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4 February 2011

How Much Should You Be Eating?

I’ve often wondered how much I should be eating to either maintain or lose weight. After doing a bit of research I found some answers on what my daily caloric intake should be, although there are some mixed results. Figuring out what how many calories may not be super-easy, but it’s a cinch compared with […]

I’ve often wondered how much I should be eating to either maintain or lose weight. After doing a bit of research I found some answers on what my daily caloric intake should be, although there are some mixed results.

Figuring out what how many calories may not be super-easy, but it’s a cinch compared with actually monitoring your food intake and counting your calories. While it can be a daunting task, shows like The Biggest Loser make it obvious that there’s a payoff.

First, I used the Harris Benedict Equation to figure out my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):

Men: 666 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years) = BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)
[info_box_1 title=”My calculation”]
Remember math class? BEDMAS – Brackets, Exponents, Division and Multiplication (in the order they appear), Addition and Subtraction (in the order they appear). Lots of people make the mistake of doing the calculation in the wrong order and get some pretty crazy numbers as a result. Don’t do that.
My BMR = 666 + (6.23 x 164) + (12.7 x 68) – (6.8 x 34)
My BMR = 66+1022+864-231
My BMR = 1721
[/info_box_1]
Women: 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years) = BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)

Then, I added in my “activity factor”:

BMR x 1.55 if you exercise 3-5 days a week.
BMR x 1.75 if you exercise 6-7 days a week.
[info_box_1 title=”My calculation”]
I work out 5 times a week so:
1721 x 1.55 = 2668
[/info_box_1]

So, by this method I need to consume 2668 calories a day. If 3500 calories is about a pound, then I need to reduce that number to 2168 calories per day if I want to lose a pound a week (3500 calories in a pound divided by 7 days is 500 calories per day).

(This is bringing back math class, and I’m not overly excited about it. I guess it’s true Mr. Galbraith, math does apply to everyday life.)

A quick search on “how many calories should I eat a day” on Google provided me with a few other online tools to see how much I needed to eat. I wanted to see how other methods stacked up, so here are some results:
Shapefit: 2580 to maintain weight
FreeDieting: 2573 to maintain weight
ACalorieCalculator: 2574 to maintain weight

The only thing with all of these calculations is that they’re not very precise on what “moderate” or “light” activity means. However, judging on what I put (moderate), the numbers are pretty close for all of them.

Watching how many calories you eat in a day is much more difficult. You need to really take into consideration every little thing, and this can be a difficult and sometimes daunting task. I did it for about a month and found it to be laborious and time-consuming, but I’m not very patient with things like this. But just as an example for how you can underestimate your calories: I usually have cereal for breakfast. It’s fast, easy, and I’m usually trying to finish in the same time as my dog so that I can get out there for our morning walk before heading to the office. Mini-Wheats (Brown Sugar kind) are a fav of mine. The serving size is only 20 squares. I poured myself the amount I usually have: 57 squares. So I’m eating 3 times the serving size. That’s where things get you. Take a look at pizza – it’s the worst. Sometimes the serving size is a mere 1/16 of the pizza. Obviously it’s easy to get a little out of control.

There are lots of online tools to help you in keeping track of your caloric intake (My Calorie Counter, FitDay, CalorieCount) – and many of them have tools that you can use on your mobile device.

I’m trying a different approach, though: watching what I eat in a more broad sense. I tend to like chips and cookies and such things (like many), and working from home allows me to snack all the time. So I’ve been making more healthy breakfasts and portioning properly. Then I try to snack on raw fruit and veggies (no dips, added salt, or sugar) through the day. When I feel hungry, I often have a drink of water: it seems like a lot of my “hunger” issues actually stem from dehydration, so when I drink properly, I feel less hungry. I try not to eat too late in the evening, and try not to have a big, heavy meal. We’re trying to add in more vegetables and salad, and take out processed food. Late snacking is a no-no, although when we do we portion our snack, measuring out a serving size of ice cream or chips or whatever. We’re not perfect, far from it, but the combination of my exercise and simply watching what I’m eating has led me to a 40 pound weight loss in the past year, so it works.

Start by figuring out how many calories you should have and take a look at what serving sizes are for the foods you currently eat. Compare the serving size to what you actually take and you’ll soon figure out how you need to change to reach your goals.

Run well, eat well!
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