Your 5 step checklist to losing weight

Forget everything you have heard about losing weight and what you think you need to do to lose weight. Let me explain why. The body requires a certain amount of calories each day in order to function and enable it to perform whatever tasks are part of the day. Basically whatever energy is used or spent must be replenished. Say for example per day on average you burn 2500 calories from the point at which you wake up to the moment you go to bed. If you eat 2500 calories worth of food I would be certain that you would stay the same weight, assuming you are not exercising. This is because you have put in what you used. Energy out then energy in. However if you started you exercise or eat less resulting in only 2000 calories going in then I would be pretty certain that you would start to lose weight and vice versa. What I’m trying to say is that the body sees food as energy and depending on how much energy you replenish will determine whether your weight increases or decreases. It’s a numbers game, you want to lose weight? Eat less than what your body needs. This figure I’ve described is referred to most commonly as Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and is the number one factor for determining a change in one’s weight.

Key terms:

  • Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE): the number of calories used by the body to function on a regular day per individual. Think of it as everything you do whilst awake.
  • Basal Metabolic Rate: is the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest. Basically asleep or close to.
  • Physical Activity Level (PAL): the measurement of how active an individual is from sedentary to athlete.
  • Macros (Macronutrients): the 3 main parts that make up any diet. Every food item can be broken down into carbohydrates, fats and protein. Macros can help to organise these areas of your diet.
  • Micros (Micronutrients): describes nutrients and minerals that play an equal part in the diet. However the need to track micros is less important in the grand scheme of things as it’s macros which hold the majority of calories. Unless you are drinking 10 XL milkshakes a day.
  • Split: The percentage or portion of calories allocated to each macronutrient.

1. Calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

The Harris–Benedict equation was the original formula for calculating an individual’s Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). I won’t bore you with the history but basically BMR x Physical Activity Level (PAL) can give a good idea of an estimated TDEE. Please note this is an estimate and I will explain why that’s not a problem in point 4.

BMR

MenBMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) + 5
WomenBMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) – 161

PAL

  • Extremely Inactive or Disabled (0 – 1.39)
  • Sedentary or Office Job (1.4 – 1.69)
  • Moderately Active or Spend a few hours a day standing (1.7 – 1.99)
  • Very Active or have a very physical job (2 – 2.4)

I choose to be conservative and go low with PAL because despite working out hard I do spend most my day at a desk like the majority of the population and this far outweighs the few hours I put in the gym.

Weight loss for most will occur at TDEE – 500 calories e.g. if your TDEE is 2500 calories then you should lose weight at a healthy pace by consuming between 2000 calories a day.

Below is the calculation for myself(male). I find it best to write the formula down with my details then calculate the bracket parts first then sum up.

(10 x 85) + (6.25 x 178) – (5 x 25) + 5 = 1832.5

1832.5 x 1.4 (I have an office job, sadly)  = 2565.5 (TDEE)

2. Choose a Macro split to complement your TDEE target

Now if you are doing moderate to intense exercise like weight training or HIIT you will want to ensure you are getting a good amount of protein into your body each day. As a guide you want to aim for 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight, then fill in the rest with carbs and fat.

However you may feel that it’s too difficult consuming that amount of protein or don’t need to if you don’t exercise intensely. In that case you can be relaxed with protein consumption and maybe apply a split such as 30/30/40 split for macros. Meaning 30% is protein, 30% is fat and 40% is carbs. You are probably thinking 30% fat seems high, but the reason for this is fat is more calorific per gram compared to protein and carbs.

What does this look like in terms of calories?

Calorie target x 0.3 / 4 = grams of protein

Calorie target  x 0.3 / 9 = grams of fat

Calorie target x 0.4 / 4 = grams of carbs

Example

2000 x 0.3 = 600 calories per day = 150g of protein per day (Calories/4)

2000 x 0.3 = 600 calories per day = 66.6g of fat per day (Calories/9)

2000 x 0.4 = 800 calories per day = 200g of carbs per day (Calories/4)

Take the above example as a guide. You will need to base your macros on how much protein your body needs relative to your weight and physical activity.

3. Track your calorie intake

I personally use MyFitnessPal because it’s free for tracking macros and does a pretty good job at it. You simply set your calorie limit then choose the macro split and then log your meals while the app calculates what you eat. Once you have downloaded and registered you will be asked to set your goals. Once you have setup, go to the ‘Goals’ section from the Menu and you should see the screen below (left). From here you need to select ‘Calorie, Carbs, Protein and Fat Goals’ which will lead you to the screen below (right). Here you select your Macros, and approtion a percentage to each macronutrient.

4. Record your progress weekly

For the next two weeks weigh yourself first thing in the morning and record it on a notepad. At the end of the two weeks on average have you lost weight or gained. If you have lost between 0.5 – 1kg (1-2 pounds) then you’re on the right track. Any less then reduce calories by 100-200, any more then add 100-200 and then assess for another two weeks.

Now this process will require some time for your body to adjust and reflect the change in calories. Equally you will have to adjust your lifestyle to accommodate tracking your food consumption and maybe opting to cook more meals rather than picking the easy option.

It took me a few weeks to get to grips with tracking my food, prepping it then remembering to weigh myself every morning but eventually it became routine and I started seeing food as numbers rather than consumable matter.

Based on your findings from above you should now understand what has to be done to achieve your ideal weight and hopefully will have lost some weight over the previous four weeks. Now you should be looking to set a goal weight for the next few months or maybe longer.

5. Set a long term goal

Calculate what the average weight loss per week has been then with that in mind work out how many weeks it will take for you to get to your goal weight. If it’s more than 12 then you may want to consider doing it in blocks. Four weeks cutting then allow yourself a week of eating an extra 100-200 calories then proceed with another four week block. This process is mainly beneficial for your mental state but some don’t need the regular breaks and can stay on a cut until they reach their goal. My best advice is to use this process to better understand food and nutrition. Think of it this way the body burns a certain amount of energy to function on a regular day. If you put this same amount of energy back in your weight should stay constant, if you put less in than you lose weight and so on.


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