People are often at a loss when it comes to tracking weight change. The attitude is frequently “it’ll come off eventually” or “as long as I eat enough, I’ll get bigger,” depending on the goal, of course. If you’re like me, you don’t like to leave yourself guessing. When people explain to me their current methods for weight change, most will point to increased exercise (running, lifting, etc) and a decreased or increased consumption of healthy foods. That’s the crux of it, but there’s more to the puzzle. Say you want to lose 10 pounds, and you want to do it in exactly 4 months. Or say you’re a freshman in college named Brian and want to gain 10 pounds this year. In order to have that depth of precision, or any precision at all, you need to understand these 4 principles.
Principle #1: Calories are (almost) everything
Calories are energy. If this fact isn’t common knowledge by now, it ought to be. Pick any diet that comes to mind: Atkins, Keto, Low Fat, it doesn’t matter. The single most important variable to the success of each is a reduction in calories over a span of time. It’s simple. When we take in more calories than we expend, the excess of calories are stored as fat. A million years ago, this was a godsend to human survival. It’s quite literally a survival mechanism to store energy, so we can use it later if we can’t find a rabbit to cook. Fortunately we don’t often worry about harsh winters or hunting for food.
Principle #2: TDEE.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is the sum of all energy (calories) your body burns through each day. It’s made up of three distinct parts: (1) energy to keep you alive, (2) energy to digest food, and (3) energy for movement. This metric is important for the simple fact that it’s a number we shoot for, or under for that matter. But how do we find it? From my experience, you can pick just about any TDEE Calculator online and it’ll spit out a fairly reasonable number given your current stats and lifestyle. Boom. There's your target.
Principle #3: The rule of 3500
It’s been long realized in the literature that a 3500 caloric deficit equates to about 1 pound of weight loss. This notion aids our weight loss plan for the following reason: we now have a timetable. For instance, let’s say my TDEE is 3000 calories, and I want to lose 6 pounds in 4 weeks. I know that 6 pounds = 21,000 calories. Therefore 21,000 calories/28 days = 750 calorie deficit/day. So on average, I need to eat 3000 – 750 = 2250 calories per day!
Principle #4: Track your Numbers
Hear me out. Tracking your calories is a skill anyone attempting to lose weight (or gain weight for that matter) should acquire. It’s virtually impossible to concoct a meal that cannot be analyzed from at least a caloric standpoint on the Internet, now. This doesn’t have to be your forever plan. Track your calories for a few weeks to get an idea of what your prescribed calorie reduction actually looks and feels like. Then take a few weeks off. Watch the scale, and make sure you keep dropping at the rate you’d like. If not, go back to tracking for a few more weeks. Eventually, you’ll be tracking without even needing to write things down. Now, you’ve made it.
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