Counting the calories in each morsel of food that you eat is not the way to go. But you can get a general idea of how many total calories you should eat each day, to either maintain or lose weight, with the following formula:
- First find your BMR (basal metabolic rate: the amount of calories needed to perform your normal bodily functions at rest).
BMR = your current weight × 10
- Next, multiply your BMR by an activity factor.
BMR × 0.30 (for average daily activities)
- Last, add your BMR to your activity factor.
Example for a 130- pound woman
1,300 calories × .30 = 390 activity factor
1,300 + 390 = 1,690 calories per day
People who participate in regular physical activity more than three times a week will need to raise the activity factor to .40–.60.
How to Maintain and Lose Weight
The example shows that an average 130-pound woman can maintain her weight on 1,690 calories per day. Now, let's say she wants to lose a few pounds. To lose weight, she needs to create a negative balance by reducing the amount of daily calories and increasing her exercise to burn even more calories. For instance, she needs to get on a 1,400-calorie food plan, plus work out aerobically 4 –5 days per week. She'd have no problem shedding some weight safely and efficiently.
Plug your own stats into the formula, and figure out what it will take calorically to melt away those unwanted pounds. Understand that no one should ever eat less than 1,200 calories per day; you will slow down your metabolism and set yourself up to gain all the weight back. Even if you are very petite, and the math works out to be less than 1,200—stick with 1,200 calories and jack up your exercise.
If you decide to work with a nutritionist, remember: you want a food partner, not a food dictator! Find a qualified registered dietitian (R.D.) who will move at your pace and make you feel completely comfortable.
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