Q: How
do I know how many calories I should consume?
A: To determine your approximate caloric needs, you can
easily compute your basal metabolic rate. This is the number of
calories your body needs to maintain its basic functions and
your current weight. You can determine your BMR by multiplying
your current weight by 10. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds,
then eating 1,800 calories a day would be your BMR.
However, this
computation doesn't take into account exercise or your activity
level. For example, since someone who exercises regularly can
bring in more calories and still be at their maintenance weight,
their BMR would be higher. Other issues like genetics, age and
the amount of body fat/muscle you have can also affect your
caloric needs.
Q: How
can I track my caloric needs?
A: An easy way to give yourself a personalized assessment
of your caloric needs is to keep a detailed food and activity
journal for a week or two before you begin dieting. You can
obtain a calorie counter at any bookstore or use a calorie
counting tool like the one at The USDA National Nutrient
Database.
Record
everything you eat and drink every day. Calculate your calories
on a daily basis and record your weight at the end of each week.
If your weight is the same as when you started, then you are at
your BMR. If it is higher, then you are eating more than your
BMR. (Both scenarios assume that your activity level is
consistent.) This is the starting place for you to begin cutting
down on those calories coming in.
Now's the
time to begin planning your meals with their caloric content in
mind. Working your way down a few hundred calories at a time
will be the easiest way to adjust to lowering your
calorieintake. You can do this quite "painlessly" to start
with. For example, simply cutting out a few colas per day your
normally drink will save you hundreds of calories.
Q: When
will I see results?
A: Any calorie deficit you create will eventually lead to
results. As a rule of thumb, 3,500 calories is equal to one
pound. For example, if you eat 250 calories per day fewer than
your maintenance rate requires and exercise enough to burn an
additional 250 calories each day, you will lose approximately
one pound per week.
