Whether you fight a constant battle with weight problems or only feel that you need to lose a few pounds, losing weight is a topic that seems to be top on our minds. Special diet books consistently rank amongst best-sellers on the shelves, and websites catering to weight loss rake in profits every day. It’s impossible to watch television or open our email without being assaulted by “magic pills” that are guaranteed to help us lose weight; and even if we are ruled by the knowledge of health disasters like ephedra, these ads can be very tempting.
The true secret to weight loss is a very simple one, although it can be a challenge. Just a few small changes that you make in your every-day lifestyle will help you lose the extra pounds without resorting to the expense (both financial and physical) of fad diets.
Step One: Calculate Your BMR
Your base metabolic rate, or BMR, is the calculation of what your body needs to function properly. Your BMR maintains functions like breathing and digestion. In other words, figuring out what your BMR is shows you how many calories you do need to eat per day if you were just lying around in bed doing nothing but breathing and blinking.
Using your BMR as a starting point, you can figure out how many calories you need to cut per day. If you want to lose weight, you need to run a calorie deficit; you need to be burning more calories than you’re eating. The tricky part to this, which many people ignore, is that you still have to get enough calories for your BMR. If you don’t eat enough calories per day, you’re definitely going to lose weight … but some of that weight will be muscle loss instead of fat loss. Not healthy.
To calculate your BMR, try using this free online calculator: http://www.caloriesperhour.com/index_burn.html . Once you have your results, jot them down on a piece of paper for reference.
Step Two: Calculate Your Activity Level
Common sense, maybe, but it’s worth repeating: the more active you remain throughout the day, the more calories you burn. You can probably see the circle now – your activity level and your BMR go hand-in-hand, working as an endless cycle.
Using a calorie calculator, you can get a good idea of how many calories you’d be able to burn per day by doing simple things like walking and light exercise, to more determined pursuits like weight lifting.
To calculate your activity level, visit this free online calculator: http://exercise.about.com/cs/fitnesstools/l/blcalorieburn.htm which will use your current weight, the type of exercise, and the amount of time you can afford to spend doing that exercise to tell you how many calories you’re going to burn. Take note of the results – if you use this calculator realistically, you can plug it right into the BMR results.
Compare your BMR results with your activity level results. Have you come up with several activities to perform each day that will result in a calorie deficit? If so, you can come up with a quick schedule that reminds you to do, for example, a 20 minute run each Wednesday and 30 minutes of aerobics every Friday.
Step Three: Keep Track
Use a blank journal to record 3 things:
1. Your BMR (updated once every 3 weeks as you check your weight).
2. Your activities and how many calories – based on the calculator – you have burned doing them.
3. Your food, and how many calories you are eating.
If you’d like to go the techie way, FitDay.com has a free online diet and fitness journal that you can sign up for here: http://www.fitday.com.
As you keep track of these 3 things, you’ll notice that you pay a lot more attention to all the little things you do every day. Instead of having that coke for an after-lunch treat, you might choose to grab some water and save yourself about 100 calories.
If you’re eating fewer calories than you’re burning, you’ll lose weight. How much? Well, look at it this way – by burning an extra 500 calories a day, you’ll lose one pound each week. Slow progress, sure, but it’s a perfect illustration of how, by keeping track of what you’re doing, you can succeed at losing weight.
Focusing on the small daily changes outlined in this article, just 3 little things, will help you reach your weight loss goals. It definitely isn’t the magic pill that will help you lose 30 pounds in 5 days, but it is a way of permanently changing your life and health for the better.
After all, when you feel good, you look good – and better health is a sure way to achieve that.