Calories are not for Counting

All calories are not created equal, and because of this, calories shouldn't be obsessed over. But when we use the My Fitness Pal app, it’s front and center and hard to avoid. It’s not bad to check in with your calories every once in a while… as long as you don’t become fanatical about it. Remember, it’s the way food affects your hormones that matters most.
Another downside is that My Fitness Pal automatically defaults you to 1200 calories. This can make you feel like that’s the amount of calories you should be shooting for.  

Hear me now beautiful friends: this is way too low for many people and can be counterproductive to your health goals.

Please remember, when your body doesn’t get sufficient calories it slows down metabolism to save energy and protect you from running out of fuel. This is part of our incredible design. Way way back before food was as overly abundant as it is today, humans didn’t always have enough food available. They lived in a feast and famine kind of environment. Sometimes there was plenty, sometimes there was not. Part of the reason their bodies could survive the lean times is because their metabolism slowed down to conserve energy.  So please don’t think: the less calories the better. That can really come back to bite you in the hiney in the long run.

That said, get out your calculators. Here’s how to calculate your calorie needs (this is the formula for women).

Women: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161.

If you’re mathematically challenged as I am, this looks like Chinese.  Amiright?  So unless you are a math wiz and remember your order of operations and all that jazz you might need this broken down. I did that for you step by step. Ready?

1. Determine your weight in kilograms by multiplying your weight by .4535

    Ex: 130 x .4535 = 58.955

2. Multiply this number by 10

    Ex: 58.955 x 10 = 589.55

3. Determine your height in centimeters by multiplying your height (in inches) by 2.54

    Ex: 66” x 2.54 = 167.64

4. Multiply this number by 6.25

    Ex: 167.64 x 6.25 = 1047.75

5. Add the numbers from steps 2 and 4

    Ex: 589.55 + 1047.75 = 1637.30

6. Multiply your age by 5

    Ex: 40 x 5 = 200

7. Subtract this from your number in Step 5

    Ex: 1637.30- 200 = 1437.30

8. Subtract 161 from your number in Step 7

    Ex: 1437.30 – 161 = 1276.30

This is your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). This is the amount of calories you need just to exist! If you lied in bed all day, your body would still need these many calories just to function.

Now, we’re not done yet. Because you’re not lying around in bed all day, we have to factor in your activity level to make sure you are getting enough calories to properly fuel your body.

9. Multiply the number in Step 8 by the number based on your general level of activity as described below.

 Sedentary: multiply by 1.2:  Little to no regular exercise

Mild activity level: multiply by 1.375:  Intensive exercise for at least 20 minutes 1 to 3 times per week. This may include such things as bicycling, jogging, basketball, swimming, skating, etc.  If you do not exercise regularly, but you maintain a busy life style that requires you to walk frequently for long periods, you meet the requirements of this level.

Moderate activity level: multiply by 1.55: Intensive exercise for at least 30 to 60 minutes 3 to 4 times per week. Any of the activities listed above will qualify.

Heavy or (Labor-intensive) activity level: multiply by 1.725: Intensive exercise for 60 minutes or greater 5 to 7 days per week.  Labor-intensive occupations also qualify for this level.  Labor-intensive occupations include construction work (brick laying, carpentry, general labor, etc.). Also farming, landscape

Extreme level: multiply by 1.9: Exceedingly active and/or very demanding activities:  Examples include:  (1) athlete with an almost unstoppable training schedule with multiple training sessions throughout the day  (2) very demanding job, such as shoveling coal or working long hours on an assembly line. Generally, this level of activity is very difficult to achieve.

Ex: 1276.30 x 1.55 = 1978.265

This is your daily caloric target unless weight loss is a goal. 

10. IF weight loss is a goal, subtract 500 from the number in step 9

     Ex: 1978.265 – 500 = 1478.265

This would be your daily caloric target for weight loss. Do not live and die by this number. If you go above it a little on some days, fine. If you go below it a little on some day, fine too. I personally like to round my numbers up for ease. I would round this to 1500 and call it done.

Also keep in mind: usually those last 5 pounds you want to lose are what we call “vanity weight.”  Those are the toughest to shed because if your body is already at a healthy weight, it doesn’t want to let go of those easily. Your body is concerned with protecting you, not ensuring that you are 100% bulge-free in your swimsuit. Mmmm-K? Just something to think about.