Listening To Your Body’s Language
Time and time again, I am asked how many calories should I eat in a day. There is no set answer to this question. Quite simply, everyone’s dietary needs are different from one another, not to mention that your dietary needs change daily.
If it is hot outside you might need more or less. Your activity levels, stress levels, sleep patterns and circadian rhythms can all alter your caloric intake!
It is more important to listen to your bodies language. The problem with this is that many of us have lost the ability to understand our own bodies language.
Your body is smart, you just need to become in tune with it again. Could it be as simple as if your hungry eat, if you are not, then don’t?
Why I Don’t Count Calories Anymore
Counting calories isn’t realistic. I mean really, how realistic is it to weigh your food, count points or calculate carbs, fat or proteins every time you eat.
Takes the fun out of eating doesn’t it, not to mention the stress it adds to meal time.
Also, the measure of a calorie is an estimate, not an exact number. And as I mentioned above, everyone has different calorie requirements. It isn’t a straightforward cookie cutter answer.
So why am I writing a post on how to figure out your calorie requirements for weight loss then? Well, I do believe it can guide you onto the right path. Let’s look at this a bit.
When Counting Calories Can Help (Short Term)
There is no one equation that is right for everyone. But that doesn’t mean that knowing a rough estimate of your daily calorie requirement won’t be useful…actually it can get you on the right track to getting your health back.
When I started my weight loss journey, I was instructed to keep a detailed log of everything I ate. I was given a realistic number to stay in between. I was shocked that I could eat this much and still continue to lose weight.
I am not proud of this, but yes…I have brought my calorie intake as low as 1200 calories in a day (gulp). For me (and many others), this is not enough calories to thrive on.
Eating too little can be just as harmful to your metabolism as it is to eat too much. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that eat less and lose weight, but sometimes eating more can help you lose weight too!
So I am going to share the formula I used to help guide me in the right direction. It is not an exact science, but it worked for me. Remember, use this as a guide and adjust it as you learn to listen to your bodies language.
There is also one more key factor that I have to go over before we dive into the actual equation.
How Many Calories To Decrease For Safe Weight loss
Did you know that to keep your body from going into a starvation mode (where you actually store fat rather than get rid of it), you can only decrease your calorie intake by 20% of your maintenance weight caloric intake? 20% folks, that is a different number for everyone!
I know, you probably have read that you need to reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories a day to lose 1 pound a week…well that is just plain wrong.
Think about this for a second. So 500 calories a day or 3500 calories a week, no matter if someone weighs 120 pounds or 400 pounds… that just doesn’t logically make sense, does it?
I know we all want to lose weight super fast, but a safe amount to lose to keep it off is 1-2 pounds per week.
Daily Calorie Requirement Formula
Here is the simple formula for calculating daily calorie requirements, and a hypothetical example.
Multiply your current weight (in pounds) by one of these numbers:
- 13 – if you don’t exercise very much
- 14 – if you do moderate exercise 3 or more times a week
- 15 – if you do vigorous exercise 3 or more times a week
So if Sue weighs 180 pounds and works out by briskly walking 4 times a week (moderate), then take 180 pounds x 14 = 2,520 calories
2,520 calories are how many calories that Sue needs to eat to maintain her weight.
Sue wants to start losing weight. Remember you can only safely reduce your caloric intake by 20% (or consume only 80% of your maintenance amount).
So to lose weight Sue needs to take her daily calorie requirement of 2,520 x .80 = 2,016 calories to lose weight.
Far cry from 1200 calories that so many of these popular websites recommend to everyone to lose weight, isn’t it?
Interpreting Your Bodies Language
Again, we all have different dietary needs and it is important to learn your bodies language so you know how to interpret what it is saying.
- If you are still hungry while eating this amount of calories, then you need to eat more.
- If you are not hungry at all and can’t get to your caloric intake estimate, then stop eating. Your body is telling you that it has had enough.
- Sleepy feelings after a meal can indicate to many proteins or fat.
- Excited or jittery feelings after a meal can indicate too many carbs.
These are just a few examples of your bodies ability to talk to you. Now you just need to listen to it.
I understand that many of us need a guideline to start at, and that is why I am giving you this formula…it is a starting point. But it is very important to start to listen to your bodies language and adjust this estimated number if needed when interpreting your bodies language.
Seems Like A Lot of Calories
I can assure you that I probably had a similar response to this number, that has to be too many calories to lose weight…
I had nothing to lose, but weight… so I trusted this equation and consistency lost 1-3 pounds a week until I reached my goal weight.
Again, you don’t want to count your calories long term. Try counting your calories for 3 weeks so you can get a feel for how much food is good for you.
Give It A 3 Week Trial
To develop a habit, it is good to do something for 3 weeks. You are much more likely to stick to something if you’ve done it for a 3 week period of time.
Here is a great free resource to track your calories for 3 weeks. Remember, this is just to give you a feel for how many calories you should be eating to lose weight.
So give yourself 3 weeks and count calories so you can have a clear idea of how much food that you should be eating. Pay close attention to your body’s language and adjust your calories if needed. If you’re hungry, eat…if you don’t have an appetite, then don’t eat.
Once you get a feel for it, and you start to lose some weight, then taper off the calorie counting and trust yourself and that you know how to read your bodies language.
Kayla Camp says
I really like your website and article about determining your daily calorie requirements. I also like your calculator for determining how many calories you need a day to maintain your weight and lose weight but was wondering where you got your information from or how you came up with that calculator? Is it based on a scientific equation? I didn’t see any references to it so if you could just let me know how you came up with that, i would greatly appreciate it. I also was wondering how you came up with the 20% rule of not cutting more than 20% of calories to maintain a safe weight loss. I totally agree with it but just wasn’t sure how you came up with the 20%. Thank you!
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