CALORIE COUNTING-Frequently asked questions-PLEASE READ!
Hello everyone, and welcome to the calorie counting section here at 3FC. I, and many here, are long time successful calorie counters. :) Losing weight is all about calories in vs. calorie out, and best of all, it's FREE! :D
This thread is going to consist of frequently asked questions that we often get here by new calorie counters. Read through these, and see if the question you want to ask is already answered here. If there is a question and answer that you would like me to add to this thread, please let me know. :)
How many calories should I be eating?
There is no set number that is perfect for everyone. Everyone's calorie needs are different, and while there are many online calorie calculators out there, they are really just guestimates. The only real way to know how many calories to eat per day is through trial and error. Basically, you have to find out what works for YOU.
Here are some factors that will play into your caloric needs:
How much you exercise: Calorie counting is all about taking in less calories than you burn each day, so someone who exercises regularly is going to be able to eat more calories than someone of the same body size who doesn't. Someone who walks 5 miles a day is going to burn more calories than someone who walks 1 mile.
How active you are in everyday life: A waitress, aerobics instructor, or a construction worker is going to have a more physically demanding job than someone who sits at a desk and computer all day. This will affect your calorie needs.
How much you weigh: The more you weigh, the more calories you use per day. Think about it-if a 250 pound woman, and a 150 pound woman walk a mile together, the woman carrying 100 extra pounds of resistance with her is having to work much harder-and this is true walking stairs, and doing all of the everyday activities. So, your starting weight will have a lot to do with your starting calorie level.
Here is a good starting guide for you to begin self testing your personal calorie needs:
Over 300 pounds: Start at around 2000 calories a day.
Over 200 pounds: Start at around 1800 calories a day.
151-199 pounds: Start at around 1600 per day.
150 pounds or less: Start at around 1500 a day.
To find out your personal calorie level for weight loss, you simply find your starting point, and weigh in. Try the calorie level above for a week, and weigh in again. If you have weight loss of 1-3 pounds, then you are on the right track. If you show no loss at all, then drop it down by 100 calories a day, and see what happens the next week. On the other hand, if you show a huge loss-then you would probably be better off adding 100 calories a day to that level. And so on and so forth...
As you lose weight, your calorie needs will change. You might lose just fine for the first 2 months at 1600 calories a day. 20 pounds down the path, the weight loss stops. You don't lose anything for a couple of weeks. This is when it is time to go to the next level. Drop your calories down by 100 to 1500 to get things moving again.
**Increase Your Activity, Too!**
I would like to note, however, that dropping calories is only PART of changing your calories taken in/burned scenario. This can also be tweaked by increasing exercise as well-so dropping calories at every stall isn't always the best choice. If you have been in the game for a while, it might be time to increase your activity, or at least the intensity of it, at times as well to get things moving downward instead.
It is also important to increase your fitness level as well, to continue to see improvements in your body. After 2 months of doing the same walk, or the same hand weights, or the same Pilates video-it isn't quite as challenging as it might have been when you started. This means you have become fitter, and you need to step it up to get even more so. If you walk 1 mile a day-try walking 1 1/2 or 2...if you use light 3 pound hand weights with a dvd, then maybe you need to get a set of 5 pound weights instead. If you are doing beginners yoga, maybe try an intermediate level class or dvd. Keep increasing your fitness level, and you will not only be burning more calories, but your body will get better and better. :)
So, if it is all about the calories...can I just eat whatever I want?
Well, yes and no.
Losing weight is about calories in vs. calories out, but there are also plenty of thin, or even skinny, people out there with high blood pressure, cancers, heart problems, high cholesterol, and other health concerns. Skinny doesn't equal healthy. The goal is to be not only thinner, but to get fitter and healthier as well by changing our lifestyles.
Your body is a machine, that needs fuel to perform. It needs protein to fuel the muscles. It needs fat for the organs, skin and hair. It needs the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables. It needs fiber for the digestive system. It needs calcium for the bones and teeth. If you don't give it what it needs, then it suffers, and doesn't perform properly. If it doesn't get what it needs-then it can even put you at a higher risk for diseases.
The same goes with excess-too much sugar, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium can cause or aggravate health issues as well.
One of the benefits of calorie counting is that nothing is forbidden, but on the same note, a treat should be just that-a treat.
Are 100 Calorie Packs, fat free puddings, etc. okay?
It is all about moderation! When our grandparents and great grandparents were young, people didn't eat out at restaurants every day, every week, or even every month. We didn't keep chips, ice cream, and so on in the cabinets. There was no such thing as Pop-Tarts...
There was REAL food. Things such as soda, ice cream, and restaurant meals were TREATS. They were eaten for special dinners out, going out on a date, birthday parties, and so on. They were not eaten on a daily basis.
Treats should be just that-a treat-not part of your everyday diet.
This is especially important not only for weight loss, but for general health. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a piece of cake, or a donut-when it is done in moderation as an occasional treat.
You have to be careful for a few reasons:
~Sugar and refined carbs are addicting! Seriously-the more chips and sweets you eat, the more you crave. This is why many plans such as South Beach and Atkins have an induction phase, or phase 1-because it is the part of the program that breaks the refined carb addiction by completely omitting them-and people actually suffer withdrawal symptoms! :o
If you are on a low calorie diet, and you have a sweet refined thing early in the day, you are more likely to crave it later in the day as well.
Try to go for moderation, eating treats (even low cal, fat free ones!) only occasionally, and to help a bit with the craving cycle-try to have it at the end of the day, so you are sleeping through the "sugar crash".
~On a low calorie diet, all calories matter!
If you are eating a low calorie diet for weight loss, then you are going to have to get more bang for your buck with your calories, to get in all of the vital nutrients, protein, and fiber in your day. If you are eating 300 calories of diet "treats" a day, that is 1/4 of your daily intake for someone eating 1200 calories a day...1/5 of your intake for someone eating 1500 a day. Try to keep your treats at 10% or less of your intake per day. (120 calories for a 1200 calorie plan, 180 calories for an 1800 calorie plan, etc.)
Sweets and treats are still empty calories!
Should I stop eating at night/in the evening?
There are lots of plans, and old wives tales that mention not eating in the evening, or snacking after dinner.
If you are a calorie counter, and you stay in your calorie range for the day, then there is absolutely no problem with eating a snack after dinner in the evening.
The problem that can sometimes occur, is that many people watch tv, or sit in the recliner in the evening, and as a habitual thing, they munch. Mindless munching-hands in the chip bag. Lots of empty calories. This is a prime binge time for many.
However, if your snack is portion controlled, and you are within your daily calorie goals, there is nothing wrong with having a piece of fruit, a bit of cereal, or a bite of chocolate in the evening. It will not effect your weight loss. Calorie in vs. calories out, over the course of time, is what causes weight loss-and it makes no difference if that 100 calorie snack was eaten at 10am, or 8pm.
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