This is probably one of the more overlooked parts of losing weight: the diet. I actually don’t like to use the word ‘diet’ much because it conjures up images of malnourished girls starving themselves and eating only leafy greens. But your diet really is all about your lifestyle when it comes to food; what and how much you are eating.
Unfortunately, the trouble is that many of us eat as much as we want whatever we want, hit the gym for a few minutes, and wonder what happened when we haven’t lost inches in months. But even with tons of exercise, the average person cannot expect to lose weight and stay healthy without a good understanding of how food affects the body. So I’d like to explain this a little bit. Allow me to get a little geeky and technical?
In simple terms, here is the way the body works:
• You need energy to just be alive, i.e. walk, breathe, move, talk
• You get this energy from food (fat, protein, carbohydrates)
• This energy is measured in kilocalories (or calories as we call it)
• You burn this energy as you do activities so the more you do, the more you burn
• Energy you do not burn is converted to fat and stored in the body
This is why people measure calories because it allows us to get at least some control over what is being stored in our bodies. However, it is usually just an estimate. Understanding these estimates however can be essential if you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle mass.
In reality, it is a tad more complex than this as the number of calories you burn has to do with your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) as well. By the way, BMRs are higher for men than women, which means they can generally get away with eating more. Lucky #&!#&!… We won’t go into that much detail today.
Now, exercise is one of the activities you perform to help burn that energy so we are not storing it all as fat. The trouble is that people tend to underestimate calories and overestimate the amount of energy burned during exercise.
Here is an example: Four pieces of chicken from KFC (two drumsticks and two thighs) is about 820 calories. 10 pieces of fried yellow plantain can go up to like 400 calories. Let’s assume you are a 30 year old woman who is 5ft 6inches (168cm) and weighs 150lbs (68kg). If you only do basic walking about, you should be consuming about 1700 to 1800 calories a day just to maintain your weight.
Now, if you wanted to lose weight, you’d need to burn about 7700 calories to lose 1kg (3500 for 1lb), which means you should probably cut down your caloric intake to about 1500/day to lose 1kg in a month. That fried chicken has already covered most of those calories. If you ran for about 30 minutes, you would probably burn 300 to 400 calories, which is literally just that fried plantain above. People generally eat more than they burn. Do you see why diet is pretty important?
I know, it sucks that you can scarf down four pieces of chicken in 5 minutes, and then take more than an hour to burn those same calories if you were exercising at a high intensity. But this is why eating better is just as important as working out.
The good news though is that you do not have to just eat grass to lose weight. Keeping track of the quality of your food will help keep you fuller longer, and help you not burn through energy quite as easily. For example, eating whole grains, like local rice and beans, rather than long grain white rice, will slow down your digestion so your body has a chance to use more of the energy and prevent you from getting hungry really quickly. So while how much you eat is important, what you eat is also important.
I know we can discuss this in much more detail, but if you’d like to find out some of the simple math behind your weight loss goals, check out these two posts I have with details: Back to The Basics Part I | Back to the Basics Part II