Why It’s Not Just About Calories In vs. Calories Out, But It Is

I’m am constantly asked how I’ve lost 52lbs. Aside from getting 10,000 steps daily (half of which come from my workouts), it’s about calorie allotment. But I constantly hear:

“What did you do? I can’t seem to budge the 20lbs I want to lose.”

Fitbit Screen Shot

Getting 10,000 steps a day burns a lot of calories, which you have to take into consideration when you plan your daily calories.

For many people it’s a constant struggle to get in daily exercise or maintain a healthy diet, let alone lose a few pounds. I have found that there are two things most people don’t understand about weight loss:

  • Calories In vs Calories Out
  • It’s not just calories in vs calories out

Calories In vs Calories Out

This is probably the most misunderstood thing about weight loss. Most people know you have to have a caloric deficit in order to lose weight, but they don’t understand exactly what that means.

There are a number of apps and calculators out there to help you determine what your caloric deficit should be based on weight, height, how much weight you want to lose per week and BMR (basal metabolic rate). In fact, My Fitness Pal is a great tool for this.

BUT, just because MFP says you need to eat 1500 calories a day doesn’t mean that’s what you are supposed to eat. Let me explain.

Basal Metabolic Rate

There are a few things we need to know before we delve into caloric deficits.

First is your BMR, or basal metabolic rate. This is how many calories your body burns just to stay alive. So if you do absolutely nothing all day, your BMR is how many calories your body will burn to keep your brain functioning and heart pumping. BMR is based on height, weight, sex and age.  A good BMR calculator can be found here.

BMI & BMR Calculator Screen Shot

This is the screen shot of the calculator I used to determine my BMR and HBE.

We’ll use me as an example. I’m a 36 year old female, 5’9 and 190lbs (only 30 more to go Woohoo!!).

So based on the above information, my BMR is 1636.3, don’t ask me what the formula is, I use a calculator. Math is not my forte!!

Another useful number to know is your HBE or Harris-Benedict Equation, which is also known as Basal Energy Expenditure. This nifty little number tells you how many calories you should be eating based on your BMR and activity level to maintain your weight. My HBE is 2250.32. (You can find a good HBE calculator here.)

Interestingly, my BMI (body mass index) is now 28.06, down from 31!! YA!!!

Daily Calorie Allotments

Ok, so what do all these numbers mean? Knowing your BMR and HBE can help you determine how many calories you need to eat to realistically lose weight without starving yourself.

There’s a bit of math involved, (it’s easy I swear, because I can do it) so we’ll make it easy and use 1500 calories as our daily calorie goal. All calorie goals are based on the standard 2000 calorie diet used for maintaining weight and determining caloric content of food on packaging.

So if your goal is 1500 calories, that means you need a 500 calorie deficit daily to lose weight. Simple enough right? Nope.

Lets say you work out and burn an extra 500 calories. Now, if you eat only 1500 calories, you have a 1000 calorie deficit. Wait what?

1500 calories + 500 burned calories = 2000 calorie allotment

If you were on a standard 2000 calorie diet, the math would look like this:

2000 calories + 500 burned calories = 2500 calorie allotment

So, if you only eat 1500 calories after a grueling workout, you have a 1000 calorie deficit because you should be eating 2500 (based on the typical 2000 calorie diet).

The moral of the story is:

If you exercise, you need to eat as man calories as you burn during the workout.

My Fitness Pal Screen Shot

Example of how MFP adjusts your calorie allotment based on the amount of exercise you do. My Fitbit adjusts my calorie allotment. I got over 10,000 steps on this particular day.

If you don’t, you’re body will store fat instead of burn it because it will go into starvation mode.

It will also be much harder to build lean muscle because your body will try to burn muscle instead of fat. Muscle is a lot easier for your body to burn than fat, and you need lean muscle because it increases your metabolism.

My Fitness Pal is a great app for this because all you have to do is add in the approximate number of calories you burned during your workout, and it adds them into your daily calorie allotment.

It takes the guess work out of it, and if you have a Fitbit or other activity tracker, you can link it with MFP and it will automatically adjust your calorie allotment for you. You don’t have to do a thing!

It’s Not All Calories In vs Calories Out

But unfortunately, it’s not all about calories in vs calories out. While that is a major part of the equation, the type of calories you consume also plays a major role.

I’ll delve into this more in a later post, but suffice it to say if you are eating a lot of processed foods, foods that contain high fructose corn syrup (or just corn syrup) or foods with added sugars such as maltodextrin, your sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

Excess sugar is turned into fat in the body and although exercise does speed up the process and prevent some of the excess sugar from becoming fat, it’s not a miracle cure.

I’ll delve into the biochemistry and alternative options in my post later this week, but for now, stay away from processed foods and any added sugar (and yes, that means the sugar in your coffee!).

How are you doing on your weight loss journey? Tell me in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!


My 2015 Fitness Plan – Getting Back on Track

FitbitDuring the last part of 2014, I got a wee bit off track. I wasn’t sticking to my diet like I should’ve; I was eating all kinds of junk like birthday cake and tons of other sweets. I even stopped logging my food in My Fitness Pal.

But I didn’t stop wearing my Fitbit!

I’ve lost a total of 51lbs, and I really don’t want to put all that weight back on, so I’ve decided I need to get back on track.

One of my goals this year is to lose the last 30lbs for a total weight loss of 81lbs. To do that, I need to stop screwing around.

So this is what I’m planning to do to reach my goal weight. Keep Reading →

Getting Ready for 2015

I can’t believe it’s almost 2015. Wow, how time flies.

Since the New Year is just a few days away, it’s time to make New Years resolutions. WOOHOO!!

I actually love New Years resolutions. I always think of it as a clean slate, a chance to make a fresh start. The problem is, I always have a laundry list of resolutions.Troubles Last Resolutions image

This year will be no different. I still have a laundry list of resolutions, but this time, I’m going to take it one resolution at at time.

So let me share my resolutions with you (some of which are not weight loss related, but I thought I’d share them anyway for accountability), and then I’ll tell you want I’m going to do to make sure I don’t fail this time. Keep Reading →

Xbox Kinect Weight Loss Success!!!

35 lbs to go!It’s official!! I have been successful in losing weight with the Xbox Kinect!! Drum roll please…

I have lost 51lbs!!

That’s right, 51lbs! I actually thought I had only lost 35lbs based on my numbers, but apparently I was off a wee bit! For once, I’m happy to admit I was wrong!

In other news, back in July, I was a bad patient and stopped taking my blood pressure pill.

I had been checking my blood pressure regularly and found that on the medication, my blood pressure was staying around 120/89 to 130/94, which I wasn’t happy with. When I stopped the medication, my blood pressure would stay around 120/85, which is much better. Keep Reading →

Vegan Tuna Salad Recipe

I’ve recently been on a sandwich kick. One thing I really miss being vegan is the sandwiches I used to eat during lunch. So I’ve been trying to find alternatives and so far, I have found some divinely delectable recipes.

Most recently, I discovered a vegan tuna salad recipe. It actually comes out looking and tasting like tuna!

Vegan Tuna Recipe

I was surprised how good this actually tasted.

It’s made with chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans and three tablespoons of vegan mayo. It’s absolutely delicious. The original recipe can be found in The Happy Herbivore Cookbook: Over 175 Delicious Fat-Free and Low-Fat Vegan Recipes on page 113 (affiliate link). I’ve changed things around a little, so this is my version of the recipe. Keep Reading →

Working Out Before Bed: Exercise and Sleep

Up Before the Ass Crack of Dawn

I’m typically up before the sun rises.

Finding the time to workout can be difficult. We’re all extremely busy. If we’re not working, we’re taking care of the family and household, running errands or sleeping.

If you’re trying to lose weight, getting in daily exercise can prove to be rather tricky. If you’re one of those people who gets their workout in just before bed, you’ve probably heard that doing so can disrupt your sleep pattern and wreak havoc on your sleep quality. But this isn’t necessarily the case. Keep Reading →

The Benefit of Fitness Trackers

Fitbit ForceI’m a huge fan of anything that motivates someone (especially me) to be more active and get fit. Fitness trackers like the Fitbit Force, or Jawbone Up are excellent at motivating the wearer to get up off the couch and get moving.

Personally, I have a Fitbit Force, which is no longer made by Fitbit. In fact, they recalled it in February of 2014. I have yet to send mine back. Keep Reading →

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Fitness Trackers of 2014

I love my Fitbit Force.

I really do. In fact, I think it’s one of the best fitness trackers out there. But I’m a little biased.

I have found it to be extremely motivating, especially on days when I work out. I always strive to reach a minimum of 5,000 steps during a workout so that I can easily hit 10,000 steps by the end of the day. So on the days I feel like I just don’t want to keep going, or don’t want to do the classes that get me the most steps (and incidently raise my heart rate the most), my Fitbit is there to taunt me by letting me know I’m nowhere near my minimum of 5,000 steps or that I’m only 200 steps away.

Fitbit Force

I love my Fitbit Force.

Keep Reading →

Should You Exercise When You’re Sick?

This is a common question among those of us trying to lose weight. When we exercise, obviously our heart rate increases and blood circulates around the body much faster. This means the immune cells, especially the sentinel cells, flow around the body much master than they normally would, which is one of the reasons exercise improves the immune system. But is it wise to exercise when your immune system is already compromised by sickness?

Pardon My Absence

You may have noticed I haven’t been posting recently.

Despite all the vitamin C I take, last week I actually caught the common cold. I know, crazy right? A patient came in who had just gotten back from a visit up north, and I figured I would probably catch something for one simple reason. Keep Reading →

Vegan Mayonnaise Recipe

Most of you may know that I’m a vegan. I started out vegetarian and then went vegan about three years ago. I originally did it for health reasons and now, it’s the morality of the thing. Since becoming vegan, I’ve had the opportunity to try a number of different recipes from various vegan cookbooks and I’m going to be sharing some of my favorites on this blog in the weeks to come. This one is probably my absolute favorite.

If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen this picture before:

Vegan Mayo

Vegan mayo made with cashews.

Keep Reading →