Life & Living
Health & Fitness
I’m a 41 year old mother of two & Personal Fitness coach. I work one to one, in person & online with clients aged 18-80. My specialisms include pre & postnatal training, cancer rehab, pilates, & GP exercise referrals. I run fitness classes online and in person in the Suffolk Coastal area. I am also a Mental Health First aider.
Do you really need to count calories?
If you are someone who is trying to lose body fat, either for health or aesthetic reasons, you will no doubt have come across many calorie restricted weight loss plans. You may also have come across the phrase ‘Calorie deficit’.
But what does it all mean? Do you have to count calories in order to lose fat?
Let’s start at the beginning. Numerous factors influence the ease with which someone can lose body fat, but here is a simplified explanation.
A calorie is simply a unit of energy. In nutritional terms, calories are the energy we get from the food and drink we consume, and the energy we expend when doing physical activity. Every person will have a different daily calorie requirement based on their individual circumstances. This figure is known as our TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). TDEE is made up of the calories needed by our bodies in order to perform essential functions to keep us alive, plus the calories needed to carry out all the additional physical activities we do in a day.
If the calories we consume from food each day are equal to the TDEE (the amount of calories we use each day), then our weight will stay the same. If our calorie intake is greater than our TDEE (a calorie surplus), our body will store the excess calories as fat. If our calorie intake is lower than our TDEE (a calorie deficit), our body will have to use stored calories in order to make up the deficit. This is how we begin to lose body fat, as the body dips into the stored energy (fat).
Now, I’m not against calorie counting per say, everything has a time and a place. However, for the average person who wants to lose a little body fat, it can be unnecessary and often quite stressful to count, weigh and measure every morsel of food and drink you consume. There are much easier ways to create a calorie deficit.
It takes approximately 3600 excess calories for someone to gain 1lb of body fat. The NHS recommends weight loss of 1-2lbs a week to be safe and sustainable. Studies have shown that people who lose weight gradually at this rate are much more likely to sustain their results in the longterm when compared with people who go on crash diets, or join weight loss programmes where they are rewarded for losing as much weight each week as possible.
So what does this mean? It means that to begin to lose weight you should aim to create a deficit of around 3600 – 7200 calories per week (500-1000 calories per day).
While on the face of it this may seem a lot, it can be easily achieved without causing major stress and disruption to your life.
Easy ways to create a calorie deficit.
Cut out, or reduce habits that you know are unhelpful.
You know what I’m talking about! Instead of 2 glasses of wine with dinner, have just 1. That alone could save you 200 calories per day! Fond of choccy biccies? Instead of 4, have 2, which could save you around another 160 cals per day. That’s already a daily saving of 360 calories, while still getting to enjoy wine and chocolate!
Eat what you love, but just tweak the serving sizes.
While starchy carbs like rice and pasta are delicious, and provide our bodies with essential nutrients, they are also very calorie dense, meaning we can take in a large amount of calories from a single serving. A good way to moderate your serving size is to aim to have a serving size no larger than a quarter of your plate. Make the other quarter a serving of protein which will help keep you feeling fuller for longer, and load the remaining half of your plate with delicious, nutrient-rich veg.
Increase your TDEE through movement.
The more we move our bodies throughout the day, the more energy (calories) our bodies will use. How you move is up to you, but do something you enjoy so that you’re more likely to stick at it, whether that’s going to the gym, a pilates class, going for a walk, or dancing while you do the housework! Every little helps! Walking for just 30 mins each day could see you use another 200 cals. Add that to the reduced wine, biscuits and smaller carbs serving, and you’ve easily created a 500 cal per day deficit and are on your way to that sustainable 1lb per week fat loss.