The amount of calories you need to eat to be healthy depends on many different factors including your age, body size and health goals. Males typically need more calories per day than females, all other things being equal. If you are trying to lose weight, your daily caloric intake is going to be less than if you are trying to put on weight or just even just maintaining your current weight.
You can find out just how many calories your body uses on a daily basis by calculating your basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories in a day your body needs at a minimum to maintain its basic functions.
There are many resources out there than can do this for you. The famous Mayo Clinic has a calorie calculator at MayoClinic.com. FitBit and DailyBurn have one as part of their calorie counting programs.
My favorite is the My Plate Calorie Tracker App from Livestrong. I’ve used their food tracker and exercise journal app for years. It has a section that will calculate your daily caloric needs as well. You just enter in your age, your height, your weight and your general activity level. Obviously a marathoner is going to need more calories to sustain her workouts than a couch potato needs.
The tools on Livestrong.com can also help you to learn just what a normal portion size is for the foods you eat – what one serving of chicken is, how many calories are in one serving of pasta, for example. Most of us were never really taught what moderate portion sizes are and what healthy meals are. We just ate the food that was put in front of us. And we still do. Educating yourself on the calories that are in certain foods and what moderate portion sizes look like will help you for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.
When it comes to loosing weight, in the most basic, simplest terms, it comes down to this: calories IN vs. calories OUT. Or the number of calories eaten vs. the number of calories burned. At very advanced levels, there is a difference in the types of calories you eat and the way you burn calories. All calories are not created equal when it comes to your body’s biochemistry. But for now, just concentrate on when you burn more calories in a day than you take in, you will lose weight.
A pound of fat is equates approximately to 3500 calories. So if every day you burn 500 calories more than you take in, then over a week you will lose one pound in a healthy way. You can either eat 500 calories less per day than you usually do so over a week to lose that pound. Or you can burn 500 calories more by exercising than you usually do to lose that pound. Of course, you can also do a combination of the two.
If you are trying to lose weight, don’t forget about that metabolic fire of yours. Don’t stop eating and burn yourself out with exercise. Take a slow and steady approach. It might take longer, but your clothes will start to feel better on you, your energy levels will pick up and that scale will start moving in the right direction.
*Exerpted from the Being Well Lifestyles Home Study Course by Dr. Jay Warren.
Drawing on over two decades of experience as a hands-on holistic practitioner, Dr. Jay Warren is a primary healthcare provider and licensed chiropractor in the San Diego area. He has spent tens of thousands of clinical hours helping his patients achieve their optimal health potential through holistic approaches bolstered by years of personal experimentation, education and research. Dr. Jay creates customized plans integrating exercise, nutrition and stress management strategies to overcome a myriad of health challenges. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.DrJayWarren.com.