am consuming each day. Keeping track of calorie consumption can be more than a little tedious, even for an obsessive, compulsive, accountant like me. But it really is important if you’re serious about losing weight. As you know, the labels on most grocery items provide information on serving size and calories per serving. There is also a great website here with the URL of www.caloriesperhour.com that provides a wealth of information on this subject. Click on their Food Calories & Nutrition Calculator here to go to a section of their website that provides calorie information specific to the menu selections at many familiar fast food chains and restaurants. This section of their website also provides brand specific calorie information on many grocery items.
I also want to know how many calories I’m burning when I get off my butt and do some exercise. Again, the Calories Per Hour website is a great place to go to get this information. Click on their Calories Burned Calculator here and look for the link to their “Activity Calculator”. This section of their website will tell you how many calories you can expect to burn for a very wide variety of activities. In fact, many of the activities listed there wouldn’t necessarily be considered exercise, but it’s all good.
The Calories Burned Calculator section of the Calories Per Hour website includes several other interesting links. One of these is their BMI (Body Mass Index) Calculator. On this page, you key in your height and weight and click on their calculate button to compute your BMI. You then refer to a table of BMI ranges. A BMI of less than 18.5 means you are underweight, a BMI in the range of 18.5 to 24.9 means you are normal weight, a BMI from 25.0 to 29.9 is overweight, a BMI from 30.0 to 39.9 is obese, and a BMI over 39.9 is morbidly obese.
A couple of comments about these BMI ranges. These BMI's are for adults, not youngsters. My fourteen-year-old twins currently sport a BMI of 4 according to the "fitness-gram" sent home from their school. They are a couple of walking, talking, pencils. But they are also healthy, three sport athletes with hearty appetites. I definitely do not worry that they are underweight. But, if you are concerned about your BMI, discuss it with your doctor. My BMI is presently 25.6. Yikes!
For another cool calculator on this website, click on the link for “Calculating Ideal Weight” here. On this page, you key in your sex and height and click on the calculate button to compute your “ideal weight”. The Calories Per Hour website then displays a page with three versions of your ideal weight and some interesting information about the calculations thereof. Interestingly, the third version (the healthier, leaner, version) computed my ideal weight at 180 lbs. which is the weight I intuitively had guessed for myself.
There is also a link for their “BMB & RMR Calculator”. Like the “Calories Per Day Calculator For Adults” mentioned previously, this calculator computes the number of calories you burn in a day based on a “general” activity level. If you use this calculator, you will probably like the result better because it produces a higher daily calories-burned result than the calculator I previously mentioned. At least, that was the case for my sex, age, height, weight, and activity levels.
Once you know how many calories you are burning each day and you’re on top of the calories you are consuming, weight loss is simply a matter of increasing your activity level, discipline at the table, and easy arithmetic.
In my next post, I’ll write about some of the things I do from a dietary standpoint when I’m trying to lose weight.