Thursday, July 12, 2012

Your Body Runs Like a Car. . .

*It took a really long time for me to figure this out, so I hope this post helps you.

When it comes to losing weight, "One-size-doesn't-fit-all". Everyone's always rushing to try out the newest fad, but most people don't get the great results that the different companies advertise.  Why? Because everyone's body is different.

I use the produce in my basket to help me lose weight, but I also count calories, because eating too much healthy food can make you gain weight too. (It's just harder to eat too much of it because it has a lower calorie density.) Most people think that we burn 2000 calories a day, and that to lose weight, you should eat 1200. The problem is, the RDA of 2000 calories a day is an average. Some people will lose weight eating that much. Others will gain. And for some, dropping their intake to 1200 cal/day will starve their bodies.

I was getting ready the other day, and suddenly it hit me how similar our bodies are to the vehicles we drive. How are they similar?  

1- Cars need fuel to drive. Without gas, the car won't start. You use up more gas when you're driving your car a lot, but it's using gas even when it's idling.

Food is the fuel for our bodies. If we don't eat, our bodies will stop working. People who exercise a lot or have a lifestyle that requires heavy exertion need to eat more. The difference between our bodies and our vehicles is that our bodies are always "idling". It takes energy for our heart to beat, our brain to think, and our other organs to function.  We only stop burning calories when we die.

2-Smaller cars get better gas mileage.  That means they can go farther using the same amount of gas as a bigger car.

Lighter people burn less calories. It's difficult for our bodies to carry around the extra weight, so they have to work harder. That means you have to be adjusting what you eat as you lose weight, or your progress will stall.

So how do you figure out the amount of "fuel" your body needs?

First: Figure out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).  Your BMR is the number of calories you burn "idling". If you were completely sick and couldn't even get out of bed, this is the number of calories your body would need to keep itself alive. There's a complicated math equation to find your BMR, but I'd rather use this BMR calculator. (It usually shocks people to learn how many calories they burn doing nothing.)

Once you know your BMR, you can find out approximately how many calories your body needs to maintain your current weight. Simply multiply BMR by one of these numbers, depending on how active your lifestyle is.

If you are sedentary (no exercise, sit around a lot), multiply BMR X 1.2
If you are lightly active and get some exercise, multiply BMR X 1.375
If you are moderately active, multiply BMR X 1.55
Very Active/Heavy Exercise, multiply BMR X1.725
Professional Athlete, multiply BMR by 1.9

I'll share my stats with you to make it less confusing. I'm 5'11", and when I started losing weight almost a year ago, I weighed 132 lbs. That means my BMR was 1872.4. I started exercising several days a week (moderately active = multiply 1872.4 x 1.55), which means I was burning about 2900 calories a day. If I ate more than that, I would gain weight. If I ate less, I would lose it.

To lose weight, we just have to eat less than we burn. If we our body doesn't have enough fuel, it burns fat instead (Think of fat as our "reserve gas tank"). The general rule for a safe rate of weight loss is to eat 500-1000 calories less than you burn. So if I was burning 2900 calories/day, I could eat between 1900 and 2400 calories and lose 1-2 lbs/week. If I dropped below 1900 calories, there would be such a huge difference between what I eat and what I burn, that my body would think I was starving and start slowing itself down.  If my body slows down, I burn less calories, and lose less fat. This is what people refer to as "starvation mode".

One thing to note is that even this equation doesn't take everything into account. You can speed up or slow down your BMR based on your lifestyle (Your BMR is basically your metabolism). This page will give you some ideas of things you can do to speed it up in a healthy way.

What it comes down to is listening to your body. Trust me, it will tell you what it needs.

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