Do you know the number of calories you need to lose weight?
If you’re like most Americans, you have no clue of the number of calories needed to maintain your desired weight. Even worse, you probably don’t have a clue about how many you actually are eating every day.
According to a recent survey of over 1,000 people conducted by The International Food Information Council Foundation 63% couldn’t estimate the number, 25% won’t even take a guess and only 12% have an accurate idea of how many calories they eat. That means a whopping 88% of those surveyed are clueless about their “number.”
There is no one-size-fits-all number
Part of the reason is that there is no one-size-fits-all number. Each person is unique and individual caloric requirements vary widely depending on your gender, height, weight, age, and level of physical activity. According to Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, the registered dietician who helped conduct the survey,
“Adult calorie requirements can range from 1,400 to 1,600 a day for a small sedentary woman to 4,000 or more calories a day for a highly trained endurance athlete.”
How Can You Figure Out Your Number?
Here are the 4 things you need to know in order to get a handle on your personal number.
1. What’s the number of calories needed to maintain your desired weight?
Thanks to the internet this number is much easier than ever to calculate. Go to http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html and enter your desired weight. This is the number you want to aim for each day.
Helpful Hint: Use this number instead of a calorie restricted number. Diets don’t work. On the other hand, if you adjust your intake to the number of calories needed to maintain your goal weight, you will automatically lose 1-2 pounds a week, usually without suffering.
2. What’s the number of calories in food?
Again, this information is more easy to find than ever. You can find inexpensive pocket guides near the check-out stand in most grocery stores and there lots of free calorie content websites. Some are better than others. I happen to like this one: www.calorieking.com. And now there’s even an app for that! Check out Livestrong.com’s highly rated (and inexpensive) Calorie Tracker which has the nutritional content of lots of foods and allows you to keep track of what you eat (and burn) during the day. If you eat in restaurants, I highly recommend the bestselling book Eat This Not That by David Zinczenko.
Helpful Hint: If you are serious about knowing the amount of calories in the food you eat, it’s important to be honest about the portion size.
3. How many calories do you actually eat?
Go back to the calorie calculator at http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html. This time enter your actual weight. This will give you an idea of what you are actually eating in order to maintain your current weight.
Helpful Hint: Subtract the number of calories needed to maintain your desired weight from the number to maintain your current weight and you’ll have a good idea of how many calories you need to cut out per day.
4. How many calories do you burn?
Not only do people not know how many calories the eat, they aren’t clear about how many calories they burn each day. 77% of Americans don’t meet the government’s guidelines of 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. That’s not for weight loss, that’s for health!
If you think taking a brisk walk will burn off that cinnamon roll you ate for breakfast prepare yourself for a shock. One Cinnabon contains a whopping 740 calories! Yes, you can “walk it off” but it will take about 2 hours at a brisk 3.5 miles per hour for a 200 pound person. The Mayo Clinic has a handy chart that will give you an idea of how many calories different activities burn in an hour.
Helpful Hint: Use a pedometer app or Fitbit to keep track of how many steps you take per day. Experts recommend 10,000!
While calories aren’t the whole picture, having a solid frame of reference about your calorie intake and output is a key step in creating a lifestyle that fosters a healthy weight and a healthy body.