The Big Statistic - CaloriesYou need a certain number of calories each day to maintain your current weight and level of activity (or inactivity, for many people). If you are underweight, you need to increase your calorie intake and if you are overweight, you need to decrease the number of calories you take in every day and increase your level of physical activity.
How many calories do you need? Probably somewhere from about 1,500 to 3,000 calories per day. Everyone has a basal metabolic rate (BMR) that represents the number of calories you need every day just to wake up, lie there and keep breathing. Men have higher BMRs than women have and as you age your BMR decreases. Your AMR, or active metabolic rate takes your daily physical activities into consideration. Your AMR is the number of calories you need to stay at your current weight. If you want to lose weight, you need to increase your level of physical activity level or decrease your intake of calories. If you reduce your current caloric intake by 500 calories every day, you will lose about one pound each week. Don't go below 1,200 calories each day and don't waste your time on crash diets.
Use my calorie calculators to determine the number of calories you need to lose, gain or maintain your weight.
Keeping a food diary. Studies show that keeping a food diary helps weight loss efforts and I think it will also help you keep track of your food choices. Maybe keeping a food diary doesn't sound like much fun, but it isn't difficult to do and really helps to keep you on track. Even if your weight isn't an issue, you will have more success with your dietary transformation if you keep track of what you eat.
A food diary can be very simple or complex. All you really need is a small notebook to jot down all of the foods you eat. Then you can calculate the totals for whatever you are tracking, which can be calories, or servings of food from each of the food groups, fiber, carbs or fat grams. If your goal is to eat four servings of vegetables every day, or cut back those three daily sugary sodas to just one, you will know if you met your goal at the end of the day.
If you're counting calories, fat grams, carbs or fiber, then you will need to do a little more work. You need to keep track of everything you eat and drink, accurately in your food diary. If you have a difficult time with understanding portion sizes, use a kitchen scale for a while.
Each night you will need to look up your calorie, carb, fat or fiber totals. You can sometimes get the nutrition information, including calories, from the food labels on packaged foods. You can also determine the number of calories by looking at calorie tables or by using an online database such as the one at Calorie Count.
Your Assignments This WeekNext week you will begin the steps of changing the types of foods you eat. This week I want you to pick one or more of the body composition measurements and set up your food diary. If you want to gain or lose weight, determine the number of calories you need each day and keep track of everything you eat.
Choose a goal this week that works for you. Here are two examples:
I will write down everything I eat and drink at least three days this week. Or four days. Or five days.
I will read two of the related articles at the end of the lesson this week. Or three. Or four. Or all of them.
Lesson 1 - Measurements Quiz
Think you got it all down? Take the quiz to make sure you are ready to move on to lesson two.
Related ReadingThese articles will help you learn more and keep you motivated.
- The Importance of Mind-Set: How to Set Realistic Goals
- Body Composition - Body Fat - Body Weight
- What Is One Serving of a Fruit or Vegetable?
Wilmore JH, "Body composition in sport and exercise: directions for future research." Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1983;15(1):21-31.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005. 6th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January 2005.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. "Aim for a Healthy Weight." Obesity Education Initiative.