Calories. I’ve mentioned caloric density a few times. For managing weight I need to have a ballpark idea about calories. I am not a fan of diets that say you don’t have to understand calories to lose weight on their program. I can’t control something that I can’t measure, and the basic unit of measure for energy in food is calories. The only reason I wouldn’t need to have a grasp of the energy I am consuming is if somebody has already measured it for me. Which makes me dependent on that program and what they’re selling. I’m a hands-on kinda gal – I’d rather get under the hood, see for myself what is going on and tinker around with things. So I need to know about calories.
Of course, it’s all well and good to know how many calories I’m consuming, but that doesn’t tell me anything without knowing how many I SHOULD be consuming. And that’s where BMR comes in. BMR stands for Base Metabolic Rate. It’s the number of calories your body burns just by existing – breathing, blinking, powering your brain and muscles. Once you know what your “burn rate” is you know what to aim for every day. It used to be we had to use a rule of thumb, but hey look the internet – here’s a handy calculator.
The thing that happened for me once I understood this value is I was able to divorce my feelings from the whole drama of the scale and make it just a mathematical game. I can focus on the numbers and make a plan to balance them how I want. Now it’s a challenge! Let’s say, for example, that my BMR is 1500 (it’s not, but let’s just say). Now I know that if I consume 1500 calories today and do no exercise whatsoever, my weight should stay exactly the same. But also, I know that if I consume 1500 calories every day this week but also exercise enough to burn 500 calories a day, I will lose a pound this week! (1 pound is approximately equal to 3500 calories). But also, I can play with how I want to deficit those calories – I could, for example, consume 300 fewer calories every day this week, then exercise enough to burn only 200 calories every day, and I will still lose a pound because my total deficit would still be 500 calories a day, multiplied by seven days this week.
This works as a long-term barometer. Like most realities with weight management, my body isn’t a machine, so there are other things that can affect the final numbers on the scale. My body retains and releases water for any number of reasons that can skew my weight up or down, but as a general rule, deficiting calories based on my BMR is the way to know what’s going on under the hood.
So I’d recommend checking out the numbers, and seeing if they’re something that can help you focus on the science and make a numbers game of it.